There are few things in my life that bring as much inspiration as a trip to a mountain summit that offers a 360 degree view. Mount Garfield is one such mountain. Although there are many others in the Whites that I love just as well, in my mind this one has a lot of the things I look for. The route is a pleasant walk along easy grades through a nice mix of trees changing from beautiful hardwoods down below to a lovely mix of spruce and birch along the way, until at last the forest turns completely over to conifers as you gain the ridge and hike the last few switchbacks to the summit. To me there is only a short section of the hike, the last 2/10ths to the summit that could be considered anywhere near "strenuous", and that only because I have already hiked most of the 5 miles it takes to get there.
After the quick scramble to the top from the ledges just below one gets the full feeling of the vast beauty that stretches out in every direction. Probably the first thing I notice is the wonderful ridge to my southwest, Franconia Ridge, as it rises above even where I am standing and stretches out to my south. I have a clear view of each of the various bumps along its spine and I think about the times I have stood on each of them and gazed back to where I am standing now. Sometimes while I stood there I could see nothing except the fog that swirled around me and dampened my clothing, and other times, times like this, I could gaze out across the vastness of the forest below me and up to the peaks that rise around it. I like to name each peak in my mind and think about the times I have visited them.
To my south and below me rises the mass of Owls Head, maybe one of the more difficult of these peaks to reach. I think about the long trek from any direction it takes to reach it and I am glad that it is remote and that there is still wilderness that surrounds it. My soul needs to know that there are still places like this left in the tiny world of New England where I live. Then, the other side of me says, "What if we ran a zip-line from here to there! Wouldn't that be cool?" The duality of my thought process churns away as I gaze in another direction. Next I turn to the east looking for my beloved Mount Washington which I compare to my "Home away from home."
I can see just the top of his magnificent head peeking above North Twin. The cold temps of the night before brought rime to to his head so Old George appears as an old man should, crowned with a head of white. To his north are his brothers, Jefferson and Adams with similar attire. The crisp air and the distant rime covered peaks reminds me of the passing of time and that the changing of the seasons will not wait. Below me there are small patches of red and shades of yellow. Soon autumn will rule the mountains. To me, it is the best time to be there. The bugs are all but gone... The heat and humidity no longer drain me as I hike along the trail. The changing forest gives off wonderful light and everywhere there is color. There is nothing to compare!
I turn to look. My wife is surrounded by dogs. It seems her natural state. Emma suffers them to sniff her as all dogs must even though she doesn't feel the urge to sniff them back. Convinced that yes, indeed, this is another dog with her person, they bound off with the absolute joy a dog will find on a trail in the mountains. Off to find their people and maybe some treats for being such good dogs. I feel the same joy as they. I grasp at this beautiful interlude to an otherwise mundane existence. The chance to bound along the trails, to revel in the pure joy of being loose, unfettered, if even only for awhile. The gift of seeing the forest and hills laid out at my feet... I am thankful.