Saturday, December 10, 2016

The 100 Anniversary of the Garfield Ridge Trail, September 1916-2016, Pt. 1

 The 100th Anniversary of the Garfield Ridge Trail, September 1916--2016, Pt. 1.

       Afternoon hikers on top of South Twin with Mt. Garfield lower and to the right and Lafayette in the distance.
In September 1916, as summer was winding down on the high peaks of New Hampshire, a group of men, five in all, were packing up their trail-building tools and their camping utensils as they prepared to leave their idyllic campsite on Garfield Pond in the shadow of 4550 foot-high Mt. Garfield. They had been in residence at the pond for a week while they immersed themselves in making a hiking trail across Garfield Ridge. It was far from being an easy task. Nothing about it had been easy. That's mainly because nowhere on the ridge was the altitude under 3500 feet and in that sub-alpine environment the weather was not kind to vegetation. It tended to create a thick, gnarled offering of short conifers like balsam fir. It was nearly impossible to see through the trees let alone build a trail through them. The forest consisted mostly of balsam firs, but with some spruce and a few yellow birches. Mostly because of  the high altitude the forest was relegated to an average height of 9 or 10 feet. But they had done it! In three stints spread out over three summers, between 3 and 4 weeks total, they'd cut a trail from the summit of South Twin (4902 feet asl.) to the top of Mt. Lafayette (5260 feet asl). Now, as they prepared to leave, they had mixed feelings, or some did. A hot shower, a good meal and a chance to sleep in a real bed would be great, but on the other hand, they'd taken a liking to Mt. Garfield and their camping spot next to Garfield Pond. In those days, Mt. Garfield and Garfield Pond were rarely visited. It was secluded and at a fairly high elevation. At least one of the crew had fallen in love with the place.

Mt. Garfield in the center, Garfield Ridge extending from South Twin  
all the way to the left foreground, North and South Twin hiding some
of Mt. Washington over on the far horizon. Charles like to call Garfield
"The Lump" and you can see why in this photo. A big Hershey's kiss.

When the crew began working on the trail in August, 1914, each of them was confident it
would be completed in one stint of a couple of weeks. The crew consisted of  Charles Blood, Nathaniel, "Nat", Goodrich, Ed Lorenz, and George W. Blaney. They were in their late 20s and seasoned woodsman. They were, however, still learning about trail building. They got a long well together which was a plus as they were out on their own a lot. They also trusted each other to do their best work. They loved the ruggedness of the work finding it both challenging and rewarding. Working in the high mountains of New Hampshire was difficult to describe for it's beauty but a reward in itself. Finally, the fact they were making trails, often challenging trails, for trampers that were going to ramble over the mountains and enjoy their beauty first hand made the crew feel usefulIt would never embarrass any of them to demonstrate how much they loved the mountains; in foul or fair weather.

Winter photo of Mt. Garfield taken from summit of Mt. Lafayette in 2015.
The first year, 1914, they camped along Hawthorne Brook near a beautiful cascade that dropped down about 100 feet across ledges. They pitched tents in a grove of tall, lovely  spruce trees that loggers had mysteriously left uncut As soon as Nat, Charles, Ed and George got their tents up and partially settled at their campsite it began to pour. It was a freezing cold rain and persisted for three days. On the fourth day it was clear, a perfect mountain day, but rain had become ice that coated everything, even mountain cranberries, with a veneer of ice.

A topographical map of area around Mt. Garfield and Garfield
Ridge that can be used to better understand several parts of 
the narrative. For instance try finding Hawthorne Fall on the
side of Mt. Garfield, and Garfield Pond. By the way Hawthorne 
Fall is named for the famous author: Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Over those three days the rain and cold drained their enthusiasm, at least for getting much of anything done on Garfield Ridge. The rain was a reminder that summer was ending. They would not be getting anything done in 1915. Just looking at the scale of the work they had bitten off for themselves made them feel tired. It was going to require a lot of effort and a lot of dedication. Just the first mile going east to west down South Twin would be hellishly steep. The east side of Garfield was also steep with dense forest cover that would make route finding difficult. The plan had been to start blazing a rough trail down the west side of South Twin all the way down to the ridge. The ridge, so they thought, would be fairly level on the trip across, but finding a route up Garfield would be another trial. Finally there was the dense fir cap on the ridge going up Lafayette to timberline. On the map you can see why people refer to the ridge as a horseshoe because it curved in an arc from Franconia Ridge to South Twin. It's a high ridge. No were is it below 3500 feet. The Twins, with summits nearly 5000 feet high were a range in themselves; there flanks heavily wooded to just below the summits. The summit of South Twin is a delight. On a clear day you can see the entire range (the White Mountain National Forest) and on rare occasions it feels like you can see the Eiffel Tower.  

