Saturday, September 22, 2012

Flags on the 48 - North/South Twin 9-8-12

This year I was honored to be able to participate in the event Flags on the 48. This event was started as a way to remember those who were killed in the terrorist attacks on 9-11-2001. Basically, teams sign up to fly a US flag on each of the 48 4000-footers in New Hampshire, on the Saturday nearest to 9-11, or the day of should that date fall on a weekend (like last year, when the 11th was a Sunday). Many other summits also see flags on them, but the heart of the event is the 4000-footers. Last year I hiked with a friend of mine during the event and got to witness it, leading me to want to participate this year (and in years to follow).

I signed up along with a number of other people from Hike-NH, some of whom I'd met before, but most not. When the day came to sign up for a peak, we ended up getting North Twin. While initially it seemed to be a less-than-super choice, when one considers that the weather is always unknown 1 month out, North Twin was actually a perfect choice. It has some great views from ledges near the summit, while being sheltered the whole way up, and on the summit itself even. This turned out to be useful, as the weather going into the day was for cloudy and windy skies, with heavy rain beginning in the evening.

Our plan of attack was simple: we would take the North Twin Trail from the end of Haystack Road up and down, with most of us planning to visit South Twin (1.3 miles away) at some point during the day. We met at the trailhead and divided up lengths of PVC pipe that one person brought, while he carried the 5'x8' flag he had brought for the event himself.

The ascent went simply, though not entirely easily. We took the herd path bypassing the first 2 big crossings of Little River, and found a rock-hop site at the 3rd crossing. After this, the grade begins to steepen, and soon it gets pretty steep and loose footing at times. But we steadily made our way up, stopping occasionally to get the group back together. A mile or so from the summit one of our party turned around due to not feeling very good, he did make it back home fine though we all felt bad he drove all the way up and had to turn around so fast.

We made it to the ledges shortly before the summit where we saw that the cloud deck was low, but above us, but more importantly the winds were extremely high. We pressed on to the summit to check out the situation at the ledges right by the summit, which turned out to be no better. Eventually we just lashed the pipe pole to a tree right by the summit, with the flag hanging roughly at treetop level. We couldn't get it any higher due to a combination of factors, but needless to say the heavy winds were the biggest. Our flag was flying well before the 12:00 target time the event calls for, and now we were to wait until 2PM to head down.

Rock-hopping over Little River

Most of us then headed over to South Twin's open summit (a couple opted to stay behind), where we could see some of the neighboring peaks, and could even make out the flag on Mount Bond, about 3 miles away. South Twin had only a small flag on it, and it was stretched straight out for pretty much the whole time we were over there. A couple of us estimated the wind gusts to be in the 50mph range, and we would later find out that a hiker in the area with a hand-held anemometer was reading speeds over 55mph!

While we were at South Twin, a Blackhawk helicopter was flying around the various summits with a camera person inside taking pictures for a local paper. They did this last year as well, though this year they seemed to be staying a little further away from the peaks, understandably with the hefty, gusty wind. It was cool to see them out again, yet another part of this wonderful event.

South Twin's flag


North Twin from South Twin

South Twin's flag

South Twin on way back to North Twin
We headed back to North Twin, and hung out for a while until the appointed time, when we took down and folded the flag, packed up (leave no trace!) and headed down to the cars. The descent went smoothly. Near the parking lot we felt some light rain here and there, but literally the second we stepped onto the pavement the rain started POURING. Perfect timing for us, though we later heard a few teams did get caught in the rain, though it seems everyone made it out fine.

Once again, every single one of the 48 4000-footers had a flag flying on it for a while on this day, though some teams cut their days short with the weather coming in (wisely so). We were thanked by so many people for doing this, but I think I speak for everyone who participates in this event by saying that it was our privelage to be able to remember the fallen people in such a terrific way.

Mark your calendars for September 14, 2013, next year's event date! For more information about the event, visit

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