We had cancelled this hike a few weeks back due to thunderstorms and rain so here we finally are back in the Waterville Valley for the Osceola hike. Weather forecast was perfect today with low humidity and temps in the 80’s so we packed up and headed out a little later than usual. Boston traffic again was terrible south of and through the city, but we were on our way and at the trailhead at 9:30. Caitlin fell asleep on the last bit of the ride up which I was thinking was great, but she woke up a bit crabby. Good thing we got there when we did as the parking lot quickly filled up with a large group in several cars entering just behind us. We hurried getting ready to avoid getting behind the big group.
The plan today was simple, Osceola trail to Mt. Osceola then traverse to East Osceola returning via the same trail. Everything we had researched on this had pointed to a relatively easy hike with modest grades and a fantastic view at the top of Osceola. The only negatives were the chimney traverse both to and from East Osceola its view-less peak. Total of 8.4 miles which would make this Geoffrey’s longest hike.
That’s right, we had Geoffrey with us today. He had been at me all week to let him go and I fully prepared him for the length of the day several times, but he was insisting that I let him try. I thought we had a bailout point at the first peak which would cut 2 miles off the trip if he was tiring. I was planning on taking his extra gear and water in my pack so we wouldn’t have to put a pack on him to improve our chances of success. I also worried about him traversing the chimney. What can I say, how do you refuse a face like this?
We did so well with the hiking boots last time, I considered getting Geoffrey a pair, but per usual, I ran out of time during the week and he was left with sneakers. He did insist on wearing his ski team socks since we were going to be on a mountain, so I didn’t fight it. Off we went!
For all I read about the trail being relatively easy, the first 1.5 miles of this thing sucks. The grade is light to moderate but there are boulders everywhere. Small, medium and large boulders- this portion of the trail was brought to you by a ridiculous amount of boulders. Just a few dry stream crossings as well on this day at the lower elevations. You may encounter more water on your trip depending on the season.
This makes for slower going with the little ones dancing from rock to rock. Surprisingly, this slowed Caitlin down way more than Geoffrey. She was having a tough time. I was worried we’d have to turn around for her and not her brother! While we took several short rests throughout, we stopped about 1.6 miles (halfway to peak #1) in to refuel. This did Caitlin a ton of good. She seemed to rally greatly after this. We were also getting close to a geocache what was at 2.0 miles in, which also helped the rally. As we restarted the caravan, the grades got a little more steep, but the boulders started to disappear. This made for much better hiking for the kids.
In no time we were on Breadtray ridge, which is a flatter part of the trail with a bit of ledge and some occasional peeks of the surrounding peaks. At the ridge at almost exactly 2.0 miles we found the geocache. It’s hidden behind a (wait for it) boulder! It had some knick knacks inside, but we just logged it and hid it back where we found it. The kids were ecstatic! Made for a nice break in the hike as well.
We then found ourselves on the switchbacks below the peak. These get very angled and I can’t imagine they are much fun when wet, snowy or icy. Some spots had a bit of a trail at the bottom, but most did not.
After 2 or 3 of these switchbacks we were at the bottom of the summit ridge. Surprisingly, there was a ton of mud and muck up here especially since it hadn’t rained for days. After a couple more climbs we were at the summit! Two hours flat to the top. Not bad with the 5 year old (he honestly was the freshest hiker of the three of us on the ascent)!
We stopped here for lunch. We met a few other hikers enjoying the perfect day up here. I had a conversation with another father with his 11 year old son who had driven up from western MA & were contemplating the traverse to East Osceola. We didn’t see them the rest of the day, so I assumed they headed back down. Busy day on the peak with at least 10 others at the top.
I at least managed to snap a few pics without most of the people on the summit in the pictures (except for the one above). We packed up and headed for East Osceola. The trail heads steeply down some granite/ledge steps just off the northeast side of the peak. Every step down I thought about having to climb these in another hour or so. Nice view of East Osceola on the descent.
We continued down Osceola towards the col. Less than 1/2 of a mile of the 1 mile trail we encountered the chimney. I was unsure of which way to go as the AMC WMG had said there was a side route that avoided the steep rocky part. I think that was not all that correct. I took Geoffrey down the left side and Caitlin took the right. They were both pretty rocky and treacherous. I guess the right side down is steeper, but not by much. I was too worried about Geoffrey slipping to take pics except for when everyone was safe at the bottom.
We continued our descent into the col and then gradually started to climb back up out of the col. Grades were fairly easy at first. About halfway up there is this nice rock with some fantastic views. A passing couple took some pics for us!
