Owl's Head Trip Report
Mud, bugs, stream crossings, miles, and miles and miles. Then there was the climb. That climb? It didn’t stop. And an owl carrying a mouse in its talons flew by me at the start. That was the highlight of the day.
Lincoln Woods Tr. was long and flat. Once into the Pemi Wilderness, the forest closed in the trail, and with it came sultry, thick, humid air. After seven stream crossings and hours of walking, I finally got to the cairn marking the slide path. I started up and the bottom of the slide soon appeared. This was the most dangerous and scary trail I have hiked. [2008 note: The thunderstorm on Osceola was a more dangerous situation, but the slide trail up Owl’s Head was the most dangerous. It was all loose rock up a steep slope.] This should not be a trail. Straight up and gravel, gravel, gravel. Hopeless footing. This should not be a trail. Very dangerous. Not fun.
I hiked alone and there were no other hikers around. I prayed a couple of times for focus of mind and courage. Everything inside of me was telling me to turn back. I should not have done this alone. I coined a new term: defensive hiking. One wrong step and I would have slid down hundreds of feet. I walked into dead ends and had to maneuver back down or along a contour to get back on it. I saw nobody until the top. Near the top, the trail remained steep but the gravel ended. By that time I was drained so the last half mile was incredibly difficult. At the top I took a wrong turn (this is an unmaintained trail) and headed down the western slope. I pulled out the compass for the first time ever. I got my bearings, retraced my steps and found the trail again. The summit was a vertical stake with “Owl’s Head” routed in it and nailed to a tree. The White Mountain Guide says that Owl’s Head summit signs were often stolen. Had that sign not been nailed to the tree, I would have stolen it, pissed on it, burned it and danced on its ashes. I was nine miles in and I had to get back. There was no view at the top. Why stay?
I turned right around and headed back. Walking down the slide was scarier than walking up. I slipped on the gravel once and thankfully fell back on my ass instead of forward. I got to the bottom and cursed a lot. I finished what little water I had left and drank from a spring near the bottom of the slide. Then I trudged back. This was a total waste, this sucked, I hated it.
- Hazy, hot, humid, mid 80s
- 18 miles, 8:05 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
- Saw nobody until near the summit
- Cut a 6 inch gash in my leg gash climbing over a fallen tree branch while crossing a stream
- There has to be a better way up this rock. The slide is not a trail
- Ran out of water at the bottom of the slide on the way back. Walked 8 miles without a drink. Ugh.
- Had I known I had to hike this garbage, I wouldn’t have taken on the 4000 footers.