Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Misty Day On Mt Flume

We hadn't really planned to hike this weekend but with the promise of three days of yard and house work ahead a nice long day in the mountains seemed like a much better idea.  Our Monadnock hike a couple of weeks ago also had us craving more time on the trails and we hadn't been to the Whites since last fall.  It was definitely past time!  The forecast was a bit iffy but not bad.  We left home at 5:30am and headed north on a gray cloudy morning.  The nice thing about a day trip to NH in the middle of a holiday weekend is having the roads to ourselves - no Boston traffic today!  We were at Lincoln Woods and on the trail at 9:00.

The walk out along the East Branch on the Lincoln Woods trail was nice.  Not too warm yet and I always love listening to the sounds of the river.  We started up the Osseo Trail and almost immediately were greeted by the show of wildflowers that we'd have most of the way up.  Starflowers, Trout Lilies and Painted Trillium were growing in patches so large you'd swear they were gardens.  Beautiful!  The Osseo is an amazingly flat, smooth walk.  Hardly seems like being in the Whites.  The grades are all easy, but knowing that we're going to gain 3000' eventually we know that there are steep stretches ahead.

Cloudy start looking over the East Branch

Nice smooth walking on the Osseo Trail


Trout Lily

Painted Trillium

Further up we finally reached the switchbacks as the trail steepened and wound up the first ridge.  There are many stone steps here (which I forgot to photograph) and the signs of the many steps to come.  According to Steve Smith in 4000 Footers of the White Mountains there are 396 steps on the way to the summit of Flume.  We believe it now!  It was a warm day - the forecast said 15-20 degrees above average - but the woods stayed fairly cool in the mist as we gained elevation.  While it seemed like the kind of day that we'd be swarmed by black flies and mosquitoes we hardly saw a bug all day.  Definitely a bonus.  Before long we reached the beginning of the ladders and we found out how we were going to pay for all that easy walking earlier in the hike.  Lots of elevation gain in a hurry.

After the ladders is there is another long stretch of flat walking in the col below the summit of Flume.  It seems very strange to be back on flat ground after all that steep climbing.  This is a really lovely spot that winds through the evergreen forest with frequent bog bridges to navigate the muddy trail.  The trail was lined with more wildflowers up here including tall shrubs covered with white flowers (which I couldn't identify) that were so prolific that it looked like it was snowing along the trail.  While we were still walking in a cloud I really didn't mind at all.  There is something of a magical feel to walking in the misty woods, particularly on a mountain.  I was contemplating the fact that we weren't going to have any views from a summit that really has some spectacular ones.  It made me think back to all of our previous 4000 footers and realize how lucky we'd been.  In the nearly 30 times that we've stood on a 4000 foot summit the only time we didn't have a view was on South Twin.  Not only had the rest provided views, most had been on perfect bluebird days.  Truly a blessing.  The summit today was going to be great - views or not.  Before long we had hit the junction of the Flume Slide Trail and were ready for the final fun scramble up!

Bog bridges

The mystery shrub

Almost to the top!

 The final climb was great fun.  I had wondered about the descriptions of the "challenging scramble" and "8 foot wide ridge with precipitous drops on both sides" but it was all no problem.  No need to put the poles down for the scramble - hands not required.  Narrow path for sure and a drop to the left that probably would be dizzying on a clear day but hugging the scrub on the right it's just a beautiful walk to the top.
Summit ridge in the clouds.  
Blue blaze in the middle of the picture marks the start of the scramble

Looking down one of the slides from the summit ridge

Nat heading up the ridge

Final steps to the top

We arrived on top with a strong wind from the west blowing the clouds and mist up the mountain.  No views but a wonderful place to be!  We dropped our packs and sat gazing into the mist and imagining the sprawling views of the valley below.  As is always the case when I get to the top of a mountain I don't want to leave.  I took some pictures and just dawdled around trying to make the moment last.  It turned out to be a good thing.  Right before we were getting up to go there were a few small openings in the clouds and the sun tried to push through from above.  In a matter of minutes the mist parted and we were left with wispy clouds drifting around our heads as we looked down to the valley below.  Spectacular!  Once again the mountain Gods had smiled on us and given us a gift.  In about 5 minutes as quickly as they had opened up the clouds closed on us again. It was clearly time to head down.  #22 is now a check-mark on the 4000 footer list and the anticipation of the 26 that lie ahead is great.

Gazing into the mist

Sitting on the edge of ???

On top of #22

Hang on to your hat.  Windy up here!

Clouds tease us with a peek down

Our gift from the mountain Gods

Happy to see the sun!

One last look

A couple of thousand feet straight down

Heading back

As we headed back down into the woods the skies began to clear for good.  The sun filtering through the trees made the hike down feel like we were on a completely new trail.  The wildflowers greeted us again and kept us company for the return journey.  I usually like loop hikes much better than out-and-backs but this one is fine just the way it is.  Past the switchbacks on the way down the Osseo reminded us what a nice trail it is with those last few miles that are so much easier on the knees than most - and very welcome at the end of an 11 mile day.

What goes up must go down

The views that we missed on the way up

The perfect lookout point

Brightly decorated stump

Sun splashed trail - lovely walk

We arrived back at Lincoln Woods at 4:00 - tired, hungry and very happy.  We had definitely found the ideal way to escape the holiday weekend of yard work for day.  We went down to the river and soaked our legs in the freezing water in the perfect form of refreshment.  Although we had been planning to head straight home it was now a beautiful day in the valley and we couldn't waste it so we headed off for dinner at our favorite restaurant - the Woodstock Station.  The patio had just opened for the season and we had a great dinner outside to end another perfect day in the mountains.  The only thing that could have made it better was not having to drive home.  Someday...

Picture perfect views over the East Branch to end the day

Mom's Meatloaf Sandwich and a Pemi Pale Ale.  Yum!

Hops growing on the outside of the brewery

The full photo album is here:  Mt Flume 5-29-11

Trail view from the East

Trail view from the West


  1. Mark, congratulations to you and Natalie for completing #22 in your quest for the NH48! Your report was a joy to read, and your photos were first-rate (as always). And, I agree completely with your statement that "There is something of a magical feel to walking in the misty woods, particularly on a mountain."


  2. Mark - fun to read, fun to view. Those last two "trail views" images -- those are done with Google Earth I assume?

  3. John - Thanks for the kind words. I think I need to keep that thought about the misty woods more in mind in the future and not always be trying to plan for the bluebird days.

    Rick - Thanks. For White Mountain hikes I use the AMC White Mountain Guide online to create the map and then export directly to Google Earth. Works great. I love getting to explore the route in 3D both before and after a hike.

  4. The Kilted HIker5/31/2011 10:13 AM

    Great read Mark! I have to agree that there is something magical about hiking in the clouds. Flume wasn't on my short list... until now. (OK, so ALL of the remain 48 are on my short list.) That ridge walk looks great!

  5. Erich - my goal will have to be making your short list longer. Sounds like a fun challenge. When we're both done we can finish up with Owl's Head together. I don't think that's on anyone's short list. ;)

    The only thing wrong with the ridge walk on Flume was that it was too short! Simple answer to that though - just do it a few more times.