We passed an elderly gentleman hiking down from the summit soon after this pic was taken. He was very nice and stopped to encourage the kids! The last bit from here is pretty much up rock and ledge steps until you hit the top. We stopped to “enjoy” the summit. This enjoyment came without views and with a hefty side of flies.
Now interestingly enough we were about to head out when a college aged couple sumited. We switched picture taking opportunities and they had me take an interesting pic of the female riding the male’s back at the summit. Seemed to be a lot of excitement for a viewless peak, but who am I to judge someone’s happiness- your elation may vary?
We headed back down towards the col and Mt. Osceola again.
We soon ended up back at the base of the chimney. This was a little heart stopping for old Dad here as you can tell from the first video. Geoffrey got 1/3 of the way and I couldn’t stand it and had to climb behind him!
Caitlin I let go up all of the way without me. She did just fine, and proved what a rock star she is at these kind of things. Funny how this didn’t faze her but the boulder on the gentle grade earlier int he day did? The video was too big to fit here, but I’ll upload it some day and link it here: XXX In the meantime, here are some pics of the ascent. All of us took the main trail up this time!
We again passed the older gentleman just above the chimney. He remarked what adventurous kids I had. We chatted as he had come from the Kancamangus terminus of the Greeley Ponds trail which took him over East Osceola twice. Very nice guy and I feel lucky we bumped into him twice. It wasn’t long after this that we re-summited Osceola. The steep steps just before the summit did not seem so bad as I thought they were going to be. At the top we snacked again. The couple that took our picture at East Osceola arrived soon after us and asked if we had dropped a hat. Yes my Red Sox hat had fallen out of my elastic mesh portion of my bag and they returned it to me! Stroke of luck there.
We refueled and talked to a couple of folks at the summit. There was a couple of middle aged ladies on the quest for the peaks. One of the two was starting over again, but both were super encouraging with the kids. They hike Thursdays too so maybe we’ll catch them later in the summer. Down we went soon after this.
Pretty uneventful decent. We saw a few hikers coming up and passed a few others coming down. The kids tried to think up as many tongue twisters they could on the way down. Cute at first, but got old after the first hour. 5 hours and 10 minutes after starting we were back at the parking lot. A lot fewer cars there now.
The hat saving hikers walked in 30 seconds after us and took our pic again. As we changed into flip flops we struck up a conversation. Caitlin talked about blogging and her quest for 48. The young lady remarked to her that she had completed her 48th today at East Osceola! No wonder they were all fired up there. This really got Caitlin excited and she was asking her all kinds of questions and tips about it. She spent her 4 college summers doing the peaks and the gentleman had already finished the 48 and was along for the ride. I think the thing I learned from her was to make the 48th a memorable one and not a viewless one! If you guys end up reading this congrats & thanks for the pics and saving my hat!
We headed out down Tripoli Road to NH route 3 and ended up at the Woodstock Station Inn again for dinner. It did not dissapoint us as Catie had a grilled cheese and Geoffrey a giant hot dog with mac and cheese. The duck for me was just as good as the prior visit (no beer today though). We stopped at Coneheads in Woodstock on the way out for ice cream. Fantastic made in house ice cream. My caramel milkshake brought all the taste buds to the yard. The kids loved their ice creams as well. Geoffrey got peppermint stick ice cream, I thought it was gross but he couldn’t get enough of it. On the way back to 93 I missed the left turn onto the on ramp and was turning around in Lincoln when I made a last minute audible and stopped for mini-golf. Again the kids loved it. Hobo Golf run by the Pirate’s Cove group was spectacular. Well worth the last minute stop, and it kept us out of traffic on the way home!
Dad’s Trip Tips:
Trails and Planning: Not a lot to plan here. The only choice is going from up Tripoli Road via the Mt. Osceola Trail (8.4 miles with a re-ascent of Osceola) or from the Kancamangus Highway via the Greeley Ponds Trail to the Mt. Osceola Trail (7.6 miles with a re-ascent of East Osceola). Having done the Tripoli Road approach, I’d consider the Kanc approach next time. The AMC MWG describes the Mt. Osceola Trail from the Greeley Ponds Trail as particularly rough, but I can’t imagine it’s rougher than the boulder fields the first 1/2 of the ascent from Tripoli Road. With little ones, you might want to break this up and avoid the chimney between the peaks. My kids did just fine, but yours may vary. I had a bunch of nervous moments watching the littlest one climb up.
