March 14, 2015.
With an incoming storm predicted to hit around 2:00 in the afternoon I needed to find something relatively easy. Now easy is a relatively loose term but basically I needed a packed out trail and the hope was Osseo Trail leading up to Mt Flume would fit the bill. Easy if it is packed out but there is a very steep section before reaching the ridge that has ladders to get up. I have never been up this trail so today seems like the time to do it with the impending rain/snow.
An early start to the day as I get to Lincoln Woods at 6:15 and eat my DD breakfast waiting for the trails to light up a bit more. Thirty minutes later and I am off carrying my snowshoes since the Lincoln Woods Trail is always packed out. It is a main thoroughfare for hikers, cross country skiers and walkers. It is still another fifteen minutes before the sun officially rises but more than enough light for the start of the day.
This is the trail that most people complain about because it so long and flat but I actually like it as it is a good warm up. The only sounds are from the mostly frozen Pemi River off to my right as the walking goes by quick. In twenty-five minutes I reach the trail head for the Osseo Trail and stop to put my snowshoes on. The trail is well broken out but I know I am going to need the traction when I reach the steep section further up. Besides if I am going to bring them I might as well wear them.
The beginning of Osseo Trail is through a flat section with Osseo Brook off to the left. It is the only noise out here other than a woodpecker out there somewhere in the early morning. There was no one ahead of me on Lincoln Woods Trail which I find quite unusual. Shortly the trail starts climbing up the embankment away from the brook valley skirting the contour of the surrounding area. Through the trees is the eastern shoulder of Whaleback Mt and some ominous looking ledges.
At first I mistook it for Flume but soon realized that it is too close to the trail to be the destination of the day. The trail is never too difficult through this section of woods as it makes it approach to the base of Mt Flume. But I do get a peek of where the trail is taking me as the scarred ridge is visible up ahead. That hump to the right of the scar is where the steep section is as the trail goes up and just above the scar.
I am making good time so far but know that soon enough that will all change. This is the third week in a row since leaving the western part of the state behind that I have had to deal with a 4000 footer and steep trails. I have been feeling it in the legs the next few days after hiking. It is amazing how quickly the legs strength and stamina leave when doing the easier trails on my list. When I finally reach the base of Flume the trail starts a series of switchbacks which helps in the elevation gain game. As I get higher up the teasing views start to appear and the first is a shot of Bondcliff across the valley framed with the trees.
A little bit up the trail and Owls Head is in view with North and South Twins in the background. Over to the right of that are the three bonds; West Bond, Bond and Bondcliff.
Then I reach the section where the ladders are but they are buried deep under the snow. Picture can do it no justice but suffice it to say that it is indeed steep. The good thing is the trail is pack down good but I still head up slowly and hesitantly hoping the built-in crampons on my snowshoes hold with each step. At the "top" of one section is a sign pointing to the right. Typically these signs say outlook or view but this one is different as it says Downlook. It is a knob with a drop off and I gingerly make my way out to it. This spot has not seen any recent traffic and I just hope the snow holds as I make the ten foot trip out to it.
The views are pretty much the same as I got a few minutes ago lower down except no trees this time. Owls Head, the Twins, Guyot and the Bonds all in one shot with no obstacles. Over to my left and Flume is visible still a ways away.
Satisfied with this spot and I return to the trail where the next section skirts along the contour to the next steep section. It does not bother me too much heading up these trails but I know returning this way is going to be a challenge. This picture is looking down the trail and coincidentally there is the same shot with the ladders from my brother (click here).
Finally reaching the plateau and Garfield makes its first appearance for the day as the trail levels out before it winds its way through the ridge. I was trying to find the opening where the old Osseo Trail came up from Whaleback Mt but never see it.
It takes almost an hour to reach the junction with Flume Slide Trail and Franconia Ridge Trail. I have not been here since that grand day back in October of 2011 when I did the whole Franconia Ridge in one day.
The final push is just a few minutes as I reach the opening where Mt Flume is right in front of me. Mt Liberty is right behind and I was having thoughts of heading over.
But while standing on this plateau I dashed those thoughts as I turned and looked across the way to Moosilauke which was becoming enveloped in the clouds. The weather is not far away and I do not want to be up here when it arrives. Over towards South and North Kinsman it is still fine but just a matter of time.
I take a few more pics and then it is time to make it around the cliff edge to the actual summit. I reach the hairy spot where the trail needs to cross where the slide begins and across it is a real steep section. The only thing stopping someone from sliding all the way down are a few scraggly trees. Luckily there is a bypass right at the slide that skips the steep section.
Reaching the top and the views are holding out. Franconia Ridge looks peaceful today as the winds are almost non-existent. Washington is just visible behind the shoulder of Bond.
After spending five minutes taking my myriad of pictures it is time to get down as I make my way back the way I came. Back into the woods after the careful decent and the snow begins to spit. Perfect timing! Down into the flat ridge section and I make it to the beginning of the steep section just as Garfield is smothered in the incoming clouds. Even the Pemi Valley is disappearing in front of me.
Wondering what the hell I am doing as shades of when I had to go down Flume Slide Trail that day back in 2011 except instead of wet slick ledges it is deep steep snow. Slowly I take a step hoping the snowshoes hold as it looks like the last hiker on this trail slid down. There is no way I am sliding down as I have nothing to stop or slow myself down with. With each step I keep expecting the worse of my snowshoe not holding and down I go. A couple of slips here and there but I make it down the first section. Past the Downlook and another steep section as I side step my way down in some sections. A big sigh of relief as I make it safely and from here on out it is an easy out back to the parking lot. Just before the end of Osseo Trail I run into the first people of the day as they are walking up the trail with their fatty mountain bikes. Reaching Lincoln Woods Trail and I only see five more people between here and the exit as I reach the suspension bridge in just two and half hours from leaving the summit. Quite an unusual people count for a trail section that is always very busy. Another trail off the redlining list and actually one I might like to return to on a fall day to see what the trail looks like underneath all the snow.
Final numbers: 11.2 miles, 6 hours and 45 minutes.
Redline Miles: 4.1, Total to Date: 725.9