Sunday, September 11, 2011

2011.09.11 - South Twin Mountain; An Inspirational Summit

This was day-2 of a weekend of hiking.  Yesterday we hiked Mt Willey (Mt Willey on a Whim) and today the goal was to make the somewhat long trek (~11 miles) to the summit of South Twin Mountain with a stop at the Galehead Hut.

Today was 09/11/11 - the tenth anniversary of 9-11.  More about that later.

The hike was to be 4.6 miles to the Galehead Hut and from there another .8 miles to the summit of South Twin.  The last portion would be a decidedly different hike than the first couple of miles out from the trailhead.  The trail begins with a very long slow almost unnoticeable grade for at least two miles.  It then steepens to the Galehead Hut and thereafter the last .8 miles from the hut to the summit is even steeper with 1,150' of elevation gain in that short distance.

In August of 2011 a new trail section about 1-mile long was opened.  I'm told this new trail is about 1/2 mile longer than its predecessor.  The old trail followed the Gale River more closely and crossed it twice.  One of those crossings was bridged and that bridge was destroyed in a flood a few years ago (2005 I believe).  I'm told in high water both crossings could be difficult (in particular without the now destroyed bridge).  Further, the Gale River feeds the water supply of some local towns so moving the trail further from the river banks onto a ridge was one of the goals of the new route.   

It was interesting hiking this new segment.  It was a bit like walking on a well padded carpet as the forest floor had not yet hardened from the traffic.  This new section also had many more small changes in elevation than the typical trail.  Five feet up, four feet down, three feet up, six feet down, eight feet up....and on it went.

Let me share some photos:

The morning sun was spotlighted on these three pools.  It was rather stunning.

 The roots of this very old birch tree had engulfed a boulder.

We are 4.0 miles in and have reached the Garfield Ridge Trail.  We have .6 of mile of left to reach the hut.  I'll bet you could have figured that out by reading the sign!

A view across the valley between Galehead Mountain and South Twin Mountain as seen from outside the Galehead Hut.

The minefield of boulders leading up the steep climb to South Twin.

Though it was the 10th anniversary of 9-11, we had no idea that any sort of remembrance was taking place in the White Mountains, in particular where we were hiking.  While taking a break on the front porch of the Galehead Hut we could hear a helicopter nearing us.  They flew very low over Galehead Mountain and as I peered more closely at the peak I could see a flag.  It was then that we learned from other hikers at the hut that a 9-11 remembrance was taking place on the summit of all 48 4,000 foot peaks in NH simultaneously from about noon till 2:00 PM.  Small groups had volunteered to hike each mountain and raise a flag for that 2-hour period.  The helicopter we had seen was from the Air National Guard and I believe they were attempting to take photos of all 48 peaks with their flags raised.

When we learned all of this it was a little after 12:30 PM.  We needed to make the summit of South Twin before 2:00 PM if we wanted to experience the event.  With only .8 of a mile to go that would seem easy but, the "book" time from the hut to the summit is 1hr 20 min. due to the rough terrain and steep climb.  So off we went.

We typically hike more slowly than book time so we really had to scurry to make it.  I was a huff'n and a puff'n on the way up.  We made it with barely 10 minutes to spare.

When we arrived there were 10-15 people around the summit and it was almost a party atmosphere.  At 2:00 PM sharp however the mood changed dramatically as the leader of the group gathered everyone and then he lead them in the singing of the National Anthem.  It was amazing to see it, to feel it and to take that moment to remember all who died on 9-11 and as well to remember their families.  It was also a time to reflect on all those affected both by death and injury in the wars we've engaged in since 9-11.  This was a truly sobering  moment.  May God Bless whoever spearheads the organization that puts together this remembrance.  To learn more, check out their website

I was lucky enough to find this photo of South Twin taken from the Air National Guard helicopter on the day we make this hike.

Here we are at the summit with the 9-11 remembrance flag behind us.  Smaller flags peppered the rocks all over the summit.

Now a few photos of the views from the summit:

The singing of our National Anthem.

We are now heading back down from the summit.  That is the Galehead Hut in the background.

We take a second break at the Galehead Hut before finishing the 4.6 miles back to the car.

This week's vegetation photo is of an area of large bushes, almost the size of small trees, covered in red berries.  I wish I knew more about plants so I could to tell you what they were.

Some 10 hours later our hike ended.  It was about 6:45 PM when we were packing things up at the car.  What a long but great day.  Seeing that ceremony at the summit is something I won't forget for a long time.


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