Archive for October, 2012

Back to fall weather at the Zealand Falls Hut

The last day.  It would be an easy 3-mile hike out to the trailhead where the vans would be waiting for us.  Was I disappointed to be returning to the lodge?  Yes and no.  I was sad to be leaving a great group of people and the outdoors, but looking forward to a warm shower and beer.  I definitely found this trip challenging.  I learned a lot about the area, enjoyed the camaraderie of others, and realized that I need to improve my singing skills.  And next time I will bring mini liqueur bottles for the chilly evenings.

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“Yellow is the color of my true love’s hair…”

At 6:30 a.m. we were awakened by a crew hut member serenading this Donovan song, one of my favorites.  Best way to be woken up in the mountains.  And yes, the skies were blue.  It would be icy and cold on our way to the next hut, but at least the sun would be out.  I had half an hour before breakfast to wash up, roll up my sleeping bag, and repack my gear.  I layered myself well and made sure I had my hand warmers ready for the hike out.  Breakfast was oatmeal, pancakes, and bacon.  Today we split up into two groups.  The first group left at 8:15 a.m. and the second group, which I was in, left at 8:45 a.m.  I checked my thermometer that morning and it read about 20 degrees.

Our guide

We all had trekking poles, but I wished I had my yak traks.  We took our time today since the trail was very slippery and icy.  I think I fell about five or six times.  I also had to slide on me bum when we went down steep sections.  From the Galehead Hut we took the Twinway Trail and summited South Twin Mountain, Mt. Guyot, and Zealand Mtn. before reaching Zealand Falls Hut.

On the Twinway Trail

Throughout the day our knowledgeable guide, Mitra, taught us about the flora and fauna of the area.  She also talked about the Presidential Range and the history of the White Mountains.

Near Mt. Guyot


Scrambling over snow-covered rocks

We reached the hut five minutes late for dinner after covering 6.78 miles with 2,031 ft. gain/loss.  I was hungry, tired, and my feet were cold.  Once the others had arrived to the hut, we walked in together, dropped our packs and sat at the dinner table with the first group who had probably arrived well over an hour before us.  Again, we had a hearty meal of rice soup, bread, corn, and Turkey, but since I’m a vegetarian they served me tempeh with veggies.  Desert was apple spice cake with decaf coffee.  I didn’t play Bananagrams after dinner that night, but I did listen to a crew hut member talk about when she did the Appalachian Trail.  Before lights went out I retreated once again to the top bunk bed.

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I woke up to the sound of rain on Friday morning and middle school kids running up and down the stairs.  (The Highland Center offers outdoor school activities).  Our departure time wasn’t until 10:00 a.m. which is when they predicted the rain to stop.  We had breakfast, did last minute gear packing, and made communal snacks and lunches before we packed into two vans and drove to the Gale River Trailhead.

A group of school kids getting ready for their hike

The weather was cold and grey, but thankfully the rain had stopped.  We started at a good pace and tried not to stop too much so that we could keep warm.

Lunch on the trail

Unfortunately, we had missed the fall foliage by two weeks, but something better was in store for us.  We were welcomed by a winter wonderland.  As we gained in elevation the trees were covered with snow and we were now hiking in soft snow rather than mud.  After 4.39 miles with 2210 ft. of gain we reached the Galehead Hut.  And from the hut we had awesome views of the dramatic clouds hovering over snow-covered mountains.

View from Galehead Hut

After the obligatory photos we checked into the hut and claimed our beds.  Once again, I got the top bed!  This was my first time in an AMC hut.  Hikers can stop here to rest and purchase warm food and drink.  There’s a small library, games, photos, a mini souvenir shop, 4 bunkrooms, and bathrooms.  The hut is not heated and they try to minimize waste.

Dining area

Galehead Hut

We took a break before going up to Galehead Mountain which wasn’t that impressive.  Dinner at the hut is served at 6 p.m.  Each hut has three crew members.  After they introduced themselves they served a warm dinner of corn chowder, honey oat bread, green beans, and lasagna.  And desert was chocolate chip bars which I did not pass up.  Lights are out at 9:30 p.m. so several of us played Bananagrams and listened to how the crew transport hut materials up the steep trails.  Then we went off to bed and I told myself that next time I should bring foot warmers.

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I flew out to Manchester, New Hampshire on October 10th for an REI Hut-to-Hut trip in the White Mountain National Forest.  The plan was to meet on Thursday the 11th around 5 p.m. at the AMC Highland Center in Crawford Notch.  I had plenty of time that morning to visit family and enjoy the fall colors.  I arrived a few hours early so I checked in and toured the grounds.

AMC Highland Center

It’s a neat three-story lodge with a big dining area, a library, an entertainment area, equipment room, meeting rooms, a small gift shop, showers, and game room.  My room had a queen bed and a bunk bed.  My inner child hoped that my roommates, who hadn’t arrived yet, would let me take the top bunk bed.

My room for the first night

Fall colors in Carter Notch

Around 5:30 p.m. our guides for the trip, Mitra and Camille, met the group in the main living room.  There were a total of 11 and we had traveled from all over the world: California, Wisconsin, the Boston area, Costa Rica, Argentina, and New Jersey.  After introductions we gathered with the other lodge guests at 6 p.m. for a family style dinner.  So far this reminded me of 6th grade camp and the week-long YMCA summer camps my mother would send us to in the mountains of San Diego.  The food was hearty and delicious with options for vegetarians: quinoa soup, garden salad, homemade whole wheat bread, grilled corn salad, roasted potatoes, and cabbage stuffed with lentils.  Dessert was pecan pie, but I declined since pecan pie is too sweet for me.  After dinner, the group met in the game room to go over the itinerary, weather, and gear.  What’s neat is that if you forget to bring something you can always borrow from the gear room.  Weather played a major role in this trip.  There was snow and ice which the guides did not expect.  Snow usually comes around Thanksgiving.  After our meeting I went back to my room and for about an hour I packed and unpacked and debated what I should/shouldn’t bring.  Hand warmers were a must, and definitely my sleeping bag even though the huts provide wool sheets.  After a busy day, I climbed to the top bunk and remembered to enjoy the comforts of a warm room before a 2-night stay at unheated huts in 20-40 degree weather.

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