- Lincoln Woods Trail (1.4mi)
- Osseo Trail (4.1mi)
- Franconia Ridge Trail (0.1mi) to Flume summit
- back the same way
Totals: 11.2mi, 5h 10m, 3150' vertical gain
GPS Track: https://www.strava.com/activities/812388998
Photo Library: https://www.facebook.com/erikbertrand/media_set?set=a.10153539733584567.1073741876.570654566
Took advantage of a day off from work to head up to Mt. Flume, to complete the Franconia Ridge 4K peaks in winter at last. A friend and I hiked Mt. Liberty a few days before, but weren't up to continuing to Flume.
Almost as exciting as the peak itself, was the opportunity to hike the Osseo Trail to approach the summit from the south. This is a trail I'd passed many times, on my way to the Bonds and Owl's Head. So I'd get a bit of redlining done today as well.
As I pulled into the Lincoln Woods parking lot about 7:45am, I saw several Fish & Game and other rescue vehicles and snowmobiles gathered, and half the parking lot was cordoned off with police tape. This looked like a rescue-in-progress to me. I parked and prepared to head out, but checked in with two Lincoln Police officers, who told me a helicopter was to land soon. Their looks seemed to indicate this wasn't a very happy rescue, but I chose not to pry...
I headed out by 8:05am, crossed the East Branch of the Pemigewasett River by footbridge, and was on the Lincoln Woods Trail. This flat trail is usually quite a slog, if you're heading to Owl's Head or the Bonds, as you have to travel at least 2.6 miles before you reach the trail junctions for those peaks. Today, however, the Osseo Trail heads off at just 1.4 miles, so it didn't take long to reach it. Along the way, I saw the medical rescue helicopter fly overhead, hoping it was carrying an injured hiker, rather than worse... :/
The going along the first two or so miles of the Osseo Trail is quite easy, climbing gradually the whole way. This made what might have seemed a long hike, much quicker. Just before the trail took a right and started up a steeper section via switchbacks, I donned the snowshoes; I was able to bareboot the first two miles since the trail was very well-packed to this point.
The snowshoes helped quite a bit on this next, slightly steeper section. There was simply more snow to contend with, and the hikers before me didn't seem to utilize snowshoes as they should have. As a result, I encountered numerous "postholes" and thin, uneven tracks that made the snowshoe use more difficult. Still, this was much better and easier than boots would have been.
Before long, I encountered a steep section where several ladders usually facilitate ascent; they were all covered by snow by now, so they didn't help, but with the "teeth" of the snowshoes, I was able to climb relatively easily.
What had been easier and rather boring, basic "woods" for a good three miles, gave way to a much rougher, steeper terrain with stunted evergreen growth, as I neared the summit. Above the ladders, the trail flattened out nearly completely for a good half-mile, then climbed steadily until it reached a three-way junction with the Franconia Ridge Trail heading straight ahead toward the Flume summit, and the Flume Slide Trail heading off (and DOWN steeply) to the west.
Continuing straight, I had to work through more drifts here and there, trying to flatten out areas where the previous hikers broke out the trail with bare boots. Thankfully things were so bad, and I eventually came up and out of the trees to dramatic views to the north (Mt. Liberty) and west (Kinsmans and Moosilauke). The Flume summit is a true cone shape, dropping down on the west side very dramatically with mostly rock formations.
Just a few hundred yards up from this point, I reached the summit. Winds weren't too strong, but with a little wind and temps likely in the upper teens, it was pretty cold. Two guys came up from Mt. Liberty, I snapped a few photos, and bade them farewell as I headed back the way I came.
It had taken just three hours, almost to the minute, to travel from the Lincoln Woods lot to the Flume summit. I was pretty amazed as I thought I'd need at least book time (4h25m) -- but with the gradual climb and well broken-out nature of the lower 2/3 of the trail, I made quicker work than I thought. The descent was quick, coming in at two hours, making this a five-hour round trip.
I came across only two other people on the Osseo Trail - a man and woman who were making their way up the lower half of the trail with skis on. This is definitely a great trail to ski!
Along the Lincoln Woods Trail on the way back, I passed four groups: a younger couple, older couple, a group of five twenty-somethings on cross-country skis, and a family with kids on skis. It was good to see so many enjoying this great trail that runs along a beautiful river.
Back at the Lincoln Woods lot, the scene was back to normal, all the rescue vehicles gone and cars parked as usual. I stepped into the Ranger station and spoke with the woman there. She told me the hiker they flew out that morning had passed away, having frozen to death. He was prepared, apparently (though without snowshoes), but was also hiking solo and hadn't come out by the time he said he would, later on Christmas Eve. His family called for a rescue on Christmas Day, and a crew of three hiked up onto Bondcliff Mountain and eventually found him, unresponsive. They stayed with the body overnight in sub-zero temperatures, until the rescue helicopter could reach them the following morning (this morning). Time (and autopsy results) will tell a more full story, but there is already a lesson or two we can all learn from this really unfortunate tragedy: bring snowshoes whenever hiking anywhere above, say 2000 feet in December or later; and hike with one or more other people if traveling farther distances, such as a Bonds traverse. This is surely a very difficult time for this hiker's family and friends; my thoughts are with them.
With Flume checked off, I'm now down to 10 left to finish the Winter 48: Moosilauke, Carrigain, Jefferson, Cabot, Waumbek, Middle Carter, South Carter, Bondcliff, Bond, and West Bond. I expect to finish them this winter, with a little help from family and friends!