Or New Socks, Who Dis?
It’s been a bit since I’ve solo hiked. I love hiking with my friends, but I also love solo hiking. Since I hadn’t done it in a while, and my buddies weren’t available, I looked for the perfect solo hike. I’m trying to increase distance and elevation (prep for Wildcats) and when solo, I want to try and avoid anything too terrifying. Galehead Mountain was the perfect choice.
I arrived at the Gale River Trail trailhead parking at 9:30. I was a little nervous I wouldn’t get a parking spot, given that it’s summer, the forecast was warm, it’s Father’s Day, and it’s the Summer Solstice. I managed to grab the second to last spot. Hooray!
Gale River Trail is a dream … for the first three miles. It’s a nice, flat, root- and rock-free trail. Unheard of in New Hampshire.
I was able to set a great pace here. Again it was fairly flat and I didn’t have to watch where I was stepping. Which backfired when a snake and I scared the crap out of each other.
So the first 3 miles have roughly 1000 feet of elevation gain. With the great trail conditions, this was pretty easy. I didn’t use my poles and just walked. It reminded me a lot of the trail to Garfield. Which makes sense as the two trails are parallel and roughly a mile apart, both heading up to the same ridge. Now I hiked Garfield two years ago, and I remember thinking “ooh this is nice, I could hike this all day”, which then turned into an agony of rock boulders straight up to the summit. As a result, I didn’t get too cozy with this trail. I knew the doom had to be on the way.
But first, a water crossing.
I was right. Not long after the water crossing, the trail suddenly goes from the above nice flat dirt trail to boulder hell. The trail now climbs 1000 feet in one mile. Yeah, the same amount of elevation gain smashed into a single mile, rather than spread out over three miles.
Did I mention that it was also hot and humid? I was dripping sweat. And drinking lots of water. Unlike my last hike, this hike followed along a river, plus there’s an AMC hut near the summit where you can refill your water. My entire outfit was soaked with sweat.
The boulders and steepness are killer. I kept saying to myself “slow progress is progress”. I also kept saying “just keep swimming”. After a while I just repeated “progress is progress, keep swimming”. I may have been delirious.
I hit the junction with Garfield Ridge Trail, which is ALSO the Appalachian Trail!
Just before the hut, I ran into a friend! I rarely see anyone I know in my town, but head to the White Mountains National Forest, and apparently, I’ll see people I know!
Hot and sweaty me made it to the Galehead hut! The AMC huts are great, and during the day you can generally buy a muffin or something, so I made sure to bring some cash on my hike. Well, today they had COLD LEMONADE. It was self serve, so I put in $10 and had TWO glasses of lemonade and a muffin, which came to $5 and I figured the rest could be a donation.
The hut has a fantastic front porch, where I enjoyed said muffin and lemonade. I also did what every other hiker sitting there had done, I took off my shoes and socks. I will tell you right now, on a hot day, not much feels better than taking of your shoes and socks. Speaking of socks, I was wearing new socks. Now why is this remarkable you ask? Because they were Injiji toe socks. (TW: feet stuff) My last hike (and quite a few previously) I got a pretty awful blood blister on my pinky toe. Lots of people recommend the Injiji socks, including Rainbow, so I tried them out on this hike. My toes felt great! I was happy to take them off because I was hot and sweaty, but also sad to take them off because the clean socks I had in my pack were just regular old Darn Tough and not toe socks.
While I was enjoying my snack, an AT thru hiker arrived. He was chatting a bit with me and another hiker on the porch. I offered him some of my (partially) frozen blueberries. Fresh fruit is generally a treat to thru hikers, and anything cold on a hot day is too. He was delighted and excitedly said “HOW ARE THEY STILL COLD?!”.
I finished up my snack, put on clean socks, and headed off to hit the summit of Galehead.
Grabbed the summit and headed back down. A quick stop at the hut for another snack, and to change my shirt. On the way back down, I took a little more time for mushroom and ladyslipper pics!
As I was walking along, I saw a rabbit or hare. (Further research shows it was likely a snowshoe hare mostly because of its size, which was HUGE compared to the rabbits I see all over my yard). He came hopping along the trail towards me. I froze in order to not scare him. He hopped toward me. Stopped. Hopped towards me and stood up on his hind legs. I swear I thought he might pull out a pocket watch and tell me that he was late. He hopped towards me again. He was only a few feet away from me. Again, stood on his hind feet and looked at me. Then suddenly turned left and zoomed off into the brush. Delighted with my encounter, but sad I wasn’t able to get a pic, I kept going.
Not long after that, a chipmunk crossed the trail, stopped and stared at me, then ran off. I was starting to feel like a Disney princess. A very sweaty, hot, and tired Disney princess.
It was a little warm and humid. And I could do without that super steep boulder stretch. But you can’t beat a hike that has cold lemonade and muffins.
Distance: 10.2 miles
Elevation gain: 2,450 feet
Total time: 7 hours, 22 minutes
Moving time: 6 hours, 18 minutes