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  • Stephen
      Post count: 759
      #47464 |

      For anyone who has ever said “I hate switchbacks… I’d rather just get up the mountain and get it over with”; have I got the trail for you! Gale River Trail hikes in for 3.1 miles, then up for .9 miles. It was one of the more draining hikes I’ve done, and to reach a viewless peak no less!

      The trip began well, once I found the trailhead (I momentarily stopped at the Garfield trailhead before realizing my error and continuing on to the correct trailhead). I met a group that was spotting a car for a hike over the Twins.

      I enjoyed the hike in following the river. However, the first crossing came at approx 1.9 miles in (according to my GPS) when I was expecting 1.4 miles according to the WMG guide. I was also expecting a bridge to cross back, which I never came upon. Soon I was at 3.1 miles, the last nice view of the river valley before turning to climb the mountain. I realized then that the bridge must have washed out back in May, and that I had hiked on new sections of trail that didn’t exist when my WMG was written.

      The outlook over the river provided a great spot to stow my morning cool gear and remove the legs from my pants. It was here that I first noticed that the heel had separated from my right boot and flopped along as I walked. Not a good sign. Add crazy glue to my next packing list. A quick snack and I settled in for the climb.

      The climb up was relentless. I will never again bemoan a switchback, as the effort was great to get over the large rock steps up the hill side. I was greatful to finally come upon the junction with Garfied Ridge Trail. Took the turn and headed off to the Galehead hut .6 mi away.

      The hut was deserted. I had passed one of the Croo hiking out on my way up, and one remained in the hut preparing bread. I asked if she had any crazy glue, and she came back with a bottle of Gorilla Glue. I gave it a shot, liberally applying it between my sole and my boot. I returned it, gathered up my gear, and continued on to Galehead, .5 miles away.

      A quick drop into the col, and I was once again climbing. I checked my boot, it was holding… too well. I was quickly collecting a nice sample of alpinezone grass and dirt around the edges of my sole.

      I passed the turnoff for the outlook towards the Twins. I remembered a previous FOT48er mentioned he wished that he had spent some time flying the flag at the outlook for others to view. I decided I would split the time between the two spots, but first, I wanted to bag the peak.

      After climbing a bit more then following the wandering trail, I suddenly came to the end of my climb in a small clearing surrounded by trees with a rock pile marking the peak. I had reached #14 out of my 48.

      A dillapidated small flag was waiting for me, stuck into the pile. It must have been there for a while, based on the tatters and the discoloration, and the fact that it had been duct taped to it’s pole at least once. I knew that it had served it’s time and it would be coming back down with me. But, it would serve one last time as part of this day’s memorial.

      The time was 11:40, so I quickly set about attaching my flag and extending my pole. I attached it to a tree, bungeeing it up a bit so the flag extended about 10′ above the tree top. The wind quickly grabbed it and thrashed it about, which was odd as I was completely sheltered from that same wind.

      A couple guys who I had leapfrogged on the trail arrived and quickly departed for lunch at the hut after noting they had bagged the peak. This was the first 4k for one of them, a tough choice to start IMHO.

      At about 12:40, having seen no other hikers, I packed up the flag to relocate to the outlook. As I walked down, I passed one hiker on his way to the peak.

      I reached the outlook, and reset the flag, bungeeing it down to one of the low brush, but at an angle out over the cliff. I could clearly see hikers at the hut pointing up and looking. I saw a couple do this, then immediately depart for the peak. I knew I’d be seeing them soon.

      After a few minutes, the hiker I passed on the way down hiked past the junction on his way down, then turned around to check out the display. We chatted for quite some time about hiking and the memorial. He departed shortly after the couple I saw leave the hut arrived at the outlook.

      I spoke with the two guys for a little while about what was going on. They were excited and the older gentleman insisted on getting a photo with me. I handed him a card and discussed the history of the event for a while. He thanked us for our service, and the two of them left to hit the peak. Shortly thereafter, the first drops started to fall. It was now 1:15, and I decided it was close enough to wrap it up. I pulled out my raincoat, packed up the gear, and started down for the hut. By the time I got there, the heavens had opened up.

      I spent some time at the hut arranging my gear and re-watering. I was hoping that the rain would let up some, but it just kept getting harder. I resigned myself that I would be hiking for the first time in the rain in the Whites. I geared up, and hit the trail.

