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Trip 26 Owl’s Head 4025’ 10/9/00

18 Miles 2900’ Elevation gain

Jeannie, Kevin, Judy and Emma

Because of the extreme distance involved, we all sort of dreaded this one and wanted to get it out of the way. Dan had done it with the Ripleys and the report was that it was easy, just long. We started out from Lincoln Woods and soon put the first three miles behind us. Not being well studied on the subject of Owl’s Head, as I should have been, I made the mistake of leading us to Franconia Brook Falls where I thought the trail continued on to Lincoln Brook Trail. Imagine my surprise when the trail came to an end above the falls. Of course my mistake was not reading the trip description and studying the map well enough. We turned around and headed back to the main trail where I realized we hadn’t crossed the bridge and things started to come back to me. Crossing the bridge and on the right track now, we soon came to Franconia Brook Trail, not to be confused with Franconia Falls. Turning north we followed this until we came to Linclon Brook Trail. So far, the trail has been effortless, a walk along old logging roads and only six hundred feet elevation gain. There are a couple of tricky brook crossings but so far we’re doing fine. The weather is overcast, but it isn’t threatening, so we don’t pay it much mind, just a gray day. Lincoln Brook Trail becomes a little more rugged and we notice that now there is some elevation gain, although still gradual. Now the river crossings are getting real challenging and Jeannie, who dosen’t like crossings on good days, was having a bad day. At one particular crossing I went with her upstream quite a ways until she came to where she felt comfortable to cross. Deciding to take her boots and socks off to be safe, she decided to wade across. Carefully picking her way across she soon got to the other side where she dried off her feet, put her socks and shoes back on, stood up, slipped, and splashed both feet into the river up to her knees, soaking both boots and socks. Mad as a wet hen comes to mind. At Jeannie’s refusal to waste anymore time, we forged on. I’m thinking now that maybe we should bail out, but when I voice it none of us are ready to quit yet, so we go on. We begin to wonder if we’re going to ever come to the slide which is the trail to the summit, and checking our watches, we realize we are running out of time to find it and get back out before it gets dark. We decide to only go on for fifteen more minutes and if we weren’t climbing the slide by then, we would turn around and try another day. About five minutes later we came to the cairn marking the Owl’s Head Path. The temperature seemed a little colder than when we had left, and as we climbed the slide with the false enthusiasm of “it’s only another mile”, we came out from under the trees and realized it was snowing! Great, snow on October ninth, and we have to summit and hike nine miles back out. Well, up we went, with Emma in her usual lead position. Snow was actually sticking, and it was building up on the trail and the trees surrounding the slide. People were coming down and, talking to one group, they were not sure they had found the summit, but they had found a clearing on what they considered the top and called it a day. One guy was in sneakers! Good thing they were getting out of there. Great, I’m thinking, I wonder if we’ll find the summit? Another pair of hikers came down from above us and I told them what the other group had said, and they told me that they had wondered why that group hadn’t gone to the summit, as it was further along the trail from where they had stopped. They had found it and it was marked by a cairn and a small sign, but the snow was building up and it might be hard to find the trail if we don’t hurry. Finally coming to the top of the slide, we climb steeply back into the woods. Not wanting to stop until we get to the summit, we don’ t bother to put on our rain gear even though the snow is wet and brushing against the trees lining the trails is covering us in the white stuff. The higher we climb the deeper the snow is on the ground. We are all soaked now. I swore I would never get in this situation again when we were on Isolation, but here I was. It is still a long distance to the summit from the top of the slide, but finally Jeannie, Emma and I are standing in the clearing where the first group of hikers had stopped, they’re prints still visible in the deepening snow. Jude had fallen behind and we were sort of waiting for her, and I was trying to decide whether to look around for the true summit. Jeannie had had enough and voiced it, but I convinced her that we were so close we had to find it. It probably wasn’t a good idea to start looking, we could have called the clearing the summit and let it go at that like the other group, but the second group had told me to keep going to where it looked like the trail started back down, then turn right. Sure enough, there were their footprints off into the woods. I followed them and within a hundred feet found the cairn with the sign. I ran back down the trail to find Judy and lead her up. Soon we were all there. We took quick pictures of each other, there is no view from the summit, it’s a small clearing in the woods with a cairn and a tiny sign on a tree. We put on our rain gear, and headed out as quick as we could, the snow coming down hard now with three or four inches on the ground. Going down the slide is a blur in my memory. Years later on a return trip in dry weather, I was amazed at the difficulty of the descent and marveled that we did it in the snow with no accidents. Finally reaching the bottom of the slide again and getting back into the woods at a lower altitude, the snow became less and less a factor, and by the time we were back to Franconia Brook trail there was none. Jeannie had walked straight through a few of the river crossings, not even trying to stay dry anymore. Thank God none of us were cold. We were wet, but it wasn’t that cold as we had enough clothes on, and the constant hiking kept our body temperatures up. Of course, finally getting out of the woods was a great relief, as I thought I had gotten us into serious trouble again. Thankfully we were all soon in dry clothes and the heat was on in the car, and we had nothing like the episode Jude and I had on Isolation. We had dodged a bullet again. I hope some day I won’t need so much luck and can get by on common sense. This would be our last four thousand footer of 2000. I can’t wait until spring as I only have eight more to finish my fortyeight!
K(40) J(31) E(18)

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Return Trip 9/3/02