Tripoli Rd. - Groomed XC ski trail till Osceola trailhead, dense snowpack with a light dusting
Tripoli Rd, Osceola trailhead to Tecumseh trailhead - large but passable downed tree branch in road, slick ice underneath an inch of loose snow, microspikes recommended
Mt. Tecumseh Trail from Tripoli Rd. - thin ice on water crossings near trailhead, icy patches on steep sections near summit, didn't need snowshoes, could have used microspikes
Mt. Tecumseh Trail down to WVV resort parking - inch of light snow on top of slick snow/icepack, luge like in places.
It had been a few weeks since I had gotten out into the mountains, owing to a 2 week struggle with a stomach bug and a week of travel down to VA. I was looking forward to getting out with a friend to camp Monday night, buuuuut she bailed on me. I have a hunch it was retribution for me bailing on her a few weeks ago. We're even now, I think. So, late Monday afternoon I decided to pack up and drive a short distance to Waterville Valley where I hiked a mile down Tripoli Rd. to the Osceola Vista Campground. I popped up my tent around around 7:30 and hunkered down with a book for the evening. Around midnight I woke to the beautiful noise of heavy snow coming down on the tent's rain fly. Rain makes such a beautiful noise, but the slow and soft sound of the falling snow is dream-like, especially when you wake from a dream to hear it.
After a nice rest in the mid 20s I woke to a light dusting of snow and slowly worked my way towards breaking camp. Breaking down a tent in the early morning in winter is not fun. With my belly and thermos full of hot coffee I broke camp and started down Tripoli Rd. I dropped my bag in the woods near the campgrounds and headed down Tripoli Rd at a trot towards the Mt. Tecumseh Trail trailhead, about 4 miles away. A large chunk of Tripoli Rd. is closed off during the winter season and groomed for XC skiing, making for nice running conditions. At the Mt. Osceola trail trailhead the grooming ends and the road changed to a slick base with a light dusting of snow, which made for some fun running and sliding down the slight grade.
I underestimated the distance at this point and couldn't remember what the Tecumseh trailhead looked like, so I ended up running 4/5 of the way to the trailhead before turning around at the Beaver Pond spur (I thought I had missed the trailhead). I made it back to the Osceola trailhead where I checked the map on the board and realized I had stopped just short of the trailhead! Left the Osceola trail head, ran back down the ice luge, and finally found the Mt. Tecumseh Trail trailhead, only after I wandered down a few spurs off Tripoli Rd. Ah! That's what I get for not taking my map with me. I believe that added 3 miles or so to the trip. They were nice miles, I won't complain.
Once I hit Mt. Tecumseh Trail I slowed to a comfortable hiking pace. The forest was silent, no wind, comfortably cool, a pleasant overcast day. From time to time I heard a truck's air-breaks off on 93 (unfortunately). The wind picked up a bit and I enjoyed the sounds of it whistling over the tops of the bare trees, their branches clicking together, dry leaves clinging on and rattling, strands of birch bark jingling. Gorgeous. On a few steep sections of the trail it became very icy, no more than 10ft at a time. I chose not to carry my microspikes with me, so at these points I pulled myself up along the trees on the side of the trail. These weren't too challenging to get around. The snow deepened a bit once I crested the first peak and there were 2 or 3 small blowdowns on the trail that sent me a few feet into deeper snow to get around.
At the summit the clouds had closed off views of the Tripyramids and Sandwich Dome. On a clear day, this view is spectacular. It was no less spectacular with a vast wall of clouds, just no mountain peaks to peek at. The descent down from Tecumseh to the WVV Resort parking lot is a blast. It's a nice snaking gradual grade most of the way down with a few steep spots. On this day, it was a bit icy underneath the thin top layer of snow so I enjoyed some sliding and picked my way down "carefully" at a good clip. It required a bit of ballet and bouncing off trees to keep from laying out or shooting off into the woods.
I popped out at the parking lot and jogged about 3 miles back down Tripoli Rd. to pick up my bag and headed back to my car. I made it to my car just as it was starting to drizzle. With temps hovering right around 32 it was a good thing I made it back when I did. Shortly after, the roads back to my place were covered in a slick sheen of ice. I was really excited to get back and drink some water, I had only taken my thermos of coffee out on the trail with me and got prrrrretty darn thirst right around the summit. That next sip of water was ahhhhh heaven. Great day all around out there on Tecumseh, but I am really starting to look forward to the spring melt and some warm sunshine on my face.
Here's the Strava track from the hike: