Sunday, July 28, 2013


With a storm moving up the coast, the higher summits were forecast to be in the clouds, and there was a chance of showers, especially to the east. West was best today, and a hike to the relatively low summit of Galehead - which I hadn't been to in a few years - seemed like a good choice. And there was the option to re-visit the big 1954 slide in the Gale River valley on the way down.

In the morning the temperature was in the 60s with a high overcast, low humidity, and no bugs - pretty decent hiking conditions compared to the recent heat wave. The first two miles, which I had just hiked a week earlier, went by fairly quickly. As it was last week, the first half of the 2011 relocation was quite muddy, while the second half had generally great footing and nice woods, such as this lush glade.

After rejoining the original route, the trail crosses a small brook that drains an old slide.

A bit farther along, the trail emerges in an open gravelly area at the base of the aforementioned 1954 slide, which fell during Hurricane Carol in August. (More on this later.) From this spot you can look down at the North Branch of the Gale River and up at the high, wooded ridges of the Twins.

I dropped down for a closer look at the river. This is a neat, remote part of the valley.

At the bottom of the steep rocky climb to the Garfield Ridge Trail junction, Nate, an avid bushwhacker, caught up to me. He was heading up to climb East Garfield (aka Mt. Pam) and West Garfield, two peaks on the NH 100 Highest list. He was also thinking of continuing on to Mt. Garfield. Nate travels light and fast, unlike this writer, who plods along with a 25-lb. day pack. We hiked together up to the junction, talking about various bushwhacks.

After a rough and rocky traverse (is there any other kind) on the Garfield Ridge Trail, I arrived at the junction by Galehead Hut.

The hut was fairly quiet at lunchtime. This is the most remote of the eight AMC high-country hostelries, which are celebrating their 125th Anniversary this year.

Though the lofty Twins were smothered in cloud, the fog parted at times to reveal the neat view offered by the clearing in front of the hut. I had forgotten how nice this vista was, looking down the Twin and Franconia Brook valleys between the slopes of Southwest Twin and Galehead Mountain.

The vista includes (L to R) Scar Ridge, Loon Mountain, Whaleback Mountain, Owl's Head and Mt. Flume.

Galehead Mountain, nearby to the SW.

Another look at Galehead, from a fir wave along the Frost Trail.

The Frost Trail, which was built by hut visitors Jack and Ruth Frost in the early 1950s, has one good steep, rocky pitch.

The outlook on the Frost Trail is perched on the edge of a very steep slope carpeted with bonsai-size scrub. It's a unique spot with a view across the deep Twin Brook valley to the massive SW ridge of South Twin. Mts. Osceola and Tecumseh can be seen off to the south.

A look down at the hut set on its little wooded hump.

The down-look into the Twin Brook valley.

I continued a few minutes up to the wooded summit of Galehead. When the Frost Trail opened 60 years ago, this spot reportedly offered quite a panorama to the west. The trees are now grown to the point where the summit is totally and irredeemably viewless.

When I came back to the outlook, I ran into Marty and Ann, a delightful couple from Brooklyn who had come into my store the day before. They were inspired to visit the White Mountains by reading Tom Ryan's book, Following Atticus, and were starting a several day hut-to-hut trip at Galehead. We chatted about various subjects such as the scrubby trees around the outlook, the state of music education in NYC (Marty is a music teacher), and their beloved pet rats. They are enthusiastic hikers in the Bear Mountain-Harriman area of New York; Galehead would be their first NH 4000-footer.

A father and son came by, and since we all had blue shirts on, Ann took a photo of the Galehead Blue Man Group.

Looking at the outlook and its sitting rock from the trail.

Some open ferny fir forest along the Frost Trail.

Back at the hut, weird light on Owl's Head.

On the way back down the Gale River Trail, I bushwhacked up to the open part of the 1954 slide. As related in a 1957 article in Appalachia, an AMC hutman packing up supplies was almost swept away in a flood when this slide came crashing down. Former hutman Alex MacPhail, an avid hiker and naturalist, has been documenting the revegetation on this slide as related on his excellent and informative blog, White Mountain Sojourn. This gravel bank is on the lower part of the slide.

The upper part of the slide is still quite open, though the wet ledges are extremely slippery. Back in 1995 I ascended this slide to its top and bushwhacked up to the Garfield Ridge Trail; it seemed much wetter today, perhaps due to the rainy early summer.

Looking across the slide - don't step out there!

Though the upper ridge of North Twin was socked in, I had a fine view across to a cliff-faced spur of the mountain.

A close-up of the wild cliffs on the spur. They look pretty inaccessible on top, but it might be worth a try....lots of neat places to explore in the Gale River valley.


  1. Hi Steve,

    Loved the photo of the "Galehead Blue Man Group"! :-)

    Though the upper ridge of North Twin was socked in, I had a fine view across to a cliff-faced spur of the mountain. Regarding that cliff-faced spur of the upper ridge of North Twin, did the old North Twin Loop Trail pass anywhere near to those cliffs?


    1. Hi John,

      Maybe our Blue Man Group should go on tour to all the huts...

      The old North Twin Loop went further up the valley under those cliffs, then shot up a slide to the NW ridge. The "twin" upper parts of the slide are still open. I think JR Stockwell has been up it. What a wild area!


  2. Hi Steve,
    Just got home, saw your blog. Thanks very much for including us. A big thumbs up on our trip to the Whites!
    Ann & Marty

    1. Thanks, Ann & Marty! It was a pleasure visiting with you both in town and up on the mountain. Glad you enjoyed your trip to the Whites. Let me know if I can be of assistance in planning future trips.