February 18, 2012. So the plan today is to knock off one of the most remote peaks on the list. Most people have nothing good to say about this one, Owl's Head. It is in the middle of nowhere and has absolutely no views on top. It is also a long one, about 16.5 miles round trip. A couple of bushwhacks that are easily followed during winter shaves some mileage off the usual 18+ miles via trails.
Guess what time the alarm was set for? Ayup, 3:30 am again. Out the door at 4:50 and the car is on auto-pilot as it knows the routine by now. Up I-93 and off onto the Kancamagus Highway pulling into Lincoln Woods at 6:35. The temp is 32° and it is overcast. I get ready and on the trail at 6:50. Nice day for another walk in the woods. Over the suspension bridge to the west side of the East Branch of the Pemi and it's an easy walk along the Lincoln Woods Trail. Straight for the most part and very wide in comparison to standard trails.
The hike/walk goes by fairly quickly and in 55 minutes I reach the junction for the Black Pond Trail. This trail is more like any other trail, narrower and the trees covered in a layer of snow. Twenty minutes after starting this trail I'm at the pond and get a shot of Bondcliff, another long hike someday.
Now the fun begins. There is no official trail from this point on between Black Pond and Lincoln Brook Trail. There is one spot near the beginning of the bushwhack where I have to make a choice of going right or left. I have no idea where either path leads but for some reason I am pulled towards the left path. It is a leisurely walk through the forests with glimpses of Flume and Liberty through the trees. It's windy and up and down over little bumps. I actually find it quite fun and enjoyable where I have read that others find it annoying. It only takes an hour to get across the woods to Lincoln Brook Trail and I guess I made the right decision by going left. The temperature does not go up much today which makes for a very comfortable hike. Occasionally it spits snow for brief on and off periods. By 10 o'clock I am at the base of Owl's Head ready for the final bushwhack, Brutus Bushwhack. This is a steep climb up avoiding the steep slippery slide trail that also leads to the top. The bushwhack is all it has been written up to be, unrelenting and leg and lung killer. It is only about a mile to the top but takes me two hours to get there, killer time!
I wander around the peak looking for first the "old" summit and then stop to put on the snowshoes to look for the new summit supposedly 0.2 miles from the old one. I wander all over the top of the peak and see no sign of a rock cairn buried in the snow signifying the top. Checking the GPS I finally decide that a spot I am in is as close as I can get without verification. It will have to do. I will definitely come back here during the non-snow season to see how close I was to the peak, whether I was on the actual spot or missed it by a few yards.
After spending thirty minutes wandering around the peak it is time to head back down. Just as I get past the "old" summit a group of hikers are coming up and a dog. One of the hikers is Randy Pierce, he is blind and the dog is his guide. I have heard about him through some boards and a few weeks later he is on TV. He is the first blind person to complete the NH 48 4000 footers in one winter season. Simply amazing!!
Time to head down and the two hour climb up Brutus takes an hour and fifteen minutes to get down. Still slow going but it is steep and trying not to fall and save the knees also. The hike out is uneventful and long but still refreshing and the skies begin to clear a little. When I make it back onto the Black Pond Bushwhack every once in a while I turn around and the views are awesome even though they are through the trees. Taking pictures was not worth it as they would be hard to see but I am able to see all the way up the valley between Owl's Head and the Bonds. Back onto Lincoln Woods Trail and the 2.6 miles back to the car seem like forever but just fifteen minutes shy of ten hours and I have arrived feeling pretty good for a 16.5 mile hike. Winter hiking is definitely much easier on the body than summer/fall hiking. And I was the one that said I'd never hike in the winter. HAHAHA!! Back home and time for a late chinese dinner.
Final numbers: 16.5 miles, 9 hours and 45 minutes, 1 peak, # of peaks to date - 31.