Hiking the Pemigewasset Wilderness

For our second annual “men trip,” my father, brother and I decided on a multi-day hike along the northern edge of the Pemigewasset Wilderness. We chose to balance the rigorous White Mountain trails with slightly cushy accommodations at three huts run by the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC).

Day 1

I woke at 4:15am to catch my taxi to the airport. By 7:30am, I was in Boston, and worked until meeting Aaron at noon. Dad picked us up soon after and we were on our way to the White Mountains.

It was early, but it was also Friday, and we battled heavy traffic out of Massachusetts and into New Hampshire. We began to despair of reaching our hut in time for dinner, and it was 4pm before we were at the Old Bridle Path trailhead. The book time for our uphill, 2.3 mile hike is listed as 2 hours and 40 minutes.

Flower

We attacked the trail, reaching Greenleaf Hut in less than two hours and giving us time for a celebratory beer before sitting down to dinner. After eating we sat outside sipping Japanese whiskey, taking in views of the hills to the south and watching Mt. Lafayette mottle red as the sun set.

Lichen on Greenleaf Hut.

Back inside before bed, our conversation turned to politics and Aaron was relieved to learn that toilet paper did not need to be packed out when used at the huts.

Day 2

At 6:30am, the Greenleaf Hut croo officially woke the hut with an acapella song. Breakfast was followed by the customary skit encouraging guests to fold their blankets, pack out their trash, and tip the croo.

Breakfast at Greenleaf Hut

We were heading up Mt. Lafayette by 8:15 and soon reached the top, where we spent some time enjoying the vista and snapping pictures.

Climb up to Mt Lafayette

Marker on top of Mt Lafayette
Peering out into the Pemigewasset Wilderness
Pretending to climb

From there, our route took us down and up along a ridge to the windy peak of Mt. Garfield.

Along the ridge from Mt Lafayette
Walking the ridge
Cairns
Among the clouds
Lovely woods

On went the layers and we hunkered down out of the wind with our lunch of protein bars, trail mix, and fruit. Dad kindly shared his chocolate-covered espresso beans for dessert.

Sheltering for lunch on top of Mt Garfield

The trail from Mt. Garfield to Galehead Hut included lots of up and down, with large rocks and a good deal of water. At times, the trail seemed to merge with the stream alongside and we had to pick our way carefully down the slick rocks.

We reached Galehead Hut at 3pm and picked our bunks. The place was hopping on Saturday afternoon with guests, day hikers and thru-hikers inside, on the porch, and clustered among the rocks and grass outside.

Resting at Galehead Hut

We cleaned up, relaxed, sipped beer and played Trivial Pursuit while we waited for dinner, which was served at 6pm.

Trivial Pursuit at Galehead Hut

Dinner was turkey and mashed potatoes, with curried chick pea patties for the vegetarians.

Turkey dinner at Galehead Hut

We went to bed early to the sound of laughter and accordion music.

Day 3

The accordion announced the start of a wet and misty day at 6:30am.

Morning stretches, Galehead Hut

Breakfast at Galehead Hut featured oatmeal, eggs, pancakes and coffee. We took our time given the short distance we had to walk to Zealand Falls Hut.

Watching the mist roll in

Still, we were on our way up South Twin Mountain by 8:30 in a light drizzle that continued all day.

Setting out from Galehead Hut
Starting up South Twin
Wet walking

It was socked in by fog, and we didn’t linger.

On top of South Twin
Summit of South Twin

Instead, we headed down, then up and over Mt Guyot.

Approaching the top of Mt Guyot

From there the trail evened out for a very pleasant walk through boreal forest, rock, and water. The miles ticked by with gentle grade and engaging conversation about topics ranging from Onset to New Zealand to thru-hikers to the economics of the AMC huts.

Delicate mushroom
Traversing a bog

We opted to take the short spur to the top of Zealand Mountain, a peak so humble that it had to be marked with a cairn and a sign telling hikers they’d reached it. Without so much as a water break, we continued on to Zealand Falls Hut, which we reached around 1:45pm.

Lunch at Zealand Falls Hut

It was immediately our favorite–small yet spacious, and situated next to beautiful falls that could be heard all night. Each of us spent the afternoon reading or napping.

Bunk room at Zealand Falls Hut

We gathered for a tasty dinner of soup, bread, salad, roasted broccoli, stuffed shells, and carrot cake. After dinner, we took our bottle of Yamato out to the falls and sat watching the sky darken, while the yellow lights of the hut twinkled through the pines.

Day 4

I woke before 6am, poured myself a mixture of coffee and cocoa powder, and walked out to the falls, where I found Aaron watching the mist roll up the valley.

Mist in the valley

Dad joined us and we watched the sun rise before the morning song and call to breakfast.

Sun rising on Zealand Falls
Coffee with a view
Morning joe outside Zealand Falls Hut
Hot “coffee” at Zealand Falls Hut

We packed up and left shortly after 8, the trail descending alongside the falls and then leveling off as it skirted around a lake and headed deeper into birches and evergreens, mosses and ferns.

Starting down from Zealand Falls Hut

It was another wonderful walk, with fragrances of pine, mushrooms and flowers. The trail rose to the saddle of Mt Tom, which we declined to climb.

Approaching Mt Tom Spur

From there, the trail followed a creek where we emerged at Crawford Notch.

Reaching Crawford Depot
Finishing up at Crawford Depot

The wildflowers were blooming around the train depot and the lodge.

Wildflowers in Crawford Notch

As a bonus, we were early enough to take showers at the depot and have a beer while we waited for the shuttle to bring us back to our car. We redistributed our gear and headed south, stopping at The Common Man for dinner before Dad dropped us back at the airport.

It was another great trip, full of conversation and camaraderie. We’re already looking forward to next year.

Cook Men at Zealand Falls