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Thread: Thirteen Falls ATTEMPT from Lincoln Woods - ARG!

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    Senior Member Becca M's Avatar
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    Thirteen Falls ATTEMPT from Lincoln Woods - ARG!

    December 10, 2011. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to hike today. I had considered a bunch of options but finally decided I wanted to spend a little more time in the Pemi Wilderness at some lower elevations and do some trail running. And I thought I might have a window of opportunity to loop around Owl’s Head to Thirteen Falls via Lincoln Brook Trail and out via Franconia Brook Trail. If I had extra time (HAH!!!!) I would go back to Redrock Brook and explore. I also wanted to avoid as much snow as possible and move light and fast. SOOOOOO I moved my pack contents back from my winter pack to my trailrunning pack and went for it. At least I had gaitors for the trailrunners…..

    Well, I got a late start after a late night trying to attend a local live nativity that just would not end. I finally got on the trail at 8:30am after greeting a few familiar faces in the Lincoln Woods lot. I passed a couple people on the Lincoln Woods Trail and took my turn up to Black Pond. The footprints I was following ended at Black Pond. I was kind of hoping I wouldn’t ACTUALLY need to find my own way with the compass and all, but, it’s never a big deal to just take a north bearing and go for it. When the snow squalls waned, I could follow the direction of the shadows.

    I made pretty good time and found some old green flagging (ARG!) and the usual skidder path that heads towards the river. What was originally just a dusting of snow was now a crusty inch or two, which made the going slippery and tricky in the trailrunners—I wasn’t sure what was under the snow and leaves. At one point I hit a large browse area and followed an old moose track. Other than that, there were few prints in the snow.

    On the Lincoln Brook Trail, I was amazed at how much the hurricane had gutted the trail. There seemed to be a few sections near the river completely eaten away as well as some very large mud pits higher up. The second-to-last river crossing was somewhat icy. At this point I realized I was taking a LOT longer than I wanted: the footings were tough on the Lincoln Brook Trail and river crossings were tedious.

    Finally, the last crossing was the biggest challenge. I knew I didn’t want to dunk my shoes and I didn’t have poles. I FINALLY found a sturdy staff after breaking half a dozen but I had to pick my way around a lot of downed trees from bank erosion. Then I found a crossing, but I had lost SO much time and still got my feet wetter, though they had already taken on water steadily in the snow and mud pits. I was getting more than a little worried about the time and my feet. The trail drainage continued to worsen. But, I finally got to the Owl’s Head Spur Path. I kept heading north: new trail for me! I was excited to be on the part of the Lincoln Brook Trail I had never been on before!

    At first the way was obvious—straight shot north. But, a few more turns and I found myself at a dead end. Did the trail go straight up the hill? I followed it. Then, trees. No corridor. Turn and look for the next most obvious path. A few hundred feet later a wall of fir. Another big blowdown? I pulled out my map. NO—the trail should loosely follow the river. But, the riverbank was eaten away. The map didn’t show the trail right NEXT to the river there… I couldn’t imagine the trail extending beyond the washout, but, I was running out of options. I followed the riverbank a ways but found no corridor. I backtracked. No blazes anywhere. No corridor. No treadway or worn rocks under the snow. Feet getting colder. Finally I found what looked like a 1” cut stump. Nah—no corridor past it?

    Turning around was looking better and better. I kept thinking if I made bigger circles I’d find my way past the lost area. No dice. Just woods. Wilderness. I did not pre-load the trail into my GPS so I didn’t bother to fire it up. Then I was thinking, “I’m getting cold and I won’t have time to finish safely in anywhere near enough daylight if I continue… a warm car seat is looking awfully good!”

    Backtracking, backtracking, backtracking…. Following that big critter known as my earlier self by following my own tracks… it’s kind of comforting. I found a better upper river crossing and took it. Once across the bank I headed south. I figured I’d find my former self’s footprints any second. The seconds ticked away. And away. And away. Nothing. No dice. Go up the embankment – must be up there? No dice. Starting to get nervous. Those footprints should have been RIGHT THERE? Feeling panicky! Still enough time to get out. Feeling flush. Mind racing. Follow the river. OK, now look at the GPS – waiting, waiting to fire up and lock on the satellites. Pull up an old Owl’s Head track (not today’s). Intersect the old track. DANG that was a bushwhack track and not the trail, but, the trail was in the same direction. YAY!!!!

