|Hiking Trail Conditions Report|
||Hawthorne Falls, Mt. Garfield, NH|
||Gale River Trail, bushwhack, Garfield Ridge Trail, herd path, Garfield Trail|
|Date of Hike:
||Friday, September 10, 2021|
|Parking/Access Road Notes:
||We met at Garfield Trail at 9:30am and spotted a car there. Plenty of room then. Between a half dozen and a dozen cars when we arrived there I believe. Room for probably a half dozen plus more regularly parked cars before it would begin to overflow. We drove to the Gale River trailhead where the lot was busier but there were still maybe a half dozen spots left. It’s also a larger lot and tends to be busy due to the hut. The road in is dirt but in good shape. |
||Dry Trail, Wet Trail, Wet/Slippery Rock, Standing/Running Water on Trail, Mud - Minor/Avoidable, Mud - Significant |
|Water Crossing Notes:
||Everything was readily rock hopable. |
|Trail Maintenance Notes:
||You’ll find a few very faded blue boxes on Gale a River Trail. White blazed on Garfield Ridge Trail are a bit more frequent. Both are well travelled and easy to follow, I believe Garfield Trail is blazed in blue and a bit more frequently at least down low than Gale River Trail. I don’t recall blowdowns on any of the actual trails. I will say that I think Garfield Trail can be hard to follow, especially for a beginner where it crosses what I believe is Spruce Brook. I think this is due to prior storm damage. You cross some water to a little island, then cross again I believe. But there’s herd paths other ways which could be confusing. |
||I guess it would depend on if you trust your dog on a bushwhack. They might have trouble with the steep mini-waterfall section on Garfield Ridge Trail. Gale River Trail and Garfield Trail by themselves are probably descent for dogs; they have descent access to water and don’t involve scrambling. |
|Lost and Found:
||Found a piece of plastic and my buddy picked it out between Hawthorne Falls and Garfield Ridge Trail; reassuring that we weren’t the first humans to ever be there 😂 ||
||Gale River Trail, bushwhack (abandoned southwest section of Gale River Trail), Garfield Ridge Trail, herd path, Garfield Trail|
My buddy had heard that Hawthorne Falls wasn’t too impressive unless there was a good volume of water so we decided to suck it the hell up and go the day after it rained AND would likely rain on us the day of as well. We suffered through delightful hypothermic conditions but the falls we saw were pretty :) Garfield was my 7th 4000 footer that counted for my grid this month out of 26 peaks needed.
We started up Gale River Trail at 9:48am. The trail was drier than we expected to start (yay!) but sometime probably around 10:30am is started to rain on us. Oh goody. Just in time for us to start our whack. We crossed to the north side of the river and started our whack. You felt like you were on a faint herd path/old trail to start. This continued on/off for quite a ways. Very easy navigating since the old trail just followed the brook here occasionally deciding whether to walk right alongside it or go up a little ways. We tried up for a bit near the beginning but soon came back down. The woods weren’t too bad. Before long we started to see some beautiful water features. Cascades, small waterwallfs, and smooth slab the water was running down. All delightful and I even proclaimed at one point that for once the woods weren’t what was slowing the bushwhack down but rather the scenery that was causing me to frequently stop and take photos.
We continued whacking alongside the brook through wet vegetation but never anything very thick to where the brook curves further west. According to old maps of the abandoned southwest section of Gale River Trail we were roughly following here, at the point where the brook curves away, the trail (which until this point followed the brook very closely), continues straight and makes a bee line to Hawthorne Falls which is where the brook curves back and is almost due south of where the brook originally curved away and the trail continued just west of south... or so I thought...
