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Thread: Exploring logging roads around the Gale River Loop

  1. #1
    Senior Member Mohamed Ellozy's Avatar
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    Exploring logging roads around the Gale River Loop

    Over the years I had often wondered where the old snowmobile trail that crosses the Mt. Garfield Trail went. Logging roads often reach a dead end, but snowmobile trails are almost always interconected. Since it does not cross the Gale River Trail it seemed obvious that it had to reach the Gale River Loop somewhere between the Garfield and Galehead trailheads.

    Yesterday I was in the mood for a long "walk in the woods", without much elevation gain. So I decided to explore that trail.

    I parked at the Beaver Brook area, and took the XC ski trail, as I wanted to see where the snowmobile trail might reach the Gale River Loop. I found two potential exits. The first, located about 0.7 miles beyond the Gale River trailhead, was a very overgrown trail, marked "NH Heritage Trail". The other, about 0.2 miles further west, was a gated logging road that had clearly seen fairly recent usage. I marked their positions on my GPSr and continued; there were no other potential candidates.

    I followed the Mount Garfield Trail, went over the first two stream crossings, and reached the snowmobile trail. The first part of it went more or less east, more or less following the contour. Initially it looked like a logging road that has been abandoned for a moderate length of time; clearly there was a bit of growth and a quite a few fallen branches had accumulated, but it was in much better shape than the NH Heritage Trail I had seen earlier. After a short distance a clearly much newer logging road went uphill (south), while the old trail, now much more overgrown, seemed to continue on the contour.

    I chose to follow the newer logging road south, and it very soon reached a logging yard, from where it continued eastwards. After some time it reached a second logging yard, and made a right angled turn to descend (going north). My GPSr showed that we were heading straight for the gate that I had seen on the Gale River Loop, and indeed that is where it led.

    Heading back to my car I again saw the sign for the NH Heritage Trail (I had forgotten all about it during my exploration). Suffice it to say that someone with experience in following old logging roads would have little difficulty in following it, but that it is not obvious to those who expect well marked trails!

    I have described the new logging road in some detail as it is very obvious, and may be of interest to those attempting a ski ascent of Mount Garfield as it avoids the first 0.7 miles of the trail, over the narrow ridge. The NH Heritage Trail is only of interest to these seeking something to explore, and saying what I found would spoil their fun. Dave Metsky's Thoughts on the Web essay may help you understand why I do not write more about it.

    All in all a fun day in the woods.

  2. #2
    Banned Kevin Rooney's Avatar
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    Mohammed -

    FWIW - have seen other locations in NH marked with Heritage Trail signs. The State of NH has an official web page.

  3. #3
    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Mohamed,

    I did something very similar a couple of weeks ago.

    Based upon the reports of a foot of new snow, I headed up to ski Garfield. Parked at the winter Garfield Tr parking lot just off Rte 3 and skied to the Garfield Tr trailhead and up to just beyond the snowmobile trail crossing near the stream crossings. Decided that there wasn't enough snow (1 foot was compressing down to 1 or 2 inches with no base...) and returned to junction with the snowmobile trail. (The trail was not being used--the snowmobiles were using the Gale River Loop Rd this year.)

    I skied the snowmobile trail west--after a bit it swung south (toward Franconia Notch) and eventually reached a missing bridge over the South Branch of the Gale River. (There were fresh warning signs for the snowmobilers.) There was a NH Heritage Trail sign ~2/3 of the way to the missing bridge. This entire section (~1mi) was wide, well marked, and in very good shape with only a few blowdowns.

    Skied back and tried the snowmobile trail to the east. This section was not in as good shape as the west section, but was adequately marked and easy to follow. Had some short ups and downs and more blowdowns--the general heading was NE staying at a relatively constant altitude. After 1/2 mi or so, I reached a spot where the (much smaller) trail was marked as dead-ahead (E or NE), but there was a much wider trail heading south (uphill) to a large clearing in 100ft or so. A wide trail exited the clearing on the east side. Went back to the marked trail and followed it for a short bit before turning around. Skipped the ridge section beyond the stream crossings and followed the old trail back to the Gale River Loop Rd and my car.

