July 21, 2016: A Return to the Whites and A New Addition (Dad)

  My goal is to hike on Thursdays all summer as it works for my schedule and cuts down on the crowds on the trails.  The plan for July 14th was the Osceolas, but unfortunately, rain and thunderstorms cut that plan short.  So here we are a week later in the Waterville Valley looking to bag Mt. Tecumseh via the aptly named Mt. Tecumseh trail, connecting to the Sosman Trail to the ski slopes down.  Everything I had read from multiple sources said this was a shorter less aggressive hike than Liberty & Flume, but all sources pointed to the aggressiveness of the last mile of the trail (and they were quite correct). 

  Later start today, but no worries since this was to be a much shorter hike of 5.1 miles in 4 hours AMC WMG book time.  We were delayed out the door by the addition of Caitlin’s 5-year-old brother Geoffrey.  He had been quite vocal that he could hike these mountains with us given the chance.  He also has a long history of climbing the local hills in Massachusetts since he was 2 and never wants to be outdone by Caitlin.  So we decided to give it a try and at worst, we’d just walk down the ski trail.

The HOV lane was a modest help at best.

  We were again in Boston traffic at just before 7  and headed north.  Bathroom stops were needed once we got close to Campton, so we stopped at the White Mountain National Forest Headquarters.   The staff was extremely nice with Geoffrey and led him through the interactive displays while Catie and I switched off using the facilities.  At a bit before 9 we were the only ones there!   They gave the kids some stickers and other swag and we headed on our way.  I wasn’t sure what to expect of Tripoli Road so I decided on the Waterville Valley Route 49 exit and we worked our way the 13 miles from I-93.

Best I could do under the circumstances.
Best I could do under the circumstances.
Checking in at HQ
Checking in at HQ

We arrived at the ski area and after a full loop around due to missing the trailhead the first time, we parked in lot 1 and headed out.

  I was carrying extra water for Geoffrey and I filled Caitlin’s Camelback with about ½ of the full 2L reservoir, as her shoulders were red and sore from the pack the last time out.  I had carefully readjusted the straps of her pack the night before as well.  I also felt less inclined for the need of extra layers and emergency gear, but packed it anyways.  You never know I guess, but the weather forecast was 0% chance of rain and a perfect 75 degrees without humidity.


Trailhead (your shoe is untied Caitlin)
Trailhead (your shoe is untied Caitlin)
Introducing Geoffrey, shown here at the very first stream crossing.
Introducing Geoffrey, shown here at the very first stream crossing.
Start at the very beginning, a very good place to start

We were off just across the parking lot to the trailhead of the Mt. Tecumseh at about 9:45.   There is an immediate stream crossing that is no real big deal.  The kids and I “forded” this without difficulty.    I regret not getting to REI to get hiking boots for us since the need was quite obvious at the completion of our last hike.  I just ran out of time during the week.  I did have them both wear the most rugged things they owned rather than having them make the choice for lighter and flimsy which was a mistake for Caitlin on the last hike.

Screen Shot 2016-08-02 at 10.09.06 PM
Dad nerded out on this a bit…

  The first mile is quite pleasant and not at all aggressive.  Elevation gain is a little more than 700’ over the first 1.2 miles.  I wore my Garmin running watch today to keep track of distance and then be able to geek out and check out all of the numbers afterwards.  There looked to be quite a bit of recent trail maintenance in this section which made for relatively easy hiking.  There is a larger stream crossing at about 1 mile into the trail that we managed without difficulty.  

So smiley. Just before the last stream crossing and the climb.
So smiley. Just before the last stream crossing and the climb.

Just after that crossing there is a 25’ spur trail to the ski slope marked with a sign that reads something like “to view” with an arrow.  I missed a pic of that sign for some reason.  We made the short walk to the ski slope where there were views of East Osceola, the chimney in-between the Osceolas and the Tripyramids.  Geoffrey found a frog in a little spring by a boulder on the trail pictured her (but you have to take my word for it that he is pointing to a frog).   We rested here for a few minutes then headed back to the main trail.

