December has been a mixed bag of weather, and when one set of hiking plans didn’t work out, I took up a last minute offer to hike the Twins and Galehead. Although this wasn’t quite in official winter, we were still blessed with a spectacular winter wonderland.
The day started out with temps in the teens and brilliant sunshine, and pretty much stayed that way for the rest of the day. Once we sorted out the carspots between the Beaver Brook wayside and the end of Little River Road, we were on our way – all 10 of us. The plan wasn’t originally for 10, but with many last minute additions (I was one of them), the group just grew larger! It was a fun group, with quite a few hikers I had never met. Some of them were grid finishers, some redline finishers, plus a few on track to finish their grids in April, and two more who will finish section hiking the AT next summer! I was the “youngster” of the group; the next oldest was about 10 years older than me. The three 68 year olds had to check their birthdays to figure out who was the oldest. Yes, it was quite a diverse group, but fun to hike along with, nontheless.
We started out by taking the quick one mile bushwhack/short cut from Little River Road to the North Twin Trail parking area on Haystack Road (Haystack Rd. is closed in the winter, this short cut is better than the road walk from Rt. 3). After a few photos, we were off and hiking toward our river crossing, taking the bushwhack to avoid crossing the river a couple of extra times. I’ve been on this many times and it is a really nice walk, along side the river. Today was especially nice with the early sunlight in the trees and the snow on the rocks in the river.
The river crossing itself wasn’t too bad today. The large log that was there had been finally swept away, but there was enough snow and smaller snowbridges to get across the rocks with no problems.
Then came the fun part, the climb up to North Twin, which in the upper sections can seem like a long way. For me, the last .3 of a mile or so to the first ledges is the most difficult. Thankfully, the company was good and I was entertained by the stories of other hikers and their adventures. We popped out onto the first ledges and the views were pretty incredible. The Presidentials were completely in the clear and robed in white. Vermont was in the clear and the views just kept getting better. In less time than I thought, we were at the turn off for the ledges on North Twin. The group regathered here for a lunch break and photos together, before breaking up again to head to South Twin. In such a large group, not everyone hikes the same pace, but people hike either alone or in smaller groups at their own pace, just stopping at major points along the way to make sure everyone is there and okay.
We arrived at South Twin, for more picture taking and view gawking before heading down to Galehead Hut. We knew the hardest part of the hiking was behind us, but we still had a some miles to make before the end of the day. It was at South Twin that we said good bye to two members of the group, and continued on with another hiker that joined the group at North Twin. This was nice as we had a new hiker to talk with and get to know.
Galehead Hut was a nice place to stop and drop the packs for the quick trip up to Galehead. In less than an hour, our group made it up and back and enjoyed some snacks before starting the hike back out to the vehicles.
The hike out was uneventful; which can be a good thing, there’s no need for drama at the end of a long hike! Because it was uneventful, it did seem long, though. We didn’t even make it to Gale River Road before putting on the headlamps. In our defense, we weren’t moving that slowly, we just happened to be hiking on the day before the winter solstice, when there isn’t a lot of daylight hours available. After regrouping at Gale River Road, we all headed out for the last mile and a half of the hike, through campsite #3 and then out the cross-country ski trails to the parking lot.
It was quite a day! What a blessing of beautiful weather, good company and the health to enjoy it all. Some times we take these things for granted, but I know we should always be grateful for them.