|Hiking Trail Conditions Report|
||Garfield Ridge - East Peak, Galehead Mountain, Owl's Head, Garfield Ridge - West Peak, Mt. Garfield, NH|
||Gale River Trail, Garfield Ridge Trail, herd path, Frost Trail, Twin Brook Trail, Lincoln Brook Trail, bushwhack, old logging roads, Franconia Brook Trail, Garfield Trail|
|Date of Hike:
||Wednesday, August 26, 2020|
|Parking/Access Road Notes:
||We dropped two cars at Garfield Trail at 5:15am. Only ones there. This lot can probably fit a little more than a dozen cars before it overflows but is still quite a bit smaller than the Gale River Trail lot and overflows pretty easily. It appeared to even on this weekday. We then drove one car to the Gale River trailhead which could possibly fit a couple dozen cars. The road in is bumpy and has some sharp turns but is in fine shape. |
||Dry Trail, Wet/Slippery Rock, Mud - Minor/Avoidable, Mud - Significant |
|Water Crossing Notes:
||All the crossings other than 13 Falls, were easy rock hops given how low water is. Two things to note: one, the crossing at 13 Falls did require your boots/shoes to get a little wet so I was happy to have my boots and not trail runners but water is low and the crossing was very safe Wednesday. The second is that the crossings on the lower portion of Garfield Trail can be a little obscure. I think more so on the descent. I’m sure it didn’t help that I was descending at sunset either. If descending, when you first reach the brook bed, rather than cross it to the right, I think you need to stick to the left and hop to a little island. Then, cross again, bearing left, to the trail on the other side. |
|Trail Maintenance Notes:
||Gale River Trail and Garfield Trail are both blazed in blue as they connect to the AT. I don’t think either had much blaze but are still easy to follow. We began our ascent of Gale River before sunrise and finished the descent of Garfield Trail after sunset though so my opinion may be skewed. Garfield Ridge is of course blazed in white as it coincides with the AT. Very little blaze but still easy to follow. I don’t think Frost Trail, Twin Brook, of Franconia Brook trails were blazed. The latter two are within the Pemigewasset Wilderness though so this makes sense. We did notice an occasional blaze on Lincoln Brook Trail some of which didn’t even look that old. I think the main trails were mostly or all clear of blowdowns. I don’t remember many on the lesser travelled trails either although there’s probably some I’m forgetting about. The bushwhacks had plenty ;) |
||One of my friends had their dog with him and the dog did fine despite the lengthy of this hike and all the bushwhacking. There are many water sources on this hike but you’ll still likely need to bring extra water for your dog. While most of these trails are good for dogs, there are some sections that are very rough, primarily on Garfield Ridge approaching Garfield and on the bushwhacks. |
||Practically non-existent. Yay! |
|Lost and Found:
||My Route: Gale River Trail —> Garfield Ridge Trail (heading west) —> out-and-back on herd path to Garfield Ridge - East Peak —> Garfield Ridge Trail (heading east) to hut—> Frost Trail to Galehead —> Frost Trail to —> Twin Brook Trail —> Lincoln Brook Trail to just shy of height-of-land (HOL) —> bushwhack up northwest ridge of Owls Head to summit —> bushwhack back down (slightly different route, see below) —> Lincoln Brook Trail (north) —> Franconia Brook Trail (north) —> bushwhack to Garfield Ridge - West Peak —> Garfield Ridge Trail to Garfield summit —> Garfield Trail|
There were three of us and no two of us took entirely the same route 😂 The only difference worth noting is that my two friends headed down from Mount Garfield along Garfield Ridge Trail headed west to Garfield Pond. They then took the very short spur to the pond and then the herd path to Garfield Trail. While all three of us knew of both the short spur and the herd path, what we didn’t realize was that the two didn’t connect...so be prepared to bushwhack between the two. My friends said the bushwhack they did around the east side of the pond was the worst of the day which is really saying something since one of them did the Garfield Ridge - West Peak bushwhack with me which was absolutely horrendous (more on that below).
The main objective of this hike was for me to redline the last two trails I needed for the Franconia, Twin, and Wiley Ranges tab: Twin Brook Trail and the northern 2.2mi of Franconia Brook Trail. I also needed Garfield and Galehead for my August Grid as did one of my two friends and he also needed Owls Head. Since I’ve had my eye on the northwest ridge bushwhack for a long time I decided this would be a great time to do Owlie as well. The other friend also wanted to get the two Garfield Ridge peaks so it was a bit of a hodgepodge of everything. My two friends also needed the spur from Garfield Ridge Trail to Garfield Pond so they did that as well.
Gale River Trail was a nice warm up in the morning. Easy to moderate grades until you’re you’re within a half mile of the ridge probably. The trail is well travelled and eroded but the footing isn’t terrible. The rocks and roots, however, were quite slippery in the morning and I took a fall or two. We were totally socked in at the hut so had no views. We didn’t see anyone until coming back down the Frost Trail from Galehead where we heard some people off at the hut. The hut is only open from 11am-4pm on weekdays although there is a water spicket that’s always accessible on your right as you come into the hut clearing from Garfield Ridge Trail. We think we may have passed the caretakers as we descended Twin Brook Trail.