There are some other summits to the south of South Twin: Mt. Guyot (pronounced Ghee-Ooo not Guy-Ot) and Mt. Bond. Bond, with its sister summit of West Bond, is also a beautiful mountain. I think of it as the center of the White Mountain National Forest. One hundred years ago (late 1800s and early 1900s), these mountains: the Twins, Guyot and Bond, did not have either good or safe paths on them, but hikers navigated around and over those peaks anyway. I've bushwhacked over and around them as well and agree it must have been a great adventure back in the 1800s to explore all the peaks and valley before the lumber men moved in. Across the valley on the west side of the Twins and Bonds, is Franconia Ridge. Like the Twins and Bonds it's breath taking, a gorgeous group of summits along a prominent ridge crowned by Lafayette almost a mile high.  
The summit of Mt. Lafayette on a beautiful day. North is straight ahead

 The Black and White photo below is looking South from Mt. Lincoln to the Knife Edge, Little Haystack, Mt. Liberty and Mt. Flume. Little Haystack because Mt. Lafayette was once called Haystack.
Sunset on Franconia Ridge October 1976.

Looking North up the Franconia Ridge at Liberty, Haystack, Lincoln and Lafayette.

This is a reminiscence written by Charles Blood published in the December 1936 Appalachia (pg. 280), as part of the Twentieth Anniversary celebration of the completion of the Garfield Ridge Trail:

"The idea began at Waterville as has been the case with many of our trail ideas. From Osceola we had often looked north at the cone of Garfield lying between the Franconia and Twin Ranges. When we began to take trips out of the valley—we went on foot in those pre-auto days—the Twins and Franconias were the first peaks we climbed, and again we saw the great “Horseshoe" curve, and extention of the Garfield Ridge, Lafayette and South Twin. Finally the Goodriches and George Blaney traversed the ridge from Lafayette to Garfield and learned how vile the going was on the “big lump”.

Another view, perhaps the best, of "The Lump", or Mt. Garfield, is in the center rear.
Mt. Lincoln is on the left. Taken from Mt. Liberty.   
"With this as a background it was natural that our thoughts turned to this region in 1914 when I became Councillor of Trails. Here was a high ridge with a fine peak in the center, connecting two ridges along which the club already had trails. The idea of a series of connecting ridge trails maintained by the club across the mountains was beginning to take shape.

"We were at once faced with the problem of where to start work. The two ends were impossible camp sites and would also involve transporting camping equipment and supplies to needless elevations. Letters written on this subject in the spring of 1914 make amusing reading in the light of our present knowledge.

"A study of logging roads, however, simplified matters and on Labor Day, 1914, while the Battle of the Marne was raging, Ed Lorenz, Hubert Goodrich, Fred Crawford, and I packed into Hawthorne Fall and pitched camp in a small patch of green forest that had escaped the lumberman. We had the week at our disposal and had wonderful visions of what we should accomplish. But we had hardly made camp when the clouds settled down and it rained steadily for three days. Prospecting was useless and hopeless without views. However, we made a wonderful stone fireplace and Ed constructed a bench, using only three nails.

"Friday opened clear and cold. We found our way up Garfield by surveyors’ lines which Paul Jenks had previously prospected--Paul was always doing the dirty work for me--and strung out our trail down to the col in the east. The next day we pushed along the crest of the ridge, by the edge of the big burn over halfway to what is now Galehead, but we had begun to see the magnitude of or task and as Fred and I had to leave, Hubert and Ed merely made a recognizance to South Twin.

"In 1915, Paul R. Jenks, Nat Goodrich, Ed Lorenz, and George Blaney and I went into Hawthorne Fall again, expecting to finish the job. This time we ran the trail east to the foot of the cone of South Twin, where there was a surveyor’s line, and left it for the local woodsman to clear. To the west we cleared to Garfield Pond, but a hectic day prospecting to Lafayette proved that it was out of the question to complete the trail in that direction from our base at Hawthorne Fall.

Garfield on the left and the Twins to the right. South Twin has shadow on its summit. Mt. Washington far right.
"A rainy day, however, provided the opportunity for a game of “freeze out” with flapjacks. In this game as each cake (fry pan size) is fried it is divided equally between the participants. When a man reaches his capacity and drops out the portion becomes correspondingly larger. To hasten matters, Ed had the bright idea of seasoning the cakes with cinnamon and finally, as we were running low on flour, he lengthened out the batter by adding uncooked malt breakfast food. Paul and Ed were the “survivors” of the contest, but I have forgotten which of them won.

