October has announced its presence with the cool weather that we covet this time of the year. The change in air reminded me that it was about to get to really-freaking-cold level and I had to get up to the rural part of New England to do some hiking before the weather took hold. So, when my friend posted a trip on the Tufts Mountain Club website, I signed up immediately.
Our group of six made the trek from Tufts to the TMC Loj in Woodstock, New Hampshire, on Friday evening. Our fearless leader mapped out a 14.5-mile hike in the White Mountains with plans to summit three 4,000-footers and four peaks. Our group was slightly terrified; this was an ambitious hike. Yet, like the adventurous young people that we are (and want to be), we swallowed our fear and went to bed early after making our sandwiches.
We woke up at 6am (this is unheard of for college students) and drove 45 groggy minutes to the trailhead for Galehead mountain. Our group was in a slight stupor and had yet to mesh in any way, as all of our time together had been of the eyes-barely-open variety. Our trip leader is one of my friends, and one of my other good friends came on the trip. The other hikers were a brave freshman (it was her first TMC experience and went on the trip on a whim), a sophomore that I didn’t know, and a 25-year-old Fletcher student from Germany who was here on his graduate school internship.
We bonded quickly as we started the hike promptly at 7pm, and we bounded up the 4.1-mile stretch to the Galehead Hut. The initial climb wasn’t difficult, but it gave way to a stair-like vertical stretch that left us winded. By 9am we were at the Galehead hut, warming up (It was a chilly day, it had been 22 degrees fahrenheit the night before) and we were at cloud-level.
It was only a half-mile to the summit of Galehead Mountain, which turned out to be a caron in the middle of a wooded area, so no good view was to be had. The visibility was low at this point, anyway.
We retraced our steps back to the hut (we still haven’t seen any fellow hikers at this point) and started back up the trail toward South Twin Mountain. This proved to be the most difficult part of the trip. The incline was steep and didn’t let up until we made it to the top of the mountain. Once we were at the top, we realized that it was worth every ounce of effort. There was over 100 miles of visibility at this point in the day, and the view of the White Mountains on the brink of peak foliage was breathtaking (see the photo for the article!). We “oooh”d and “ahhhh”d for a sufficient amount of time before retaking the trail to conquer North Twin Mountain, which offered more of the same for the stunning view.
Once we had eaten lunch, we retraced our steps completely back to the TMC van that we had driven there, and we finished at about 3:30--good enough for 14.5 miles covered in only 8.5 hours. We were tired and hungry, so we finished the trip off at the Woodstock Inn for their 3-5pm half-off appetizers special. The potato skins were fantastic.
We finished the night with a relaxing night at the Loj playing games and cooking dinner before we woke up on Sunday morning to head back to campus. It felt excellent to escape the everyday campus atmosphere and get to the woods for some activity. There’s something about natural beauty that is more refreshing than any man-made art can ever be, and having such easy access to the White Mountains is one of Tufts’ many strengths.