|Hiking Trail Conditions Report|
||East Osceola, Mt. Osceola, NH|
||FR203, road, bushwhacks, Mt. Osceola Trail, herd paths|
|Date of Hike:
||Saturday, September 25, 2021|
|Parking/Access Road Notes:
||I wasn't entirely sure where I could park. The safest bet would be the Depot lot at the Livermore Trailhead but being lazy I wanted to drive into the campground. Shortly after you bear right onto the road to Osceola Vista Campground there's a USFS $5/day fee station. I wasn't sure if I needed to pay or not since I just wanted to park, not camp. Of course the folks managing the campsite were not up and about at 6:30am to ask. I ended up, on the advice of another whacker I ran into on the road, pulling into a pull-off that was really the start of an old road beyond the iron ranger and pay station but before the campsites. I ran into the people overseeing the campground at the end of the day and they said I was fine to park there without paying since I was not camping :) |
||Dry Trail, Wet Trail, Wet/Slippery Rock, Standing/Running Water on Trail, Mud - Minor/Avoidable, Mud - Significant |
|Water Crossing Notes:
||Given how much water we'd gotten the day before (last Friday), I was a bit concerned about this hike but the only real water crossing I needed to negotiate was crossing the right hand branch of Osceola Brook where the brook splits at roughly 2700ft. In actuality, I crossed both this and a smaller drainage here. But, lucky for me, these drainages are 1) small enough so as not to be much of a problem and 2) high enough up that much of the water on the mountain from the rain the day before had already drained from them. So this was just a very short rock hop, not much larger than a step over. Watch for slick, mossy rocks though. |
|Trail Maintenance Notes:
||I don't recall any blowdowns on the Mount Osceola Trail. I know there were was at least one earlier this year between the peaks though so thank you to whoever took care of it. This trail isn't blazed save for some very old and faded blazes between east and main peaks. May be some headed down toward the Greeley Ponds area but I very rarely go that way. |
||I wouldn't recommend it as this hike involved some scrambling not just on the chimney bypass but also while bushwhacking around the cliffs to reach Mt Osceola Trail. Some people had dogs that were doing the Osceolas and they seemed to be doing okay though. All depends on the dog and your comfortability bushwhacking with them. |
|Lost and Found:
||None but the bushwhacker I met in the campground in the morning said he lost a pair of sunglasses before while whacking along the abandoned Osceola Brook Trail before so if you find them I'll put you in contact with him! ||
||FR203, road, bushwhack (abandoned Osceola Brook Trail), Mount Osceola Trail, herd paths/bushwhacks (abandoned Osceola Trail and southern ridge)|
My 22nd and 23rd 4000 footers this month that count toward my September grid out of 26 needed. The day started off cold and wet but the sun came out as predicted and dried the vegetation off making for what became a very pleasant hike. Added bonus, was the crazy coincidence of running into another whacker while headed into the campground. He not only gave me advice as to where to park but also gave me lots of intel on my route and lots of other cool info. A 1st class hiker for sure!
The plan for the day was 1) whack up the route of the abandoned Osceola Brook Trail, 2) bag east and main peaks, and 3) whack down the route of the abandoned Osceola Trail back to the campground. 1) & 2) went as planned; 3) not so much but more on that below.
1) I walked into Osceola Vista Campground and began walking along FR203, then bore right onto another road Gaia shows that heads generally east and crosses Osceola Brook in a short distance. After it crossed Osceola Brook, I began looking on my left (north) for an old road I could follow along the brook as someone I know did when he did this. I thought I saw something so into the woods I went. I don't think it was any road but oh well. I have to start whacking at some point. This was all of maybe a few hundred feet after the bridge over Osceola Brook. I almost immediately found my first mylar balloon as I started whacking and packed it out. There was another one practically right next to it which I left.