Twin Brook Trail is fairly steep and rough with some very rocky footing closer to the hut but is pretty gentle after that. It goes up a little bit as you begin to get close to 13 Falls. Not hard to follow on the descent. Although not full, I was surprised to see several tent sites taken at 13 Falls as we walked along the tent site spur. The walk along Lincoln Brook Trail to the HOL was 1000ft of gain but over about 1.5mi so didn’t feel bad. The trail isn’t terribly well defined in a spot or two but pretty easy to follow. This was probably the first, and possibly the only, place we encountered severe mud. Heading back up to the ridge on Franconia Brook Trail didn’t feel so bad at first but once it gets steeper maybe 2/3 of the way to the ridge, my legs and heart really started to feel it. Not hard to follow.
Garfield Ridge was a real bitch at the end of the day. I couldn’t believe how many people we saw (none of which seemed to be hiking the AT) between Franconia Brook Trail and Garfield this late in the day (past 5pm). Seemed very busy for a weekday evening. The rocks were dry other than the waterfall section which, while certainly had lots of wet rock, was far from a waterfall and was more of a trickle given how dry things were before today. Great views but very cold and chilly when we reached Garfield. A few others there. Garfield Trail down was nice and moderate but fairly rocky. I reached the parking lot just before 8pm and my friends not too long after.
I really enjoyed the bushwhack up to Owlie from the northwest ridge. It doesn’t seem like anyone bushwhacks up from the true HOL. Rather, they bushwhack from some point before it. We began our whack very shortly before it as to bushwhack the closest approximation of the northwest ridge and have a very straightforward course. I thought this worked well. Between here and the shoulder, the woods, while scratchy, weren’t too tight, and the grades, while occasionally steep, weren’t too bad. We picked up an old logging road a short ways in but knew this would take us off course so followed it briefly to the east before continuing up the ridge (more on these old logging roads on the way down). Once on the shoulder, the grade lessened considerably on the whole. The woods seemed pretty thick at the high point of the ridge at times so we often stayed just to the left of it where there were often ferns and softer things to go through. The ridge was often flat, usually an easy to moderate grade, and had just a couple of randomly steep sections but was very nice. As we got closer to the north peak of Owlie the woods began to get thicker. I think you could avoid this by sticking slightly to the right (west) but we just trudged through it. A couple parts suck but it’s not that long and this is also where the herd path begins to the true summit.
We followed the same course on the way down at the start (shoulder to true summit along northwest ridge) except maybe a quarter mile north of the shoulder we began slabbing down to the north to intersect with another track we had which is another popular way to whack to Owlie from the 13 Falls area. This avoided woods and kept us in more open, ferny areas. Sooner or later you’ll notice that you’ve come to a logging road and can follow it for however long you want. I think there’s at least a few logging roads that parallel each other here so we walked along one for awhile, then dropped down to another, before bushwhacking the rest of the way to the trail. These logging roads connect back with where we picked up a loggi road briefly on our ascent so another nice way to do this whack would be to start at the HOL but then cut over to the east on one of those logging roads and eventually slab up to the northwest ridge. The main advantage to descending the way we did is that it cuts off some distance on the Lincoln Brook Trail.
Garfield Ridge - East Peak is easy. From the jct of Gale River Trail with Garfield Ridge Trail, we followed Garfield Ridge Trail west for just over a quarter mile probably keeping our eyes peeled for a herd path. One or two may catch yourself eye before but they are just water bars or “turd paths” 😂 Eventually, right where you’d want to start a bushwhack, we found a herd path and followed it to the summit where there’s a Ledge and a canister. No views as we were still in cloud but it gives about 180 degrees so on a clear day you could expect a nice view :) Note that on our way up we came up a very steep, wooded ledge which was nearly impossible for me to get up. Would’ve found another way up but my friend was already ahead of me. On the way down we found another path that avoids it. So if you come to this and don’t want to scramble up (some vegetation has been destroyed here too 😞) just backtrack and look for another path.
Garfield Ridge - West Peak I was expecting to be nasty but our dumb decision made it way worse than it needed to be. Don’t ask me why, but for some reason we thought it would be quicker to whack this from the jct of Garfield Ridge and Franconia Brook rather than whack along the trail and bushwhack it from the closest point the trail gets to it. I don’t think anyone has ever been as dumb as us as the woods were terribly thick and there were no signs of humans ever being here. There was lots of treacherous footing, blowdowns, and it was very steep. After quickly signing in at the canister, we shot directly for the trail. Still pretty thick and not much of a herd path, if anything, but still much quicker. Note that it’s so steep and thick here that it can look like you’re on the trail on a GPS when you’ve still got a little ways to go. Just keep searching.
After not hiking since the Tuesday before it was GREAT to be back at home in the woods again. I was thrilled to have the company of Chris and Rick as well :)
||Liam Cooney |
Disclaimer: Reports are not verified - conditions may vary. Use at own risk. Always be prepared when hiking. Observe all signs. Trail conditions reports are not substitutes for weather reports or common sense.