View Full Version : Galehead Revisited

07-12-2010, 08:49 AM
If you told me I?d have to spend a night amongst anywhere from 30-60 total strangers, I?d tell you that you?ve lost your mind. However, if you?re a hiker, you?d easily recognize that I?m staying at a Hut. So for just a few minutes I will put aside the issues of Huts, blessing or blight on the landscape, necessary or not, pricing, PILOT programs, etc., etc., and instead focus on the opportunity they can present.

Galehead is the last of the AMC huts in the Whites I hadn?t stayed at yet. I almost did it in July of 1989. Dana and I endeavored to visit Lisa, a friend of ours, who was working at Galehead that summer. Being young, energetic, and extremely stupid, we picked the long root of ascending Liberty Springs and ridging our way over. Hampered by bad weather and discouragement, we turned back, taking with us our contraband beer. (Do the math and don?t ask, we were 18, she was 19.) I never returned until 2 years ago when doing a day hike comprising of the Twins and Galehead. I like Huts, I feel like I?m transported to an alien world that is eerily familiar, while being surrounded with people I don?t know personally, but it seems that we have a lot in common. As we ascended Gale River Trail under cobalt skies I shared with my wife my past Hut experiences, a sort of what to and what not to expect, and how proud I was to be comfortable with composting toilets. After all, we had one in our cabin, only difference being I wouldn't have to clean the one at the Hut. Later that evening I even listened attentively to the lecture provided by a member of the Croo who wasn?t even born before I was shoveling out ours. We reached the Hut by early afternoon and enjoyed a private jaunt to the top of Galehead. I was protectively jealous of this time knowing the Hut was full for the night. We enjoyed a few pics, a snack, and a refreshing breeze in the middle of heavy humidity that my wife would later say ?made even the mountains sweat?.

We had hop scotched with a pair of hikers from Ohio. Though somewhat older than us we found we had a bit in common. There was stuff to talk about, though being brief intervals, and we found ourselves listening to what they had to say and observe. You can?t ask for better mediation than the wilderness. Here you are united in common cause. You aptly listen to others knowing they have shared the same sweat, joy, and pain. At the Hut we spent more and more time with them. You come to find that though you are within four walls, they are really boundless. If not for hiking these people would be forever strangers, and at the end of the day maybe we are drawn to them because we see a lot of ourselves in them. Even now as I sit across from ancient slash scars of days gone by, my wife chats with them while I sit reflectively listening to voices of expectation and excitement that come closer down a treed hallway. Soon there will be a clashing of plates, the gluttony of food, cribbage games, stories told, the burps and other notes that dictate a more caustic melody of the night, the cacophony of laughter that slips to a whisper as the hours deepen.

Though I won?t meet everyone here tonight, I will appreciate the common bond that brings us together. It is as punctual as clockwork that as conversation fades to hear the parting words ? what is your name/s again?? After dinner while some converse, relax, play, go to bed, or seek solitude, I will steal a few minutes to myself on the ledge southeast of the Hut. I will listen to the last notes of competing thrushes as I watch the bleached spires of dead spruce become absorbed in the dark against an evergreen template. In this night, where throughout a world where there is always turmoil, this spot will be one that comprises different ages, races, sexes, backgrounds, and circumstances, but links us all together with a love of hiking. Can life be any better? Maybe, but at least this is a good sampling of the menu when you delve into the hiking world. Tomorrow we depart for the Twins and Bonds. We will overnight again at Guyot to enjoy a different type of isolation. Yet, I will remember these people, all of which I will likely never see again, suspended in a moment of invigorating, satisfying hiking bliss. All together under circumstances only a hiker can appreciate.

Saturday is the 21st Reunion of my White Mountains Regional graduating class, should have had it last year, but we didn?t. There will be ample proof that life can change drastically over that many years, but in the world of hiking 20 years later, it is good to see that a lot of the unique experiences are still the same. I will see Dana and let him know that, though 21 years behind schedule, I finally stayed at Galehead. It was worth the wait, it was good for me because I think I lacked the appreciation I have now when I was but 18 years old. And frankly, as any New Englander knows, I would even say I was right on time.

