I promised my son a Memorial Day hike, so after looking at our options, he chose the Osceolas since he hadn’t visited them in about two years. The weather the previous days of the weekend wasn’t exactly a warm welcome to summer, with the arrival of snow, so keeping to something with a lower elevation and less exposure was probably a good idea. He wanted to hike up from the Kancamagus side, via Greeley Ponds and the Mt. Osceola Trail, since he had hiked up from Tripoli Road the last time. I wasn’t so sure about this idea, since that way is pretty steep never mind possible snow cover, but armed with Plan B and Plan C and a strict understanding that we’d turn around if ground conditions weren’t good, we set off for the Greeley Ponds trailhead.
Like most hikes after rain, the trail was a bit damp, but not too muddy, although it seems like no matter when I’ve hiked that trail there has been some mud. The water crossings weren’t too deep and it was easy enough to find a way across all of them. We got to the Mt. Osceola Trail junction and made the right turn to start the climb up to East Osceola. The first part was pretty easy, but soon enough the footing got rough and the steep section was right in front of us. So far, we hadn’t seen any snow, and the rocks were pretty dry. Still climbing, I knew we’d come to the short open slide crossing. This really was the only part of the trip I was concerned about. If it was wet or icy it might be a problem. Thankfully it wasn’t, it was dry. We took a nice break here, getting pictures and looking around at the views in the bright sunlight.
Ready to go, we headed up the last steep bit and onto the ridge for short break from the relentless climbing. We climbed out of the little eroded gully and there it was: the snow! We brought microspikes, but there really wasn’t enough to warrant using them, so we headed across the ridge after adding jackets. The wind had picked up and the trees were raining water and bits of snow on us so the jackets were not only useful for keeping warm, but also for keeping dry. Soon enough, we came to East Osceola, where we were greeted by a group of 5 dogs and their owners who had made the trek over from Osceola and were ready to return. We had only seen a few people up to this point, but soon after the trail became a parade, with many people and dogs passing back and forth between the two peaks. We decided to keep going and take a break right before the chimney. The chimney itself and the bypass was free of snow and dry, so we took bypass around and started the climb to Osceola. It was still a bit windy at the peak, but we were able to enjoy the rest of our lunch and some pretty great views – including views out to the snow covered Franconias and Presidentials.
The wind picked up and we decided we were done and ready to join the parade between to the two peaks. Along the way, we passed a few familiar faces, Little Brown Mushroom, LongMark and Cinnilla. Funny, because I had first met Cinnilla on East Osceola in winter 2012 and I hadn’t seen Little Brown Mushroom since last April when we hiked Moriah with some friends! It was a pretty quick hike back to East Osceola, even though much of the snow had turned to a slushy, muddy mess with the passing of many feet.
Past East Osceola we saw fewer people, it seemed most people hiked in from the Tripoli road side. We took a break to explore the little outlook right at the top of steep section before descending to get a few more pictures.
Soon after dropping of the ridge, we were past the snowline, headed down all the big rocks we had hiked up, and then onto easier footing. While taking a break at the trail junction, the trio we saw earlier caught up and chatted with us a bit before taking off ahead of us to finish their hike. We easily finished the hike and upon arriving in the parking lot, we saw the trio again starting the road walk back to the Hancock Overlook. Even though it wasn’t very far, we offered them a ride, which they accepted. We got a few more minutes to catch up with friends and it was a nice way to end our day.
Cam and I agreed that we’d been blessed a great day and after seeing the snow on the higher peaks that we’d made a good decision to hike the Osceolas. I think he liked getting to try out a new and challenging trail, too. He’ll get plenty of that with this summer’s hiking plans!