Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Garfield, Galehead, North & South Twin, & Zealand 7-17-11

Owl's Head and the Pemigewasset Wilderness from Garfield
So it was 8:20 pm on Saturday, and I had just finished my hike to Mt. Carrigain. Once I got to the parking lot, light faded fast, so I quickly decided that tomorrow I was going for as many as I could. During the week, I was considering several different options to hit the remaining peaks along the Pemigewasset Wilderness. Since I didn't have a car spot this weekend, I decided that I would start with Garfield and the Garfield Trail and see how far I could make it before I had to get back to either Gale River Trail or the Garfield Trail.

After 9pm there was no action in the parking lot so things were quiet. I had some food and soda I had in the car so I was comfortable. I cooled off in the AC for bit, changed into some extra clothes, and listened to some music and prepared my pack for tomorrow's hike. The bugs were fairly oppressive during the hike and still at the car, so I didn't really feel like setting up the hammock outside. I decided to try to get some sleep in the car. It actually wasn't too hard to fall asleep, and when I woke up a few hours later at 2am, I realized I actually had a good nap, and was ready to go. With everything in my pack already set, I left Sawyer River Road in the middle of the night and headed up 302 to Route 3 to the Garfield Trail via the Gale River Loop. Along the 20 minute ride, I saw 2 fox alongside the road. I found the Gale River Loop Road gate closed on the Garfield Trail side, so I had to turn around on 3 and go back a few hundred yards to access the loop road by the Gale River sign and drive almost the full the loop to the Garfield Trail.

Headlamp on Garfield Trail sign
I had been set on starting at 3am, because I really wanted to be up there by the time the sun rose. I've hiked in the dark before a few times. Most memorable was the time my brother and I visited the Deboullie area in the North Maine Woods. My means of light were my Princeton Tec Fuel Headlamp and my Brookstone Waterproof LED Flashlight. With the lights out, I have to admit I could not see ANYTHING. I used the headlamp mostly and supported it when needed with my Brookstone flashlight. By the way, I highly recommend this flashlight.

My middle of the night walk up the Garfield Trail was completely uneventful. I maintained a steady walking pace, and only recall stopping for some water on a couple of occasions. The streams at the beginning were low and were no problem at all to see and cross. There was only one really large blow down that blocked the path of the trail on the other side of a crossing. After scanning the river bank for a few minutes, I saw the path beyond the horizontal limbs of the tree, which extended fully across the path. There were no unusual noises or anything that concerned me as I ascended.

I made it to the junction with the Garfield Ridge Trail, and then proceeded to approach the summit as the sky went from black to dark blue. The first and only rock scramble indicates your just about to the summit. It was around 5:30am, so I was where I had hoped to be at that time. As I came out of the trees onto the ledge, I noticed a few people were there already, as they had camped out in the box at the top. (BTW, what the heck is that thing?) Anyways, the air was heavy and warm as its been lately, so I was sweating. As I set my pack down, it was necessary to throw on my jacket to stop the immediate chill, but had to be careful none of my gear blew away in the whipping wind. I still don't know which I enjoyed more, the view of the days first rays to the east, or the morning moonlight over the Franconia Ridge. I'll let you ponder that one.

Galehead Hut
I took several photos before heading back down to the junction. I took a right onto the Garfield Ridge Trail towards Galehead Hut. At times, the hut is visible way up on the hill from the trail, but with the Gale River Trail junction in between, it didn't really seem that bad, its flat at times too. By the time I reached the Galehead Hut, the sun was out and bright. I hiked right past the hut and proceeded up the Frost Trail to the summit of Galehead, my 34th peak. Although the hut has great views, the summit cairn a half mile up is surrounded by trees.  After a couple pictures confirming the summit, I headed right back to the hut. The hut was bustling with everyone eating their breakfast and gearing up to head out wherever. I re-filled my water and was on my way like no even knew!

This for .8 straight
The Twinway Trail begins right near the hut, and heads towards South Twin. This .8 mile section up South Twin felt like forever. Not only that, its pretty relentless in terms of the trail's steepness and rockiness. Eventually, the summit appeared quickly as I came out of trees. I had reached my 35th peak.
Looking towards N. Twin

After exchanging picture duties with a couple on the summit, I quickly continued and headed out on the North Twin Spur. This trail was nice and flat so I was off and running. It was a half hour, and I was at the summit view point of North Twin, again enjoying sweeping views of Franconia Ridge and the peaks I just came across. Looking back at South Twin, it seems like the trail would be steeper, but that's not the case.

