Last weekend an overnight backpack trip with a friend was cancelled due to thunderstorms and lightning. So I was anxious to get out as soon as I could, weather permitting. It looked like Wednesday into Thursday (July 4th!) were going to be clear. I had the 4th off, so I figured I’d take off Wednesday and make up the trip. This time I’d be solo, since my friend had other plans. Being July 4th, I had to pick my plans wisely as people joke about the conga line on certain trails in the White Mountains on summer holidays. I also didn’t want anything overly strenuous. I chose Garfield. It’s a long trail (10 miles round trip) that I’ve planned all along as an overnight since I hike slow and likely can’t do 10 miles in a single day. There’s also a tentsite very near the summit. Just like that, I had new plans.
Now the Garfield Trail is long, but not terribly “difficult” (these things are, of course, all relative) as far as the White Mountains go. I stepped onto the trail about 10:30 in the morning. If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know New Hampshire is filled with rocks. The trails are rocks and roots, with little actual dirt to be found (unless it’s mud). The first two miles were bliss. BLISS. A dirt path, frequently LEVEL, cut through the trees. Pine needles littered the forest floor and the trail. Birds were singing. I felt like Snow Freaking White. It was amazing. I also chose well ascending the day before the holiday, I only saw a handful of people. Just enough to not wonder if I was on the wrong trail.
There were some brook crossings. Again, these were perfect with perfectly placed rocks for stepping across without fear of dunking yourself. All in all, a delightful trail.
Then the rocks start to creep in.
Also. I had to pee. I pretty much had to pee at the trailhead, but there was a group standing around, so I figured I’d pee later. Then as I hiked, the feeling went away. Only now it was back and pretty urgent.
And here is where I say, if you’re a single guy and at all romantically interested in me, PLEASE SKIP THIS PART. If you’re squeamish, don’t read this part. If you don’t want to read lady bits and how they relate to peeing, PLEASE MOVE ON to “RESUME HERE”.
I’m female, in case you haven’t guessed. And peeing in the woods just isn’t as simple for lady parts as it is for people with penises. There are lots of products on the market to assist. Basically plastic or silicone tubes mimicking a penis. And they’re all shit. Here comes the TMI bit. The way too graphic bit. If you’re squeamish, move on. Seriously. So. Lady parts. Basically, when you try to stand and pee with a tube like fake penis thing, the labia (I warmed you) form a tunnel (unlike sitting on a toilet, this doesn’t happen on a toilet). And pee can either go out the front of that tunnel, the desired effect when using one of these devices. Or out the back of the tunnel. Onto your pants. That you didn’t pull down because you thought you’d be peeing like a dude. So yeah. I pissed all over my pants. About an hour into my hike. And here’s the really fun part. I had to pee so bad, but I pissed all over myself so I apparently didn’t finish. But I didn’t know I didn’t finish. And I kept hiking. And I had a big wet stain on my pants. I wet down the rest of my leg with water so it was less (more?) obvious. But I noticed the stain would get lighter as it dried, and then get dark again. Because I still had to pee! And was in fact peeing as I walked. What the holy hell. I gave the dumb device another try and pissed all over myself again. AGAIN! Finally, I said fuck it, and dropped my pants and squatted the way nature intended and guess what? I peed. On the ground. Like a normal hiker. And not on my pants. Go figure. So anyway I spent the rest of the hike terrified I either looked like I pissed myself or smelled like I pissed myself, or worst of all, both. (I would later hang my pants on my tarp ridgeline to dry and they didn’t smell). Fun fact, even once I stopped peeing my pants, I was sweating so much it LOOKED like I had.
Next up, the switchbacks which weren’t awesome, but weren’t terrible. It was a rather hot and humid day, though. Which was starting to get to me. THEN, I saw someone coming down the trail, who said the inevitable. The three most hated words in hiking, “you’re almost there”. I guarantee you, I was NOT almost there. But this person gave me hope, in a terrible way. I kept thinking every turn in the trail would be the junction, but it wasn’t. I wasn’t almost there. It was FOREVER away. Then I was finally at the junction which was supposedly JUST 0.2 miles to the campsite. Except it was 0.2 miles straight down really steep granite blocks and rocks and horrible to navigate. I had to watch my footing, and even butt scoot down a few of the blocks. I had planned to drop my stuff and “slackpack” up to Garfield and come back to the tent site, but screw that. No way I was going up that, back down it to tentsite and back up it again to leave.
So I finally got to the Garfield Ridge Campsite. Paid for my spot and set up my hammock. I’d made a few changes to my gear, so was excited to test them out. I had a much better time setting up, though I still need to practice. The trees were on uneven ground and I had to adjust a few times to get it all right.
It was still fairly early in the day, so I relaxed a bit in my hammock. Eventually I had two “roommates” on the tentpad. After a bit we all went over to the “kitchen area” to make dinner. Basically, at the AMC tent sites, there is a designated area for cooking with a tarp for rain, and a bear box to keep your food in overnight, all to avoid attracting bears to the area. I met a few people doing the Pemi loop while I ate my dinner.
Went back, laid my hammock (the bugs were pretty terrible, so nearly everyone retreated to their own shelters). I had a flask of scotch and ear plugs. I had some scotch and skipped on the ear plugs, though I wish I had used them at some points. One of the people on the tent pad had an inflatable air mattress and I heard her EVERY SINGLE TIME she moved. I nicknamed her Squeaky. In my head, of course.
The next morning, I awoke when my tent pad mates began packing up. I wasn’t feeling breakfast, so I packed up and headed back up the horrible steep, rocky 0.2 to the junction. Then up another 0.2 to the spur “trail” to the summit of Garfield. It was a nice summit, and a lovely day. Wide open, but not a scary drop off. Foundation of (I believe) an old cabin) at the summit. I took some pics, drank some water, took some ibuprofin (I had started to get a migraine), ate some shortbread (breakfast of champions!). It was really buggy at the summit, so I began my descent.
The descent was largely uneventful.
One fun thing about this hike, was that my two hiking friends were with me, even though they weren’t actually there. Every time I slipped and my poles saved me, I heard Jaimee in her upbeat and happy voice, “Thank you, poles!”. Whenever I needed a water break, I looked for a “Dawn Rock”. Dawn sometimes gets ahead of me, and I’ll come upon her on the trail, sitting on a perfectly chair-sized rock. So we named them “Dawn Rocks”.
The stats for this one got screwed up as my trail recording dropped at some point the second day, so best I can tell:
5-ish hours (I forgot to shut it off when I got to the tentsite)
2,676 feet ascended
4:11 (based on my start and when I texted my friend I was safe at the car)
595 feet ascended
A frog, what I call “pancake mushrooms” (because they look like pancakes), and some more little flowers.