• Laura Ventresco

Backpacking Galehead & South Twin: Luna's Birthday

Peaks: Galehead & South Twin

Miles: 14 Ish

Trail: Carter-Moriah Trail

Hike Date: 6/9/2018

Luna and I on the summit of South Twin

My heart is SO full from the weekend adventures.

We spent a solid 24 hours in the White Mountains this weekend and hiked 2 new 4000 footers for the list! We back country or "stealth camped" off the Appalachian Trail. & We made some smart decisions to save the last peak for another day...

On Saturday my baby Luna turned 2 years old! I can't even believe it. She loves hiking and backpacking, so this really was a perfect way to celebrate with her. Plus little bro has been dying to go on his first overnight. It seemed like the perfect excuse to muster up a grand mountain adventure!

The weather? Absolutely flawless. Sunny, clear skies, and a perfectly cool day with temps in the 60's-70's both days. Little to no bugs. It does not get better than this.

John and I Breaking by Gale River

John, Luke, and Luna on the Summit of Galehead

Backpacking definitely takes some pre-planning. I planned our route carefully- where we could camp, water sources, weather and trail conditions all came into play. As well as carefully gathered my gear and food supply. We decided to start late, and take full advantage of our morning before heading off for a mountain sleepover. Backpacks full- and car loaded with fur babies and hikers, we fueled up on Dunkins and made our way north.

We arrived at the trailhead, a busy place, but one spot was open just for us. We watched as 2 of the hut Croo began their hike up with fully loaded boxes on their back. Impressive what goes into meals prepared at the huts- starting with good old fashioned (Woman)"Man Power." What a cool job to start your work day with a hike.

We always do a weight test to see who's pack is heaviest, nothing fancy by scale but picking up our backpacks and comparing- Luke and I tied for lightest, John's was the heavy weight for the day. Our hike started off pretty easy, a nice flat trail along the Galehead River. We chatted as we hiked- going over our plan for the day.

Hike Plan:

  1. Start from Galehead River Trail

  2. Summits: Galehead, South and North Twin peaks- hike back out the same trail

  3. Water Sources: Gale River & Fill ups at the AMC Hut

  4. Total Mileage: 14-15

  5. Camp Plan:

  • Either camp off Galehead River Trail or off Twin Way Trail (AT)

As we made our way down Gale River Trail we scouted the sides of the trail for flatter terrain. Nothing really stuck on for a great area to camp, so kept hiking on- 4.6 miles, until we reached Galehead Hut. Coming across this building after miles and miles of wilderness is so welcoming. Hikers are gathered all around- enjoying the view, snacking, and sitting on the porch. Inside it smells like hiker's heaven: baked goods! Freshly baked blueberry pies lined up and you can tell dinner is cooking by the glorious smells. Other perks of visiting the hut: clean, cold drinking water, and bathrooms. I chatted with the staff inside who were so so sweet and nice! I asked if they had any trails to recommend for places to back country camp and they confirmed my plan to head towards Twin Way. (Score!)

We left our big packs at the hut and headed towards Galehead summit, a quick half mile from the hut. Luke kept his pack on for "conditioning"... show off haha. I was happy to have a little break from mine. Galehead, a wooded summit, but exciting none the less as I scored peak # 34/48!

Hikers Hanging Out at Galehead Hut

A Perfect Slice of Remote Wilderness

We refilled our waters one last time, and got re-acquainted with our overnight bags once again to begin our trek up to South Twin. I had been warned about this section- the sign says 0.8th of a mile. Practically nothing in terms of distance. But our legs say this 1000 ft of elevation gain- feels more like 3 miles of straight up hellish hiking and rock scrambling. The climb was slow, especially with heavy packs. But when we reached the top the prior struggles faded away, as we looked upon miles and miles, layer upon layer of pure mountainy goodness.

South Twin # 35/48!

At this point we had to the make a call to continue to North Twin, or head down Twinway Trail to find camp. Due to our late start we had limited daylight left. Tired, and anxious about not knowing where we were sleeping yet, we turned down Twinway. A great decision because the exhaustion in our legs was creeping in after the brutal climb up, and ready for some well deserved rest. As we hiked down we were on alert for some flatter ground. & Eventually we found the perfect spot- a ways off trail we'd have privacy (and abide by wilderness camp rules) and a flat/clear enough spot for 2 tent sites!

