Mount Tecumseh has been high on my list since I first started out planning hiking the NH 48 4,000 footers with Aubrey. Its the shortest peak on the list standing at 4,003 feet in elevation, and is a “short” 5-mile round trip hike. I had made the loose plans to hike it many times before but it never ended up happening. Then finally last Friday I made the decision we are just going to go for it. The weather looked good, I had the full day to devote to driving and hiking so Tecumseh was on the books.
Getting ready I packed the truck up with our tent and camping gear. I wanted to allow us the full day to hike and if that meant that when we finished I was too tired to make the two-hour drive home I could grab a campsite nearby. I had run our numbers our average hiking pace was between 1-1.5 mph depending on terrain. I estimated that hiking Tecumseh would take us just under 8 hours. It would be a long hard day for us in the mountains.
We left home just after 6am Friday morning, had an uneventful drive north and arrived in Waterville Valley just after 8am. We got our packs and shoes on and headed off into the woods. The trail immediately crosses a small stream and follows a small river up for the first section. We had to cross this brook and luckily it was dry, had it been full it would have been extremely hard for Aubrey to cross as it was very deep. We hiked along at a good pace and in good spirits. The trail was relatively easy. We then descended and crossed the river again, this time it had some water in it but it was not deep at all and was an easy rock hop across.
At about the halfway point, we got the view point and stopped to have a snack out on the ski slopes. We had made great time getting to this point and I was feeling optimistic. I had set us a turn around time of four hours, which would be 12:30pm. After a little bit, we continued on. From this point on the trail got very steep. The trail was all rocks that proved to be a bit challenging. Aubrey and I love rocky scrambles where we have to challenge ourselves to climb up, but this was different. More just annoying hopping from rock to rock as we made our way up. Our pace slowed down big time. I had referred to the copy of the trail guide and it spoke of stairs, but where were they?! I normally loathe stairs when hiking, but I wanted them so bad. I knew that once we hit the stairs they would be more straightforward and we could hopefully pick up the pace again.
I began checking in with Aubrey, making sure she was still feeling good and if she wanted to continue on or turn around. Like always, she wasn’t ready to quit until we got to the top. Finally, we reached the stairs. Aubrey was still full of energy and was proving to be stronger than me! She bounded up them with little effort, constantly leaving me in her dust. Something she really hasn’t done before. I was impressed with her but I was seriously beginning to doubt myself. At one point I even stopped and said to her “Mommy is tired, what if I said we need to turn around?” She responded with a “No Mommy, we can turn around when we get to the top. We can do it” Wow. Talk about some role reversal. I glanced at my GPS and watch and began figuring out if we would make it before our turn around time. It would be close!
Finally, we made it to the top of the Mount Tecumseh Trail/Sosman Trail junction and was greeted by some level ground. We picked up the pace here and quickly made it to where the trail splits for the summit loop. We opted to go to left and found some scrambles to make it up and over before the last push to the summit. Then finally, THE TOP! We made it right around noon time, so within our four-hour goal! We sat down and enjoyed our lunch. Aubrey found a perfect little seat for herself under a small pine and hid in the shade. We chatted with other hikers and took some pictures before we headed back down just before 1pm.
Again I budgeted 4 hours to get down, but unlike hiking up we couldn’t just turn around at the 4-hour mark, we would have to keep hiking. I could tell Aubrey was getting tired. She started to get clumsy and was tripping over small rocks and roots more often. We slowed down and took it easy. I kept longing for finding the viewpoint again because I knew after that point we would have just a mile to go and it would be on the easier trail. Slowly but surely we made it, and then we were down to the water crossing. I had finished my 2.5 liters of water in my pack so I stopped and filled up a bottle and pulled out my Sawyer Mini filter and we continued on. I figured we had less than a mile to go and looking at the time we should be done around 4pm. Great! Then I pulled out my GPS and it showed we still had 1.5 miles to go! What?! How was I mistaken?! I pretty much lost my motivation at this point. I figured now at this point, we would be finishing around 6pm! Camping was definitely happening.
We reached the 2nd water crossing and I thought back that it wasn’t far in from the start, but then I looked at my GPS and it was showing we still had just under a mile to go. I looked at the map and it showed just a few tenths of a mile, so at this point I could no longer trust my GPS tracking and figured it couldn’t be much longer, but I had accepted it would still be close to another hour until we were done. Then all of a sudden, I saw a glimpse of what looked like water. “Is that?! Is that the first water crossing? Is that….pavement?!……YES!” We made it back down just after 4pm like I originally had planned! So relieved. Since it was still early enough, I opted to drive home and not camp. And after a long 7.5 hour hike. Our second 4,000 footer is complete! Now to decide what is next!