"In 1916, Paul, Nat, George, and I established camp at Garfield Pond, determined to stay until the job was completed. One of the major problems was to work out a satisfactory route over the “big lump”. I believe Nat crawled twelve times through one particularly bad stretch before he found a line that suited him. Indeed, I’m not sure that he was satisfied then, but he had got tired of being a rabbit. The story of that camp, however--with such liberties as to fact as the writers of historical novels usually take—has been preserved by Nat in his characteristic sketch, 'The Attraction and Rewards of Trail Making.'(which is published below in Part II.)

"During those three years I doubt whether any of us dreamed of this trail becoming part of a through route from Katahdin to Oglethorpe. We were concerned with a trail which seemed to us worth while in itself.'" (from Appalachia December 1936, pg. 280). [Ed: This last statement is interesting because it was at the first New England Trails Conference that the concept of an Appalachian Trail similar in context as the AT of today was brought up--November 1916. Charles was in attendance.

The summer of 1915, was not a lot different from the summer of 1914. The crew had a change up which consisted of Paul Jenks, Ed Lorenz, George Blaney, Charles Blood and Nat, and, as Charles wrote in the reminiscence above, they went back to Hawthorne Fall to camp though logistically in increased problems with their work. It was a difficult place to get out of time wise. Each day they had to go up to the ridge then hike west past Garfield feeling like the extra long haul was a waste of time. The best thing that happened the second summer was Garfield Pond. As they were cutting their way down the gentler side of Garfield one of them saw sunlight glistening from the water. It was an ideal place to camp and base their work. They were not sure how much work the ridge was going to be after they worked past Garfield. On the next to last day they received a practical demonstration of how far when three burly men with big packs came by saying it had taken them 7-8 hours to get there from the summit of Lafayette. It wasn't good news. On the last day they tried to string a route to Lafayette and perhaps put up markers such as some cairns on the ledges below the summit of Lafayette. Charles later wrote that running it was too hectic and it was clear they would have to come back again to finish the trail.

So in the middle of September 1916 the crew finally put the last cairn on top of Lafayette with sighs of relief--a wonderful sense of accomplishment and reminder of their great love for their work. Nat's lovely essay: "The Attraction and Rewards of Trail Making" (Appalachia, June 1918) printed here, says it much better than I or anyone could. It speaks to what it is like, the pleasures of a trail crew that works well together, a certain level of rhythm, has a sixth sense for what each is doing and thinking. This crew was not like other crews just by its makeup. They arrived from academia, from libraries and schools and law offices. They were held by similar traditions and felt the same bonds with each other and with the mountains that surrounded them.  They enjoyed the work, the camaraderie, the enormous freedom and independence they had, the physical challenges, but as much or more they enjoyed figuring it all out, interweaving knowledge with practice. Garfield Ridge was proof to them of what they were capable of. Preparing to leave Garfield Pond the next morning for the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail, they were still mulling over their definition of what they, in the wake of finishing the Garfield Ridge Trail would accept as a Standardized Trail. This is how Nat wrote it down:

 "A trail is marked when its route has been made plain by blazes, cairns, markers, target or arrow.

"A trail is signed when its ends, junctions, and crossings have been marked by lettered signs.

"A trail is cleared when it has been made so passable by removal of growth of all sorts that a tramper with pack and horizontal blanket roll, proceeding steadily, upright, will encounter no obstructions with any part of himself or his pack, and will be able to see the footing a few steps ahead.

 "A standard trail is one which has been cleared, marked and signed according to the above definitions" (New England Trail Conference Publications Nos. 6 and 19.)

Later, Paul Jenks would add this postscript to Nat's  definition:

"During those early years, the standards of trail-clearing  were extremely vague and the definition of a standard trail by Nat Goodrich did more than any other single influence to produce better amateur trails in New England. The work of the trail crew became more systematic. The trail master began to keep  a record of the condition of each trail and of the character and man-days of work probably required for next season. Clearing was divided into two categories: patrol (repeated each year on every trail) to cut cross-logs and make the route clear; and standardization (about once every three or four seasons) to eliminate small growth that had sprung up in the trail or grown in from the sides." Jenks, Paul, Twenty Five Years of the A.M.C. Trail Crew" Appalachia, December 1943, p. 441.

Franconia Ridge from Mt. Guyot. Mt. Lafayette with cloud cap.

