Sunday, July 22, 2012

North and South Twin July 21, 2012

North Twin (4,761') and South Twin (4,902') via North Twin and North Twin Spur trails July 21, 2012.

Mileage:  11.1 miles RT

Elevation gain: 3,634'

Trailhead: Haystack Road off of Route 3 in Bethlehem, NH (heading toward Twin Mountain). Trailhead parking is at the end of the road.

Lesson learned:  Warm, clear, sunny conditions beat wind, rain, sleet and snow any day!

Today I hiked with Eileen, Rich, Charlotte, Norm, Barb and Mike.  I've done the Twins before (see October 2009 and July 2010 trip reports) but not both in one hike and I looked forward to hiking with Eileen, who is so close to finishing all of her New Hampshire four thousand footers (the Twins will be her 43rd and 44th).  

Charlotte needed North Twin for her NH 4k list but had already summitted South Twin during an earlier hike. She and Norm planned to hike the single peak and wait for us at the top as we hiked over the North Twin Spur trail to South Twin (North Twin will be Charlotte's 34th).

The first time I summitted North Twin conditions were cold with snow, sleet and biting wind. The first time I summitted South Twin it was chilly with a thick fog and no views. The weather for this hike couldn't have been better and I was excited to summit in good weather and to explore the North Twin Spur trail to the South Twin summit.  

We got on the trail at 8:30 sharp and in no time we were at the first water crossing. I remembered how tough the water crossings are on this trail.  Recent trip reports indicate a bushwhack which eliminates the first two crossings (the trail crosses over the river and then back, which accomplishes not much more than providing an opportunity to practice water crossing skills). 

This is the trail to the water crossing; photo taken at the entrance to the bushwhack.

This is the nicely cut bushwhack to the left of the trail (photo taken from the same spot).  

The bushwhack is located to the left, just before the first water crossing.  The group was hesitant to take it as it was unclear where it ended.  We carefully crossed the river instead (fortunately the water was low, particularly compared my last hike on this trail). When crossing the river for the second time, I got my boot wet (stepped on a wiggly rock) but it didn't penetrate into my sock (thankfully - after all the hike had just begun!).  

Norm did some scouting and found where the bushwhack came out. We made a plan to take it on our way back, eliminating two of the three water crossings.  The third water crossing was easy and after that the hike up had a bunch of small stream crossings that were no big deal.  Footing was good and the trail was very dry; only a few spots near springs were muddy.  The grade alternated between near flat, moderate, and steep - all at just the right times.  In fact, some of this well cut trail was downright sweet, with ferns and soft footing.

Lush ferns and smooth footing.
 As we gained elevation, the trail got steeper with several large rocks to hop up and over.  We made our way up the trail; occasionally we would catch a glimpse of a view.  The steepest part of the trail spilled us onto a ridge, where we walked on relative flat for a while before coming to a spectacular overlook.  

The overlook just before the summit of North Twin.
On this day the views were beautiful - and hikers plentiful.  The overlook was crowded with day hikers and back packers so we moved on to the summit.

The summit is nothing to write home about.  A cairn sits on the corner of the trail junction, signifying the summit, the end of the North Twin trail and beginning of the North Twin Spur trail to South Twin.  Across from the junction is a sign indicating a viewpoint, and pointing in the direction where we came (4.3 miles to the parking lot).  We took a few photos and headed down the very short path to the second viewpoint.

Eileen, Rich, and her new friend Bill (Orange Man) at the summit.

This second viewpoint looked over the Franconia Ridge, Mt. Garfield, and Galehead hut.  I remember well shivering on this overlook over two years ago when we hiked here in October, wishing to get out of the sleet and the wind.  Now, on this calm, clear, beautiful day I couldn't get enough of the view, the wilderness, the warmth of the rock I was sitting on.  

We had our lunch at this second viewpoint, which was also crowded.

Amazing views. 

That little building down there is Galehead hut.
After lunch (and after leaving and then returning to get my trekking poles which I'd forgotten) we headed toward South Twin, a 1.3 mile hike through a shallow col.  The col between North and South Twin is noted for huge snow accumulation in the winter- covering most of the tall trees! This makes for tough winter hiking in this region.  

Hiking the ridge headed toward the summit of South Twin (see people standing on the summit).
The trip between the Twins is lovely with a steep descent at first, then mellow grades with some flats, and finally a dramatic rocky hike up to the bare summit of South Twin. Eileen was delighted with the views and the stark appearance of the South Twin summit, such a contrast from the uninspiring summit of its sibling to the North.

This summit was also quite crowded, mostly with new friends we met on North Twin (including Bill, who was kind enough to take photos for us). Today everyone had the same idea: hike the Twins!  South Twin was #44 for Eileen and she claimed her prize, hung around for a bit and then we headed back to North Twin and Charlotte and Norm.

Our favorite hiker chick flashing a palindrome on South Twin's summit.
The trip back went fast and when we got to the summit of North Twin, no one was there. We did catch up with Charlotte and Norm by the river though, waiting to bushwhack with us.

Norm by the river.
A note about the river crossing bushwhack: 80% of this path is wide and easy to follow. There are portions however, where you have to go up and over a bit, still easy to follow but a bit narrow and rough. So long as you are following the river, you will spill out on to the North Twin trail.  Our GPS indicates that it is the same length or even slightly longer than that section of the North Twin trail.  The time and effort should be less, particularly in high water and if your group is having trouble with the crossings.

We got down to our cars, changed clothes and headed to the Woodstock Inn and Brewery in Woodstock. Barb was headed back to Connecticut but we convinced her to have dinner with us. Mike left early.

My initial impression of North Twin was on a cold gray day.  Today I was able to see what a beautiful mountain North Twin is and a great hike the two peaks are!