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Trips in NH

Mt. Garfield

by Bill Newman

Hike Length: 10.0

Trails: Mt Garfield Trail to Garfield Ridge Trail

Date: July 27, 2005

Many years ago when I first started backpacking, the Pemi was our first choice as the area to backpack in. For many years Franconia Brook, Camp 16, and 13 Falls were our weekend homes in order to climb some of the mountains in the area and ďto get away from civilizationĒ. At the time there were no lists with the peaks we had to do that were over a certain height, the impact of man was just beginning to be a concern, and only the Presidentials ever had a significant amount of hikers on any given weekend.

A few months ago my son asked me which 4,000 footer was my first and I couldnít answer. We never kept track of what we did, we just went out and either tried something new or hit something that we had done already but really enjoyed so we did it again. In the end, I think that Garfield was most likely my first 4K so my son has been asking to do this one ever since.

Wednesday July 27, 2005

After many months of my son, Nick, asking me ďWhen are we going to do Garfield?Ē I decided to call out sick (Mountain Fever donít ya know) and to let him drag me up to the Whites for the day. The weather was more than perfect, warm but cloudy enough so you donít get sunburned and just a slight breeze that was refreshing during the water stops. Nickís friend Steve also wanted to go as he had a great time last year when we did Moriah, so in the end the 3 of us set off for a guys day on Garfield.

The trailhead is along the Gale River Road loop. Where we were traveling north along Rt 3 (actually west to east at this section) we missed the first entrance to the dirt road because it isnít marked and came in from the long way around by circling past the Galehead trail and then to the Mt Garfield Trail. If you can find the first entrance along Rt 3 it will save you a few minutes. There is the usual $3 per day parking fee at the trailhead and it fits 12 cars before you have to park on the side of the road (even on the side of the road, you still have to pay the $3).

We started out on the 5-mile trail about 10:30 AM after parking on the side of the road (and this was a Wednesday) and soon hit 3 quick river crossings at the ĺ mile mark. These are the only crossings and water for the entire trip (although there must be a water source for the tent sites near the summit). The crossing presented no problem at all as there were plenty of rocks to hop and the level really wasnít significant.

I was very impressed with the trail itself. After some of the recent rocky and stump filled trails weíve done, this was like walking a paved highway! Donít get me wrong, there are a few rocks and stumps along the way but it is very obvious that a lot of care has been taken with this trail to make it as trouble free as possible. Most of the hike is through the wilderness so there arenít any views but the trail is spacious and a very easy grade so the lack of views isnít a complaint. With the exception of the last .2 miles (at the junction of the Garfield tent sites and the Garfield Ridge Trail) there isnít a single section or area that poses a problem, itís just a nice level incline the entire way with no scrambling or foothold problems. Even the last .2 isnít too bad and if youíve ever gone hiking in the Whites, youíve experienced similar approaches once above tree line.

What the trail lacks in views is easily made up when you hit the summit!

This is one of my favorite mountains as you get a ringside seat to view all the mountains in or near the Pemi, and some of the best views to the Franconia Ridge. We easily counted 20 peaks although some of the ones in the Waterville area due south were a little difficult to figure out. The old fire tower foundation is still there and it makes for a decent place to eat lunch if itís a windy day, but otherwise there are a few areas to explore and to look out over including the task for the day which was figuring out a bushwhack route to get up Owls Head (itís a lot bigger looking mountain from this side than from Franconia!). To the east are great views of the Twins and a very picturesque view of Galehead Hut that sits in the col between the two. In back of the Twins we could make out some of the northern Presidentials and just south were Guyot and The Bonds!

We spent a lot of time at the summit and just really soaked in the day. We ate lunch, explored the summit, got a tan, and took a few pictures before leaving about 3:30 PM. The hike down was pretty uneventful and we were back at the car by 6:00 but I was very excited that I took this day off to hike Garfield and both Nick and Steve were also psyched to have such a great day for this mountain.

Equipment: Standard summer issue

Special Equipment: Beer to thank the trail croo, a clear day, and a camera (always!)

Pictures from the Garfield hike >>
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