    Just a jog back now… a LONG jog back. Back along Lincoln Brook, back on the Black Pond Bushwhack, back around the pond. I can breathe and take a few pics, now. Exploring the crazy huge glacial erratics, exploring the Black Pond skidder path parallel to the trail, glad for the 2.6 mile jog back along the Lincoln Woods Trail. Finally, glad for the view of the suspension bridge near the parking lot. All in all, a great day!!!!

    Here are a few highlights:

    Looking around for the northern part of Lincoln Brook Trail. Not this way, not that way!


    Entrance to Owl’s Head Path. The cairns make it look like a gate. Cool!


    Interesting rock in Lincoln Brook:


    End of Owl’s Head from Lincoln Brook Trail. One of the “ears.”


    These rest are from the Black Pond Bushwhack.

    Clearly obvious skidder path:


    Weathering trunk:


    Snowy fern:


    Classic tree on rock that reminds me somehow of an octopus:


    All in all, a great day to be in the woods. An even better day to get out!!!! ☺
    Last edited by Becca M; 12-10-2011 at 08:34 PM.
    Yay for winter!!!!!

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    Senior Member Ed'n Lauky's Avatar
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    Thanks for that really great report.
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    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Becca M View Post
    At first the way was obvious—straight shot north. But, a few more turns and I found myself at a dead end. Did the trail go straight up the hill? I followed it. Then, trees. No corridor. Turn and look for the next most obvious path. A few hundred feet later a wall of fir. Another big blowdown? I pulled out my map. NO—the trail should loosely follow the river. But, the riverbank was eaten away. The map didn’t show the trail right NEXT to the river there… I couldn’t imagine the trail extending beyond the washout, but, I was running out of options. I followed the riverbank a ways but found no corridor. I backtracked. No blazes anywhere. No corridor. No treadway or worn rocks under the snow. Feet getting colder. Finally I found what looked like a 1” cut stump. Nah—no corridor past it?
    As of ~15 years ago, there was a spot N of the slide where the trail just seemed to stop at the top of a steep embankment/washout leading down into the river. IIRC, you had to retreat about 10-20 ft and there was a not-very-obvious trail heading ~100 ft up the hill. The trail then continued to traverse the slope. Once you found the higher trail, it was easy to follow.

    As you got closer to the height-of-land, the trail became hard to follow in a wide, open, flattish area. We turned east around here (to ski up the NNW ridge of Owl's Head), but I have read reports to the effect that the trail goes through a swampy area near (or at?) the height-of-land before it descends toward Camp 13 Falls. It is also reported to be difficult to follow in this region even in the summer.

    I recall the trail being a bit dicey to ski SW of the crossing of Lincoln Brook--we were traversing a snow slope which ended in the river. A slip might have had some nasty consequences... In light of recent erosive events, how skiable does LB tr look?

    FWIW, we skied Lincoln Brook Tr from Franconia Brook Tr--I'm not sure the Black Pond bushwack was in common use back then. (However, I did ski the BPB over to Franconia Falls some years later so I guess I knew that it could be done.)

    Given our experiences with navigation on the TFT-SPT lollipop route, I'd want to be prepared for the worst.

    Doug
    Last edited by DougPaul; 12-10-2011 at 10:29 PM.

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    Senior Member bandana4me's Avatar
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    Lincoln "MUD" trail

    This is one of a few trails that are on my " I will never do this trail again" list! I found the section between 13 falls and Owls head one of the most confusing, muddiest and just plain aggravating trails in the Whites. I found it interesting that you blamed the condition on hurricane Irene, actually the hurricane could NOT have made that trail any worse than it already was. It probably made improvements!
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    Senior Member hikerfast's Avatar
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    this trip report reminds me of those times i feel a little lost and confused...like when i get up in the middle of the night and dont bother turning the light on and i cant find the way to the bathroom. I will concur with the previous post that the section of lincoln woods trail was a mess back in summer of 84 when i did it. jumping from sedge to sedge thru a several mile swamp. It was a very remote and cool area(which I like to experience) but the trail was barely functional as a trail. Seems as though it would be easier when everything was frozen and no sinking into all the muck, and a lot easier if someone had been thru there recently with some tracks. I'm glad you got out safe
    why are there people like Frank??