Look at Osceola, we have to climb that! (that's actually East Osceola)
Look at Osceola, we have to climb that! (that’s actually East Osceola)
There is a green frog there, really!
Cool pic of the kids with the Tripyramids in the distance
Cool pic of the kids with the Tripyramids in the distance
Up, up, up & more up. G was killing it!

  The first 1.2 miles were in 45 minutes which I thought was excellent with a 5 year old in tow, but now, the trail gets quite steep and aggressive from the view spur trail.  You are essentially climbing stone stairs for the next mile without many reprieves of flat or even gentler sloping sections of the trail.   It was here that I encountered my surprise of the day.  Geoffrey was pushing the pace and leading the way the entire climb up!  Catie was lagging behind for most of this section. 

C hiding and resting behind a rock.
C hiding and resting behind a rock.

I think some of this was due to having her brother up here with her and my constant encouragement for what a nice job he was doing.  She kept up with multiple breaks and we finally hit the intersection of the Sosman Trail in another 55 minutes at a little over 2 miles in. 

Obligatory trail sign pic
Obligatory trail sign pic.

  Again not bad with the little one!  In another few hundred yards we encountered this very unhelpful sign.  We went to the right, which actually takes you down a bit before climbing up steeply to the summit.  That is technically the Mt. Tecumseh trail as it was marked with the yellow blazes.   There was a nice view of the top of the ski slope from this section of the trail.  Just after this section, the trail got quite steep with some rocky scrambles up.   The kids found some alpine flowers which again we have not yet researched, but they stopped to take a pic. 


All roads lead to the top?
All roads lead to the top?
Overlook just under the summit of the top of the Waterville Valley ski area
Tiny white alpine flower
Steep rock climb to the summit. A bit of a chimney?
Steep rock climb to the summit. A bit of a chimney?

We reached the summit in exactly 2 hours, which is 20 minutes under book time and significantly better than I ever thought we’d do with Geoffrey.  Towards the top Catie was trying to push to be the first to summit, but Geoffrey had earned the reward and he summited first.  I came up 10 yards behind both Catie and Geoffrey to a couple of ladies asking how a small boy had gotten up such a big mountain!  I told them that this was his first 4000 footer and they promptly broke out into applause.  Geoffrey was smiles from ear to ear!  We stopped for lunch and pictures, including my favorite picture of my children of all time.  

I swear I did not stage this!
I swear I did not stage this!
Family summit pic!
Family summit pic! Yes this one is staged.
Summit cairn with the kids.
Summit cairn with the kids. G is the king of the world!

Unfortunately, we could not find the USGS summit button.  Another couple with their dog arrived soon after us and the five of us searched to no avail.  It was super quiet on the peak with the two ladies leaving soon after the other couple arrived, so we enjoyed our quiet time at the top!

Summit trail sign
Summit trail sign

  After the lunch break we hit the intersection of the Sosman & Tecumseh Trails and headed back the Sosman Trail which led us back on the left side of the confusing sign.  Trails merged for a few hundred yards and then the Sosman Trail veered to the right.  The trail was mostly flat, but there were steeper sections that led to this view.  The trail even had a blueberry bush in the middle of the trail at one point. 

Steep section to a sub peak before the ski slope
Steep section to a sub peak before the ski slope
Blueberry bush. A bit smaller than the ones I grew up with but cool to see so high up and on a well worn trail!
Blueberry bush. A bit smaller than the ones I grew up with but cool to see so high up and on a well worn trail!

This all eventually leads to this rather ugly cell phone tower.   The trail goes a bit missing here and Caitlin actually found the trail to the left of where we had popped out of the trees.  This led to the top of the ski slope.   The guides say to look for a gravel road, but this path brought us out to the top of the slope just the same.


Kids checking out the lift for the winter…

I could not have been happier with the planning choice not to head down the Tecumseh trail as the ski slopes were bursting with wildflowers and unbelievable views.   You can clearly see the Osceolas and Tripyramids from the slopes.  {more view pics}  We followed a rutted trail down the slopes and veered to the left off of a steeper section under the quad at one point.  The grass was high and I was trying to stay on the trail to avoid running into any significant wildlife hiding in the high grass.  In saying that, we were promptly jumped by a flock of grouse and a wild turkey about ¾ of the way down.  They flew out of the trees and the turkey came within a few feet of us, then flew back up into another tree across the trail.  If you look really hard (squint one eye maybe) you can see the turkey hiding in the tree in the pic (maybe).  

