The challenge has begun! On June 9th we officially embarked upon our journey to conquer the 48’s with a hike up Mt. Tecumseh via the Mount Tecumseh Trail in the Waterville Valley area. We decided that this would be the best bet for our first ascent because it has a moderate rating and is the smallest of the 4,000 footers. This turned out to be a good choice because, overall, the views were slightly disappointing (though they were still beautiful), but they definitely ignited anticipation for what lay in store on the other mountains.
We started at the Waterville Valley Ski Area and headed to the top right of the parking lot (when facing the lodge). The trailhead is marked with a sign and begins by following the Tecumseh Brook for a short distance. The main trail branches away from the river shortly, but we noticed a happy little path that followed the river for a short time before meeting back up with the main trail and crossing the brook. We then began to ascend gradually and were treated to the beautiful sounds of the woods and the flowing brook behind us. After about a mile, we sloped back downwards on the trail (this was made easier by a makeshift staircase), leading back down to another brook crossing and a stone staircase back up into the woods. Both crossings were fairly straightforward, with plenty of stepping-stones to choose from.
We encountered our first view after a short climb, when the trail splits to the right. We bore left to emerge on a ski slope with a great view of the mountain range. Heading back, we followed the trail up an old rocky path. We took this slowly, as it was long and had many loose rocks that made for some unstable footing. After about another mile of upward climbing, we reached flat ground and a beautiful distribution of trees surrounding us on all sides. The Sosman Trail eventually showed up on our left, connecting with the Mt. Tecumseh Trail and heading towards the summit. We next met a fork in the path, both ways connecting with the summit, one via the Sosman Trail (Left) and the other by the Tecumseh Trail (Right). Taking the right fork, we continued to the summit from the north. This was a fun decision as it gave us a few brief glimpses of what lay in store in regard to views from the top. The final stretch was short and steep, and ended with pretty views from between the surrounding trees. After a quick bite to eat and a rest, we headed back to our left (facing away form the views) and began our descent on the Sosman Trail.
We took the Sosman Trail back down to the Tecumseh Trail and headed right at the fork, veering away from our original path to follow the Sosman to the ski slopes. We reached a viewpoint where we were treated to a great view of Tecumseh’s peak, which totally validated our accomplishment of ascending the first of forty-eight big mountains. Our hike was far from over, though. Ski slopes may be cool in the winter (pun not originally intended–we’re just naturally clever) but in the summer, they make Captain Feathersword poop his pants.
The Sosman Trail brought us past the transmission tower and eventually emerged at the top of the ski slopes, where the trail ended and the only way down was down… very steeply. We were faced with Hell on Earth, disguised as lush, green ski slopes. After a rocky ascent, we thought going down would be a piece of cake, but turns out most of the slopes were marked by one or double black diamonds. The only tip we can think of for you is just keep going down and keep your eyes on the ski lodge below. You will curse at the sky. Your ankles will feel like falling off. You will probably see the tall patches of grass that are randomly dispersed through the trail and wonder if a wild Pokemon will appear. And if we had known how steep the decent via the slopes would be, we probably would have taken the Tecumseh Trail back to the car. After about an hour of decent, some very sore legs, and a displeased Katie, we finally reached our car and began soaking in the awesomeness of completing our first 4,000 footer!
This was a great first mountain to take on, mainly because we had nothing to compare it to. The views were beautiful, but we were sure future trails would bring us exponentially more awe-inspiring vistas. The entire hike took us about 4.5 hours and we felt it was moderate to strenuous (with the most strenuous part being the ski slopes on the way down). Take this one slow, enjoy the views, and bring lots of bug spray. Bugs suck.