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    That was a "sit on the edge of your chair/hold your breath" trip report.
    It's that element of surprise, you never know when it's going to surface. You did good!

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    Senior Member Tom Rankin's Avatar
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    Wow, the entrance to Owl's head could not be more obvious! Is there still a large blow down at head height right there as well?
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    Senior Member blacknblue's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bandana4me View Post
    This is one of a few trails that are on my " I will never do this trail again" list! I found the section between 13 falls and Owls head one of the most confusing, muddiest and just plain aggravating trails in the Whites.
    I'll second that. Especially the area around the height-of-land was difficult to follow and was very wet as well. I've done it once in each direction, but probably won't head back that way for a while.
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    Senior Member Becca M's Avatar
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    Thanks guys for the great responses!!!!

    @ed'n laucky: THANKS!!!!

    @dougpaul: you are right - there is a STEEP embankment right at the edge of the river - I thought maybe the trail was washed away there as it could have been close to the river. I *did* retreat and go up the corridor you mention - that's the picture I posted. But, then it dead-ended. That's around near where I found the cut 1" stump. I figured if there weren't snow, I'd see the obvious worn rocks. Now, I'm not so sure!!! In terms of skiability, you would need a LOT of snow for it to work. I've bushwhacked down the west side of Owl's Head and had better footing than the area near the river. I will definitely look for a drier time of year to try it again. I will load the trail in my GPS next time. I won't rule out skiing it..... YET!

    @bandana4me: you are probably right!!! Actually, that trail really needs another ice age to scour it clear for a do over!!!!

    @hikerfast: I like your analogy-- I did feel disoriented at times.... despite experience, I still feel panic when I cannot figure a trail out. I also cannot for the life of me figure out how I lost my own tracks on the way back... SO WEIRD!!!!

    @maddy: thanks!!! *I* wasn't sure what would happen But, I did have a lot of matches and was prepared to hunker down if need be.

    @tom rankin: didn't notice the old large blow-down, but, did see the usual old arrows carved into trees at the owl's head path entrance!!! Also, I think it's easier to find that path than continue on the Lincoln Brook Trail!!!!

    @blacknblue: sounds daunting!!!!

    Of course, I will have to head back now that I have unfinished business. I will wait for a drier or more frozen time!!!!
    Yay for winter!!!!!

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    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Becca M View Post
    @dougpaul: you are right - there is a STEEP embankment right at the edge of the river - I thought maybe the trail was washed away there as it could have been close to the river. I *did* retreat and go up the corridor you mention - that's the picture I posted. But, then it dead-ended. That's around near where I found the cut 1" stump. I figured if there weren't snow, I'd see the obvious worn rocks. Now, I'm not so sure!!!
    My recollection is that I was skiing (I've only been there in winter) along on what could have been a nice logging road and the continuation was washed away.

    In terms of skiability, you would need a LOT of snow for it to work. I've bushwhacked down the west side of Owl's Head and had better footing than the area near the river. I will definitely look for a drier time of year to try it again. I will load the trail in my GPS next time. I won't rule out skiing it..... YET!
    I've skied beyond the slide twice.
    * The first time (~1981) was a 2-dayer--we camped beyond the slide (and probably beyond dropoff) and on the second day skied most of the way to the height-of-land, turned up the NNW ridge to the summit, and exited by the same route. I recall the snow slope leading into the river below crossing of Lincoln Brook from the way out. Maybe it would have been easier with a lighter pack.
    * The second time (late 1990s) was a daytrip attempt on the same route. However, we started up too far S and were turned back by steep terrain and time. (Had fun skiing out in the dark...)

    Either way, ski circumnavigating Owl's Head (or maybe just into the region between Camp 13 Falls and the dropoff) could be non-trivial. You never can tell--it might just take 28.5 hours...

