September 23, 2012.
Out of the house at 6:30 AM for this return to Garfield to do a section of Garfield Ridge Trail hence the Part 1 in the title. This section will cover between the Garfield Trail and the Gale River Trail and a later date to complete the other section between Lafayette and Garfield. A lot has been said about this section of trail being notorious for its ups and downs so it will be interesting to find out for myself.
I arrive at the trailhead and in no time I am on the trail at 8:30. The sky is overcast and the cloud deck is low so views are not looking promising. The beginning of the trail is littered with the remains of Irene from last year and this year I remember to take a few pictures of the destructive force of mother nature.
The Garfield Trail is probably one of the nicest walks in the woods as it is not too steep and towards the top there are plenty of switchbacks (unusual for the Whites) to break up the elevation gain. It is not long before I run into other hikers who overnighted it as they are coming down the trail fully packed and the smell of smoke as they pass me. Up the trail I continue and within a couple hours I have reached the clouds and shortly after the junction with Garfield Ridge Trail.
The clouds show no intention of lifting so rather than continue up the short distance to the summit of Garfield I stick with my mission and turn left onto Garfield Ridge Trail.
It is a rocky and steep climb down to the intersection of the spur for the Garfield Campsite.
Walking along the spur and I reach an outlook and damn if the clouds are trying to lift. But there is no way I am turning around to head back up to the summit through that steep section. My hiking legs are not yet there after taking two months off and this is only the third time out since then. Just have to stay focused for the goal is to hike this section of the ridge. A few pictures and I arrive at Garfield Ridge Shelter and no one is home today.
Heading back on the spur and another stop for some views and I can see all the way across the Pemi Wilderness to the Bonds and North Hancock. Still not going to turn around to head back up to the summit of Garfield.
Back at the junction with Garfield Ridge Trail and I start heading down the trail and shortly reach one of the hairiest sections of the Appalachian Trail yet. It is steep, bouldery and wet from the stream that runs down it. I look down it and wonder how the heck thru hikers with loaded backs like this section of trail. I wonder how I am going to fair in two years myself coming thru this wicked section.
It seems unrelenting but I slowly pick and choose my way down until it starts to let up before I reach the intersection with Franconia Brook Trail. This short section is a great respite and it isn't much longer that I reach another spot where there are some great views. A look back at Garfield and a peek at Lafayette.
A clear shot across the Pemi Wilderness at the Osceolas and the Tripyramids.
Less than ten minutes later and another view point Of South Twin with Galehead and a shot of the Twinway Trail heading up to South Twin.
All in all this is turning out to be a great day. Other than that one challenging section this trail is quite enjoyable with the unexpected and surprising views (thanks to the skies clearing). The ups and downs that everyone complains about do not even bother me. The trail has a little bit of everything to offer, from the steeps, to the flats and the boulders.
A little after 1:00 and I reach the junction with Gale River Trail and am reminded of the last time I was on this trail it was -19° out and covered in snow. I stop at the junction next to a big boulder and have some snacks before I head down the trail. It is a quick trip down the 4.2 mile trail and going through the new rerouted section I am glad I was here during the winter. This part of the trail still needs some work as it is quite muddy. two hours after starting on this trail and I am at the trailhead and it is time for the road walk back to the car. Another quick 35 minute walk to cover the 2 mile walk to the car and it is time to head home.
Final numbers: 13.3 miles, 7 hours and 5 minutes.