Above the rock chimney, the very nice ridgecrest trail continued on, sometimes steeply, to the summit of Mount Osceola
Andrew hikes to Mount Osceola
The ridgecrest trail emerges at the open summit ledges of Mount Osceola. The summit, while not completely treeless, has a large, open, sunny ledge providing an excellent view east and northeast. A very steep (practically vertical) cliff bounds the summit area to the east, with some very nice ledges above where one can spend some time lazing in the sun.
We were making excellent time (it was only 10am) and we were on track to tackle Mount Tecumseh (we had a contingency plan where we would skip Tecumseh and hike down Tripoli road to the car, if time and or will were in short supply).
Ewart and Jenn on Osceola
Andrew and Jenn on Osceola
Beautiful open-rock summit
After a long and satisfying break at the summit, we started our way down the west/south side of Osceola towards Tripoli road. Tripoli Road runs over the pass separating the Osceolas from Tecumseh, and this meant we had a lot of elevation to lose and then gain: from 4300+ feet down to 2200 feet, then down a further 350 feet to the start of the Tecumseh trail, then all the way back up to 4000 feet to its summit.
In a straight line, the distance from where we were near the summit to the road was not that far - perhaps about 3 kilometres by my reckoning. What I didn't realize, though, was that the trail leading down was very switchbacked (unusual for an eastern north american trail), and very, very rough and rocky (not so unusual for an eastern north american trail). Plus, the trail was super-wet in spots, which didn't help. On the plus side, there was very little to no ice on the trail. I don't want to think of how treacherous this trail would be if it was coated in ice. Now, my theory is this - if a trail is super-rocky and with difficult footing, you might as well forego the switchbacking and just go straight up/down. Switchbacking in this case just prolongs the agony!
Tecumseh through the trees
Osceola Trail at Tripoli Road
Having endured the gauntlet of the rocky Osceola trail, we arrive at the Tripoli Road trailhead of the Osceola trail and have a nice lunch break. The warm sun is beating on us and we know that probably the roughest section of trail is now behind us. On the other hand, we've just ascended and descended more than 2500 feet and we know that there's at least 2000 feet more ascent and descent to go!
Osceola Trailhead Parking
After our lunch break we head west, down Tripoli road, to the trailhead of the Tecumseh trail. The Tecumseh trail, unfortunately, does not lead up at the height of land of Tripoli road (as the Osceola trail does). Instead, we're forced to hike downhill on the road, losing several hundred feet of elevation in the process. I decide partway down our roadwalk, that we can probably bushwack directly across and intersect the Tecumseh trail as it up. The road and the trail form a shallow 'V', and by cutting across, we can save the good part of a kilometre of walking and a couple of hundred feet of elevation loss and gain.
The choice turned out to be a good one: 500 metres of bushwacking along our current elevation brought us to the Tecumseh trail. We were glad to see that this trail is very much unlike the Osceola Trail we were just on: it didn't switchback, and it wasn't all eroded and rocky and rough. To our tired bodies, it still looked like a tough uphill slog, but at least the trail had decent footing.
Tecumseh's summit in sight
We made slow but steady progress, stopping at 250-foot intervals for rest breaks. We reached the 3750-foot crest of Tecumseh's summit ridges, and started following the ridgecrest towards the summit. The trail makes an annoying steep dip back down to 3600 feet before heading up steeply (and tiringly for us) to the summit of Tecumseh. All of our climbing was now done... yay!
There are limited views from a couple of lookouts on Tecumseh's summit. Mostly though, we're just happy that its all downhill from here, and we're praying that the descent trail isn't a nightmare like the descent trail off of Osceola. No endless rock-strewn swithbacks, please!