After some searching, Owl’s Head seemed to be the obvious answer to the question of what to do. Owl’s Head would be the perfect place to begin testing some lightweight peak running tactics, in addition to finding out just what I was capable of running in the mountains. I had only done Owl’s Head once previously and it was a long time ago. I remembered it being a day-long slog and was anxious to see if an improvement in tactics would change my opinion of a mountain many people save as their last four thousand footer to complete (they do not save it because it is the best).
Running the slight incline up the Wilderness Trail (an old railroad bed) then following the slightly inclining single track of the Franconia Brook Trail and Lincoln Brook Trail proved a perfect way to warm up the legs. The prospect of retracing these trails on the way back was appealing knowing I would be running slightly downhill.
As per many of these outings Doug was along for the ride (or is it the other way around?). We were happily surprised to find out exactly how easy these trails were to run, and were able to keep a steady jog through all the way to the slide. Only for a few technical sections did we slow to a hiking pace, and if not for the multitude of stream crossings we would have made fantastic time to the slide.
After cruising the trails to Owl’s Head slide, I was reminded that we were indeed climbing a mountain. The elevation came quickly as we began heading up the slide. If the steepness was not challenge enough, the run in and the looseness of the slide proved to slow our time. A quick tip: when ascending the slide, try to keep climber’s left. We veered right and, although less steep, it was less direct and in my opinion more difficult. After completing the slide a quick traverse of the mountain’s summit ridge brings you to the mountain’s true summit, marked by a cairn. Soak up the views from the slide because Owl’s Head is one of the more forgettable summits in the White Mountains.
Sadly we were not able to make up as much time on the trip down the slide as hoped; the loose nature of the slide kept us from ever being able to “open it up.” Reaching the Lincoln Brook trail we were happy to once again find our rhythm, jogging toward the car and the promise of a hot meal in town. The run back felt great and my legs felt strong. It wasn’t until the final two miles on the Wilderness trail that we found ourselves alternating between running and walking.
It is funny how the day can fly by and the miles disappear almost effortlessly but as fatigue creeps in and you near your final destination time begins to slow. Running the Wilderness trail to the car I kept waiting for the emergence of the bridge out of the corner of my eye signaling the end of the day. Although it took longer than I had hoped, we finally made it to the bridge and the conclusion of the day, pleased with our accomplishment and looking forward to taking what we learned and applying it to some of the other mountains in the Whites.