Priorities: We cooked dinner first. They take a little while to cook and re-hydrate, so this was the first thing I did at camp. Your reward for hiking all day with this weighted thing on your back: a hot meal. It barely matters what it is- just warm food, is so rejuvenating.

After inhaling our Thai Coconut Curry, Luke and I decided we could make it back up to South Twin for sunset. The perks of backpacking! On a day hike, I probably wouldn't stay for sunset and hike 6 miles out in the dark...but since my bed is just down the trail tonight, we had to get back up there!

It was glorious. The alpenglow lit up the mountains in the prettiest glow of pinks and purples. On the other side of the summit the sun burned it's fiery red down into the mountains. So much to take in. The pictures do no justice, but I did my best to capture the ambiance for you!


Luke at Sunset

Finally back at camp, we could relax. With nothing left to do for the day, and no more miles to hike, you can finally reward your tired legs with rest. We gathered around the fire. Shared whiskey shots, and laughs about our day. Luke and I chatted, trying to find a way to fit in North Twin in the morning, but realized quickly I wouldn't have enough water for both me, the dogs, and coffee in the morning. Coffee took precedence, North Twin, we shall meet again another day.

We prepared our bear bag for the evening- all food, trash, dog food, and fireball shots go inside. We bring a heavy duty contractors bag and rope to hang it in a tree a ways from camp. A really simple trick I learned from Mom, to keep the bears away from us sleeping bag burrito humans. We hoisted it up over a branch for the night, and tied off the rope. Now we could sleep in peace, that no furry visitors would visit our tents.

It was a chilly night, that required full use of our Mummy style bags. I find sleeping with a hat and wool socks on usually helps, but this night I was still cold. I pulled my whole head inside my sleeping with only one tiny (freezing) hole for air. & Awoke the next morning to John, poking me, to make sure I was still alive. What a sweetie haha...

We cooked some oatmeal for breakfast, and began to prepare for another day of hiking out. We could hear hikers passing by on the nearby trail, who got a much earlier start than us. Always kind of fun to guess which ones are the AT Thru Hikers and which ones are like us- just venturing out for one evening. We packed up quickly, as the morning chill was burning off with the sun, and started our Ascent to summit South Twin... for a third time.

The views were just as impressive, even for a 3rd time. We took more pictures and met a few other hikers, and doggins at the summit. This could be the earliest in the morning that I've ever been on top of a mountain (I will never be a morning person). The hike out to the car seemed to take forever... first the STEEP descent down to Galehead Hut. Then another long 4.6 miles of trail back to our car. By the end, we are all pretty ready to get these packs off for good and to eat some well deserved lunch. We tortured ourselves by talking about what kind of food we wanted to eat, and decided on Black Mountain Burger Company in Lincoln. A great post hike spot.

The sight of your car after backpacking - is like being reunited with your dog after a week vacation that they couldn't come on. Or eating a cheat meal, when you lived on Salad's for an entire week. Like I have never been, so happy to see you. The car also represents another thing: we really did it. I read something recently that really stuck with me. "The hike doesn't end on the summit, the hike ends when you get back to your car." Obviously summits are more exciting! But it's important that you have enough energy and resources to make it ALL the way out, not just to the top.

So I let this moment be a nice WHABAM. That we really did it. 2 4000 footers, 14 miles, and our first backpacking trip of 2018.

Looking back I am not that bummed that we missed out on North Twin this trip. I know the mountains will always be there for another day. I would rather us listen to our bodies and what they are capable of, than push ourselves too far and get hurt. Besides... my first overnight of the year seems to always be more ambitious than what I end up hiking once you add that heavy pack on.

Starving and tired, we drove to Lincoln. Black Mountain Burger Co welcomed us AND our dogs into their outside patio, aside from our possibly sweaty or smelly conditions coming right from the trail. We ordered beers, and buffalo chicken tenders, and burgers and fries. It. was. heaven. This is what makes it all worth it right there. Spending time off the grid in the mountains, prepares you that when you come back, you suddenly have a grand appreciation for the basics. Real food, cold beer, your own bed- suddenly are all a luxury you are so grateful to have.

...As if that wasn't enough.. there is a Gelato place right next door to Black Mountain Burger. We did that too. With coffee.

Another great adventure, with great company for the books.

Happy Hiking!

- Laura the Explorer

P.S. If you guys are interested in a complete gear write up I'd be happy to do one! It can be helpful to hear what other people pack for gear, food, and even what to bring for dogs when backpacking. Stay tuned!

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