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 FOT48 - Owls Head 
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 FOT48 - Owls Head
Date: Saturday, September 9th, 2006

Peak: OWLS HEAD

Attendees: Sherpa John, Sherpette, Mt. Drew, Mtn Pa, Jim L., Spongebob, Homey (AT '02) (aka. JOE).

Mission: In remembrance of lives lost on 9/11/01 - Raise a flag ABOVE the trees on Owls Head Summit

Just some short details of our journey to the base of the Owls Head Slide, only because... many if not most have walked this boring (to some) section of trail. We left Lincoln Woods at 7AM. We saw the Bondcliff crew in the parking lot and again at the bridge out by Franconia Falls. We watched Pepsi leave the lot for Bond and while I was in dispose, The West Bond crew passed us by. After stepping onto the Franconia Brook Trail we spotted a rather large Bear track. Mtn Pa was late and caught up to us at the second major river crossing. I'll now begin to tell our journey in greater detail.

As we reached the base of Owls Head slide, we agreed that it would be best for us to take a break before ascending this formidable opponent. Sarah needed to adjust her insulin pump and eat something.. and it appeared as though everyone else needed to eat as well. This was Mtn Pa and Joe's first time to Owls Head, so it was beyond them what task was at hand. However, I was ready and needed to go despite my own hunger, as the time to get to the summit was ticking away. I was surprised by a few things at the base of the slide. Mostly, the fact that there is now TWO cairns marking the base of the slide and secondly... someone has carved arrows into 2 small trees signaling that the slide is here.

We all headed up the slide at our own comfortable pace. Joe stuck with me and I am glad he did, because I knew I would need someone's help upon reaching the summit to assemble our pole. However, about halfway up the slide.. I noticed something VERY different. I had gotten OFF the slide and had been following a new herd path that was skirting the right side of the slide area. Though nice to be off the slide.. this is the exact an official trail needs to be established.. too many people, too many herd paths. Once reappearing out on the slide, I glanced over at ALL peaks on Franconia Ridge and noticed Liberty was flying their flag early. As we reached the top of the slide, Joe asked me when it ended and I said, "Here." We then continued the hike upward towards the height of land.

Once we reached the height of land, the trail bobs and weaves around many summit blowdowns. The trail which used to be a straight shot across 4 years ago is now a tangled and windy mess of softwoods strewn about. As we reached the old summit, I pointed out the cairn that has been rebuilt and the tree which used to be home to a sign. I then led Joe on the bushwhack over to the new summit. Along the way we both laughed and smiled at the relative ease of losing the now (mostly) well established herd path over. Joe let me know he though I was out of my bleepin mind. :wink: But alas... after a bit of questioning our location on the ridge, we found the new summit. The summit is marked by a small cairn and a routered sign on a large hemlock. The sign's letters are now painted which was a neat surprise. The sign was first placed on this new summit in February and it is pleasing to see it still intact.

Joe and I got to work assembling the pole. Soon Spongebob and Jim L appeared from the shrub and they helped raise the flag as well. Initially at 11:55AM the flag was raised against the actual summit tree, but after viewing its flapping in the wind against the top of this tree we opted to move it. As I lowered the pole, it came apart and our flag was now suspended in the air stuck in the tree. After much maneuvering and coaxing with the pole.. the flag was dislodged. We then chose a new tree which appeared as though the flag would reach high above its top. The pole was reassembled and the flag raised 36 feet into the air. With the wind howling from the west, we strapped our pole to the birch tree by wraping excessive amounts of duct tape around it and tieing it down with rope. Our flag was now flying ABOVE the trees... on Owls Head Summit.. for the first time in this events history. Mission Accomplished.

As we waited for Drew, Sarah and Pa to show up.. I took a trip over to the lookout to climb on the stump of a blowdown. This location is about 50 yards north of the summit. From here we could see flags Lincoln and Lafayette. we then looked to our east and through the thin hardwoods we could see flags on Bond and Bondcliff as well. WHO SAYS THERE ARE NO ViEWS ON OWLS HEAD!?

I then took off back for the old summit to find the rest of our group. While trying to maneuver the bushwhack, they were unsure of the route and turned back. On the way to them I ran into 2 young hikers bushwhacking to the new summit themselves. Back at the old summit, my group was eating munchies with a couple who were peakbagging the 48. Also present was a second couple whom were peaking bagging. 1 couple opted to follow us to the new TRUE summit and the other felt the old summit was "good enough" so they turned back. I then took our group and we pushed through the brush and emerged on the true summit.

