Member Trip report
Mt. Garfield New Year's Eve Hike
Trip Report/Photos from Gandalf
The temperature was 24 degrees when I woke up New Year’s Eve just before dawn. The forecast for the summit today would be a high of 27 degrees with partly sunny skies!
I had packed the night before so when I woke up took a shower, got dressed, put hot water in my two water bottles, hot water in my thermos holding chicken noodle soup and headed out. I made a turkey sandwich from the leftovers of turkey Jon cooked the night before and added some stuffing, lettuce and mayonnaise. Yum! On the drive out from Waterville Valley and stopped by Dunkin’ Donuts for a small coffee and breakfast sandwich for the drive. I was planning on an 8:00 am start.
Normally, the round trip distance to Mt Garfield is 10 miles with 3,050 feet of elevation gain. But in winter, the road leading to the trailhead is closed, so you need to park just off Rt 3 and walk in another 1.25 miles, increasing the round trip distance of the hike to 12.5 miles. The road is flat, so the extra distance is no big deal, and the snow is packed down because snowmobilers use it. However with the rain we had, the Gale River Road was very icy requiring MicroSpikes.
With the rain we had, most mountains were not snowcapped, and trail conditions indicated there would be bare ground, patchy ice and snow in the hardwoods, and then snow higher up. With the high temperature reaching 27 degrees, I didn’t see the need to carry snowshoes.
Despite the cold temperatures, I started to warm up, so when I got to the old woods road, .07 from the start of the official trailhead, I took off my down parka and wool hat. With the recent rain and warm temperatures, the crossing over Thompson was barely ice bridged but I made it over. Phew!
I made excellent time and did not take my next break until 3 miles reached the highest point of Burnt Knoll, once burned over and in a birch forest. At the switchbacks, there was a dusting of fresh fallen snow on the softwoods. Magical! There was a slight breeze and I started to get chilled. So I put some hand warmers in my gloves and put my wool hat back on.
At the sign below the summit there was hardly any wind! The sun was out so I decided to just put on my neck gaiter and continue onwards without my down parka.
I climbed steeply through the krummholz to the open area just below the summit’s old fire tower foundation. It was breezy so I put on my down parka. When I arrived there were clouds swirling around making it difficult to see the surrounding mountains. I had the summit all to myself! I was also surprised that I made the summit in a bit over 3 hours, the book time was 4 hours!
North of the summit, the valley below was basking in sunshine. I could barely make out the Franconia Ridge, Mt. Bond and Bondcliff. It was warm as summits go so I stood up at the summit hoping for better views.
A solo trail runner came up with his Black Lab dog and we began to chat. His name was Eric, lives in Canaan, NH and runs up Mt. Cardigan a lot. He was thinking of continuing on to Galehead but I warned him, having done it in summer many years ago, it’s further than one thinks with many ups and downs, and the trail is rocky…maybe not so much in winter. Then the skies opened where we got a quick glimpse of snowcapped Mt. Washington, part of the Presidential Range, the Twins and better views of the Bonds! He took a quick shot of me on the summit. He decided to head back and I hung out a few more minutes before heading back myself. About a couple minutes after leaving the summit, the skies cleared and I got a couple of pictures of the snowcapped northern Presidentials behind the Twins and the Bonds.
Back at the sign below the summit, I ate my Turkey sandwich and enjoyed the hot chicken noodle soup! I did a decent pace for the 5.75 mile hike out, taking a bit under 3 hours to hike out, almost the same time it took me to hike up. I would have been faster but the arthritis in my left ankle began to provide some minor pain so I had to slow down a bit and take a few quick rest stops.
I felt really good on this hike, like I’m finally back in my winter hiking shape. It was great to be out in the sun again too! But we do need more snow. It’s a curious thing: hiking these peaks and trails never gets old, even in winter! I love starting the New Year with a hike. HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone and best wishes for 2019!!!
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