Monday, February 18, 2013

Garfield, Galehead, South Twin and OAK HILL!?!

On Saturday, I headed back up north for an attempt of Garfield, Galehead and North and South Twins. I knew it would be an epic day of hiking especially since there would be a road run on both ends just to get to the access roads which were in turn closed resulting in more running. I was looking at something like 22 miles or so(I didn't want to do the exact math since I figured it would discourage me). Ignorance is bliss and I set out from Concord bright and early.
The bark was falling off the trail-very cool!
I arrived at the trail head for Gale River Trail, parked, talked briefly with a group of hikers that were part of AMC group hike, and headed up the road to get to the access road for the Garfield trail. I make it sound arduous but it's really only like a quarter mile so it only took me a couple minutes to get there. The access road was very packed due to snowmobiles and I was able to quickly jog the 1.2 miles with microspikes to the trailhead and started the hike. From the tracks in the snow, it looked like someone with backcountry skis had been in since the storm but that was about it.

I quickly donned my snowshoes and started my meander up to Garfield. The problem with this ascent is that instead of being a two mile grind it is nearly 5 miles of switchback after switchback infinitum(or at least ad nauseum). It is totally runnable in the summer or if it was nicely packed but for me it ended up being more of a run a couple steps, trip myself up, curse Eian Proehl for blowing me off morning of, walk, run a couple steps, repeat...

I finally made it to the Garfield Ridge Trail Junction and to my dismay, it was NOT packed at all. In fact, it looked like no one had been there all winter. I took the 1/4 mile turn to Garfield's summit with great views of clouds in every direction debating whether I should just turn around or attempt breaking trail.
Cloudy Day on Garfield
Gale River Trail nicely packed
My huge distaste for mindless switchback finally won out and I started breaking trail. Did I ever! With my butt and belly as well as my snowshoes, tripping over myself on numerous times. While it had taken me less than 2 hours to summit Garfield it took me over 75 minutes to travel the 2.2 miles to the Gale River Junction. Boy was I wiped.
Garfield Ridge Trail(only my footprints)
Once on the packed part of Garfield Ridge, it was smooth sailing up Galehead(great views of trees) where I helped celebrate one of the hiker's last summit for the winter 4k's(not all in one season). I quickly said goodbye and headed over to South Twin.

South Twin rockets over 1,000 feet in the air above the Galehead hut in less than 3/4 quarters of a mile so I was expecting to do some work. But compared to the trail breaking, it seemed like nothing. I summited fairly quickly and realized that, again to my dismay, the trail to North Twin was not broken.
South Twin Summit
A quick estimation of daylight remaining and my previous poor trail breaking performance made me decide to turn back and head down Gale River Trail. I quickly caught up with the AMC hikers again talked with them for a quick and then headed down the remaining trail to the access road.
Crossing a brook
It was definitely not one of my better days hiking getting low on steam a couple times and bailing on North Twin. However, it was another fun day and I cannot think of many things that I would have rather been doing that day.

As of 2/16/2013: 24/48 4,000 footers

The next day I awoke to blustery winds and the daunting task of having to drive back up to the Whites to do another hike. I was going back and forth between Carrigain and Isolation and didn't really want to do either. But I packed up all my things and headed up. To exit 16. Which is when I realized that I wasn't going to have fun wasting a good portion of my day driving only to be cold and miserable on a hike I totally wasn't into doing.
Looking out the back side of Oak Hill
So instead, I drove over to Oak Hill in Loudon and explored the back side of the mountain. It was a blast. It was so nice to just go out an enjoy the winter without any goal or time constraints. In all of my winter hikes so far, it was also the most solitude that I had had-which is pretty amazing considering I did Owl's Head on a Wednesday. It was the perfect amount of time outside and still gave me a chance to have lunch with my parents and brother, Matt. Definitely was a better way to spend my Sunday.

The desert options at the Tuscan Kitchen where I had lunch

I probably will get re-motivated to drive up north for a hike this Wednesday but I realized that I am not going to let a contrived goal of hiking contrived trails on summits that are arbitrarily deemed high enough ruin my time outside. I will go when I'm up for it and do it on my on pace and volition. The goal was a good way to get me outdoors and I may still achieve it, but I will not let it own me. Nor should any of you with your own goals because remember, all of the are just as contrived and if they are ruining your lives, it certainly is not worth it. Go out and ENJOY!


  1. Contrived would be running them in order from lowest to highest. Or, better yet, alphabetical order. Oh well, maybe next winter ;)

    1. How about running all of the 4,000 footers that aren't on the list? Mountains like Clay, Guyot, South Peak of Moosilauke... Or maybe every 3,000 footer that isn't in the 100 highest peaks. Or the 50 least hiked mountains. It could go on and on. I see some potential here.

  2. All kidding aside, good call on both North Twin and Carrigan/Isolation. No point doing it if you're not having fun.