Busy trail for a Wednesday afternoon. Lots of families. Got to the top and sat for a moment, then headed over toward Firescrew. Nice view looking back toward Cardigan. Made our way back after hanging out for a bit and the summit of Cardigan was cleared out. Very nice 360 degree views. Perfect weather!
Route up/down: West Ridge Trail
June 6, 2013
In an attempt to train for the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway thru-hike in September my girlfriend and I decided we would try our first 4,000 ft mountain. Not only were we climbing our first “Big Girl” mountain, we also decided it would be a good idea to strap 32 lb multi-day packs to our backs.
After failing an attempt at the Falling Waters trail last fall in Franconia we knew we had to get an early start. Starting the trek to Little Haystack at 11am in the middle of October and then having to turn around about a half mile from the top made us seriously reconsider our start times from then on. Although I do believe if we hadn’t focused so much on making pancakes and having a maple syrup blind taste test we probably would have gotten started a little earlier that morning. Can you tell the difference between Grade A dark amber and Grade B maple syrup? Martina can, it was very impressive. I digress.
We awoke at 5am and sleepily dressed in the dawning sunlight. After driving for what seemed like a lifetime without coffee, we arrived at Tilton Diner for a pretty good breakfast, not as good as usual due to a rookie cooking in the back. Nonetheless, we arrived at the Tripoli Road parking lot with our bellies full and our expectations high. I fired up Martina’s cell phone so we could track our path on our fancy GPS app that never seems to work properly on my phone. Stupid force close! I placed the phone on top of the car with our map and started to outstretch our trekking poles. In some tragic twist of collaboration the phone ended up wedged on top of the roof and between the back trunk and when I lowered the trunk to grab it I heard a faint crunching noise. Long story short, that phone was not making it out alive.
We posed for our obligatory start of the trail photo in front of the Mt. Osceola trail sign and we were on our way. The first mile or so wasn’t bad. The trail had a lot of boulders on it but it was kind of fun maneuvering around them. We had decided we would take a cue from an ultralight backpacking book I had read and hike for 45 minutes without stopping and rest for 15 minutes instead of hiking till we thought we were going to pass out and then stand there panting for about 5 minutes till we caught our breath. After the first two hours of this routine I thought we were doing pretty well except without our GPS we had no idea how far we had gotten. Our packs were starting to get a bit heavy but we still felt good. I was leading and Martina was fading in and out behind me. As we strolled up on our third hour, doubt began to creep in. Thoughts began filling our heads… Why haven’t we reached the top yet? Weren’t we supposed to come out on a scenic ledge at some point? Let me see that map again?! Will this path ever end?
Martina took the lead for the fourth installment and I began to fade fast. It may have been because my outdated pack was beginning to dig into my shoulders or that my outdated pack was filled with six cans of green beans and a ton of other irrelevant items for a day hike. Regardless I was definitely feeling fatigued. At this point in the day we had already been passed by a half dozen folks and as we were approaching the land of diagonal rock faces with water running down them, the man that had left approximately 15 minutes before us was coming down the trail. Neither Martina nor I dared to ask “How much further to the top?” I had no idea whether I should take this as a good sign or a bad one.
What I did take as a bad sign was one of those aforementioned diagonal flat rock faces in front of us with a twenty foot drop-off on the left side and nothing to speak of as far as grip on the right side. The only thing we could use for footing was a tangled up mess of flimsy roots that had grown over a section of the rock. So, I daringly/stupidly decided that I was going to go first. I found a root that looked a little less flimsy than the rest and stepped on it to test its strength. It felt pretty good so I climbed up and reached out for one the trees to assist me in stepping up. Oooopps not that tree, grasping for what appeared to be a hardy tree turned out to be a tree whose roots had been saturated by the water that had been running down the side of the mountain since March. Ok, here’s a better one, just hoping it was, and success! I pulled myself and my pack which was pulling hard against me up the rock. Thankfully the tree held even though I know I’m not supposed to depend on vegetation to aid me.
Soon after that I started to fall even further behind. Martina turned around, probably because she could no longer hear my panting, and asked if I was ok. I said I was and then she told me I was doing a good job. To which I replied, “I don’t feel like I’m doing a good job”, holding back a few tears. She gave me a hug and we agreed that the hike was hard and seemingly endless. Then she asked The Question: “Do you want to keep going?” “Yes” I replied definitively and we kept moving.
About 30 minutes later we reached the top, the packs came off immediately and the snacks came out! The top was basically one enormous slab of rock that dropped off to another flat outstretched slab. The view was outstanding even though clouds had started to settle in. We rested our packs on top of the leftover base of a fire tower that once stood on top and began taking pictures. I looked around for the geographical survey button that tops all of NH’s 4,000 footers and came upon it after a few minutes of searching. We dined on a Philadelphia Feast of Butterscotch Krimpets, Peanut Butter Kandycakes, Peanut Chews and Peanut Butter Cups. It was heavenly, the only thing that would have improved our feast would have been some hot coffee because it was getting pretty darn cold up there.
We visited the top of Mt. Osceola for about 40 minutes and then decided to begin our descent. The way down took about 2/3 the amount of time that the way up took, but the trail still seemed endless. We talked a lot on the way down, just passing the time complaining, discussing future trips, calling out for bears, “Yo Bear!” and taking a few spills along the way. Martina put my grace to shame by scraping her knee twice in the same spot and her hand once. Our pants were covered in mud by the time we reached the bottom and it looked as if we had just hiked the MSGW.
When the trail opened up to wood logs on both sides and a gravel path layed out before us we practically jumped for joy. And when the car appeared to us we felt a happiness swell up inside. I had never been so happy to see a hunk of metal with four wheels in my life, because I knew that meant we could get rid of our packs and peel off our hiking boots. I did and it was glorious, I immediately put on my slippers and hopped into the car. Our first 4,000 footer down and hopefully our only one carrying a 32 lb pack. Reflecting back on it only an hour later I felt a great sense of accomplishment for what we had done and started flipping through the book for our next hike.
Route up/down: Mt Osceola trail