It wasn’t meant to be

Backpacking

American mountaineering great Ed Viesturs once said, “Getting to the top is optional, getting down is mandatory.” This is some of the best advice anyone could give when it comes to any hike. The mountain will be there another day. That being said this report unfortunately isn’t about our 41st 4000ft summit but instead about our misadventures around Owl’s Head. I thought hiking Owl’s Head would be a great idea. Lindsey and I have the Tough Mudder coming up at the beginning of May where we will have to run 10miles all the while doing obstacles (10,000volt live electrical wires anyone?). This would be a great warm-up for that. Well, at least for us. Dad was banking on his 5+ mile almost daily walks to help him out. Plus, he was looking for a short drive to a hike.

Leaving Waterville Valley the Mad River was, well mad. With the rain and the warmer temperatures the water levels were high and running fast. This was a great indication of what was to come. Our hike started out great on the Wilderness trail. Therewas some mud and some ice but nothing difficult. We cruised up to the Black Pond trail with ease. After seeing the water levels we decided to do the bushwhack from Black Pond to the Lincoln Brook trail to avoid some water crossings. We followed the trail all the way to Black Pond and were really hoping that we would have no problem following people’s footsteps through the bushwhack. No such luck. Soon the monorail disappeared. I was in the lead so I just went due north. I kept checking my compass to make sure I was staying on the right track. This was slow going because we encountered mud a few inches deep, then pockets of snow up to a foot deep (think post holing). At times I would find some monorail so I knew we were on the right track. Finally the snow was getting deeper so we could follow the track out to Lincoln Brook trail. After a little while we put the snowshoes on to help with the post holing. Did I mention so far the weather had been on and off rain showers?

The Sealline See Pouch saves the day...and my camera!

Lindsey had been sick all week and was running out of steam. She saw a large blow down that she decided would be a great place to take a nap on while dad and I continued. It wasn’t too long after we parted with Lindsey that we reached the point where we needed to cross Lincoln Brook. I tried to find a place that looked like it had some rocks that were near the surface to step on. As luck would have it something I stepped on was not securely in place. Boom, into the ice cold Lincoln Brook I go. I could feel the water rush into my boots and up my jacket. So not cool. I got out and onto “dry” land as quickly as I could only to see dad experience the same fate. Once we both made sure we were physically ok we checked on our electronics. My camera had been in the Sealline See Pouch I just bought earlier in the week. The case was fully submerged in the brook but not a drop of water got in. Yay, my camera survived. My phone was in the pocket of my jacket which happened to be a North Face Gore-Tex Pro Shell. It too survived the fall. Dad was not so lucky. His camera was in the pocket of his jacket which was not Gore-Tex. Here we are, wet. Some people would turn around right then, but not us. We decided to push on. And the trail disappeared again. After leading a successful bushwhack already today I started heading up. I went straight up. Dad put in a request for me to do some zig-zagging. He wasn’t enjoying my straight up approach. Turns out he wasn’t really enjoying any approach. He was getting too tired and the thought that even when we get to the top we have another 9miles to get back to the car wasn’t appealing. He told me I could go on, but that meant I would be one mountain ahead of him. I also didn’t want him coming back here alone, even without snow or high water.

We turned around and headed back. This time we got across the water without falling in. When I reached Lindsey she was happy as a clam, basking in the occasional sunlight that was now appearing since the rain had stopped. None of us really wanted to do the Black Pond bushwhack again so we decided to follow the regular way and head toward Franconia Brook and the two water crossings. Yup, not so much. We couldn’t find a good place to cross so we were on to another bushwhack following the raging water. Frustration would be the nicest way to put how we all were feeling. Finally we came across a sign that said End of Trail. I felt glee. We had made it to the Franconia Falls. We were back on real trails and we were rewarded with some rushing waterfalls. Our original plan did not call for seeing these but we took it as a silver lining. All three of us were going to make it back and we did get to see some good sights. Truthfully it was also very good exercise of the body and also our patients. I am happy to report that even after spending 5 or so hours in my soaking wet Darn Tough boot socks I did not have a single blister. I had dry socks I could have changed into but not knowing if I was going to end up in a river crossing again I decided to save them until I got to the car where I know they wouldn’t get wet. I guess we just weren’t meant to get Owl’s Head on this day but fear not, I will be back and this time I will get my revenge on you.

Amy Parulis


A former Strength and Conditioning Specialist and captain of the University of North Carolina track team, Amy now looks for her next mountain to climb or mud run to take part in to keep in shape. Her favorite hike was to the crater rim of Mt. St. Helens where she witnessed a steaming lava dome and she some day hopes to summit Mt. Rainier. In the meantime she can be found helping customers at the Waterford EMS. You can follow her adventures on Twitter @amyparulis

2 Comments

  1. April 27, 2011, 8:04 pm

    Amy,

    Great post!!

    I still need to bag Owl’s Head to finish my 48. It sounds like you had an epic, and also wet/cold, trip! I have gotten into the habit of putting all my gear in ziploc bags in case I faced the same stream crossing situations that you encountered.

    Good luck with Tough Mudder….that looks like a sweet race that is more focused on teamwork and fun than times; should make for an amazing blog post!

    -Grant

  2. April 26, 2011, 7:23 am

    Amy, I left Owl’s Head for last on my peakbagging list…it was awesome, and anti-climactic all at once since there’s no view except from the slide. I’ve had to turn back from a good number of hikes before, and I agree in that there’s zero shame in doing so! The mountains aren’t going anywhere…at least not quickly!

    Enjoyed the read! Take care and Happy Trails!

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