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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Mt. Garfield (#15), October 4, 2008

Garfield Trail, Garfield Ridge Trail, 10 miles roundtrip.

We arrived at the trailhead early, as usual -- and the parking lot was completely full! This was odd. We're usually one of the first folks on the trail. So, a bit perplexed, we started off.

What a gorgeous fall hike! The Garfield Trail is long but practically flat. We walked along, chatting pleasantly and enjoying the colors. We also enjoyed seeing the occasional fallen tree, such as the one pictured below.

There were a few stream crossings. Both Alex and I made it through just fine, keeping our boots dry.

The flattish trail continued easily along...

A short time after taking the above picture, we had a scare! Alex and I were walking along, my bear bell jingling, our poles doing their usual clacking against rocks as we walked, both of us talking, etc., when suddenly, about seven or eight feet in front of us, just off the trail to our right....CRASH RUSTLE BOOM! The trees swished wildly back and forth and something BIG ran full speed off through the trees, away from us. Apparently, we had startled something sleeping (?) immediately next to the trail. The sound was LOUD, and the speed at which it moved was incredible. I took two steps back toward Alex and grabbed her, and we held each other, frozen, for a minute. I took my whistle and blew it a few times, a completely silly move since whatever it was had already run away. However, the action made me feel better. I then got my bear spray out and moved cautiously ahead, with Alex right behind me. Logically, I knew we had startled something and it had run off, and that it wasn't going to come back and jump on us. However, having the spray in my hand and at the ready made both Alex and me feel better. Alex asked me to make sure I "got it right" in terms of the bear spray, and then she broke down and cried a bit. I told her it was okay to cry, and then reminded her that wild animals are afraid of us, and that there haven't been any deaths from moose or bear -- ever -- in the White Mountains.

About five minutes later, we came across a couple of hikers for the first time today. Alex and I told them of our experience. Talking about it made both of us feel much better. The couple had gone through a frightening (and much more dangerous) ordeal of their own -- they had been stuck overnight outside, unprepared, with no sleeping bag. They were now coming down, happy to have gotten through the night warm and safe. I think in our fright we talked more and listened less than we should have. So to that couple we met -- if you happen to ever read this, forgive me for not listening more to your own story. I was so involved with calming myself and my daughter that I didn't provide a very empathetic ear. I'm glad the two of you are alright.

Feeling much better, Alex and I continued our gradual ascent. We saw a few interesting trees with green hair...

Soon we starting running into various groups of college kids cheerfully on their descent. Each group kept telling us there was a huge crowd of people at the summit, with a lot of hot chocolate to go around. One hiker stopped long enough to tell us that there was an inter-collegiate mountain relay race today, hence all the cars and hikers at the top. They had started before sunrise. Ah-hah...that was the reason the trailhead parking lot was completely full when we arrived.

Here we are, reaching the Garfield Ridge Trail.

From here, it was a short .2 mile climb to the top.

Now we were beginning to feel the cold. The upper summit forecast for the day was a high of 30 with winds 40-50 mph. We had felt warm with few layers on our ascent thus far, due to the fact that we had been sheltered in the trees for the entire hike. However, now that we were coming out of the trees and making the final push toward the summit, the cold was making itself known.

We continued upward, doing our first real uphill climbing all day.

We made it to the top -- and there were indeed a zillion people hanging out. We put on our coats and hats, now that we were feeling the cold and wind full-force, and took our picture at the actual summit.

Mt. Garfield has a reputation for being a mountain with spectacular views. However, a big ole cloud had decided to sit on our peak today, so the only "view" I saw was this:

We descended a bit to the area where all the people were standing. They were from the Tufts University Mountain Club, and they were a jovial bunch.

They graciously shared their hot chocolate with us. We sat and ate a tiny bit, but we didn't stay at the summit for long. We both wanted to get back down those .2 miles, back into the trees and out of the wind. So down we went.

Back at the Garfield Trail/Garfield Ridge Trail junction, whom should we meet but bobandgeri! They greeted us and said they would catch up with us after they visited the summit themselves. They also told us that Gwynna, whom we had met at a family hiking day a couple of weekends before, was on her way up. Alex and I started our descent, looking forward to having company for the latter part of our hike. Soon we saw Gwynna, who asked us to hike slowly so she could summit and then catch up with us. We happily agreed, then continued down while she went up.

Soon afterward, the cloud lifted a bit, long enough for me to snap this picture through the trees (and curse at our luck for not being on the peak during this moment):

We continued down, and soon Bob and Geri (bobandgeri) caught up with us, and soon after that Gwynna appeared. We all hiked the rest of the way down together, talking and having a good time. When we came to the stream crossings, I helped Alex too much (she really doesn't need my help anymore, but I can't help being an annoying hovering mother sometimes). Trying to help her across, I threw her off balance and into the stream. Luckily, her boots did not get wet past her ankles, so her feet stayed dry. After much (deserved) ribbing from Bob, we continued on our way.

We came across the great fallen tree again, and Alex took this picture:

And here we are, back at the trailhead, this time, with good company. Bob took the picture below -- Geri's on the left, then Gwynna above the sign, Alex of course below, and me on the right.

Alex then wanted to take a picture of us, so she did. There's Bob, Geri, Gwynna and myself.

It was a lovely hike. Thanks for the great company, bobandgeri and Gwynna!


  1. I love your blog. I think your daughter is pretty amazing. I am a homeschooler as well and have recently gotten back into hiking with my 5 year old son. My life was very different before kids and I am trying to gain a bit of my old life back. I would love to hear more about what you bring with you while hiking with a small child. So far we have been going on smaller mtns. here in Southern NH but next year we are looking towards working on HIS 4000 footer list. Hiking with a little one has a very different feel. I was wondering what other advice you would offer.

  2. Hi Jennifer, thanks for your nice comments!

    You asked what we bring with us. Alex carries a full change of warm clothes (layers), wrapped in plastic bags. She also carries a bunch of whistles in various locations, a "bivy" sack, gloves, hat, a family communication radio, and a headlamp. I carry extra clothes for myself. I also carry raingear for both of us, wool and fleece for both of us, a sleeping bag, a personal locator beacon (PLB), whistles, bear spray, extra shoes for both of us, "bivy" sack, an emergency blanket, first aid kit, blaze orange duct tupe, a water purifier, food, water, the other family communication radio, compass, map, pocket knives, and the White Mountain Guide. Yes, my pack weighs a ton and most people probably wouldn't carry everything that I do for a day hike. However, I like to be prepared for one or two nights out, just in case.

    As for advice...peruse the hiking blogs and hiking forums. Then get out there and start small. If you son gets really tired and relly doesn't want to continue, then just turn around. Leave very, very early and give yourselves plenty of time to do the hike.

    Let us know when you start your 4Ks and if you want company!


  3. Trish & Alex -

    What a great story writer you are, and an amazing pair. I wish my daughter enjoyed hiking as much as you do, Alex - you sure do have a lot of 'go' in you!

    Keep putting one foot in front of the other!


  4. I accidentally stumbled upon your blog and think it is fantastic that you are doing the 4000 footers with your daughter! What great memories you're creating for both you!

    I'm heading up to Eisenhower and Pierce this weekend. I only wish I was able to rebound as quickly as Alex!


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