Wednesday, August 7, 2013


NEW HAMPSHIRE SCENES: Finally, Owl's Head!

I did it!
If you've followed any of my blog, or know many White Mountain hikers, you know about the forty-eight 4,000-footers. (See the Oct 10 Blog)
Owl's Head is reportedly the most difficult. I concur completely, though not because it's the longest (18 miles round trip), or the highest (it isn't, it's only 4,025), or has several water crossings that even the experts say are"quite difficult in high water, and even in moderate water"(water crossings are not my favorite thingl)  with alternate bushwhack options to circumvent the two most difficult crossings. (Ugh!)
What made it both interesting, not to be missed!, and difficult,  is it's wilderness nature!  Owl's Head is located in the Pemigewassat Wilderness, and therefore subject to US National Forrest regulations. Designated wilderness areas are not permitted to have man-made structures of any sort, no signs, blazes, and even cairns.

It starts out quite innocently on the Kank with a wide, flat logging-road trail which narrows and steepens, gradually climbing about 1500 feet in 8 miles. And here the fun begins!! Owl's Head might be more aptly described as a densely covered, very very steep mound, about a mile long and1500 high, flat topped with two mounds perhaps 10 feet above that general elevation that are designated as the "old" and "new" summit! (also unmarked) The route most hikers use to reach the summit is called "the slide," an area where boulders, rocks and stones move and slide when you put your foot on them; but, because of the relative openness of the area it does give the illusion of a path!
The Slide (actually only a portion)
pastel, 12 x 16

Endless   Pastel 20 x 26
This path is not visible from the brookside trail, but may be marked by a small cairn, which it was on the day I went. At the upper end, the slide splits and is so dense in foilage that I heard voices, called to the two women and got a response, but never did see them. Above the slide is, boulders and stones, intertwined with trees managing somehow to spread roots up, down and around enough to get the necessary nourishment for continued, but not necessarily abundant growth. In my mind as I climbed, almost always with 3 points of contact, the word, "endless," kept repeating itself. It was a mile with 1500 elevation gain...The guide books call it treacherous.  It is!

And, finally the top. Yes!  As with the rocks and vegetation on the way up...unkempt, jumbled, definitely a wilderness with its own beauty. Not recommended as your last hike, it is still worth the effort and the experience. If nothing else, it made me much more aware of the tremendous amount of volunteer work and donations that have gone into maintaining all of the other trails I have hiked in the Whites, in pursuit of the 48, and as much, in pursuit of beauty and landscape material. 
So...I have now hiked the last of the 48, but, that done, I know that my "obsession," as a few of my hiking friends call it, never was truly an obsession. Owl's Head was not my "last" mountain. Rather, I consider the entire experience as an introduction to the Whites. Chasing the 48 took me beyond the well known "Presidentials," beyond mere "peak bagging" and that "been there, done that" check list attitude. Chasing the 48 has led me to a feeling and sense of the grandeur and uniqueness that infuses these wonderful Whites, and to a familiarity that now I am comfortable on the sides, the ledges and the ridges, though that comfort grew as gradually as the Owl's Head trail gained elevation during the first 8 miles!

The painting possibilities are endless, and if I had a wish to be granted, it would be to be a resident artist in each and every hut in the Appalachian Mountain Club system. The huts made some of the peaks more accessible, but they are also a way to meet other hikers and discuss possibilities and experiences. Meanwhile, it is enough that I have a light weight camera that fits in my pack-belt pocket, and memories that go far beyond the photo's I take. I now have memories that come to life again in my studio every time I step up to my easel. 

My other wish is that you who view my paintings get to feel some of what I feel as I experience and re-experience these New Hampshire Scenes.