The weather was looking good for Saturday so in the morning we headed for Garfield. I had only done this peak once during one of my fathers Youth Group hikes in 1998. So this was like hiking it for the first time as I didn't remember much. The Galehead Road was fitted with brand new bridges, they even smelled new! The parking lot had a van and a couple cars with fog on the windows, indicating they were over-nighters at the hut. We got a really early start at 7:45am, with a couple people starting right behind us.
The trail climbs a banking and meanders through a pine forest. I spotted a couple Downy Rattlesnake Orchids along the trail here. We heard a group of girls singing through the trees and soon a girl scout or girls group came marching down the trail of about a dozen. Most had smiles on there faces and it looked like they had a great time! The group leader at the rear of the line apologized for there "intrusion" and once past us we could hear her yelling up at the front of the line that they had best stop for hikers coming up the trail!
We were passed by the others that started out behind us and we soon left the pine forest and into a wet section of forest. The trail adopter has really done a lot of work in this section building all sorts of water bridges/platforms and foot bridges. Great job! The trail now climbs at a moderate grade following a fire road. Remnants of the power line poles are seen off the trail if you look hard enough. Mushrooms were out and as usual we were stopping constantly to snap pictures of them! Once the trail began a steeper climb and mushrooms became less, we picked up our pace.
The trail makes some long switchbacks and Indian Pipe were flowering all over the place on the upper sections. White and yellow Aster were also flowering along the trail. After negotiating the switchbacks we made one steep climb up next to an interesting rock formation. We finally reached the trail junction with Garfield Ridge trail after what seemed like a long and rather boring climb of 4.8 miles. Now, as the trail book indicated, the trail makes a sudden steep climb up to the rock spire summit of Garfield.
There was almost a dozen hikers up top. The rather unfortunate thing about this summit is that the cement foundation walls are left at the top. This takes up too much room and is an eye-sore in our opinion. It should have been completely removed! We climbed down the ledges that drop in layers on the South side. We found a nice ledge to eat lunch on away from the crowd. Arrival time was 11:15. Wow! a half hour quicker than the book time!!
We took our time eating our lunch and enjoying the beautiful day. The humidity was causing hazy conditions so views weren't the greatest. The Twins and Franconia range were in view, The Franconia's in particular were impressive with the towering summits of Lafayette and Lincoln followed by the pyramid spires of Liberty and Flume. Owls Head in the middle of the valley floor was also impressive from this vantage point above. The Bonds were barely visible through the haze as was Carrigain and the Sandwich Range.
Our lunch consumed and our bodies rested we packed up and headed back down. We passed a lot of people making there way up the trail. So glad we have been making the early starts and beating the crowds! When we arrived at the parking lot 30 or so cars were parked up and down the road! Number 26 of the four thousand footers for Scott. Two to go to catch up to me! Then we can finish the rest at the same time :)