In the previous post I closed by saying there was another mountain last weekend. That mountain was Mount Osceola. It’s over in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire.
I left the Kingdom early last Sunday, as the plan had me picking up my son 100 miles south and then both of us proceeding northeast to hike Osceola. Travel went smoothly, and we arrived at the trailhead on Tripoli Road a bit after 11AM that morning. Beware this road- it’s in fairly horrible condition; trucks and 4x4s are its preferred customers. We saw an older fellow with a Porsche roadster high-centered on a piece of broken road. When asked if he needed a hand, he said all was fine, so Son and I continued on our journey.
The Summit Trail is managed by the National Forest Service, as it’s in the White Mountain National Forest. There is a small parking lot at the trailhead, but by the time we got there it was full and the overflow traffic was lining an appreciable length of Tripoli Road. This is obviously a popular hike, as are most these days in the Whites. We joined the overflow and parked the Jeep about ¼ mile from the start of the trail. We hydrated, loaded up the daypacks and headed onto the path upwards.
Osceola is one of the larger hills in the neighborhood, topping out at over 4300 feet. The trail was made all the more challenging as it’s covered with rocks and boulders. Travel on this one is not across dirt and gravel, stepping over roots and rocks, but on the actual rocks themselves, stepping from stone to stone. Some refer to this as “bouldering”. I didn’t find this much of a problem on the way up, as most of the boulder-strewn grades did not seem too severe. Smooth rock face makes an early appearance, and becomes more prevalent the higher up you go.
This is where having proper footgear is so important. These rock faces can be very slippery, even when dry, and the angles of travel are usually not level. Non-slip boots are the only way to traverse safely. It amazes me still how many people venture out upon these trails in sneakers and sandals. They’re usually the same folks with a half liter of water for the whole trip.
Need to change the subject as I detect a rant coming on.
The distance to the summit is posted as 3.2 miles from the start. But the actual distance traveled will probably be significantly more. The reason for this is when “bouldering” you are rarely going directly in one direction. Up-and-down combined with side-to-side routing is constant, as are short retreats when an easier way needs to be figured out. The distance adds up- we ended up logging about 8 ½ miles for the round trip, including the usual lollygagging on the summit.
Son and I also noted and commented upon the lack of markings on this trail. We saw no blazes of any color during the entire hike. To be fair, the trail is unmistakable, so it’s not a big deal. But we did see one marking we liked- an encouragement to “Keep Going” emblazoned on a log step. It’s hard to see in the photo, but it’s there. At this point you’re perhaps a mile up the trail.
After roughly two hours of climbing we reached the summit of Mount Osceola. The effort was well worth it, as the views were fantastic. It was pretty crowded, too, but we found a nice spot on the edge of the rock summit to have our lunch and enjoy the views. Yes, Awesome Trail Sandwiches were deployed.
This is an out & back trail, so the trip down was familiar. And harder, in my opinion. Downhill bouldering is rougher than up, and thankfully I had my hiking staff. Without it the return trip would have been much more difficult. Having that solid third point of contact as one billygoats from rock to rock is invaluable.
I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m the old guy you see on the trails with solid maple wood hiking staff. It’s a tad over six feet long. I’ve had this one for almost 20 years now; I cut it and my son’s on my property when I lived in western Maine. My experience is it far surpasses the high-tech tickety-tick “trekking poles” that are popular today. The extra length in particular is quite handy, especially downhill, while the softened wood that develops at the tip grips rock better than the steel and rubber tipped poles. It can also be used to fend off catamounts and coyotes!
Our trip down the hill was uneventful. The day had become quite warm- in the high 80s- and we stopped often to hydrate. We returned to the trailhead around 3:30PM having hiked 8 ½ miles, and ascending/ descending roughly 2100 feet. Going in I thought this would be the toughest hike of the year so far, but I still think that Burke Mountain was harder. Perhaps because Burke was earlier in the year, and the insects were so fierce that day made it seem more difficult? It’s hard to know.
It’s been a great season so far, and it’s not even halfway gone. I’m hoping there’s more fun in store. Thanks for stopping by!
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