      Nothing like hiking on wet leaves on wet rocks. That, combined with the steepness descending from the Garfield Ridge left me with doing the two-step rock hop most of the way down. About half-way down, the rain let up, leaving me geared up in humid air. I couldn’t wait to get back to the lookout over the river for a break.

      Upon reaching the lookout, I removed my bag, and my raincoat, and turned around to discover that the bite valve had fallen off my hydration pack, and my water was pouring out of the hose! I quickly capped it with my thumb and franticly searched around for the valve, to no avail. Alas, my only option was to drink as much as I could, and jettison the rest. Add a spare bite valve to my next packing list.

      As I sat resting from my descent, and warmed up to the idea of a nice gentle hike out, I noticed a fog building up in the valley. Remembering that T-storms were predicted for the afternoon, I quickly geared up, and started out the trail.

      By the time I made the first river crossing, approx 2.5 miles from my car, the sky turned very dark, and rain began to steadily come down. A minute later, I heard the distant rumblings. The rain intensified, to the point that I realized that a raincoat would do little against the coming deluge. I settled in and pickedup my pace, hoping to beat the worst of the storm. At that moment, a yellow flash shocked my eyes for a bit, followed 5 seconds later by a crash. The storm had crossed the ridge into my valley.

      Nothing quite motivates you down the trail like thunder and lighting I discovered. Couple that with a 4′ aluminum pole sticking out of your backpack, and a driving rain that had the voice of Forrest Gump rolling in my head (” We been through every kind of rain there is. Little bitty stingin’ rain… and big ol’ fat rain. Rain that flew in sideways. And sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath.”) Water was now splashing OUT of my boots. The benefit to this was I no longer cared about mud puddles, or the rivers forming in the trail. Whenever I hit a spot that I’d normally take care not to sink or splash, I merely said “doesn’t matter” and plowed right through.

      Then the storm intensified yet again. The pauses between lighting and thunder decreased. I counted based on 5 seconds=1 mile. Half mile… Quarter mile…

      When it got down to about 1 second between flash and rumble, I finally decided to ditch the lightning rod. It was a shame, this was the third peak I had flown it on. But stuff always takes lower priority than life, so it was ditched just before the last major river crossing. Someday I’ll make it back to recover it, at least to remove the litter whether it’s useable or not.

      I made the last river crossing, and boogied down the trail. After a few more minutes, the thunder backed off a little. I came upon a couple guys who had passed me while I was resting at the river overlook. They quickly joined the rush out, distancing me by a little bit. My muscles were burning, begging for a break, but the storm pushed me on, until I finally reached the parking lot right at 5pm.

      None of my gear remained dry, save for my wife’s iPod that was wrapped up in my hoodie in my pack. Now that the camera has dried out, hopefully I can post the pictures soon.

      I drove out of the lot and made my way down to 93. By the time I emerged from Franconia Notch, the sun was shining through broken cloud cover, belying the temptst that had adorned our 5th annual outing.

        Post count: 1


        I was one of the guys who you saw on the way out of the Gale River Trail. I also saw you just as you started down when it started raining.

        Man that was some rain and thunder on the way down. I didn’t blame you for one second for ditching the pole, it got pretty nasty for a while.

        We didn’t get out that much before you did, but did wait in the car for you to show before leaving. I did get to see your flag from Galehead Hut, looked great from the overlook.

        Good job by all.


          Post count: 839

          You’re not the only victim of a bite valve. I haven’t lost one yet, but I’ve had them get squeezed and drain my water at the worst possible moments.

          Including in the back of the car on the drive to the trailhead!

          Well done! I’m sorry we were already ensconced in rain, clouds, and hail on Lafayette when you had the flag on the outlook … otherwise I would have had a great photo opportunity.

            Post count: 759

            @tuco wrote:

            We didn’t get out that much before you did, but did wait in the car for you to show before leaving. I did get to see your flag from Galehead Hut, looked great from the overlook.

            Welcome to the site, Eric! I noticed you guys had waited for a bit, I really appreciated that!

            @MichaelJ wrote:

            You’re not the only victim of a bite valve. I haven’t lost one yet, but I’ve had them get squeezed and drain my water at the worst possible moments.

            I’ve already bought two valves, one to replace my lost one and a backup! I, too , have had my valve get sqeezed in the back of the car, not only losing my water but sufficiently soaking the gear. :/


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