However, Owl's Head is merely long, not particularly tough all said. And it was time to visit the Owl. The only other time I'd hiked this mountain was as a day hike from 13 Falls Campsite, which wasn't bad aside from the Lincoln Brook Trail between 13 Falls and the Owl's Head Path being tough to follow in a few spots. The lower half of this trail was supposed to be fine.
A few weeks before Flags on the 48, I invited fellow Hike-NHer HossInNH along, as he'd been wanting to tackle it before he got too far into the 4000-footers (saving all the goodies for last!). He and I had met on the trails inadvertently a couple of times over the summer. He also participated in our group's 9-11 hike. He agreed (he'd wanted company for this, and not too many people hurry to the Owl!), though it would be his first back-to-back weekend that I'm aware of. And 2 tougher ones at that.
As there was heavy rain the night before the hike (roughly 1.5" fell between our finish of the Twins hike and about 4AM), I thought we would be better hiking via Black Pond and a roughly 1 mile bushwhack through what was supposed to be open woods to the Lincoln Brook Trail. This in fact would cut off about 1 mile each way and avoid what is normally the worst 2 river crossings. Hoss agreed, and we were off. We made good time to the end of the Black Pond Trail, which just sort of ends at its namesake, Black Pond, which has a nice view towards the Bonds.
|Bridge at the Lincoln Woods area to begin the hike|
|Irene washout on the Lincoln Woods Trail|
|The Bonds over Black Pond|
Off we headed, scrambling up a bank near the pond and meandering our way NorthWest, somewhat following a couple tracks I traced from Google Earth into my GPS. We did a lot of sidehilling early, which wasn't pleasant for my bum knee (the one that had been bothering me since before Baxter State Park) or Hoss either. So we gained more elevation earlier than intended, to about 2000 feet, where we hit some better woods too. We kept this elevation for a while, slowly making our way through a few patches of thicker spruce and undergrowth. Eventually we started to drop some of the elevation in favor of better woods, and after way too long, we popped out onto the Lincoln Brook Trail, about 100 feet past the second stream crossing we were trying to avoid (yeay!). We were slow through the bushwhack, taking roughly 1.5 hours. We didn't quite follow the line envisioned, but it did do the job. We decided to give the main trails a go all the way back after summitting.
|Fungus on a log on the Black Pond Bushwhack|
The Lincoln Brook Trail from here was straight-forward enough. A couple more stream crossings, the last of which we waded. The cold water felt wonderful on the feet. A quick dry-off and re-application of boots and we were at the base of the slide in short order.
|Start of the Owl's Head Path|
|Heading up the Owl's Head Path, which goes up a rock slide|
|Northward up the valley|
|No trickery here, it IS that steep!|
|At the "old" summit - follow the arrow!|
|Remnants of old signage at the "old" summit|
|The "new" summit|
|Liberty from Owl's Head slide|
|We still have to get down there!|
|Arrow carved in a tree marking the start of the Owl's Head Path|
|Second-lowest crossing on Lincoln Brook Trail|
|Current was pretty strong here, aside from this spot we could have rock-hopped|
|Remnant from a railroad bridge? At the lower Lincoln Brook Trail crossing|
|Lower stream crossing on Lincoln Brook Trail|
|Random pink rock in the stream|
|Hoss comes across the last crossing|
|Old railroad path|
|Wilderness boundary - 3 miles to the cars!|
|Crossing onto the Lincoln Woods Trail, 3 miles to go|
|The big bump in the middle is Owl's Head up and down the herd path...|
|Trails are the upper loop, stretch from the pond North on the lower loop was the bushwhack|
It is long, but actually not that bad. 18.5 miles by trail, about 18 the way we went. I would not take the Black Pond 'whack again unless there was good snow coverage, or the streams were known to be dangerously high. We were about 30 minutes slower via the bushwhack despite 1/2-3/4 miles shorter.
Peaks: Owl's Head Mountain (4025', NH4K)
Trails: Lincoln Woods Trail, Black Pond Trail, bushwhack, Lincoln Brook Trail, Owl's Head Path, Lincoln Brook Trail, Franconia Brook Trail, Lincoln Woods Trail
Mileage: 18 miles
Elevation Gain: 3200 feet
Time: 11 hours