Wildflowers everywhere
All of the views
The fields are alive...
The fields are alive…  Tripyramids center and right
Take my word for it, it's the attack turkey.
Take my word for it, it’s the attack turkey.

  The rest of the trip down was uneventful and we made it to the bottom of the slope at 1:15 which was 3 hours 30 minutes from our start.  I feel like I keep saying this over and over, but much better than I expected!  

Love this pic! That's Mt. Tecumseh in the background.
Love this pic! That’s Mt. Tecumseh in the background.

  The kids piled in the car and donned their flip flops for the ride home and we were off!  I decided to try to sprint for home to avoid Thursday evening traffic instead of hitting a local spot for lunch.  G was asleep within about 30 minutes.  C and I scoped out the Osceola trailhead on the way out on Tripoli Road from the car.  We did not miss traffic as we got within 2 miles of Boston by 3:30, the 17 mile trip from that point took over an hour……. Not a glorious end we were looking for after such a nice day!

And G is out...
And G is out…

Dad’s Trip Tips:

  Trails and Planning:  I would not plan this any differently for a first ascent.  The ski slopes were a perfect descent route and you can vary them as needed.  Overall a very diverse hike all told with multiple views, wildlife and terrain.  If weather is an issue, I would have descended back the way we came via the Tecumseh Trail for more cover and less exposure.  As noted in our first hike blog, this would have been a great first long hike for Catie and I, but it turned out a great first long hike for Geoffrey!  I would consider the Tecumseh Trail from the Tripoli Road trailhead when we return at some point for variety.

  Excellent trail maintenance on the Mt. Tecumseh trail with little in the way of washouts or muck, but the last rain had been a few days before our hike.  Your luck may vary with the weather or season.  There are two stream crossings on the trail up with the first being quite small and the second about ½ way up being more significant but easily doable without threat of wetness!

  Kid Factor:  Take your kids on this hike!  While the last mile up is challenging, break it up with multiple rests and this is completely doable for most ages.  My 5 year old out hiked both his sister and myself on this one.  Your experience with your own children may vary of course.  You can always bail before the steep stuff and walk down the ski trail though.  The kids had a blast coming down the ski trails.  Since they both love to ski they were checking out the trails for the winter.  It was a very Sound of Music descent as well with the wildflowers in full bloom, but without the annoying singing & the entitled VonTrap kids and their nanny.

  Equipment:  Honestly, with good forecasted weather, you could do this with little equipment.  A large water bottle and an energy bar in a pocket probably gets this one done.  I don’t recommend that and always try to err on the safe side with extra water and emergency gear, layers and rain gear so we brought our daypacks.  The adjustments to Caitlin’s pack seemed to do the trick without soreness this time.  Footwear needs to be addressed before the next hike.  We ended up just fine, but it was ½ the distance of the last hike!

  Other Tips:  In the summer if you have a somewhat rugged vehicle or even just a reliable vehicle, it’s quicker to take Tripoli Road to the trailhead then wind through the valley.  The road is dirt most of the way but without ruts or large potholes on our visit.  I would highly recommend the White Mountain Forrest Headquarters for all of your informational or rest stop needs.  The staff was super nice and were excellent with the children.   I’ll be stopping here in the future if needed.  On a less positive note, I’m never going to try to beat traffic home again.  It ruined a great day on the trails.  It took less than 2 hours to get to Somerville (130 miles), then 75 minutes to get to the Braintree split (12 miles)!!!!  Future trips will be followed by lunch or dinner prior to the trip home and significantly less rushing!


Up Next:  The Osceolas or more Franconia Notch peaks next Thursday.

4000′ Completed to Date:

Caitlin/Dad: Liberty, Flume & Tecumseh (3)

Geoffrey: Tecumseh (1)!


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