Forgiving Trails . . . For the Most Part . . . Twins - Zealand - Hale (Little River Valley Loop)

Date of Hike: 6/11/17

North Twin Trail: 4.3 miles  /  North Twin Spur: 1.3 miles  /  Twinway: 5.0 miles  /  Lend - A - Hand Trail:  2.7 miles  /  Mount Hale Trail AKA Fire Warden's Trail:  2.5 miles  /  North Twin Trail:  1.0 miles
Total Miles: 16.8  (5,700 feet elevation gained)

Trip Report:
- After back to back weekends of punishing my body, Grand Canyon R2R2R (45 miles, 10,500' elevation gain) and Mount Adams Vertical Day (31 miles, 15,000' elevation gain), to go along with a sore knee, I looked to tone it down a bit over more forgiving terrain.  With this in mind, I headed to do one of my favorite loops into and above the Little River Valley over North Twin, South Twin, North Guyot, Zealand, and Hale.
- The hike starts and ends at the North Twin trailhead on Haystack Road.  The first few miles of the hike is mostly level with excellent footing along the North Twin Trail as it parallels the Little River.  There are three water crossings, the first two of which I bypassed.  If it was the end of the day I would have done the crossings but I wanted to keep my feet dry so I just stayed on a well beaten herd path to the last crossing which was easily rock hopped.
- After the final crossing, the North Twin Trail becomes a grind, it's rough in spots and gets very steep for about a mile and a half, but the struggle is well worth it as there is an exceptional outlook about a quarter mile from the summit looking down into the Little River Valley and the Twin Range.  There is also another phenomenal outlook at the summit overlooking the Pemigewasset Wilderness.
- From North Twin's summit I hooked onto the North Twin Spur Trail over to South Twin.  This is a pretty tame down and up of about 1.3 miles over good footing with a gradual grade.  I tested out my knee and felt pretty good, the more I could open up my stride the better it felt, the smaller strides where I had to "tap dance" along the minimal rocky sections put strain on my ligaments so I was careful to back off when any aching occurred.
-  Soon enough I summited South Twin Mountain, which has one of the best views around and rivals almost all other 4,000 footers.  Usually there are a handful of hikers milling around the summit enjoying the 360 degree views, but I had it all to myself since it was still early in the morning, score!
- The wind was whipping, constant 30 mph with 40-45 mph guts, which was refreshing as there was a heat wave that stalled over the mountains, and all of New England in general.  It was around 9:30am and it was already 60 degrees above 4,500 feet!
- After taking in the views for a couple of minutes I banged a left onto the Twinway heading along the ridge towards Mount Guyot for a couple of miles.  After an intial semi-steep and rocky drop, the trail becomes gradual with good footing and well placed bog bridges.  At this point the temperature was starting to rise quickly and become more humid, but luckily the wind was still blowing strong making for still comfortable conditions in the woods and even better conditions out in the open near the Bondcliff Trail junction, where there are killer views of the Bonds, Twins, Garfield, and Franconia Ridge across the valley.
-  Once cresting North Guyot I would be in the woods for almost the rest of the morning.  The drop down into the Guyot / Zealand col is pretty nasty and rugged, and on days where it is hot and humid the rocks become "greasy,"  attention to foot placement is important as the risk of a twisted ankle and slipping rises sharply under these conditions.  Luckily, once reaching the col the climb back up to Zealand's summit is short and not too difficult, and the trail becomes much easier once passing Zealand's summit area.
-  As I headed down to Zealand Falls Hut I finally started crossing paths with several hikers, probably three dozen or so, the hut sees a lot of hiker traffic so I wasn't surprised to see numerous hikers out and about.  Along the way I stopped at the Zeacliff outlook and enjoyed a quick view of Carrigian Notch dominating the valley.
- At the hut I refilled on water and then headed up the Lend-A-Hand Trail to the summit of Mount Hale.  I really enjoy this trail, it's well blazed, easy to follow, has good footing with easy to moderate grades the whole way.  It took me just under an hour to reach the not so exciting summit, where I snapped one pic of the summit cairn and then immediately headed off into the woods and onto the Mount Hale Trail, AKA Fire Warden's Trail.
- The Fire Warden's Trail was abandoned close to forty years ago but is still easy to follow and has very forgiving footing.  It travels through a beautiful Birch glade which in the fall during foliage, or in the winter after a fresh snowfall is stunning to travel through.
- The old trail ends along the herd path that I traveled earlier in the morning where I bypassed the first two crossings of the Little River.
- From this point I had a mile to go to the trailhead, a few tenths of a mile along the herd path and about 0.75 miles along the North Twin Trail.  It was now about 12:30PM and very hot, but after spending a time in Arizona hiking in the desert, this was a piece of cake to deal with!
- Back at the car I cleaned the layer of bug spray off of me before heading back home to enjoy a cold refreshing beer :)

The North Twin Trail, first couple of miles is nice and relatively flat.  After the last crossing of the Little River, it becomes more eroded and steep.

After a relentless steep mile the trail levels off and comes to a terrific outlook

View from North Twin's summit.  Galehead, Garfield, Owl's Head, Lafayette, Lincoln, Liberty, and Little Haystack can be seen in the picture.

South Twin Summit

View from the Twinway near North Guyot.  Owl's Head and the Franconia Ridge in view

Great views along the Twinway!

Mount Guyot

Hiking over the rocky footing between North Guyot and Zealand 

Zealand summit sign

Descending the Twinway and looking over to Mount Hale

Taking the short side path to the Zeacliff outlook

Carrigain Notch as seen from Zeacliff Outlook

Whitewall Mountain

Lend-A-Hand Trail

The no thrills summit of Mount Hale

Hiking through the Birch glades on the abandoned Mount Hale Fire Warden's Trail

1 comment:

  1. Awesome ! Thanks for this - considering hiking N & s Twin on August.. we'll see, knees and back have to hold out ! Wendy

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