A Snowy Owl, Owl’s Head, #43 for Winter, 2.1.14

With Isolation done, the only other hike I was really dreading this winter was Owl’s Head.  I had good reasons.  It is a long hike out there and back, 16 miles in the winter with two bushwhacks, the bushwhacks themselves, plus finding someone who actually wants to go there.  I know my usual winter partners would probably have gone, but I really felt bad asking someone to hike 16 miles to a remote peak, especially a wooded summit, for no benefit other than they were helping a friend.

By good chance, I have some great friends who are working on their grids.  They also have great friends who are working on grids.  These are the sort of people who want to go to Owl’s Head in the middle of winter.  By chance a group was going on Saturday and Schorman casually mentioned it to me in an email.  Since my other winter partners were occupied for the weekend, and I was free, it was the perfect opportunity to go!  I got in contact with the group, and a little bit before 7:00a on Saturday, I pulled into Lincoln Woods, ready to hike to the Owl.

There were six of us, and I’d only hike with one of them once before, and met another one by chance on Jackson one day.  This was a new group of people, and since these guys were really experienced (all are grid finishers or are working on finishing), I did have my concerns about keeping up, and how I’d fit into the group dynamics.  I shouldn’t have worried – they were all welcoming, friendly and entertaining all along the way.  With the sun shining, we marched right over the suspension bridge and toward the Black Pond Trail.  I’d never been to Black Pond, so that was some bonus redlining for me.  Once there, we started the Black Pond bushwhack, which shortens the trip and avoids the widest water crossings.

Frozen Black Pond.

Frozen Black Pond.

At the end of the bushwhack, they all agreed it was the best Black Pond bushwhack they’d been on.  I agreed too.  Of course, it was the only BP bushwhack I’d been on!  Back on the trail, we continued to make good time, and soon came to the last crossing before the next bushwhack, the Brutus bushwhack.  We decided snowshoes would be a good idea due to the televators for the steepness and a little extra traction.  Up we went, first on an old logging/skidder road, and then took a left up the hill to gain some elevation and end up at the rock which signals the start/end of the bushwhack.  This was difficult, as there wasn’t quite enough snow cover for the snowshoes and there was a lot of exposed rocks, logs, and other stuff that made the ascent difficult.  We finally leveled out and we were there, passing the rock.  The ascent wasn’t over, but we were once again on a “trail”, the unofficial Owl’s Head herdpath.  More elevation, but not too bad now, and soon we passed the old summit and headed for the new one.  Then we were there, just a small clearing, in the winter just big enough for all six of us on snowshoes to get there and turn around, with a small cairn marking the summit.  After a few photos, it was time to head back for a nice lunch break.

On the summit of Owl's Head, #43!

On the summit of Owl’s Head, #43!

Lunch over, and starting to get a little cold, we started on the way back.  On the descent, we saw the only two people all day who were also headed for the summit, two guys I had met a couple of winters ago on a Bonds Traverse.  After exchanging greetings we were on our way – back past the rock, then down the hill.  This was the hardest part,  going up was difficult, but going down was worse!  The footing was not good, it was slippery, and when I fell (which I did several times), it wasn’t always snow that I landed on.  Four more inches of snow and it would have been a fun slide down the slope!  Finally, we made it back to the skidder road, where there was a bit more snow and easier grade to walk down.  Once everyone made it back to the official trail, we were ready for the march back to Lincoln Woods.  We kept up the pace, and the miles seemed to fly by.

Ice along the river, as seen from the Lincoln Brook Trail.

Ice along Lincoln Brook, as seen from the Lincoln Brook Trail.

Horseshoe on a tree at the junction of the Lincoln Brook Trail and the Black Pond Bushwhack.

Horseshoe on a tree at the junction of the Lincoln Brook Trail and the Black Pond Bushwhack. Presumably a remnant from when they used horses in the logging operations in the area.

Soon we were right back at the Black Pond bushwhack, then Black Pond and then the last 2.6 miles back to cars!  The clouds had started to thicken up along the way back and as soon as we stepped into the parking lot, we saw the first flakes of snow falling.  Talk about perfect timing!

East Branch of the Pemi as seen from the suspension bridge at Lincoln Woods.

East Branch of the Pemi as seen from the suspension bridge at Lincoln Woods.

It was a super day, and I’m still really happy about it.  Owl’s Head in winter really wasn’t as bad as I thought.  Maybe that was due to a lot of factors, everything from sunshine to being healthy enough to enjoy it to great company on the trail, but with all those blessings, there’s nothing to complain about!

Special thanks to Schorman and LadyDi for helping me out with the contacts for this one.  Special thanks to Gary T., Guy J., Steve M., Mike L., and Bill C., for letting me tag along, feel welcome and for all the fun along the way.

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