Revisiting a Mid Fall Favorite . . . Garfield, Galehead, & The Twins

Date of Hike: 11/3/15

Mount Garfield Trail:  4.5 miles  /  Garfied Ridge Trail: 3.2 miles  /  Frost Trail: 0.8 miles  /  Twinway: 0.8 miles  /  North Twin Spur: 2.3 miles  /  Twinway: 0.8 miles  /  Garfield ridge Trail: 0.6 miles  /  Gale River Trail: 3.7 miles  /  Gale River Road: 1.5 miles
Total Miles: 18.2 (6,015 feet elevation gained) Garmin Forerunner 910XT

Trip Report:
- In late October of 2009 I took a day off during the week and had a chilly but great hike along the boundary of the Pemigewasset Wilderness.  Just over six years later I decided to re-do the hike under basically the same conditions, albeit a little warmer.  That day six years ago I saw only three other hikers, fast forward to 2015 and I only saw three other hikers again!
- There have been a few changes along the trails since 2009, one, the Garfield Ridge lean-to has been rebuilt and, two, the Gale River Trail has had a one mile relocation to avoid two water crossings, in 2005 a bridge was wiped out and in 2011  Tropical Storm Irene eroded a small section of the trail that skirts the riverbank.
- I started out along the Mount Garfield Trail which has very easy to moderate grades as it follows and old fire warden road through an open pine and maple forest, followed by a nice section of birch, until entering what I refer to as 'scraggly' pines above 4,000 feet.
- All the leaves have fallen from the trees covering the rocks creating a mini ankle-twisting mine field at the lower elevations, it does make the trail look pretty even though it's tough to see what you're stepping on.  There are a couple of water crossings on the Mount Garfield Trail, the first one is kind of odd as you cross the main stream then almost immediately cross a tiny tributary putting you on an island of sorts for a few hundred feet before making another main stream crossing.
- The trail comes to an end at the Garfield Ridge Trail, here I headed right for a few tenths of a mile up to the summit of Mount Garfield.  It's a short and steep burst over dirt, roots, and rocks of all sizes which gets the heart pumping but before long the summit is reached which has great views from the old tower foundation into the Pemigewasset Wilderness.  Franconia Ridge to the east dwarfs over Owl's Head which just looks like a lump in the middle of the horseshoe that makes up the Pemi boundry.
- From the summit I turned back around and headed towards Galehead over the numerous up and downs along the Garfield Ridge.  There is one major decent which is just below the Garfield Ridge Tentsite, it's steep and rocky and usually has water flowing over parts of it.  This time of year ice forms here so it can be a tedious descent which is a few hundred feet long.  Luckily, there was no ice as it has been very warm for early November.
- As I closed in on the hut and headed up Galehead on the Frost Trail I leap-frogged with a backpacker doing a four day Pemi Loop.  We were talking about how great the weather has been for the fist week of November and how he couldn't have picked a better four days to hike the Pemi.  His goal for the day was to head to Guyot after spending the night at the Garfield ridge Tentsite.
-  Galehead Mountain's summit does not have a view, there is just a pile of rocks, however it does have a nice little outlook below the summit.  from the outlook is a great view of the Galehead Hut with South Twin and North Twin rising high above it.  South Twin was my next goal for the day and the way up to the summit was via the Twinway.
- The Twinway from the hut to South Twin is 0.8 miles and one of the steepest sections of trail in the White Mountains.  The footing is rough in spots over roots and odd sized boulders and can become icy in spots but once again with the warm temps it was smooth sailing so to speak and I made it up to the summit in relatively good time.  South Twin has tremendous views and on a nice fall day you can see for well over fifty miles in all directions,  The Presidential Range rising high above all the other mountains to the north is probably the best view that the summit offers.
- Next up was an out and back to North Twin via the North Twin Spur.  It's just over a mile long and has an easy descent and ascent over good footing.  North Twin's summit has a nice outlook with a really great view back down to Galhead and Owl's Head with the Garfield and Franconia Ridges in full view too.
-  After taking in the views for a few minutes I headed back over to South Twin and then dropped steeply down the Twinway past the hut on the Garfield Ridge Trail and banged a right onto the Gale River Trail.  The Gale River Trail isn't that exciting, to make it a little more adventurous I stayed on the abandoned section of the trail that crosses the Gale River twice.  The crossings were low and the old trail was very easy to follow.  It is becoming narrower and in the summer bushes would intrude some of the trail but since it's fall every leaf was down and the trail was not obstructed anywhere.
- After a mile I hooked back onto the regular trail and made my way to the Gale River Loop Road where I had an easy road walk back to my car.
- It was a really nice way to spend the early morning and afternoon on the trails.  It was very quiet day on the trails and I was happy that the warm weather is sticking around a little because I know it will be cold, wet, and icy as 'shoulder season' sets in.

 The lower end of the Mount Garfield Trail travels up an old Fire Warden road.  This time of year the trail is covered with a few inches of leaves

Water crossings on the Mount Garfield Trail

 Looking back at the crossing, it's kind of a goofy looking one!

As the trail gains elevation the trees change from birch to 'scraggly' pines 

The summit of Mount Garfield has an old fire tower foundation.  It has a really nice view of Owl's Head, AKA Owlie, AKA the Lump of the Pemi

 Looking to the west at the only clouds hiding in the valley north of Franconia Notch

Franconia Ridge

The top of the 'waterfall' section of the Garfield Ridge Trail.  Galehead and South Twin in view

The Garfield Ridge Trail

Galehead Hut

From the hut I took the Frost Trail up to the summit

The twins and the hut from the Frost Trail outlook

Heading up the steep and rugged Twinway

South Twin summit and looking to my next stop, North Twin Mountain

Hiking to North Twin and back to South Twin

Galehead Hut, Galehead, Owl'd Head, Liberty and Flume as seen from North Twin's summit

About 60% of the horseshoe that makes up the boundary of the Pemigewasset Wilderness, Garfield and Franconia Ridges (Galehead, Garfield, Lafayette, Lincoln, Little Haystack, Liberty, and Flume)
South Twin's bare summit

The Presidential Range rising high above everything else to the north

Hiking down the Gale River Trail

The new/old trail split (upper left) and two pictures of the old trail corridor which is easy to follow

Upper crossing of the Gale River Trail on the abandoned section of the trail 

Lower crossing of the Gale River on the abandoned section of the trail 

Hiking along the leaf covered lower section of the Gale River Trail

Gale River Loop Road

A nice road walk along the Gale River Loop Road

Well look at who made the poster...Mr. Smackers!!!  (fun with Photoshop)

Signs spotted along the way

Signs spotted along the way II

Route for the day (click here for details

Elevation profile for the hike

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