Sarah and I slept in, as usual, before finally loading up the car and heading North on Saturday August 8th. I’ve been planning all year to get out and do more backpacking, more exploring and now was my chance. It’s always great to bring Sarah along, it’s nice for us to be able to get back out into the mountains together. Its been way too long and the mountains is where we built our relationship over the course of time. Sarah isn’t necessarily accustomed to the whole backpacking thing, but of course she is all in when it comes to spending some time in the woods.
We left the Lincoln Woods parking area after having a brief conversation if one of the Forest Rangers. The topic of discussion was of course Owls Head. Over the last few years, I’ve really taken some time to hear the forest services side of an on going and ridiculously old argument involving the mountain. What I heard really upset me. Stories of trees being spray painted on what is known as the Easy Bushwhack in the Whites. Over 60 trees being damaged by someone blazing their own trail up the mountain… and word of a new sign being placed on the summit. Regardless of the discussion, we threw on our heavy packs (30+ pounds) and headed into the Pemi Wilderness.
There is nothing new about the hike out towards Owls Head. We walked along the old railroad beds of J.E. Henry’s logging railroads, East Branch and Lincoln. The trail is flat for as far as the eye can see, only raising grade ever so slightly as it weaves its way through the valley. We passed by a few other early morning hikers making their way to the Franconia Falls swimming hole. When we got to first wide river crossing, Sarah and I switched into our water shoes. Sarah her old EMS shoes and me in my crocs. We waded through the knee deep water as it rushed on by… it was FREEZING! We walked for a few miles in our water shoes, resorting to not wasting our time with taking shoes off and putting them back on. We ran into a solo female hiker and we started some nice conversation with her. She asked if we were from the area, we replied with the honest answer before she finally realized she had seen Sarah and I in a movie. We exchanged more pleasantries before continuing on.
After the last crossing before the Owls Head Slide, Sarah and I switched back into our Hiking boots (me in my sneakers). Our backs were killing us and we were getting rather tired. Attempting the summit of Owls Head was long out of the question. It was getting late and we wanted to ensure a camping spot out at 13 Falls Tentsite. As we moved along we smelled a foul odor. We caught word of a dead moose up Owls Head slide, I grabbed my camera and went for a look. I reached the moose at the base of the slide.. still rather intact but with many decomposing bugs amongst it’s hide.. I couldn’t bring myself to taking a photo. I looked at it intriguingly before moving along. What really struck me at the bottom of the slide was the “up” arrow that had been hacked into a spruce tree. I was so appalled by someone’s actions that I was left speechless (more on this later)..
We continued North along the Lincoln Brook Trail into uncharted territory for us. I’d never been on this trail past the slide and it showed as Sarah and I quickly lost the trail and found ourselves wandering through a tangle of herd paths looking for the actual trail. We stumbled upon a pretty stellar campsite, though it was far too close to the river, and soon relocated the actual trail. We weaved our way along the trail, following the river to its beginning. The trail turned into a real quagmire of mud and muck. We lost the trail one or two more times and we grew ever more tired as we pushed along. Before long we made it to the height of land and began our descent towards 13 Falls while walking through what was perhaps the most stunning Birch Forest I’d ever been in. It was simply remarkable.
We both staggered about as we continued to tire. Our day was nearing 11.5 miles with the heavy packs on. The sun setting and our need to set up camp and cook dinner. We were having a great time though Sarah was getting a bit tired and rather quiet. She started to stumble and fall a bit… and the miles only seemed to get longer. We soon found ourselves walking along the river once more enjoying the views of various waterfalls that flowed into deep frigid pools. It was such a fascinating place. We finally made it to the tent site where we set up shop, paid the caretaker and set off to cook dinner. Only one problem… we forgot the fuel for the stove. DOH! We begged a fellow hiker to borrow some of his fuel to which he obliged. We were saved! We cooked an amazing Chicken and Teriyaki Rice meal, ate some soft chocolate chip cookies, enjoyed some star gazing and then headed off to bed. It was a chilly yet comfortable night and the sleeping was to die for.
We woke up Sunday morning and packed up camp. We ruined our Oatmeal by adding sugar free Kool Aid mix. I twas too damn bitter. We ate what we could before doing dishes. We loaded up our packs, walked them down the trail and then dropped them down. We headed back towards the waterfalls for some pictures and yes… even for some swimming. I won’t tell you how cold it was because I can’t possible describe it. I’ll just say that when I hit the water, I gasped while under neath it and got a mouth full of liquid. It was breathtaking for sure. Brrr..
We loaded up our packs once more and began to long 8.5 mile walk out on the old railroad grades to the parking lot. The walk out was fast yet filled with great conversation. We bonded well on the hike and had a wonderful time. The Pemi is full of numerous hidden gems and I highly recommend anyone in the area take a little adventure of their own. I love the pemi and I only hope to begin creating my next film on the area I’ve grown to love.