We all stopped for pictures before settling in. Once settled, pa made a fresh pot of coffee and we all brought the snacks out. On the menu were a variety of cookies. Jim L made me some delicious apple turnovers which I thoroughly enjoyed. and of course we all had some kind of sandwhich from home. After our own personal moments of silence for the victims of 9/11.. one thing was clear to me. That on this fine summit in this great land of ours, 7 people hiked to a place dreaded by most to enjoy our life of FREEDOM. And then.. we heard thunder. A decision had to be made.. sit on this summit during a T-storm.. or head down. I posed a question to myself.. what would I rather? Struck by lightning, or by plane? We stood our ground and huddled in for the thundershower.

It rained pretty hard on our peak for a good 45 minutes with a few rumbles of thunder. And after the rain ended, it continued to rain as water dropped from the trees. We were excited about what we THOUGHT was the cold front and the only storm of the day. We'd be rather surprised much later. Suddenly, ANOTHER couple emerged from the woods. As they reached the summit, they pulled beers from their pack and seemed to be celebrating something. "Whats going on?" we asked... It was the females 48th! We enjoyed celebrating with them briefly before their departure. Not long after they left, it was time for us to lower our flag and move on ourselves. Its a long walk out.. especially when everything is soaked.

We packed up and began to slosh our way back across the ridge via bushwhack. If we weren't wet enough before.. we were now soaked to the gills. Every drop of water on every branch we touched must have been absorbed by us. And things weren't any prettier after the whack. We now had to pick our way SLOWLY down a drenched slide. Every rock and root was slippery until we made it out onto the open parts of the slide, which by now had been dried by the sun and wind. We were treated to GORGEOUS views of Franconia ridge mixed with clouds and rays of sunshine. It was truly glorious.

After making it down the slide, we paused for a break once more before heading on out of these historical woods. As we made our way across the firsy 3 water crossings, we hardly noticed the sky clouding up once more. As we made our way towards to 2 major crossings.. I thought I heard rumbling in the sky.. but chalked it up to some airplanes over head. Until that is.. it wa so dark in the pemi wilderness, that we thought of getting out our headlamps to see. It began to shower on us, but not enough to warrant getting out the rain gear... and then... BANG!

We encountered a torrential, hazardous and HORENDOUS thunderstorm unlike any I have ever encountered on any hike after 14 years of hiking in the whites. The sky simply openned up and rain came down in BUCKETS. Lightning flash through the woods and thunder rumbled the ground and made talking virtually impossible. We all picked up the pace as we were essentially.. soaked.
Once we reached the first major crossing.. the storm was bad.. but not as bad as it would get. We all walked straight through the river in our new water shoes. :) Upon reaching the second major crossing.. the storm was now CRANKIN. As I had carried 5 pounds of aluminum out of the woods... and as the lightning flashed and hail fell... I sprinted across the river like no one had EVER seen.

We all then pushed along as fast we could out of these now... drenched woods. I thought on the way out... how on a day such as this... during THIS event.. it was as if the tears of all those we lost, were raining down upon us. Thier anger in the lightning and the hail was a moment frozen in time. Many people have moved on from the thought of 9/11.. it still sits in my heart as a sad reminder of the society we live in. However... in my eyes the rain washes away our sad thoughts and the fact that we continued on down the trail was a reminder that like this country... through fear and adversity.. we continued on down the trail.. looking ahead and into the future.

Upon reaching the wilderness trail, we were all pretty haggered. Drenched, sore and I was beginning to shiver. My teeth chattering.. it was time to MOVE. We hiked briskly down a wilderness trail which was home to Standing Water. Soon enough.. we reached the parking lot. Got into dry clothes, and all went whichever way we had the freedom to go.

I'd like to thank my entire crew for their good spirits throughout the entirety of this long hike. We had a GREAT time and everyone seemed to enjoy each others company. I thank you all who also helped carry the flag pole, rope, tape and goodies. We all did our part. That pole was HEAVY! lol It was a great ay despite the late weather.. and I know I had a blast and look forward to next year.

God Bless you all.. and America. And please... as I did on Owls Head, don't just take ONE moment of silence in remembrance.. Take MANY.

Pictures can be seen HERE
A picture slide show with touching music can be seen HERE (note: Music starts at the end of the 3rd picture in the show)

_________________
www.sherpajohn.blogspot.com


Sun Sep 10, 2006 11:17 am
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