Looking into the Pemigewasset

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Looking into the Pemigewasset


Bethann Weick




Passing Through: The Allure of the White Mountains

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I was fortunate to have spent the last week caretaking at Galehead Hut, hiking between South & North Twin, Galehead Mtn, 13 Falls and the Franconia Brook, and Mt. Garfield. The hut, located just shy of 3800’, was first built in 1931 under the leadership of the colorful Joe Dodge (and rebuilt in’99/’00).

With the construction of Galehead Hut more than 75 years ago, a continuous string of eight huts stretched across the White Mountains, all within a days hike apart. Hikers were now offered a means of traversing the range while enjoying the comforts previously only found in the valley – shelter, meals, and bedding. The mountains were now to be experienced and enjoyed in a whole new way. As Dodge’s assistant Stillman Williams wrote in 1935:

“…the huts nevertheless definitively stand, by way of counter-balance, for that camping intimacy and fun which is not readily available elsewhere. It is this spirit of intimacy and fun which is the cardinal virtue…to nourish and develop.”

While many hikers have since chosen the comforts of these new accommodations, others continue to pursue more rugged circumstances. Together, however, the increasing traffic on trails throughout the Whites became an undeniable problem by the 1970s. The steep trail up to the summit of South Twin (4902’) from Galehead Hut is one example of new trail building techniques that became popular at this time.

As overused, degraded trails suffering from erosion became the norm, trail foremen turned to rocks to harden the trail tread. The Twinway Trail as it heads up to South Twin is an excellent example of the trend to use rocks, placed in a “natural” way, to direct water, control traffic, and promote longevity of the treadway. The preference for rock quickly became the standard through the Whites, and indeed the Northeast, and continues to this day.

As you enjoy your own hikes, note the diversity of trail features and structures used to maintain a trail’s treadway. From wooden cribbing to rock steps, bog bridges to water bars, trail crews work tirelessly to create, maintain, and preserve treadways across the mountains.



Bethann Weick, “Looking into the Pemigewasset,” The Cairn, accessed November 28, 2015, http://www.plymouth.edu/the-cairn/items/show/50.