This post is the first in a number of posts on my current pursuits on the trails. You can take the running out of the trail runner, but you'll never take the trails away from me. In full disclosure, this post should come later after a few others covering my recent adventures, because it is really just the last one in a succession of adventures this summer in the mountains, but you need to start somewhere, even if it is out of sequence.
Okay, all prefaces aside, let's get on with the adventure!
A little after 9:00 A.M. on Sunday, September 4th, I found myself standing at the base of the Waterville Valley Ski Area in New Hampshire. With pack on back and poles in hand, I thought about how I was a little disappointed to be here and not walking along the Livermore Road trail on the way to the Tripyramids, but there was another part of me that realized deep down inside that this was the right decision for the day.
It was almost like the feeling one gets with a DNF during an ultra run; Sure, you aren't realizing the glory of the finish, but you are acting in a manner that is a bit of self-preservation play, so you can come back some other time to complete the ultimate goal on a day when you have the right stuff.
In all fairness, this hike was the second hike of a long weekend in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The previous day was spent hiking to the top of Mount Garfield with my family, and because we were staying in Waterville Valley for the weekend, I had grand thoughts of snagging another 4000 footer or two while being in the area. Given that the Tripyramids are a longer and more technical hike, I thought it would be a great option, since I could get a much earlier start. One of the logistical issues of hiking the Whites for me is the 2 to 3 hour trip from Massachusetts to the trail head. Already being 15 minutes from the Livermore Road trailhead, this would give more time to complete the roughly 12-13 mile trek without worrying about travel time to and from the trail. The other upside was that the loop hike for the Tripyramids would allow bagging not one, but two, 4000 footers in the process (North and Middle Tripyramid).
I also had the option of doing the relatively short trip to the top of Mount Tecumseh, which is barely high enough to be on the 4000 footer lists, and is considered a walk one does when the weather isn't great and often times the second (and less exciting) part of a 4000 footer double day with Mount Osceola. This is mainly the sentiment because the summit views are limited and the majority of the trek is among the trees. Having bagged both Osceola and East Osceola last summer, I was leaning toward the excitement of the Tripyramids, not the perceived snoozer of a half day hike on Tecumseh.
As I sat in the room Saturday night plotting my route and checking mileage on the maps for the Tripyramids, I couldn't help but think about how rubbery my legs felt from climbing Garfield, how my hike on Sunday would be solo (breaking the 'hike with a buddy' rule), and just generally that I didn't know what I was getting myself into with the Tripyramids. After searching online for trail reports and summaries, I found the general sentiment was that the Tri's were a tough hike, one report rating the difficulty as 'Sign the Will'. I slept on it all, and when I woke up in the morning and realized I simply am not in the shape I need to be in to scramble up and down rock slides, I opted for Tecumseh.
So that is how I arrived here at the base of the Mount Tecumseh trail, looking forward to what I expected to be a gentle ascent up into the hills to snag another 4000 footer.
|First time across Tecumseh Brook|
Steps from the trailhead, a brook babbles across the trail without a bridge, and the hiker is forced to use rock-hopping skills from the get-go. Across the brook, the trail gently rises up from a starting elevation of about 1900 feet, and about 15 minutes from the trailhead I encountered the first crossing the Tecumseh Brook, which resembled more of a dry river bed than a flowing brook.
Having made it across the rocks, the trail became more like the terrain one would expect to find in the White Mountains - scattered with various rocks and roots, and nothing that warrants taking one's eyes off the ground very long, which is necessary to ensure each step isn't the last step before a trip and fall. It really is what makes the trails of the White Mountains challenging, because you really have to think about most steps, turning 20 minute walking miles into 40 minute mountain miles.
|Talk about roots!|
|Steep down to the Tecumseh Brook...|
|Nicely organized stones...|
As I walked along this section, there were many parts where it seemed there was a lot of trail work done in the past, and the rocks were neatly organized to provide steps and staircases along the way:
Eventually the trail meandered down to the Tecumseh Brook for the second crossing, this time with more water to contend with:
At this crossing of the Tecumseh Brook, the trail takes a definite turn up in the difficulty category. The Whites are famous for the aggressive straight line trails up the side of the mountain, using switchbacks and gentle grades only sparing. On this ascent I wasn't really paying attention to mileage and elevation, as I was just trying to enjoy the trail and every step, and upon the crossing of the Tecumseh, I had a loose understanding that I was about halfway to the top. With the first 1.25 miles in the book, being completed in 45 minutes, I generally felt fresh and happy, and the quicker pace and good time made me feel like I was flying. Dare I say it felt easy??
Oh how the mountains remind you of how small you are!
Shortly after the second crossing of the Tecumseh there is a short, steep uphill, which leads to an intersection. One way leads out of the woods to a view over the ski slopes of Waterville Valley, and in the other direction the trail does a sharp switch back, ominously showing the steepness and difficulty that lies ahead over the next mile:
|Up AND over...|
|Time to pick a line...|
|You'd think stairs would help the steep... you're wrong.|
I still hadn't seen or heard much in the way of humans and animals on the trail with me, short of this camouflaged fellow, who I had only spied because of how slow I was going up the trail:
|Making better time than me!|
After about an hour on this challenging section (only a mile in length), having climbed about 1300 feet in that hour, I finally reached the trail intersection with the Sosman Trail and the Summit Trail to the top of Tecumseh...
|I think Alice had it easier in Wonderland!|
|Initial view of the mountains and valley...|
|Had company on the top...|
|Panorama of the 'porch' view...|
|One of my fellow hikers at the top using the summit cairn... hiker fail.|
|Beautiful views north on a true bluebird day.|
|The slide (also the trail!) up North Tripyramid... a reminder Tecumseh was the smart choice for me.|
Having no where to really be, I sat down and enjoyed my trail snacks and the fabulous views. The other two had a dog with them, who wanted to share my Clif bar, and wasn't shy about his intentions. As we continued to chat, another group of three made it to the summit, and shortly thereafter, another group of four arrived, and it became a little crowded for the small summit, but it was definitely a fun, social crowd. By the time the next group of five showed to the summit, I realized I had been lounging for about 45 minutes enjoying the views and the conversation, and decided it was time to head down to the valley.
