Mount Garfield with Bonds in background.

Mount Garfield (4500')

2004 September 04

Elleing, Ash, and I made our way slowly up the easy grades of the Garfield Trail to the summit. We were in no hurry. Not the most thrilling sight ever, but a highlight of the fairly mundane Garfield Trail. Our hiking, and physical activity in general has been fairly limited this year, and we weren't anxious to do anything that would have us back at the physical therapist. Our progress was so slow, a backpacker passed us and stayed well ahead of us even on the steep sections. Garfield Trail is an old access road and I had to make a conscious effort to not charge up the mountain in a mad rush to escape the wooded and unremarkable pathway and lay back on the summit gazing miles into the distance. A key component of this plan was for Ash and I to run block and keep Elleing trapped in back thus preventing her from leaping up the trail with the ease and rapidity of some mountain-dwelling creature encouraging us to follow at a greater pace.

This was easily one of our favorite hikes so far. A few things coincided to make this happen, which in no small part includes our level of comfort. Under different circumstances I could be writing about another wilderness ordeal and thinking back to some hike that resembled what we experienced this day. For example, today was the antethesis of our only other 4000 footer this year, Jefferson. Jefferson was colder than planned, later than planned, and slower than planned. We were more tired, unprepared, and unwilling than normal. It was five miles and felt like ten. Garfield was ten miles and it felt like five.

360 degress from Garfield summit cabin remains.

Our hike up and down Garfield was in such total contrast to our most recent White Mountains adventure that we repeatedly compared this day to that one. Elleing, Shawn, and Ash on Garfield summit.We remarked at the perfect weather, our early start, and our quick pace. We were awake (well, Ash was zoning a bit from a late night), equipped, and anxious to get up there and kick back a bit. Temps were in the 60's starting out and the gentle grades of the Garfield Trail welcomed us deeper into the forest. The Garfield trail has easy footing until you near the summit. In fact, the footing is so mild that as slow as I felt we were going we still reached the summit in just under 3 hours.

The summit experience was monumental. It easily made up for the 3 hours of viewless and uninspiring forest we endured to get there. We looked around, took the obligatory summit photos, and had lunch on a cliff just below the summit. Ash noted that Elleing wasted no time preparing for her next life as a solar panel. She busily practiced for the glorious transformation while I noted the summits near and far.

View of Bonds with Carrigain looming in the background. Ash on Garfield. Shawn and Elleing on Garfield Elleing practicing for her next life as a Solar Panel.  -Ash Cannon summit structures and North Kinsman visible behind the ridge.

It was a clear day and apart from some passing clouds that kept clipping the top of Lafayette, I was able to identify a variety of summits we have visited and a few that remain to be tramped upon. The remnants of a fire cabin sits directly on top of Garfield and serves as an effective shelter from the wind while taking in the view. I'm told you can see 30 other 4000 footers from Garfield but I could only recognize about 25. It was so clear I could just make out the tower on Carrigain with a naked eye. There was something about this particular vantage point that we all appreciated. Staring south from Garfield one finds vast wilderness. Two massive ridge lines flank Owl's Head and the distant Sandwich Range fills much of the backdrop. I could have sat there all day.

View south from Garfield

After spending an hour and a half eating lunch, enjoying the view , and just chilling out, we started back down. It went quickly and we reached the car in just over 2 hours. We were back home before the sun set. Not bad. We left at 7:45, started hiking at 10:15, reached the summit at 1:12p, started down at 2:45, reached the car at 4:55. 6 hours and 40 minutes. So, we made good time after all, covering the 10 miles and 3000 feet in just over 5 hours. Not as slow as I expected, but I think the trail and condtion helped a lot.

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