January 7, 2012. The ambitious plan for this weekend is to do three peaks, North Twin, South Twin and Galehead, a total of 15.8 miles. Two miles longer due to Haystack Road being closed during the winter so one has to park off of Little River Road and hike the additional mile to the trailhead. It's up and out of bed at my usual 3:30 am and on the road by 4:45. I make it to the parking spot at the end of Little River Road at 6:50 and as I am getting ready one after another car pulls up and soon there is a crowd of 8- 10 people. There goes the solitude. Not quite sure where to head from the parking spot to get to the trail I wait for the group to leave, and wait, and wait. Finally they head off over the bridge and make a left on the other side of the stream to a trail. I'll give them another few minutes to get ahead of me just to keep my distance from them. I really enjoy my quiet and solitude. At 7:15 I take off and start my day.
Within a half mile I catch up to the group as they have already stopped on the trail for unknown reasons to me. I pass by and pick up the pace a bit to put distance between myself and them. Soon I reach the trailhead that is located at the end of Haystack Road. It's kind of an overcast grey day and lots of freshly fallen snow making for a very quiet and wintry hike. I reach the spot where the first crossing of the Little River is and take the bushwhack on the left instead. This path avoids a couple crossings and recrossings of the river and cuts it down to one up further on the trail. While walking along the left of the river I try to keep my eyes peeled for another trail that takes off to the left and heads up to Mt Hale. It is the old fire warden's trail that has been abandoned but still in use by hikers as an alternative trail up to Hale. They say it is hard to see when hiking in and evidently so because I never see the spot by the time I have to make the crossing of Little River. It is a strange and eerie feeling to be crossing over a river via a snow bridge for my first time. I guess one has to pray that it is thick and solid enough to support your weight or else. Making across with no issues the climb up to North Twin begins and the snow gets deeper as I get higher. There has also been other people on the trail this morning before me. Interesting because they must have started quite early and in the dark. I never see them or anyone else since starting.
The climb up through the steep sections is cumbersome and actually a pain in the ass. I bareboot it all the way but the issue is the people before me. I am not sure how long there legs are but stepping in their steps is not even close to my gait. There is no way to hike without using there footprints and it is difficult stepping in a smaller stride than what you are used to. About three and half hours from starting I reach the north knob of North Twin and get some faint views from this spot.
A few minutes I reach the summit and head down a short spur to a viewpoint that has very limited views with the fog. A shot of Garfield is all there is to make out and if you look close you can see the old foundation of the fire tower on top.
Back up to the trail junction and off to South Twin which takes just an hour to get to. On the way I am thinking about the hike and trying to decide if it is worth going to Galehead today. First, the conditions are getting worse. I can see South Twin getting socked in as I was looking from the North Twin viewpoint. Even if I do make it to Galehead the views are going to be nil. Second, the plan is to climb three peaks but on top of that I would be actually climbing five since I have to come back via South and North Twin. The other option is to go to Galehead and then head down the Gale River Trail and walk back to the car on Route 3. I toss this option out almost immediately as it is about 5.5 miles of road walk. Soooo, looks like the smart thing is going to be to hit South and then head back. I get confirmation of this decision once I reach the summit of South Twin as there is absolutely nothing to see and visibility is a couple hundred yards.
I meet a couple of hikers at the summit and they came up from Galehead heading to North Twin then back. They tell me the climb up was very steep so that also helps confirm my choice not to go. As I start heading back down from South I run into two guys on their way up to South Twin and they recognize me from three weeks ago on Middle Tripyramid. Course the comment was "aren't you the guy that went the wrong way on Middle Tripyramid a few weeks ago?" Guess I am known for something in these hiking circles. On I go and make it back to the river crossing and again keeping my eyes peeled for that trail to Hale and not long after I actually spot it. It looks so obvious from this angle as I can make out the distinct track of an old logging trail. I make a note of this spot on the GPS to use for the future and continue on. A little after 3:30 and I am back at the car and ready for some chinese food. Two more peaks and my second half of my journey is well under way.
Final numbers: 13.2 miles, 8 hours and 20 minutes, 2 peaks, # of peaks to date - 26.