Hot – Humid – Hiking… Hale, Zealand, Guyot, South & North Twin
by Amy Patenaude Outdoor/Ski Writer
Rain hammered down most of the night and by morning it was clear. I had no doubt that the heat and humidity would slow us down but we’d deal with it. I had done six hours of trail work with the Randolph Mountain Club the day before and it certainly could not be any hotter!
Bryan and I met just before 7 am at the North Twin Trail at the end of Haystack Road. I wore my lightweight hiking pants to keep me from scratching my legs up, but I was envious of Bryan’s cooler shorts. Before we hit the trail I drank heartily and guzzled a liter of water. I had three more liters in my pack and I think Bryan carried the same.
At the first Little River crossing on the North Twin Trail we followed the herd path that continues straight ahead on the east bank of the River. The left hand turn for the abandoned Fire Warden’s Trail to Mount Hale is easy to recognize because the path’s foot bed is well worn.
After hiking uphill only a few minutes I was wet from head to toe. I was drenched in sweat as my body tried to keep cool.
On Hale’s foggy summit there was a man and his dog hanging out. Even if the fire tower still stood here there would be no views. We stood on the summit cairn and marveled how tall the trees have grown.
Down the Lend-a-Hand Trail we went. The first half of this trail is nice and then it turns into rock hop and bog bridge dance to keep from walking in water and mud. The forest was pretty and it was quiet.
At the intersection of the Twinway we topped off our water bottles at the crossing of Whitewall Brook. Bryan has a new water filter and he was able to fill our bottles quickly.
The trail up to Zeacliff is steep and rocky and the sun was starting to break through the clouds. This was where our hike became a sizzling and continued for the rest of the day.
The first backpackers we met coming down the trail had AT tags on their packs. The Appalachian Trail Northbound hikers from Georgia are now crossing New Hampshire on their odyssey to Maine.
Just before reaching the spur to Zeacliff outlook we started meeting more and more backpackers. Most had come from the Guyot Shelter/tent sites. Several people mentioned that 90 people had spent the night there. Imagine hiking over mountains and a minimum of 9 miles to get away into the forest just to spend a Saturday night with 90 people!
The view from Zeacliff was hazy. Tom, Field and Willey’s ridgeline stood out to the west and Carrigain Notch was the prominent feature to see towards the south. With the company of about a dozen others we took a break to eat and drink.
Between Zeacliff and Guyot we met dozens more people.
Out and back on the short spur trail we tagged Zealand’s flat and tree covered summit. The only thing to see there is its decorative summit sign.
Near the Bondcliff Trail junction we met two men doing the same loop we were doing but in the opposite direction and faster. They were carrying very little and were out for a run. We decided to take a break and soak in the view across Guyot’s open summit to the Bonds and since there was no breeze we soaked in our perspiration.
The 2 miles between Guyot and South Twin was more pleasant in the shade and offered nice views into the Pemigewasset Wilderness. We didn’t meet any more people until we arrived at South Twin’s summit.
A gentle breeze greeted us on top of South Twin. We lingered here in the sun and watched the Franconia Ridge come into to view through the hazy clouds. Mount Washington still was cloaked and never made an appearance.
Bryan gave directions when asked. A man wanted to know which trail led to the Bonds. Another women asked which peak was North Twin. I think she was hopeful that a closer bump on the ridge to North Twin was it.
I like the North Twin spur from South Twin. The 1.3 miles always feels to go by very quickly for me. The descent from South ends in a pretty col and then it is not a long steep up with a brief difficult scramble along the way to reach North Twin.
The highpoint of North Twin is on the way to the west view spur. Again we lingered. We weren’t in a hurry. We looked down on the AMC Galehead Hut and beyond. Garfield looks mighty from this vantage where you can clearly see its steep face.
As we descended North Twin we didn’t stop but a minute on the view ledge looking east. I guess we got our fill gazing east on South Twin.
The four miles down North Twin is down, down and down—it often has an endless feel to it. We met three backpackers coming up that desperately wanted us to tell them they were almost to the top.
When we finally reached the Little River (it isn’t little), there were two backpackers standing there staring at the river. They were unsure about crossing the river. I went ahead and hopped over the big rocks only one step required stepping in an inch of water. Bryan followed me after he explained to them how to avoid the next two water crossings. The backpackers followed closely on Bryan’s heels.
The herd path on the east side of the bank of the Little River is well used but it too has been beat up by the floods. There are paths heading in all directions and we had to crawl over some blow downs but sure beats wading the river.
We had a fun day completing a loop that we’d been thinking of doing for some time. We felt great taking it easy and drinking lots of water. I drank 6 liters! Stay hydrated.