    Doug


    (PS: 28.5 hours is an in joke for Becca and me--that was the duration of our Pemi Lollipop (TFT-SPT) ski trip.)
    Last edited by DougPaul; 12-11-2011 at 09:24 PM.

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    Senior Member Becca M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DougPaul View Post
    My recollection is that I was skiing (I've only been there in winter) along on what could have been a nice logging road and the continuation was washed away.


    I've skied beyond the slide twice.
    * The first time (~1981) was a 2-dayer--we camped beyond the slide (and probably beyond dropoff) and on the second day skied most of the way to the height-of-land, turned up the NNW ridge to the summit, and exited by the same route. I recall the snow slope leading into the river below crossing of Lincoln Brook from the way out. Maybe it would have been easier with a lighter pack.
    * The second time (late 1990s) was a daytrip attempt on the same route. However, we started up too far S and were turned back by steep terrain and time. (Had fun skiing out in the dark...)

    Either way, ski circumnavigating Owl's Head (or maybe just into the region between Camp 13 Falls and the dropoff) could be non-trivial. You never can tell--it might just take 28.5 hours...

    Doug


    (PS: 28.5 hours is an in joke for Becca and me--that was the duration of our Pemi Lollipop (TFT-SPT) ski trip.)
    HI Doug! I recall intersecting the LBT maybe 1 mile north of the slide in summer a few years back and finding it without too much trouble.

    In recent times I recall a ranger mentioning that the northwest quadrant of the trail would be maintained to the lowest possible level meaning the trail might only be visible under the best of circumstances. NOTE: my memory is weak - we ran into him on top of Owl's Head - I think he was removing signs/cairns up there....

    On this trip it looked like Irene had struck that area but maybe it's just always like that?????
    Last edited by Becca M; 12-12-2011 at 04:42 AM.
    Yay for winter!!!!!

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    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Becca M View Post
    In recent times I recall a ranger mentioning that the northwest quadrant of the trail would be maintained to the lowest possible level meaning the trail might only be visible under the best of circumstances. NOTE: my memory is weak - we ran into him on top of Owl's Head - I think he was removing signs/cairns up there....

    On this trip it looked like Irene had struck that area but maybe it's just always like that?????
    I don't recall any problems with blowdowns, but given how long it has been I could easily have forgotten them. (I remember my partner breaking a fiberglass ski pole on the way in during the first trip and our splinting it with tent poles if that is any help. ) Given the elapsed time and the Wilderness [non]maintenance rules I rather expect some invisible and/or impenetrable spots. Possibly worse than the SPT. And unlike the Lollipop, there are no escape routes and cell phones are almost certainly useless for the entire route.

    Doug

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    Senior Member mtnpa's Avatar
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    Saw you breeze by on the way in. Trying to help Geneva bag Owl's Head we stuck to the trail. Apparently the bushwack is so popular now that the bears stay on the trail cuz we saw more bear tracks than people tracks. Geneva was not impressed by the 3rd crossing (or the bears) so we headed towards 13 Falls instead. Reached another unfriendly crossing turned around and got home dry.
    Curiosity won out over good sense. We had a plan...

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    Senior Member RoySwkr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Becca M View Post
    In recent times I recall a ranger mentioning that the northwest quadrant of the trail would be maintained to the lowest possible level meaning the trail might only be visible under the best of circumstances.
    When I made the circuit after an OH climb in pre-Wilderness days, the trail was even then hard to follow up there - but there was a new metal Smokey Bear sign nailed to a tree!

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    Senior Member nartreb's Avatar
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    My conditions report from August 2010 called the northwest corner "often narrow, muddy, with blowdowns. Would not want to attempt at night." Despite several obstacles, it was usually easy to get back on trail by thinking like a trail-maker: follow the valley while avoiding the worst marshes and ravines. I think it would be easier in early winter, since you can see further ahead without as many leaves in the way (and frozen mud is easier to walk on) though OTOH you have less daylight.

    Heading northbound past the OH slide trail it's easy to miss the spot where the trail leaves the old ?roadbed?railbed? along the stream. When the trail seems to drop into a washout, backtrack for ... I don't recall, but DougPaul's 50 feet estimate sounds roughly right.
    Last edited by nartreb; 12-12-2011 at 02:42 PM.

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