I made my way to the broom and made my way up usually very close/right next to it. I may have run into an old road or two along the way but nothing clear enough that I could follow or was helpful. The woods weren't awful but they weren't great for being in the hardwoods either. And, of course, everything was wet. I found some surveyor's tape just above 2100ft. At 2250-2300ft along the brook, I went up a ways away from the brook to avoid some nastier woods or a steep sidehill or something but found my way back down quickly at about 2350ft. I continued up the eastern side of Osceola Brook, occasionally going a little further up/east to avoid thicker stuff or harder terrain. I also began to get glimpses into the ravine from here so would dip into the brook to see if I could see anything good. I never did. Finally, at 2700ft, the brook branched and I crossed from the east side of the eastern/right-hand branch to the eastern side of the western/left-hand branch just above it. In actuality, I crossed two small drainages here. I stayed on the mini-ridge or just to the west of it between the two drainages for awhile since that was easier than cutting into the steep sidehill on the western one. I continued up, soon no longer feeling I was following a drainage but just heading up steeply in the woods. I headed northwest aiming a bit west of the col (a short ways above the chimney). I did this because the old maps show the trail going here rather than directly to the col although the description says that it ended in the col. I'm curious which is true. In any case, I'd end in the flat area below the cliffs where I'd heard there was a small pond and hopefully have a view and be able to determine whether or not I'd be able to make it up between the cliffs to my waypoint a short ways above the chimney or if I truly needed to head to the col.
The woods in this upper section I don't remember too well. I think they were a bit bad at times but nothing awful. Definitely got steep as I approached the flat area below the cliffs but all very negotiable. As I approached it, there were some very small streams I figured might be the outlet of the pond. I'd heard that the pond was more of just a puddle this time of year and I immediately came to a large puddle. Thinking this was it, I didn't look any further for a pond but upon talking with others and seeing photos, this was most definitely not the pond. I should have known better with all the rain the day before... oh well. A good reason to go back! I hear there's a striking view of Tecumseh from the pond. It was a very cool area, sitting below all those cliffs. I didn't get a good look at the col bveing a few hundred feet to the west of it but I could see the cliffs and what looked to be an opening between them I could get up to my waypoint.
Had I gone to the col instead which certainly would've been the safer bet, I bet I would've come across the actual pond. But no, instead I decided to make the one stupid decision I'm entitled to on any bushwhack and go try and hike up between some cliffs. What could go wrong? Well, for one, I didn't drop a waypoint where I thought I saw the opening nor did I take a bearing. I just sort of forgot and by the time I was in the woods wandering aimlessly toward something I didn't think it worth it to go back. So I made my way over, peeking through the trees toward the cliffs and trying to find an opening. Eventually, I thought I found one and headed up. I squeezed through some tight spots and it had to hoist myself up a bit and it was very steep but no rock climbing was involved ;) I had to be careful not to dislodge loose rocks though. Then it was a short walk up to the trail. I wonder if I was anywhere close to where the trail actually went...
2)Lots of hikers out on a sunny Saturday between the peaks. Nice to meet John out there who I'd "known" through fb but had never actually met. Great talking to him on main peak for awhile. Many parts of the trail between the peaks are a muddy mess. From the main peak, I continued down the trail to the first sharp right-hand turn in the trail. Here, instead of turning right with the current trail, I entered the woods and began my whack
3) I was swimming through very tight spruce for all of maybe 20ft (and it probably took close to 20min haha!) I came to an open spot that looked like a narrow trail corridor. The man I'd met in the morning had mentioned there was a corridor here. Could this be it? I was very close to the trail and could hear (and see??) people on it although there wasn't a clear path between me and them. If doing this again, I'd go just a tad further down the trail and find this corridor from there rather than swimming through the spruce. I began to follow this faint path, expecting it to end any second, but it kept going. Yay! Got some cool little views over to Tecumseh from this path. The woods were still thick even if not "swimming through spruce" thick and consequently the narrow path was a bit thick too but it was definitely followable by someone with a bit of experience. Very cool. I had to wonder what exactly this was... it was going precisely the direction I wanted it to. Could it really be the abandoned trail and someone had done some upkeep or used it over the years?? Was it a rerouted section of the Mt. Osceola Trail? In any case, in following what the abandoned Osceola Trail did, it came close to another switchback (the third, sharp, left-hand turn) in the Mt Osceola Trail at about 3750ft. Shortly before this, the trail seemed to be cut.
