Every week before I am even back at my car and finished with my hike my mind is already wondering where my next hike will be...
This week I would find myself driving over the Kancamagus Highway once again, this time stopping at the Greeley Ponds trail head to hike East Osceola and Mount Osceola. The early morning drive up to the mountains was thankfully uneventful until I exited 93 in Lincoln where it began to snow. Once on the Kancamagus, the roads went from clear to crappy and the wind picked up which blew the snow around in every direction. Thankfully, the Greeley Ponds trail head isn't too far down on the Kanc so I didn't have to deal with these conditions for very long.
The first 1.3 miles of the Greeley Ponds Trail to the junction with the Mt. Osceola Trail is very easy and mostly flat. There are two stream crossings to contend with both of which were completely ice bridged on this day. We took a quick break at the junction with the Mt. Osceola Trail then began the gradual climb up. The gradual climb only lasts momentarily, then the steep and relentless section of the Mt. Osceola trail takes over. This section was hard packed snow with some patches of ice and covered with a couple of inches of fresh powder. It was a challenge for sure, as we kicked our snow shoe crampons in and occasionally had to use the trees on the side of the trail for handle bars. I was once again thankful for my decision to wear my snow shoes not just for the traction but for the televators which once again saved my calf muscles big time! Looking at a map one can tell how steep this section of trail is and I had heard from people who had previously hiked it how steep it was but I seriously could not believe how relentless it was! Every time we thought we had made it to the ridge line we were greeted with yet another almost straight up ramp. After what seemed like miles of relentless up, we reached the ridge line and sauntered our jelly legs over to the wooded summit of East Osceola.
We continued on to the main summit of Osceola after a break on East Osceola. It is a pretty easy one mile trek through the col between the summits with the exception of a giant rock wall between the two summits known as the chimney. The chimney is a fun little climb in the summer time but a bit daunting when covered with thick ice in the winter time. Thankfully, there is a bypass around the chimney that was mostly snow and ice free that we were able to take. I could have sworn I took pictures of the chimney but alas, I did not. So if you want to see what the chimney looks like in winter I would suggest asking the Google to show you or if you're lazy than just click here.
We managed up the chimney bypass just fine and made our way to the summit of Osceola. The wind, which had been gusting on and off all day, had finally stopped by the time we reached the summit. We didn't stay long though as we were completely socked in with no views and the snow was now coming down fast. We took some goofy summit shots and made our way back the way we came. Despite the wind stopping earlier, our tracks were already sparse as the snow was falling so fast that they were already filled in. Once back at the steep section of the Mt. Osceola Trail, we sat down on our butts and carefully slid our way down. As we were about a half hour from the parking lot the sun came out and started to shine through the trees. We looked back up behind us and saw that the summits we were on top of earlier in the day were now in the clear. Oh well, this is a fact of hiking and as the cliche goes "You can't win them all." I like to say "No views, no matter." The woods are always beautiful especially snow covered in winter and there is always something to be learned about oneself on challenging climbs.