Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Galehead Mountain & Gale River Slide: 6/6/23

I took advantage of a weather window during a dreary week and climbed Galehead Mountain to check a few things for the forthcoming third edition of The 4000-Footers of the White Mountains. Since the weather held and the woods had dried out, on the way down I paid a visit to the 1954 Gale River Slide. Due to cool temperatures and a stiff breeze, it was a nearly 100% bug-free hike.

I'm always impressed by the vastness of the hardwood forest on the easygoing lower mile and a half of Gale River Trail.

Drainages had been expertly cleaned during a recent training session for trail adopters on the Pemigewasset Ranger District.

One of the few looks from the trail at the North Branch of the Gale River.

A peek at North Twin's own Giant Stairs from the first half of the mile-long 2011 relocation.

Beautiful forest and good footing along the second half of the relocation.

Skies were gloomy when looking up at a North Twin spur where the trail crosses the base of the 1954 slide.

The uppermost section of Gale River Trail is a steep rocky grind. This stretch, with many rock steps, was  named Jacob’s Ladder, after 1960s hutman Steve Jacobs, who helped open Twin Brook Trail below Galehead Hut.

The 0.6 mile to Galehead Hut on Garfield Ridge Trail is a long 0.6.

The Garfield Ridge Trail we know and love.

Three-way junction.

All was quiet at Galehead Hut. Guest count was 10 for the coming evening.

The clearing in front of the hut is a fine viewpoint.

Prominent in the view are Scar Ridge, Whaleback Mountain, the eastern flank of Owl's Head, and the pyramid of Mt. Flume, with nearby Galehead Mountain on the right.

Another view of Galehead from a fir wave along the Frost Trail.

Rough boulders descending to the col.

The Frost Trail makes a steep and rocky climb up Galehead.

A fine viewpoint awaits at the top of the steep pitch.


Another perspective looking south, beyond the peak known as Southwest Twin. Mt. Osceola seen in the distance on the left, through some smoke haze from Canadian forest fires.

The massive wall of South Twin and its SW ridge, scarred with scree slopes.

Looming above the Twin Brook valley.

Galehead Hut rests on a little bump below North Twin.


Zoom on two slides and a long fir wave on a western spur of North Twin. One of the slides. likely on the left, served as part of the route for the long-abandoned North Twin Loop.

Looking down into Twin Brook valley below the low scrub that cloaks this steep flank of Galehead.

Ledge and cairn at the wooded summit.

A well-beaten path leads about 20 yards south to a small ledgy opening.

Here there is a standing view of Mts. Flume and Liberty peering over the long ridge of Owl's Head.

The rain was still holding off as I headed back down Gale River Trail, so I decided to bushwhack up to the Gale River Slide, which roared down into the valley during Hurricane Carol in 1954. This steep gravel bank is the only open remnant of the lower part of the slide.

I was pleased to see that Rhodora was still in bloom up here.

I bushwhacked up through dense conifers and emerged higher up at the edge of the slide. Super slick, not going up that way. Back into the woods.

 Getting higher.

That looks better!

View across the Gale River valley to a cliff-faced spur and the main summit mass of North Twin. Shoulder of South Twin on the right.

I've paid several visits to this slide, and every time these wild cliffs catch my eye. But they are well-guarded by steep slopes and cripplebrush.

Looking down from a dry ledge seat on a convenient shelf on the slide.

Looking northwest to Vermont beyond another North Twin spur.


More Rhodora.

Looking back up after descending some dry slabs. Quite a variety of revegetation happening on this slide.

This gravelly, stony area with a perched boulder marks the lower end of the Gale River Slide, where it crossed the Gale River Trail and dumped into the river. When it fell on August 31, 1954, the debris created a temporary dam on the river, which then let go, releasing a surge of water down the valley. As told in a 1957 issue of Appalachia, at the time, Ben Bowditch, assistant hutmaster at Galehead Hut, was packing supplies up the trail. He heard a strange noise and saw the water surge coming down through the woods. He ditched his pack, grabbed onto a tree and held on for an hour as the water rose as high as his waist. After the surge receded , he went back and forth along the trail, finding the river crossings still impassable, and eventually bushwhacked back to the trailhead, where he was met by concerned fellow hut crew members. A true first-hand slide experience!


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