by Amy Patenaude
We met at the New Hampton Park and Ride lot at 6:30 am and in one car we continued north on I-93. The sky was grey but the clouds were high above the mountains. As we drove through Franconia Notch, I pointed out that Mount Liberty looked like George Washington lying in state, the summit of Liberty is certainly a good likeness of our first President’s nose.
The weather forecast called for cool weather with the clouds clearing by mid-day. We all wanted a clear day on top of the Twin Mountains. The peaks are in the middle of the White Mountains and high above the designated Pemigewasset Wilderness.
The North Twin Trailhead is west of the Village of Twin Mountain and from Route 3 turn south on Haystack Road and drive straight to its dead-end. There are about a dozen campsites on Haystack Road and they all appeared to be occupied. No surprise since these Federal camping sites are free for public use.
Sharon, Sarah and I headed up the trail. I reminded them we had hiked the first mile of this trail a few years ago to reach Mount Hale’s abandoned Fire Warden’s Trail.
The North Twin Trail starts out nicely on an old logging railroad grade and the official trail crosses the Little River three times before heading steeply up the mountain. The river is a pretty sight and its water is loud as it cascades over its rocky bed.
A hike to the first river crossing, 8/10ths of a mile, would make a nice short walk for nature lovers visiting the area.
The new 30th edition of the AMC’s White Mountain Guide explains that the first two water crossings can be avoided by staying on the east bank, bearing left at the first crossing and following a well-beaten path along the river. And that is just what we did!
All the “well-beaten path” needs is a trail sign. It is easy to follow and even when the Little River is little it is not easy to cross without getting wet feet (during times of high water all the crossings can be impassable). The third crossing cannot be avoided and it is the narrowest and least difficult. We were able to rock hop across successfully but one step was tricky.
The trail led away from the river and we headed up the mountain. We easily hopped across a low flowing brook and as we hiked we walked over a few dry stream beds. The trail got steeper and steeper and the footing of the trail got worse with lots of loose rock. We had a view through the trees of Mount Washington and we could see the black puffs of smoke from the old coal Cog Railway train that they run first in the morning.
We met a group of about a dozen Dartmouth students out for their freshmen camping trip. They were loaded down with heavy backpacks and they zipped by us.
The last half mile got steeper but when the trail leveled out we were rewarded with an open ledge with wide views ranging from Mount Washington and the Presidentials to Mount Carrigain and every peak in between and more farther away. This east view ledge is a nice place to hang out and we ate half a sandwich and enjoyed a good rest. The clouds were higher and the sun was fighting to come out and was winning.
We continued on and reached the short side path that travels over the wooded actual highpoint and pops out at North Twin’s fine west facing outlook. We decided we’d linger here on our way back and we headed to South Twin.
The distance between North and South Twin is just 1.3 miles but it sure looks a lot further. As we hiked, I joked just wait until we get to South Twin, it looks even further away from North Twin. It really does, maybe because South Twin is higher?
The hike between the peaks went pleasantly quick. We made it to South Twin before noon and so did a couple dozen other hikers via the Twinway, aka The Appalachian Trail.
South Twin’s summit is above tree line and the mountain filled panorama is among the grandest. The close by Franconia Ridge was dazzling.
The Thru-Hikers were chatting and asking about the weather. The words “snow” kept coming up, would it or wouldn’t it in the next few days?
A gal from Vermont told us she had gotten up at 4 am and only planned to hike Galehead but since the sun came out she decided to peak-bag South Twin too. She was trying to decide if she should visit North Twin but it looked so far away. Sharon and Sarah did their best to talk her into doing it.
Sharon and Sarah recalled adding Mt. Jackson at the end of their Southern Presi Traverse and because a hiker on the Mt Pierce had told them you don’t want to hike all the way back up here just to get Jackson! We enjoyed the light moment and the mountain vista before heading back to North Twin. The Vermont gal didn’t join us. We really liked her dog and hoped she’d join us.
The trip back to North Twin felt even quicker and we went back to settle in for more time on the east outlook. The sun was warm and we sat on the rocks. We pointed out the Galehead AMC hut down below and at all the peaks we had hiked together. We once again had North Twin all to ourselves.
But not for long. Maggie, the Vermont gal’s dog appeared and then she did too. “I am so glad you talked me into this!” She now was more than half done completing the 4,000 footer list.
We ambled down the mountain and the Little River water crossing seemed easier because the tricky rock step was down not up this time. We covered the 11.2 round trip in less than 8 hours and we felt great.
I’ve been hiking with Sharon and Sarah for seven years helping them collect the mountains on the 4,000 footer list. They can check off two more peaks and now they have summited 42 of the 48 peaks on the list.
We’re headed out for big hike soon.