My version of Gaia shows Hawthorne Falls at roughly 3100ft and also right where the old map has it (as I just described above). Because Gaia and the old maps seemed to line up, I assumed this spot was correct and thought no more of it and thus planned on “following” the old trail at the point where the brook bends away to the left. We began to do this (although much lower than where the trail was we at least were not quite as close to the brook) but my friend said that he saw reports that Hawthorne Falls was not at 3100ft but actually around 2850ft. Oh boy. So we whacked back toward the brook and followed it again. We heard something louder so backtracked a short ways to right around 2850ft. Sure enough there were falls there but 1) it didn’t quite look like the photos I’ve seen of it, and 2) there was not really any evidence of humans there. In fact, it was perhaps the thickest woods we’d been in all day. So, happy to see a beautiful waterfall but not entirely convinced this was Hawthorne Falls, we continued whacking up to where I had it at around 3100ft.
If the first part of our whack went very smoothly and even went at a decent pace, the second half did not. It started raining again so we went from wet clothes and vegetation to sopping wet. Of course we were slowly gaining elevation too so it was getting colder. Assuming Hawthorne Falls was EITHER at the 2850ft point he’d heard it was at and which we were just at OR at the 3100ft point I had it at, we whacked up a ways, then contoured rather than continue following the brook where the woods didn’t seem so great for a bit. The walking wasn’t great higher up either but we eventually got to around 3100ft. No falls there. In fact, it was the flattest we’d seen the brook since leaving the trail! We walked down a few hundred feet but the brook was still very flat and we couldn’t hear anything that sounded like falls so we continued up as it started raining on us for the third time that day. We hoped to find it slightly further up but nothing. The brook again curves west and at that point we knew it wasn’t there so we started whacking up toward the col where Franconia Brook Trail intersects Garfield Ridge Trail. The question remains: were the falls we saw at 2850ft Hawthorne Falls or did we miss them somewhere in between 2850 and 3050? I’ve got some sources I’ve yet to reach out to that can hopefully provide an answer to guide further trips but if anyone has any input please don’t hesitate to email me :)
The whacking was in good woods and at a nice grade. We even found a piece of plastic haha. The ridge was a little hard to follow so we ended up a bit west of the col but who cares. Nice to be on trail again but man we’re we wet. Put on some dry layers and started up Garfield. There was standing/running water on the trail. The trail was actually pretty flat/gradual for a ways before coming to the dreaded steeps with the waterfall. We were a bit worried about what that waterfall might look like but it wasn’t too bad. Wet of course so had to exercise some caution but not a large volume of water flowing down it at all. Furthermore, we started running in to people. We made it to the summit which wasn’t ANYWHERE near as windy as predicted or as others told us it was (maybe we were there during a lull?) and then made our way down to the pond. Ran into many people and groups along this section who’d gone through some small hail earlier in Lafayette. Yikes!
We did the short redlining spur to the pond, saw no herdpath around the pond, so continued to where old maps showed the old trail connecting Garfield Trail to the pond and Garfield Ridge Trail to be. We stoped and looked around right where I think the old trail probably came in but it looked too steep so we went down a little further to where it was flatter in search of it. Looked nice and flat with good woods but soon turned very thick and we were going up. We even came close to some cliffs I think to our left that looked like the pond. We easily lost our bearing in here as we thought her could just contour but it felt like we could do anything but. We made our way through the nasty woods and I soon saw what seemed like an opening through the woods to an open area. I fought my way through and...voila! A fire ring! And what seemed like a faint herd path. We followed it but it seemed to dead end at another camping spot. Couldn’t find the herd path and were surrounded by thick woods. Again, easily loosing our direction. We fought through some thick stuff, soon practically reached the pond, and huzzah! Found a legit herd path that’s an extension of the one from Garfield Trail that I was trying to follow all along.
We followed that much more easily back to the trail, changed into dry clothes again, and made our way down. The trail was wet of course but no running water down it like on Garfield Ridge Trail. Weird to see so many groups on a sucky day on the ridge headed to Garfield tent site or Galehead Hur and yet no day hikers coming down Garfield Trail. We were late in the day though. The trip down was uneventful and we even dried out some. Reached the car around 6:30-6:45pm I believe for a nearly 9hr hike.
||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.