I wanted to go back the other way on the summit loop to try to avoid the craggy rocks on the summit trail that I had ascended, and headed back down the trail, looking for an obvious intersection. Finding an unmarked trail going left, I assumed this was the right way. As I moved down the trail, I found some great views east toward the ski resort, but no trail...
|Heading back down the mountain from the summit...|
|Panorama of the view south and east...|
|Zoom of the lakes region beyond the cell tower at the top of the Waterville Valley slopes. (Not a level shot, embarrassed as a photographer, but a cool shot).|
The descent was pleasant, and I made it to the intersection with the Sosman Trail and the Mt. Tecumseh Trail in about 10 minutes. I decided that since I had no where to be once I got to the bottom, I'd stay on top for a while and explore the Sosman Trail.
The Sosman Trail is a spur trail on the top of Tecumseh that leads to the top of the ski slope at Waterville Valley. At a half mile in length one way, I figured a bonus mile was well worth the adventure, and looking at the map, there really wasn't much elevation change from where I was at the trail intersection.
The terrain on the trail was really pleasant with a few rocks, but mostly pine needle carpet. It inspired me to run a little bit, even with the weight of my big hiking pack on my back. There was one section that was a bit technical, but provided a nice technical change, and a cool view of knob that is the summit of Tecumseh:
|From the top of the technical section of the Sosman.|
|View of Tecumseh's summit knob.|
|Top of Waterville Valley Ski Area|
|Shameless selfie... maybe I can get the chairs running to take the easy way down.|
|Downhill, with the Tripyramids taunting me in the background.|
|Cell service was great :-)|
|One of the views Sosman provides.|
|Here you're resting?|
The descent on the 'steep and rocky' was actually really fun and great training with using my trekking poles on descents. The steep trail provided moments where I was moving so fast I felt like I was slaloming down the slopes, but it felt like a controlled chaos because there always seemed to be rocks to make the next step, and it was easy to pick and follow a line.
|Dropping down fast!|
|Follow the steps...|
|Rock to rock...|
The afternoon light changed the appearance of the forest, and the same trail I had traversed in the morning seemed different in the life of the afternoon and the additional people on the trail. It really is one of the small, yet magical, parts of spending a day on the trails, because the same stretch of trail can change drastically with different light, or just generally a different vibe when experiencing it during a different part of the day.
From the vista switchback, I headed down the short steep trail section to the water at the Tecumseh Brook crossing and took a few extra minutes to relax and dunk my bandanna in the cold water for a refreshing break.
From there I walked for a while with a couple that was moving at about the same pace, and we clicked off the last mile quickly, making it back to the dry crossing of Tecumseh Brook in what seemed like very little time. It was definitely a nice landmark to reach because I knew I was almost home!
|I can smell the barn, and the post hike pizza!|
|Some other day, Tripyramids...|
Tecumseh was a great day of adventure, and provided a nice capstone to a weekend with two summits, and a third weekend in a row where I have had the privilege to be hiking in the Whites.
Tecumseh by the Numbers
Mount Tecumseh, Elevation 4,003 ft.
NH 4000 footers: #6 of 48 (Tecumseh elevation rank 48th)
NE 4000 footers: #7 of 67 (Tecumseh ranked 67th)
NE 100 Highest: #7 of 100 (Tecumseh ranked 67th)
End time: 2:44 p.m.
Trip time: 5 h, 24 m
Descent (minus Sosman): 1:38
Sosman Spur (Round Trip): 0:31
Total Distance covered (Garmin): 6.55 mi., Map Miles: 6 mi.
Starting Elevation: ~1850 ft.
Summit: 4003 ft.
Gain-Loss: ~2153 ft.
Hike Log - Time & Distances
Trailhead 0.00 mi. 9:20 a.m.
Tecumseh Brook Crossing 1.13 mi. 10:05 a.m.
Intersection Sosman Trail / Mt. Tecumseh Trail 2.2 mi. 11:01 a.m.
Mount Tecumseh Summit 2.72 mi. 11:18 a.m.
Leave Summit 2.72 mi. 12:04 p.m.
Leave Summit after wandering to view 2.82 mi. 12:18 p.m.
Intersection Sosman Trail / Mt. Tecumseh Trail 3.34 mi. 12:30 p.m.
End of Sosman /Ski Slope Top 3.84 mi. 12:45 p.m.
Leave Sosman / Ski Slope Top 3.84 mi. 1:02 p.m.
Intersection Sosman Trail / Mt. Tecumseh Trail 4.35 mi. 1:18 p.m.
Tecumseh Brook Crossing 5.42 mi. 2:05 p.m.
Leave Tecumseh Brook Crossing 5.42 mi. 2:08 p.m.
Trailhead 6.55 mi. 2:44 p.m.