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Thread: Owl's Head & 'Whack to Hellgate Brook, 7/11/2014

  1. #1
    Senior Member BIGEarl's Avatar
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    Cool Owl's Head & 'Whack to Hellgate Brook, 7/11/2014

    July 11, 2014: Owl’s Head

    Trails: Wilderness Trail, Black Pond Bushwhack, Lincoln Brook Trail, Owl’s Head Herd Path, Bushwhack from the summit to Hellgate Brook & Franconia Brook Trail, Franconia Brook Trail

    Summits: Owl’s Head

    Hikers: Dennis Pednault (aka Peakbagger), Mike Zettler, and me



    Dennis and I have talked about this one a few times. The general approach was to hike to the summit in a “normal” way but leave by way of bushwhacking east to Franconia Brook Trail, and then following trails back to the trailhead. A day before the hike, Mike decided he wanted to join the party. Generally on plan we all met at Lincoln Woods, took care of introductions, final hike prep, and took off.

    The “normal” part of our hike included a hike along Wilderness Trail and Black Pond Trail. Everything was clear and dry. Even the usually muddy sections along Black Pond Trail were pretty solid. Along the way on Wilderness Trail another couple also hiking Owl’s Head passed but planned to follow the trails. Our approach was the Black Pond Bushwhack.

    We reached Black Pond and stopped for a couple pictures. The pond surface was like a mirror and we got some nice shots of Owl’s Head and Bondcliff reflecting on the pond surface. It’s a very pretty place early in the morning. After a short break we started the bushwhack. The trail ends in a very muddy place and I prefer to climb the slope a short distance to get away from the mud. Once we gained a little elevation I checked my compass for the correct bearing. We had unlimited sun and it became my primary navigation tool. Once I had the relationship between the sun and our bearing set it was a simple matter of just hike to Lincoln Brook Trail, and keep the sun in the right place.

    Roughly a mile from Black Pond we landed on Lincoln Brook Trail and stopped for a short break. While we were engaged in small talk the couple that had passed us earlier on Wilderness Trail again passed us and asked about the trail we used. Soon they continued on their way and we did as well.

    The walk to the base of Owl’s Head Slide was relatively clear and dry. We made a couple small crossings, including the upper crossing of Lincoln Brook with no problems at all. We reached the area of the slide and stopped for a break and quick refreshment before heading up the slide.

    Before any of us had a chance to cool off too much we were climbing the slide. Owl’s Head Slide is a pretty good climb. There are loose areas but the footing is generally good and with a little thought the climb can be a lot of fun. It’s pretty easy to follow the usual route to the top. The traditional exit from the slide goes out of the left top but a second route has also developed leaving from top right; both eventually merge on the herd path to the summit. With everything clear and dry we only needed to find a comfortable pace and climb. The footing was good and we had plenty of handholds to assist in the more difficult areas. We left the steep climb and the terrain started to level off; soon we were on the ridge leading to the “old” and “new” summits.

    We made our way through an area of blowdowns and were soon at the “old” summit. Most markings at this location have been removed but there are still a couple bolts in a tree that are easy to find if you look in the right place. We continued on north to the “new” summit. We arrived to the cairn and stopped for another break, and to prepare for our exit bushwhack.

    The couple that passed us on Wilderness Trail, and Lincoln Brook Trail, again came through. They had walked a little further north on the ridge than necessary and were on their way back (~10 minutes of exploring). We all visited for a while and they soon set off on their exit hike. When leaving the man said we would probably get back to the trailhead first. With the relaxed approach we were taking to the day, it definitely wasn’t a race.

    Eventually we were ready for the “East Exit from Owl’s Head” adventure. We checked our compass bearings and altimeter calibration; all we had left was to go find the Hellgate Brook junction with Franconia Brook. We set off on an initial bearing that we would stay with until we were at an elevation of ~3400 feet. At that elevation we would change to another bearing that we planned to follow down the ridge. If everything went as planned, we would be able to stay on the spine of the ridge all the way down to Franconia Brook, and hopefully stay in relatively open conditions.

