So, off we went. There were a few other groups leaving just before us, but they were heading to the Ponds so we quickly passed them and soon found ourselves on the many puncheons that take the trail over wet ground. After about a mile and a half we hit the Osceola trail and turned right. The trail quickly gains elevation and passes under some great looking cliffs and rocky caves that still contained cool air. It was very refreshing in the 85 degree humid weather. The trail passes eventually comes to a small slide with views down to Greeley Ponds and the cliffs. From our vantage point, the cool water of Greeley Ponds was very inviting.
Then the trail starts climbing hard again, through some wet sections before hitting the ridge. We met some folks there who were just heading back from Osceola, the first people we'd seen on the climb. As it turns out there were a lot more folks on this trail than I thought there would be. One final steep section brought us the the summit of East Osceola, a pretty non-descript spot in the woods. We ate a sandwich and drank water, but the bugs drove us onward. The trail drops steeply for a ways, and we passed a few patches of snow before hitting the col. Then the trail climbs a short, steep chimney and continues on to the summit of Osceola, with it's bare cliffs looking to the south. We rested, took our summit photo, and generally enjoyed the views.
After a half hour on top, we started back down, passing several people coming over from East Osceola. We took the side trail (which is actually the blazed trail) around the chimney and hoofed it back up to East Osceola, stopping for mere seconds before pushing on. Then we left the ridge and started the real descent. It's not that bad but we went slowly, saving our knees and thighs. At the Greeley Ponds trail junction we went right, to check out the ponds. It's only a 5 minute trip to the first pond, but we only stayed there a few minutes due to the bugs. At the outflow of the first pond we met a mountain biker who was confused and looking for trails to get him back to Waterville Valley. Don't mountain bike in Protected Scenic Areas! Then it's another 10 minutes to the second pond where we were promptly set upon by black flies, again. We only stayed long enough to snap a few pictures and then headed out. One of the stream crossings just before the road was a perfect spot to dunk our heads and cool off. We hit the car, found a note asking us to buy a parking pass, changed our rather discusting shirts, and headed out. At Lincoln Woods I bought a yearly parking pass and saw the message saying that Franconia Brook Campsite is closed for the year.
A hot, sweaty hike. Perfect for a summer solstice.
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