PS-As a summary, Klutzy Cat got Tecumseh, both Twins, all the Bonds, Galhead, and finally Zealand as we exited in horrific humidity. She now stands at 36/48. A young girl suffering from heatstroke on Twinway was brought into Guyot Campsite late Weds night thanks to the epic effort of Matt, Guyot?s caretaker, and she recovered.

Some pics here:

07-12-2010, 10:14 AM
Great trip report and pictures. Looks like you guys had a great hike. Thanks for sharing.

07-12-2010, 06:21 PM
Very well written. I am envious of you. We just started this spring hiking at the age of 55. My wife would rather hike all day but stay at a hotel. I am hoping down the road her opinion changes. At the age of 55, I am having the time of my life. I started hiking as a response to me having open heart surgery last Oct. My hardest hike so far was Franconia Ridge. I was not hiker ready physically but I am proud I did it. thanks

Snow Miser
07-12-2010, 07:28 PM
I agree, very well written. And the photos are fantastic! Thanks for bringing us along.

Jimmy Legs and Little d
07-12-2010, 07:39 PM
A most enjoyable essay on your stay at Galehead. We have not yet had the opportunity for an overnight in a hut; maybe one day down the road. I am sure that it would be great time to be able to meet so many who share the same passion of hiking. A fine collage of pictures of you and your wife's hikes. You packed a lot of peaks in a week; despite the hot weather.


07-12-2010, 10:12 PM
Thank you Chris and Snow Miser, I am glad you enjoyed it!

d.b.- I certainly applaud you in what you have accomplished, FRT is no easy task. We stay in a variety of places when we hike, sometimes off-trail, platforms, state campgrounds, hotels as well. Whatever enables one to get out there is good enough for us!

Jimmy Legs & Little d- That was the hottest hikin weather I can recall since 2002, and the most oppressive humidity I have experienced hiking even taking into account rainforests in Hawai'i. We did 5+ miles on Mon, 5+ on Tues, 11+ on Weds, and 7+ on Thursday. I'm still workin on the elevation stats. There were a fair amount of people on trail but I was most anxious about those hikin alone since its better to have someone else look out for signs of heatstroke, hopefully there weren't more incidents than those we knew of.

07-13-2010, 04:36 PM
Wonderful story and pictures as usual Scott. You really captured the feel of the Huts. We sadly only discovered them for the first time three summers ago and we instantly fell in love with them. All of your descriptions of them are right on. It is truly amazing to have such a small space crowded with so many people feel so big. Even more amazing is how everyone seems to become a family as soon as they arrive. Meeting each other on the trails before and after becomes meetings of old friends even though you've only just met. There is a bond created that I haven't found elsewhere. We still have Lonesome and Carter to complete our hut circuit and hope it won't be long till they are on our list. I'd also like to return many times to all the others. Galehead was definitely a favorite. We haven't been to a hut in two years now and after your story I'm feeling even more withdrawal symptoms. Time to get back.

BTW - Backpacker Magazine has a really good article on the huts this month.

Oh, and congrats to Klutzy Cat on getting numbers 29 thru 36! Nice trip.

07-13-2010, 08:27 PM
I really enjoyed your writeup, full of interesting details that came from your own unique and individual experience--not cookie-cutter stuff! Boy, last week was tough everywhere on the east coast. Here in North Carolina, I did a traverse of the Black Mountain Range with two friends. Our average elevation was over 6000 feet for 2.5 days, but still the temperatures were extremely toasty. We sweated our way along the whole time, and our feet suffered from unusually damp socks. But we did the range from its north end to Mt. Mitchell. Anyway, your account was an interesting blend of old and new experiences. Some of the stuff about teenage exploits reminded me of crazy things from years ago, with coolers and Sears Roebuck sleeping bags.