Member Trip report
Twins & Galehead Mountains Loop Hike
Trip Report/Photos from shep5
The North Twin Loop Trail (also referenced in old AMC guides as the Twin Range Trail) was opened in 1929 and was subsequently closed in 1938 due to damage from the Great New England Hurricane of 1938. This hurricane was also known as the Long Island Express and was the most powerful and deadliest hurricane to hit New England. The storm caused extensive damage...even knocking down part of the trestle on the Mount Washington's Cog Railway. The trail connected North Twin with the Gale River Trail. It ascended the valley south of the western arm of North Twin and climbed a slide prior to following the ridge to the summit.
Upon figuring out an approximate route from old USGS maps, I set off up the Gale River Trail at about 8AM on Saturday, September 29th. The forecast looked great; however, the start of the day was chilly with most of the high peaks still in the clouds. I made great time heading up the trail, as the grade was very easy. I reached an area of wash out, where the river met the trail, at about 9:10. There was a large boulder along the trail and this was the spot, where the trail veered away from the water and began a more aggresive climb to the ridgeline. In any case, I figured this was my chance to cross the Gale River with relative ease. Once on the other side, I began to make my way through the woods in a southeasterly direction. The woods were somewhat open, but the forest floor was soft from decaying trees and vegetation, and I "postholed" some through here. As I made my way around the base of the arm, I climbed a bit and encountered a rocky slope. By 10AM, I reached the drainage brook, which headed up the valley. I crossed at the base of a series of cascades and followed the brook for a distance. The woods were easy to more through, but I occasionally returned to walk in the brook with some thicker areas of growth. I believed that I was too close to the brook for the old path and I eventually climbed higher up the southern bank, where I fould a flater area, which headed up the valley. If I had to guess, the old trail probably used this. I continued east as much as I could and then began to descend back to the brook for a final crossing. It was 10:40 and there appeared to be a faint trail on the other side, so I crossed. This faded out quickly, but I was near the base of the old slide, so I started to climb in a northeasterly direction, hoping to run into it. The lower part of the slide was very overgrown, but I eventually found two side-by-side drainage areas, which looked promising. I followed up the wooded area between the two, so that I could check out both as I ascended. The slide turned out to be on my left and I descended into it. It was still fairly overgrown, but there was an obvious strip of rock, which headed up. At 11:30, I ran right into a large granite ledge. It was wet and slippery and I wasn't sure, how I would get over it, as the woods on both side of it were tight. As I began to climb it, it was difficult and I did not feel secure at all. I eventually, just tried to muscle my way through the trees on the right-hand side. Once over this ledge, the views began to open up with Galehead Mountain front and center. It was a great view of the peak, as it usually looked so insignificant compared to the surrounding summits. The next section of slide was a little better, but it was still somewhat steep and slick. I stayed to the right so that I could use the trees and other growth to hold onto at times. After I got over this second section of granite, the slide turned into mostly talus and the slope seemed a little more comfortable. While on the slide the Twins began to escape the clouds, but the Franconia Ridge was still partially covered. The open part of the slide was relatively short and I reached the top of it by roughly noon. Entering the woods again, it was a bit of bushwhacking hell, but luckily after 5 minutes I landed in a clearing with alot of dead trees. Almost immediately I ran into what looked like an old faint trail. It was in the right area, but if it was the old trail, it was apparent that moose were keeping it open as there was alot of scat. In any case I followed this as it faded in and out through someone fairly open woods. My progress was interrupted occasionally by thick areas of spuce, but all-in-all it wasn't too bad, as I climbed up along the arm. By 12:40 I could see the clouded over summit. The ridgeline narrowed and again I found what looked like old paths periodically. I popped out of the trees on a subpeak and got some good views, as the Franconia Ridge was now clearing. Finally, after some modest bushwhacking through tighter pine, I emerged out onto the granite ledges on North Twin Mountain (4761') at 1:15PM. I came out right on the western edge of the ledge, but the initial portion of old trail was still visible from this ledge and headed to the northwest, probably circumventing the subpeak, which I had gone over instead. Anyway, I made it and the views were clearing and were great...just in time! There were only a few other hikers here and I stopped to chat briefly. I didn't stay long, as I felt that I needed to make up some time.
Now back on a trail, I headed down the spur and turned south onto the North Twin Trail. This was a good opportunity to start to dry out too, as I had gotten soaked from the bushwhack. I've done this part many times and it seemed like a breeze as I quickly made my way over to South Twin Mountain. I was encountering more and more hikers. I chatted a bit with two guys, who had come up from Haystack Road and they were planning to go all the way to Galehead and back. As they seemed somewhat new to hiking the Whites, I told them what to expect and if they wanted to go down the Gale River Trail, that I'd help them out. They assured me, that they would be fine. By a little before 2PM, I emerged from the trees just before the peak. This open area provided some great views over to the Presidentials. Unfortunately, these summits were still obscured by the clouds. In about 5 more minutes, I had climbed up to the top of South Twin (4902'). The views were wonderful in all directions...Franconia Ridge, Garfield, the Bonds, Owls Head, the Osceolas, and Carrigain were all in view. From the top, there was also a nice view of the slide, which I had come up. I took a short break and then by 2:15 I started down the western side of the mountain. This trail was steep, but in a half-an-hour I was at the trail junction for the Galehead Hut. I walked out to the hut and was presented with wonderful views back up to South Twin and into the Pemigewasset Wilderness. From all the folks relaxing around the hut, it appeared to be very crowded. I took a snack break on the front porch for a bit. At 3PM, I decided to head for Galehead Mountain by the Frost Trail. I felt energized and made it to the ledge with the views in only 15 minutes. Up on the ledge, there was good views back to the hut and of the Twins. I ran into the two guys, I had spoken to earlier on the North Twin Trail and they asked if my offer was still good. I kinda laughed, and said of course! They didn't realize how steep the trail off South Twin was and didn't really want to re-climb it and probably have to make there way back to the Haystack Road Trailhead in the dark. We continued to the the summit of Galehead (4024'), reaching it by 3:20. As the summit was nothing but a rock cairn in the woods, we took pictures and then headed back to the hut...returning by 3:40. They took a break and re-hydrated and then by about 3:50 we started down the Garfield Ridge Trail to the Gale River Trail, which we turned onto at 4:10. The trail was steep for a bit and then by the time, that we reached the Gale River, it flattened out somewhat (4:30). We reached the trailhead at 5:45. At the trailhead, we ran into a guy who had lost his dog a couple of days ago. The dog had a GPS transmitter in the collar, but it had stopped broadcasting somewhere in the vicinity of the Gale River Trail. We hadn't seen the dog, but it reminded me of a woman we met off of the Tripyramids earlier in the year who had had lost her dog. Luckily, in that case there was a happy ending. Afterwards, I drove my two new friends back to the trailhead on Haystack Road and then called it a day.
This was a spectacular hike following an old trail to the Twins. I didn't have great expectations, since the trail only existed officially for about 9 years and that was about 80 years ago! Still, it was a bit easier than I had thought. Considering the damage that was supposedly done, I figured I might run into tougher bushwhacking and a significant amount of blowdown, particularly above the slide. The open part of the slide was somewhat short, but it was cool and gave a nice vantage point to view Galehead and Garfield.
Mileage and Elevation Gain: Approximately 12 miles with about 4050 feet cumulative elevation gain.
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