Paul was defining both the task and what was needed to complete it--to set a standard that all trail designers and builders could use that would make linking trails easier and a "trail system" possible. Completing the Garfield Ridge Trail the trail crew was improving knowledge, skills, and openly looking for places where "connector" trails  might be helpful in terms of linking other trails with each other or with the long "trunk" lines as the first step in building the broader more functional "trail system".  It would complete paths of accessibility as both Charles and Paul mentioned before: how the Garfield Ridge Trail will facilitate a connection that will create other connections and so on. By standardizing all existing trails which included documenting trails for top efficiency they were saving a huge amount of time and, for the moment, some money. They hoped that the savings would increase from year to year.

Paul took over this department feeling it was his responsibility to write everything down the way he did with the signs. It all went hand in hand. Eventually, within a year, or two, he would be able to keep track of each trail within categories and on a mile to mile basis. His goal was to have an index card kept in a box with basic information about each trail such as which ones were standardized, when they were last standardized, and which ones were not, and which ones needed standardization this year or next. The documentation included all signs which, to everyone's amazement, increased each year. Paul estimated that the number of signs increased to around 5,000 that he had data on: where it was located, when it needed fresh paint, etc.

The concept was that standardized trails would allow them to link easily to other trail systems, even their own. The A.M.C. and the crews from other clubs across the region saw a valuable use in the conference for "trading" trails and they began doing so almost like children with baseball cards. For instance the A.M.C. traded Moat mountain in North Conway to a local group that wanted it. They gave the RMC (Randolph Mountain Club) back the Upper Bruin in exchange for trails around Arethusa Falls and Ethan Pond that could conceivably connect trails in the Pemi with Webster Cliffs Trails and the Forest Service's trails on Mt. Washington. The purpose of these trades was consolidation; to cut down the inefficiency in distance and travel time: to save money--the largest issues for the trail crew was being creative financing their work on a shoe string.

Work they'd completed the previous season including the work on the Garfield Ridge Trail put the A.M.C. trail crew in a position to say they were close to having a through trail from Gorham,  to Lost River and Mt. Moosilaukee. In 1916 a lot of ground was gained on the Kinsman Ridge Trail with the work of Karl Harrington with a lot of help from some Dartmouth College students who Nat was able to secure for the summer. In addition to Kinsman Ridge there was a drive underway to complete the Mahoosuc Range Trail by the next season.  (Ed. They were actually three seasons away from finishing the Mahoosuc Range Trail due to shortage of workers caused by the War in Europe.  The drive to link trails was personal for Charles, Nat and Paul. It was not, according to Charles, so much about a drive to make an Appalachian Trail as it was to untangle the existing system and organize it as well as they could. They were dedicated, decisive, creative, lovers of woods and mountains, and you could add perfectionists as well. 

The Conference for Charles, Paul and Nat, was exciting. It gave a glimpse of how much support there was in the New England for building sustainable trails in the region. Everyone who attended felt it was a success. They went to work addressing ideas that had been brought up by first formalizing the attendance list. The attendees worked on definitions, clarification and objectives towards the future of the conference. A lot of time was spent discussing trail designing and standardizing and maintenance. Some were looking at Paul's suggestion regarding the development of hiking "centres"(sic), in which each one would belong to a group and that group would make and maintain their own trails that would eventually link to other centers where feasible. This idea of linking up with other organization's systems that Paul had described generated interest from the group. Discussions about an "Appalachian Trail" as a concept that might become a reality at some  point in the not to distant future and that might develop using the "centers" that Paul described. Members of the A.M.C. Trail Crew, again, articulated their hopes, as mentioned above, of finishing the Mahoosuc Range Trail in the coming season that would add a large link to the concept of a much longer trail. Forever practical, Paul saw the idea of the Appalachian Trail's becoming a reality from the perspective of money and the cost of such a long trail. By the end of the conference, however, Paul said he was pleased to see the concept of an "Appalachian Trail" motivating the other hiking clubs and trail associations attending the conference to hear them being to think about their own trails as part of a larger system. Paul was also beginning to look at the political strength of an"Appalachian Trail". After dinner Nat read his "The Attraction and Rewards of Trail Making" to a roaring round of applause. Paul was elected Director of New England Trail Conference (NETC). The first official business was to create by-laws stipulating a conference every year to be held by rotating host states. 

[Ed note: Nat's wonderful creation, "The Attractions and Rewards of Trail Making", is like the Garfield Ridge Trail itself. It has been around for 100 years as of this month (I'm writing this in mid-September). It's extraordinary. For anyone who loves the mountains it is a work of great beauty every bit as evocative as an essay by Emerson, Thoreau, Muir, Sally Carrighar, Rachel Carson, plus many others a lot of whom have never been published.. I hope you enjoy it.]