    The initial couple hundred yards of the descent were a little tight but eventually the woods opened up. We had a few small areas of blowdowns along the way and a few thickets to push through, but there was nothing significant to conquer. The terrain was a little steeper in a couple places than expected but it was easy to get past. Eventually, we picked up the sound of the brook, and soon after we were trying to find a dry way across.

    I think Dennis and Mike both just walked across Franconia Brook; Dennis needed to wash his boots of mud so it was a good thing. I had another day or two of hiking planned and didn’t like the idea of starting in wet boots. Within a hundred yards upstream I found a string of rocks that worked for a dry crossing.

    We all re-grouped, made our way to Franconia Brook Trail, and set off for the trailhead. The remainder of the day was generally a flat walk along old logging railroad grades. We cruised past the junction with Lincoln Brook Trail and on to the Wilderness Trail junction. From there it was a matter of crossing the bridge below Franconia Falls, walking ~3 miles on Wilderness Trail, and then crossing the suspension Bridge at Lincoln Woods.

    We made it; but not without some tired feet. We wandered to the trailhead lot and packed to leave. Mike was out first, then Dennis. I was taking my time and decided to get cleaned up and change into dry clothes. Roughly thirty minutes after Mike and Dennis left, the couple that passed us on Wilderness Trail, Lincoln Brook Trail, and Owl’s Head summit arrived to the trailhead. The guy was right.



    I’ve posted some pictures from the day.


    BIGEarl's Pictures


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  2. #2
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    Thanks for putting up with such nonsense.

    One little plumb was when I waded across Franconia Brook I came out on a very oddly spaced opening in the woods which may be the start of the railroad siding that diverged off the main line and wrapped around the south end of the Owl. It looked as though it continued to the other side of the brook but at that point I wasnt in the mood to walk back across. The strange thing was no trace of abutments across the brook so I am not sure if it truly was the rail bed.

    I have hiked up Owl in the winter from the east side on the south side of a ridge that was farther south than the one we descended and found that the going was far better than the terrain we encountered on Friday. Its not that the the woods were particularly bad, its just that they werent that good. Very few thick spots and minimal stretches of young spruce /fir growing up through old blowdown.
    Last edited by peakbagger; 07-14-2014 at 04:30 PM.

  3. #3
    Member Mike Z's Avatar
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    Thank you Earl and Dennis for letting me tag along. That was one of my more memorable days out in the Whites. What a perfect day all around.
    Mike Z

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    Senior Member Raymond's Avatar
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    How would you say the crossing of Franconia Brook where you crossed it compared with the usual crossing on the trail? Any idea?

  5. #5
    Senior Member BIGEarl's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=peakbagger;413501]Thanks for putting up with such nonsense.

    ………..
    QUOTE]
    Hey Dennis,

    Thanks for coming up with the hair-brained idea. I really enjoyed the hike, including our exit bushwhack. I’ve seen much worse for conditions. Please let me know if you have more similar ideas.

    For me the hike had something additional going for it; Owl’s Head was on my July list.





    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Z View Post
    Thank you Earl and Dennis for letting me tag along. That was one of my more memorable days out in the Whites. What a perfect day all around.
    Mike Z
    Mike,

    Glad you could join the fun. Owl’s Head is one of my favorites, but that wasn’t always the case. Getting creative with the hike in and/or out just adds to the entertainment.





    Quote Originally Posted by Raymond View Post
    How would you say the crossing of Franconia Brook where you crossed it compared with the usual crossing on the trail? Any idea?
    Raymond,

    I can’t really see a difference. In both cases it seems necessary to spend some time looking for a dry crossing. If your approach is to just walk across (boots or sandals), both areas are wide and shallow.

    I’m a little surprised my sandals weren’t in my pack. I was in the area a week ago and the water was running high from prior rain. The sandals should have been there with a towel, just in case.


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