Wild Tecumseh: An Underrated White Mountain Destination
Looking at Tecumseh from another angle
A question I’ll often ask people I meet along the trail is “What’s your favorite White Mountain peak?” The answer I hear most frequent is a peak typically in the Franconia Range, Presidential Range, or Twin Range. I’ve not heard Mount Tecumseh mentioned as a favorite.
I can understand. When I’m bushwhacking the Western Sandwich Range during Winter, I can hear music blaring from the ski slopes of Tecumseh. It’s a noisy neighbor of Waterville Valley. The trail leading from the ski area’s parking lot is usually congested with groups, making the short trek to the summit. My opinion was aligned with most people’s view: it’s a developed peak, lacking a wilderness feel.
Bushwhacking has taught me that every mountain has its wild side. In the past year, I felt a growing curiosity about Tecumseh. Looking at a topo map and satellite imagery, I realized how much of that massive mountain is beyond the reach of people.
On New Year’s Eve 2016, I made the trek to Tecumseh’s more remote region. Hiking along Tripoli Road, I started my bushwhack in shin-deep snow. At a low elevation, the sun broke through the hardwood forest, providing amazing visibility and a warm light. Loose powder covered the low branches of some evergreens, but with a gentle shake of those branches, I made a clear path for my ascent.
As the terrain grew steeper, I noticed ice-covered outcroppings. Between the outcroppings, I found a safe point for ascent, where I crawled under dense vegetation and snow-covered hemlocks. Tapping one branch sent a pile of snow onto my head and back. As I stood upright in a clearing, I noticed fresh moose tracks heading West, toward a far more remote region of the mountain. I quickly pushed higher – the opposite direction the tracks headed.
Further along the ridge, I encountered a spring, gushing clear and cool, out the side of the mountain. At that spot, I rested and listened to the rushing water for several minutes. This area was the secluded spot I wanted to experience. Standing up, I turned and noticed some fresh weasel tracks bounding to the East and up the ridge. I decided to follow them and make my ascent, hoping for a chance encounter.
Along the way, the snow grew deeper and more challenging for my snowshoes to negotiate. The forest grew more silent, barely a whisper of wind. The sun was now obscured by clouds arriving from the West. I knew I had to work harder to arrive at the summit or risk an encounter with poor weather.
As I crested the ridge, I finally crossed a remote, Northern section of Mount Tecumseh Trail, abandoned in winter due to the closure of Tripoli Road. The snow was deep and unpacked. No human had been here in many weeks. As I ascended the trail, I noticed the tracks of an animal with monstrous paws. At a distance, they seemed to belong to some large carnivore, which made my adrenaline rush for a moment. Bobcat? Coyote? When I approached them, I noticed they belonged to a large snowshoe hare, bounding along the trail and eventually dodging West. Past the tracks, I began my fight up the steep, snow-drifted trail to the summit. A gray scale view from Franconia to Scar Peak became unmistakable when I stopped to gaze, exhausted. I knew that once I reached the summit, the trail would be broken out and the mountain would appear developed.
I stopped to enjoy some final moments of solitude. The forest reminded me of some remote regions of the White Mountains I’ve visited. As I turned one last time, I stared at the huge mass of Osceola. Catching my breath, I thought back on the journey and of the respect I had gained for a mountain that I learned had more wilderness secrets and experiences to offer than most people imagine.
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