I love ridge trails
I made it back to South Twin and located the Twinway that descends the summit towards Mt. Guyot. After an imediate and brief steep section, the trail levels out very nicely. Along this section, a couple of water breaks had me pass a girl who appeared to be around my age a couple of times. I tend to keep quiet, but I finally asked where she was headed, and she informed me she was thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT). In the 45 miles that I have hiked along the AT so far, this was my first meeting of someone who was doing it. I was quite surprised that she was by herself and from Minnesota. She planned to finish within a couple of weeks. We hiked together about a half mile or so chatting a bit and we eventually came out onto the exposed ridge at the Bondcliff Trail junction.

Zealand summit sign
Knowing that I would be coming back to this junction, I took off up the Twinway over Mt. Guyot. The 1.3 miles from here to Zealand seemed long. With that being the case, I was really trying to make good time in this section. I made it to Zealand in just about a half hour from the Bondcliff Trail junction, just what I wanted. A couple of young wiseguy kids on the way said the view was tremendous on Zealand. I just laughed to myself knowing the summit would be wooded with no views. Zealand was my 37th peak, and 5th 4000 foot summit within a span of about 5 hours. Again, another couple of photos and back I went on the Twinway towards Guyot. I passed the girl again in between Guyot and Zealand and wished her the best of luck as she finishes the AT. I was intrigued by that experience, and I would love to do it someday.

When I made it back to the Bondcliff Trail junction near Mt. Guyot, it was just about 12pm. It was now decision time about whether to go for the Bonds or not. I wasn't sure exactly how many miles I had done so far, but I will go through my decision making process. I know it was only 12pm and had plenty of time to fit them in, but I had to remember what I did yesterday, and that I started at 3am, not 7, 8, or 9 am. I had filled my water last at Galehead Hut and knew there wouldn't be any water going over the bonds. Secondly, I had some trail mix and 2 energy bars left, which was not a whole lot. Thirdly, I considered what I would automatically be facing on the way back (pic below), and that was the ascent and descent of South Twin. Lastly, my motivation was raging, but my legs were screaming, so with that and the other concerns, I opted to turn right and head back up the Twinway.

Twinway towards S. Twin from Zealand (on the way back)
Things went slower but smoothly as I made my way back to Galehead Hut. There were only a couple people in the hut now, and I re-filled my water again, I was out. On the counter were some chocolate cakes and some sort of apple crumbles or something. I had to have one, so I paid a dollar, along with a couple dollar tip for one piece. I mowed it down as I walked out onto porch of the hut. Had to taste that cake with a view. It must have been the best piece of chocolate cake ever. It did give me a bit of a boost as I hopped on the Garfield Ridge Trail for a quick .6 miles to the Gale River Trail junction. At the end of it all, I knew there probably wasn't much of a difference from choosing the Gale River over going back to the Garfield Trail to descend, but I was opting to exchange Garfield Ridge Trail mileage for Gale River Road mileage.

Gale River Trail near the Garfield Ridge Trail junction
Once I hit the Gale River Trail, it was a long 4 miles to the trail head. I passed several hikers hiking up for the night. The trail is relatively easy and follows the Northern part of the Gale River for most of the way, which was pleasant, but at this point it was a bit of labor to push along. I stopped to refresh my face in the cool mountain water that was crystal clear. That kind of helped me through the last mile or so of trail. Once onto the road, it was at minimum a one mile walk along the road between the Gale River and Garfield trail heads. I finished just minutes after 4pm.

The road was not relief, I didn't remember at 3am it was all hill
What an incredible day it was to cross 5 more peaks off the list. This hike was 25 miles over 7,050 feet of elevation gain. If you combine this with my hike of Mt. Carrigain on Saturday afternoon, that is 35 miles over more than 10,000 feet of elevation gain within a 24 hour period. It's hard to believe these stats myself. Despite the quickness at which I might be able to hike, its not hard to remember every single second because the views and overall experience of being in the mountains seems to make time stand still.

Hike Stats
Trails: Garfield Trail, Garfield Ridge Trail, Frost Trail, Twinway, North Twin Spur, Twinway, Garfield Ridge Trail, Gale River Trail, Gale River Loop Road
Miles: 25
Elevation Gain: 7050 ft

I encourage you to check out my album on this one.

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