Day 119: Galehead Hut

Day 119. So many different experiences today, so many different emotions. I’ll try to capture everything I experienced, but I think I am just in one of those areas that you have to see to believe. The Presidential Range of the White Mountains is simply breathtaking and on a beautiful day like today, you almost can’t explain how gorgeous the summit views are when you get to the top or walk along the ridges. Some of my readers know what I’m talking about, but for anyone who loves the mountains as much as I do and has not been here … book a trip immediately.

That being said, be prepared for a challenge! Today’s hike was, again, one of the toughest I’ve done (rivaled perhaps only by the day I hiked Moosilauke and Kinsman just prior). You have to work hard for rewards I guess, and today was no exception.

When I first booked my hut stays last fall, I asked how many miles a thruhiker will normally do in this mountain range. The AMC staff suggested that a hiker typically doing 20-25 miles a day is likely to do just 12-15 while out here. After today’s 13 mile day, I can 100% agree with that assessment. It was slow moving and taxing to traverse this trail all day, and I was beyond exhausted by the end.

My original plan with the nephews was to do 7 miles a day through the Whites, but because of the storm, we changed our plans. Instead, I now did 13 miles today, will do zero tomorrow, and 13 the next day. So my casual and relaxing White Mountain hike is back to being long and tiring instead. But that’s better than the alternative of going out in the storm tomorrow (which is already starting to show itself as I type in bed).

We all jumped on the AMC shuttle at the Highland Center at 9am this morning, and then I wished the family a good hike as they got out at the Gale River Trail for their 5 mile hike up the side trail to the Galehead Hut. Around 10am, I was finally dropped off at Franconia Notch and started my long trek to meet them. The first half of my day was slow going but with a huge payoff. After 5 miles, I made it to the top of Mt. Liberty for my first summit of big views. And they were spectacular. I took many photos of the mountain range visible in every direction, then headed along the ridgeline for a couple miles to the tops of Mt. Lincoln and then finally Mt. Lafayette. The view stayed with me the whole way, as I made my way along the rocky ups and downs of these peaks (called the Franconia Ridge). A great section to see, here’s a few photos attempting to portray it…

Then I dropped back below the tree line and my day turned from difficult to obnoxious. The next section over Mt. Garfield was insanely steep on both sides, which was basically just scaling over and maneuvering through giant rock boulders. And as if that wasn’t hard enough, the steep descent added a creek flowing over the trail of rocks too … you know, for added “fun”.

The whole day was difficult. I moved at a slow 1.8 mph and finally reached the hut at 6pm. It was a beautiful sight to see (feature pic above) as I’m not sure I had much more left in me for the day, physically. I came in just as the hut crew (spelled croo) started serving dinner, which can be optionally purchased with your hut stay. Then I shared the day’s stories with the family while we all ate some amazingly prepared food. For a lodge nestled in the mountains, 5 miles from the nearest road, they make one helluva meal up here. The huts are staffed by college-age kids that cook, clean, and maintain this facility all summer long … with the help of Work For Stay thruhikers where available. Tonight, a couple hikers are helping out, and I told them I want the whole story tomorrow of their experience.

After some card games and reading, we went to bed in our GIANT bunk room that holds 10 people in triple and quadruple bunks that are built into the wall. My oldest nephew is on the top bunk of the quad, nearly 20 feet in the air! We can hear the storm building up outside but are safe in the hut, and I am exhausted still from the hike so I think I will sleep like a rock until morning. Tomorrow will be a day of games and fun, then another arduous ridge walk to Zealand Falls and back down to the Highland Center.

Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)

  • Start Mile: 1817.8
  • Start Time: 10:15
  • End Mile: 1830.8
  • End Time: 18:00
  • Miles Hiked: 13.0
  • Miles to Go: 360.1
  • Lodging: Galehead Hut