Also of note, the Garmin clocked Tripoli Road to the peak as 3.0 miles instead of 3.2? Between peaks was dead on at 1.0 miles. Wondering if the AMC has this just a bit off or if the trail was relocated at some point since the last edition? It was exactly the same both up and down, so a bit weird there.
Parking at Tripoli Road costs you $3 unless you have the season parking pass (available at the ranger stations). Parking is self pay, so make sure you have exact change unless you’d like to donate a bit more to the parks service. Parking costs the same at the Kancamangus as well if you were thinking you’d try to avoid the fee (stop that). There are port-a-potties at the parking lot and again in the summer Tripoli Road is open from I-93 which lets you avoid the road in or out from Campton, NH if you like. Otherwise the lot is just a few tenths of a mile from the fork in the road leading to the Waterville Valley ski area. You pass the Livermore Road parking area first (Tripyramids Trails and the other end of the Greeley Pond Trail) then the next lot is the Osceola trailhead.
Kid Factor: Again, I’d highly recommend the trail and the hike for kids, at least to Osceola. Depending on your child’s adventure level the chimney is the real deal. East Osceola is only for the peak baggers as you get no further views there. If the east peak is on your list, I’d suggest tempering expectations about the viewless peak well before the hike, and consider breaking the trip up and ascending from each direction. I highly recommend geocaching again in these blogs. It broke up the ascent and gave them both something to look forward to. There is a cache, as noted in the main section, on the Breadtray ridge within 2 feet of the trail.
Overall, the kids had a blast, minus Caitlin’s sleepy first 1.6 miles, and I’d go there at any point for future hikes with the kids. There are plenty of rest points. I’d say you are pretty much committed once you start out as there are no real logistical bail points on the trail save the peak of Mt. Osceola. You are not exposed until the very peak, so even in questionable weather this is doable.
Equipment: I carried the full assortment of layers, rain gear and emergency pack for all of the kids once again. Weather has a 3% chance of late day thundershowers, but who knows. You are on 2 peaks and a ridge (wooded) between the two for 2 miles total. That’s a long way up to be stuck in a storm so prepare accordingly. We lucked out again and used none of the extra gear. Bring plenty of water for the hike as the trail was just about dry on this day. You might have more opportunity for water in wetter times, but once past the 1/2 way point I didn’t see any opportunities for water.
The boots were super helpful on the angled ledge up high, the chimney and bouncing from boulder to boulder down low. Caitlin’s makeshift sock pads for her shoulders did the trick nicely again today. Geoffrey did just fine with his sneakers, but for the boulders I was wishing her had something more substantial.
Other Tips: We went back to the Woodstock Station Inn for dinner (if it isn’t broke don’t fix it). After being disappointed last time at a different restaurant, I was skeptical of trying something new again. We should have explored Waterville Valley, but honesty, I was headed back towards 93 on Tripoli road before thinking about it. Food again was fantastic and the kids were happy. We stopped at Coneheads in Woodstock as well (just a bit south of the Inn) on the same road. Ice cream was top notch and it looks like if you hit it earlier in the day you can see the ice cream being made around the back of the shop. there are picnic tables back there as well that were out of the hot sun. Hobo golf was also fantastic but a bit expensive for mini golf. Well maintained, clean and well themed as all of the Pirate’s Cove establishments have been in my experience. If you get there earlier in the day you can ride a steam locomotive. It departs from the same parking lot.
Also of note we had to stop for gas on the way up and hit the Common Man rest stop just after the Hooksett tolls on 93. That place has come a long long way since I last stopped there when it was just a NH Liquor Store and port-a-potties. There is a full out food court and dinner inside (not fast food stuff either) and excellent rest rooms. I’d say that’s worth a stop if you are in need.
All of the stops after the hike avoided Boston traffic for the most part on the way home. The kids had a blast after the hike and I didn’t have to crawl through traffic so a win-win all around!
Next Up: Caitlin is at my parents in NJ next week so it is just G and I. I’m thinking of a repeat one of our earlier hikes of Liberty/Flume or Lincoln/Lafayette. The next hike with Caitlin will likely be the Tripyramids, Kinsmans or the triple threat of Tom, Wiley and Field the following week.
4000′ Footers Completed to Date:
Caitlin/Dad: Liberty, Flume, Tecumseh, Lincoln, Lafayette, Osceola & East Osceola (7)
Geoffrey: Tecumseh, Osceola & East Osceola (3)