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I wanted to hike North Twin today, but the weather didnt sound all that enticing. Clouds , maybe rain.  Galehead has also been on my mind, and since the summit is low and the views not listed as great, it seemed a reasonable alternative.

Gallery / slide show


Add in a hut on the way for a pit stop in case of rain ( and maybe cookies! ) .... off to the Gale River Trail.




So a little navigating on the access road and I came to the trailhead. Several cars in the lot, expected since this is a good access point for not only the hut and Galehead, but several other summits.

Onto the trail. For a cou0le miles the trail is about as interesting as Lincoln Woods ... but at least there are no railroad ties. Boring, flat, but pretty clear treadway.

There was some pretty extensive rerouting done before Irene, and that was a good thing as the old trail was much closer to the river. I'd be surprised if there were no trail damage on the old trail from Irene. In any event, the reroute is an improvement I think, it is further from the river but well laid out and a pleasant change from the lower section.

Eventually there is an outlook from a slide above the river, a very pretty spot. Moving along beyond that you eventually reach what I'm calling the Thermopylae Stair.

This is a long steep set of stone steps set into the trail. It is a stunning piece of work. You can't really appreciate it properly unless you've done some trail work yourself. These are not the only steps on the trail, but they comprise the longest stairway I can think of in the Whites. There are some twists and turns, so thankfully you can't see the whole stair all at once. Saves lots of turning back.I'm sure Smile   I counted 300 stair steps. That is, 300 lift-my-foot to the next step, and does not include the supporting rocks set  to hold the steps in place. Whenever I run into the number 300 I think of the 300 Spartans ... these magnificent steps hold the line against trail erosion ... so I like this name Smile


Somehow, everyone I've talked to forgets the Thermopylae Stair ; we all remember vaguely some steep rock steps ... but blessedly forget the details. Certainly I had forgotten what they were like. But the footing is good ... the steps were dry, flat and stable and really not a problem either ascending or descending.

Reaching the Garfield Ridge Trail was a welcome thing, but here again memory was faulty - this section of trail still has a bit of ascent and a few steps to climb. But it's short and quickly done. And as an added incentive, there is an outlook along the way, as well as a minor mystery ... what is that odd colored rock? Not a geologist, so it's a little mysterious. Have not noticed anything quite like it elsewhere.

 So, reaching the hut I met a coupole of other hikers ... chatted very briefly then continued to Galehead summit. I was a little tired, so I was kind of happy that the summit was in the clouds and I couldnt see how much further I had to go. It isnt far, and only a couple hundred feet elevation gain ... which sounds deceptively trivial. It wasn't too bad, though and I soon reached the outlook ledge

 

though with the low ceiling the views were a bit moe restricted than usual.

On to the summit ... just past the cairn there is a very low herd path which leads out to a small blowdown. Looks like there might be a little view there, but not today!

Back down to the hut, with the clouds starting to break a little. Visited the hut this time. No cookies Cry

Also no croo. Everyone out hauling supplies ( I met two on my descent ) or trail work or day off perhaps.  Hope they're ready for this weekend - 600,000+ tourists ... I bet some are headed for the hut!

Nothing unusual about the descent, other than the sky was clearing up and the river outlook afforded a little color ...

Cloudier day than I usually hike on, but sometimes a change is good :)

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