As it came close to the current trail, I was afraid I'd lose it. But, sure enough, after walking on today's trail for all of 20ft, where it turtned sharply right, there was a clear herd path continuing dead ahead, blocked by some debris. I walked over the debris and it seemed to split. To the right, it quickly led to a campsite and seemed to dead end. On the left, after pushing through just a wee bit, a clear herd path comes into view. followed it to a small spring beneath a boulder. I was excited because I thought this spring was the one mentioned in the old guidebooks but upon looking afterward, I believe the spring was to the west, not the east as this was. Furthermore, I noticed this herd path seemed to be contouring rather than continuing straight down to the south. I kept following it hoping it would soon bank a right and head on down thus assuring me it was still the route of the abandoned trail. No such luck. But I kept following it as now I was quite intrigued. This path was much clearer than the one between the switchbacks I was on earlier and even received maintenance. Many trees had clearly been cut to make way for it. The spring I found was less than 0.1mi from the trail but the path continued well beyond it coming beneath a cliff a little more than 0.1mi from the trail. It then walked under several cliffs/ledges on Osceola. Very cool. Perhaps this is a climber's path for people who rock climb? I also later heard that the FS was doing work on the trail here years ago and made themselves a camp. Perhaps this led to it as I did eventually come to a slightly larger open area beneath the cliffs with a fire pit, what may have been a toilet covered by birch bark, etc.
When I got to this point, the path seemed to fizzle out although I admit I didn't look hard. At this point I knew I was way off course for following the route of the abandoned Osceola Trail down. I was nearly on the southern ridge of the Osceolas at this point that's between Wesrtern Branch Ravine and Osceola Brook Ravine. The other whacker I met in the morning came up this ridge and seeing what looked like may be a herd path heading down, I decided to just follow that down. What looked like a herd path most certainly was not but I began my way down nonetheless. It was a but tricky since I was just west of this southern ridge and consequently kept and heading down into the ravine to my west (what I believe some call Western Branch Ravine) when I should have contoured more until truly on the ridge. The woods weren't great either.
I started whacking down at about 3900ft and didn't truly hit the ridge until about 3400ft. The woods got better here. Around this point, the ridge also becomes much less steep and is quite gradual, actually going up slightly to some insignificant bumps. From at least one of these bumps, I got a partial view back to the cliffs on Osceola where I was earlier :) At around 3000ft the ridge gets steep again and begins to lose its "ridgyness". Here, I had a choice. I could follow what remained of the ridge, although less defined and steep, southeast intersecting Osceola Brook again (which I wasn't keen on doing) or continue following a bearing that's just east of south and begin to follow a drainage down to FR203 (above where I left it in the morning). I chose the latter. Along the way, I hit what looked like a logging road at 2650ft and the woods transitioned to hardwoods fairly abruptly at 2400-2450ft. Nothing too challenging throughout all of this other than sticking to your bearing coming off the ridge since you could easily get pulled a few different ways.
I found some logging artifacts around a grassy field that looked like tick heaven around 1900ft about 0.1mi north of where FR203 turns left and heads west/northwest instead of north. From this old logging camp, I headed south to this bend in FR203 and walked back along it to the campground and my car having a nice long chat about my day with the people overseeing the campground on my way out. They told me that where I parked was fine and you did not need to pay to park there since I was not camping :)
||Liam Cooney |
Disclaimer: Reports are not verified - conditions may vary. Use at own risk. Always be prepared when hiking. Observe all signs. Trail conditions reports are not substitutes for weather reports or common sense.