    Actually for skiers, the easiest route is probably the old start to the Garfield trail if there is enough snow at the start (the old logging road along the river is rather soggy) and the crossing of the South Branch of the Gale river is adequately bridged. Easy to follow, but there are a few annoying blowdowns. (The new start is probably better for hikers.)

    After I got back home, I searched the web for info. Found Kevin's page on the NH Heritage trails, but nothing on the actual routes in the area. There were references to commercial snowmobile maps that might show the route.

    IIRC, there is also a section of the Heritage trail that crosses the Skookumchuck trail fairly low down. I was there in summer--presumably it is used by snowmobiles in winter.

    FWIW, I recorded a GPS track of my explorations...

    Doug
    Last edited by DougPaul; 03-24-2006 at 02:27 PM.

  4. #4
    Banned Kevin Rooney's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DougPaul
    IIRC, there is also a section of the Heritage trail that crosses the Skookumchuck trail fairly low down. I was there in summer--presumably it is used by snowmobiles in winter.
    Doug
    Yup, correct on both counts. After an good snow year, you can see the effects of the snowmobile treads on the wooden bridges in this area. Am not a snowmobiler, so don't know why the Heritage sees lots of use in the Franconia Notch area, and very little a few miles north around Garfield.

  5. #5
    Senior Member MichaelJ's Avatar
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    This 2003 map shows many of the official snowmobile routes through the Twin Mountain area. They're no secret; the newest maps are available at any of the gas stations in town.
    May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. - Edward Abbey

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    Senior Member RoySwkr's Avatar
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    Turning R on the snowmobile trail was already described here http://hikenh.netfirms.com/TDGarfMt.htm , now I want to know what happens if you go L.

    I actually used that route for a late return on a G-gr-gr-G loop a couple years ago. I nearly got out my light walking down the Garfield Trail, but once I turned on the snowmobile trail there was enough skyglow I didn't need it. It also saved close to a mile of walking.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Mohamed Ellozy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RoySwkr
    I actually used that route for a late return on a G-gr-gr-G loop a couple years ago.
    Hmm ... That trip report may well be what changed my feeling that "it would be nice to explore that snowmobile trail one day" to "I want to explore that snowmobile trail reasonably soon".

    "Reasonably soon" turned out to be a couple of years later, but even us retired folks only have a finite amount of time to allocate to various priorities

  8. #8
    Senior Member Mohamed Ellozy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RoySwkr
    Turning R on the snowmobile trail was already described here http://hikenh.netfirms.com/TDGarfMt.htm , now I want to know what happens if you go L.
    I think DougPaul gives part of the answer:
    Quote Originally Posted by DougPaul
    I skied the snowmobile trail west--after a bit it swung south (toward Franconia Notch) and eventually reached a missing bridge over the South Branch of the Gale River.
    My guess is that this continues to the Corridor 11 snowmobile trail, which is probably the snowmobile trail that intersects the Skook. That obviously means that, modulo the stream crossing, it is possible to do an interesting Skook -> Garfield Ridge -> Mt Garfield trail -> snowmobile trail -> Skook loop. Definitely worth exploring at a time when streams are low (or snow bridges are solid).

  9. #9
    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mohamed Ellozy
    I think DougPaul gives part of the answer:My guess is that this continues to the Corridor 11 snowmobile trail, which is probably the snowmobile trail that intersects the Skook. That obviously means that, modulo the stream crossing, it is possible to do an interesting Skook -> Garfield Ridge -> Mt Garfield trail -> snowmobile trail -> Skook loop. Definitely worth exploring at a time when streams are low (or snow bridges are solid).
    IMO, it almost certainly connects to the snowmobile trail that crosses the Skook.

    The stream at the missing bridge was almost certainly crossable, but it was about 10 steep feet down and up the other side. Or I most likely could have found a spot up or downstream. But I was solo and it was as good a spot as any to turn around. The bridge is here:
    http://www.topozone.com/map.asp?latd...atum=NAD83&u=7

    Doug

  10. #10
    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Was just looking at an aerial photo of the area:
    http://terraserver-usa.com/image.asp...181&Y=3061&W=2

    The Garfield Tr summer trailhead is just below the word "North". Looks like the old trail can be seen heading S from the right-angle bend in the road and the summer parking lot is the white blob just across the river to the east.

