Monday, December 10, 2012

Trail Recap 22 of 27: Lyme to Twin Mtn, NH

Part of the 1000 vertical feet of cascades along the Beaver Brook Trail:
Despite the extreme trail difficulty, this is one of my most favorite places along the entire AT

Lyme-Dorchester Road to the Zealand Trail near the AMC Zealand Hut (the trailhead is near the town of Twin Mountain): 69.9 miles

General Impression/Theme:  The gauntlet is thrown down.  Entering into the White Mountains, the trail gets noticeably more challenging, and my pace slowed down.  I also began to need to take a rest day about every five or six days.

People:  The trails in the White Mountains during the peak of vacation season were packed with people.  Most of them were just that - vacationers, though often very fit and well-geared so they were indistinguishable from thru-hikers (except perhaps for the distinctive 'hiker-bouquet'?)  I had casual conversations with many and was able to help one woman hiking with three young boys headed for Galehead Hut from South Twin who had run out of water; but for the most part I found myself concentrating so much on my own effort, so that I rarely found the time to 'interview' or have in depth conversations with even the most interesting people I met.  It turns out that the only people I had sustained conversations with along the trail were 'officials': the Galehead Hut croo member whom I met one afternoon as she climbed up the Gale River Trail - got the lo-down on her experience and routine - and two shelter caretakers: of the Garfield Ridge and Guyot shelters.  The latter was up on Mt. Guyot rebuilding a distinctive cairn with built-in 'easy chair'.

Worst Memory:  Climbing up South Twin from the north I had my worst fall of the entire hike.  I slipped on a sloped rock while distracted by the flavor of an Oreo cookie (?!), fell forward and planted my face in the upturned root of a tree, cutting my chin and lower lip.  It bled for a few minutes, dripping blood on the rocks - the whole nine yards.  But not so bad as to need stitches.

Best Day Hike:  I'm offering my personal favorites.  There are so many wonderful day hikes in and around this southern half of the White Mountains that I'd refer the reader to the AMC guidebook, or to the enthusiastic volunteers at information desks at places such as the Pinkham Notch visitor center and the AMC Highland Center.  They'll be happy to take the time with you to help you tailor a day hike that will fit your time schedule and fitness level.

For me the hands-down best hike - in fact one of my top five hikes of the entire AT - was from the parking area on High Street above Glencliff, up over Mt. Moosilauke and down the Beaver Brook Trail to Kinsman Notch.  I did this both ways on the same day and loved every minute of it.  The attraction for me was the combination of my two most favorite types of trail experience:  a noisy cascading stream with abundant waterfalls and the open sky of a bald (tundra covered) summit - all in one day hike.  Beaver Brook Trail is notoriously difficult (among the top ten most difficult miles of the AT) but it also contains the longest continuous stretch of waterfall-side walking by far.  And Moosilauke's summit, though only a small patch of tundra, provides panoramic views and the full 'meadow-walk' experience.

Second in my personal list of favorites is the long tundra-walk along Franconia Ridge (Mounts Lafayette, Lincoln and Little Haystack).  This isn't my favorite high-meadow walk because it was too rocky to allow the alpine vegetation to really shine (and you can see rocks anywhere).  Also this section of trail is hugely popular, accessible by several side trails.  Sadly, many hikers don't respect the tundra, go off the trail and trample it, so again the natural environment here is not allowed to put on its best display.

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