HIB X: Galehead and Garfield
I am in the process of catching people up with some early hikes and other encounters with nature that I thought people might find interesting as part of a "How It Began" (HIB) series. Mostly this will describe specific hikes and perhaps some lessons learned along the way...if there are any. They are meant to be short and, perhaps helpful in some way to other hikers or fellow-travelers. I will post the dates of when I hiked a specific mountain since the ones in this series are NOT posted at or near the date hiked.
SEPTEMBER 28, 2021
As I sit here typing up this particular hike 8 months later, I am in the process of recovering from Covid and planning a return to backpacking--as opposed to day-hiking--which I haven't done in decades. I am finding the process of getting back on the trail to be a bit intimidating. I feel tired and out of shape. I am getting confused by pack weights and whether I can even move with something that heavy on my back.
This hike keeps springing to mind. It is both encouraging and not. The first part--and the middle were I to be honest--remind me that these things can be miserable and exhausting. The last part, though, was very near the top of my favorite hikes of all time. Life is like that. We have peaks and valleys--literally sometimes--and we learn from them while also hoping that they drive us forward more than they hold us back. Deep right? That is what they pay me for...
This hike was planned during the hike, itself. This is never a good idea or--at least--it comes with risks. We had planned an out-and-back route up Galehead. This 4,000 footer has its adherents as a solid hike with a reward--a cool AMC hut--at the end. For those who may not know, sprinkled about in hiking-land are a variety of lodges, "huts" and other cool support structures that make fun discoveries while you are out. When I was hiking the approach to the Appalachian Trail in Georgia I came across an entire eco-hotel! That, though, will be a different post.
The Galehead Hut has bunk rooms and a small store for small hiker stuff (snacks, band-aids, puncture repair kits and the like). Also, they serve food...sort of. If you reserve a stay there, they feed you. If you don't and just swing by on your way to the top you can buy some leftover soup if there is any left. This is very cool and a key part of the tale.
Generally--at that time in our hiking--it was just hard. At one point we met a guy who had made the same mistake in the opposite direction.
He opened with a lament; "Why did I decide to take this trail so late in the day?"
"Why did we?!" was our response.
Then, when we inquired as to what the trail looked like behind him--and in front of us--he got a faraway look in his eyes. "The worst is yet to come for you...I am sorry," he told us. Then he turned his sweaty, mud covered face away to continue on to Galehead with a haunted look in his eyes. What we encountered shortly thereafter was a crazy cliff/waterfall that we had to scale with rocks rolling off our feet and nearly bonking the other as we scrambled forward. That said, I looked back at one point and admired the view. Then I looked down to where we had come. Sadly I ruled out taking a picture because I didn't want to fall. The stranger thought we would have the worst of it going up. I have no idea how he managed to get down.
Finally? We made it to the top of Garfield around 4pm with 6ish miles to go. Needless to say we were well aware by this point that much of our hike down would be in the dark. However, we were content. Garfield's view is--full 360--spectacular. There was no reason to rush anymore with the damage done. We took our time with the view, dug out our headlamps, refueled, and started home.
In the end we had a dinner of gas station snacks and BK cheeseburgers because everywhere else was closed. If I had it to do over again, I probably wouldn't have dallied at Galehead. We started our hike pretty early but were moving slow thanks to the four peaks we summitted the day before. Soup is nice and all but not worth the amount of time we spent. I would take a closer look at the map, too. The whole day was over 16 miles. Honestly, though, I don't see climbing Galehead again. I will just take the easy way up Garfield.
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I am a full-time pastor in a small, progressive church in Massachusetts. This blog is about the non-church things I do to find spiritual sustenance.