    The Gale River Loop Rd runs across the top of the page and the snowmobile trail probably follows the reversed "L" shaped road "hanging" on the south side of the GRLR. The bottom tip of this "L" points at the stream junction where the snowmobile path crosses the Garfield Tr. (The white blob at this tip is probably the large open area that I found, but did not pass through. I did see the road heading east from the opening.)

    Don't see any evidence of the snowmobile trail to the west of the trail. According to my GPS track, it goes just slightly S of west (toward the Bethlehem Resovoir) until it gets near the S Gale River and then turns S parallelling the river for ~.5mi to the crossing with the missing bridge.

    edit:
    If I increase the magnification a step, I can see the snowmobile trail heading to the west:
    http://terraserver-usa.com/image.asp...362&Y=6122&W=3

    Doug
    Last edited by DougPaul; 04-03-2006 at 02:35 PM.

  11. #11
    Senior Member RoySwkr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mohamed Ellozy
    I think DougPaul gives part of the answer:My guess is that this continues to the Corridor 11 snowmobile trail, which is probably the snowmobile trail that intersects the Skook. That obviously means that, modulo the stream crossing, it is possible to do an interesting Skook -> Garfield Ridge -> Mt Garfield trail -> snowmobile trail -> Skook loop. Definitely worth exploring at a time when streams are low (or snow bridges are solid).
    My question would be whether the snowmobile trail crosses the ridge above Priest Hill (a reasonable loop) or hits the road that comes out at Rte 3 at the Garfield Road and picks up the parallel snowmobile trail near Rte 3 (making it much longer than the roadwalk). The snowmobile map doesn't help although it shows the infamous Mt Tom Trail

  12. #12
    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RoySwkr
    My question would be whether the snowmobile trail crosses the ridge above Priest Hill (a reasonable loop) or hits the road that comes out at Rte 3 at the Garfield Road and picks up the parallel snowmobile trail near Rte 3 (making it much longer than the roadwalk). The snowmobile map doesn't help although it shows the infamous Mt Tom Trail
    I can't find a reference to Garfield Road, but I suspect that the snowmobile trail heading west does go above Priest hill on its way toward Franconia Notch. It was certainly heading in that direction when I turned around at the missing bridge.

    Doug

  13. #13
    Senior Member Snowflea's Avatar
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    Jumpin' into this thread late... I've been playin' on trails in the Southern Appalachians for the last couple of weeks.


    Mo wrote:

    My guess is that this continues to the Corridor 11 snowmobile trail, which is probably the snowmobile trail that intersects the Skook. That obviously means that, modulo the stream crossing, it is possible to do an interesting Skook -> Garfield Ridge -> Mt Garfield trail -> snowmobile trail -> Skook loop. Definitely worth exploring at a time when streams are low (or snow bridges are solid).



    A few years ago I mountain biked the section of the Heritage Trail from near the Skook to near the Garfield Trailhead, on advice from the folks at the Franconia Sport Shop. If I remember correctly, it was very bike-able; most of it is an old road.

    So, yes: it would be possible to link together the Garfield and Skook Trailheads using this section of trail.


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    Smile

    stink!
    mtb?wtf?

  15. #15
    Senior Member Mohamed Ellozy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RoySwkr
    My question would be whether the snowmobile trail crosses the ridge above Priest Hill (a reasonable loop) or hits the road that comes out at Rte 3 at the Garfield Road and picks up the parallel snowmobile trail near Rte 3 (making it much longer than the roadwalk). The snowmobile map doesn't help although it shows the infamous Mt Tom Trail
    Quote Originally Posted by DougPaul
    Don't see any evidence of the snowmobile trail to the west of the trail. According to my GPS track, it goes just slightly S of west (toward the Bethlehem Resovoir) until it gets near the S Gale River and then turns S parallelling the river for ~.5mi to the crossing with the missing bridge.
    If the snowmobile trail goes anywhere near the Bethlehem Reservoir it almost certainly must go south of Priest Hill.

    Doug: Could you please email me the GPS track of your exploration? I will soon start at the Skook end and see where the snowmobile trail goes eastwards from there.

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