Carter Dome, (Mount Hight), South Carter, Middle Carter, (North Carter), Mount Moriah via Nineteen Mile Brook Trail, Carter-Moriah Trail and Stony Brook Trail, using a bicycle to close the loop. Total distance was 17.9 miles and 5700 feet of elevation gain in 11:15 plus 30 minutes for the bike ride.
19 Mile Brook Trail to Carter Notch
It's been three months since my last 4K, which was Garfield for Marc Howe's SSW48. Due to a new job, Little League, bad weather on the few days I had off, etc., I was itching to go back out. With gas prices as they are, I was motivated to make the most of a rare lull at work, combined with gorgeous blue skies. I didn't sleep that well, which let me get going a bit earlier, but I wasn't feeling super motivated. Not far from my destination (right at the corner of 115 and route 2 in Jefferson, about 50 feet past the "Moose Crossing" sign), I saw the female moose below and everything changed. I stopped the car, and got out slowly, keeping behind the car as much as possible. There was not much light yet, so the photos are either grainy or motion-blurred But she stayed put for a while, until a logging truck when screaming by.
I parked at the Stony Brook trailhead and got ready to depart. Today's plan was to do the three Carters and Moriah from south to north. I brought my mountain bike and it proved to be a good warm up of about five miles and 500 feet of elevation (in 30 minutes) just to ride up to Nineteen Mile Brook Trail. I went back and forth on whether to do the ride first or last, and what my bailout options were and where I wanted the car versus the bike. In the end, I planned for success, figuring that bailout option 1 (Imp Trail) would get me to a downhill ride to the car, or I could hitch a ride if necessary. I stashed the bike in the woods and was headed up to Carter Notch at around 6:30am. I brought only 2 liters of water in the 3L bladder, plus a few empty Nalgenes, and my pump, intending to fill up at the spring on Carter Dome and thus avoiding the extra weight.
As I went up 19MBT, I stopped to take photos of the brook, and the numerous wildflowers that were nearby. The bunchberries are everywhere and are in various stages of flowering. Trout lilies are gone, but the bluebead lilies are blossoming well. One particular spot intrigued me -- the old dam, with the pool above it. I looked for a while for signs of fish but couldn't spot any, although if there are some around, this is a great location to get them as there were plenty of water insects to feed on. I wonder what the dam and pumphouse (?) were used for?
I made good time up to Carter Notch. The weather was still cool and comfortable and though there was not much breeze, the biting insects were not onto me (yet... that would change :evil Right at the Wildcat Ridge Trail junction was a tent with some bear bags hanging above it. I don't think anyone was awake yet, and based on the spider webs, I suspect I was first up the trail that morning. I dropped quickly down to the lake, and took several photos of Wildcat A overlooking the water before heading up the Carter-Moriah Trail.
Carter Dome and Mount Hight
19MBT is wide and nicely graded. CMT out of Carter Notch lives up to its reputation for being steeper and rougher. The way to tell just how steep a trail is is to watch the lakes and hut get smaller every minute. I turned around a few times to catch my breath and keep hydrated. After all, I could finish all my water with the spring just ahead. I paused briefly at the overlook ("View") and looked beyond the Carter Range to the east, a view I was not really familiar with, but would become so as the day went on.
As described, the CMT climbs steeply for a while, leveling out on a shoulder of Carter Dome before continuing onto the summit. Here you get the first views of the Presidentials. Once back into the woods, I kept my eyes open for the spring. A nice sign saying "Water" points you down hill. I could hear the water running from the trail so I knew I was in luck. A 20-minute delay included 5 minutes down, 10 minutes of pumping, and 5 minutes back up, and I was now fully loaded (counting a bottle of Gatorade, I drank a full 7.5 liters for the day.) With the trail closer to level, it wasn't long before I encountered a large cairn. I knew the true summit was up by the former fire tower but I snapped off a quick picture and continued to the top. The true summit has a benchmark, and has the remains of the firetower foundation, along with some glass which looks to be from a window or two. The old tower structure steel sits just to the west in the trees.
While there are no views directly on the summit, at the far end of the summit clearing, there is a bit of an outlook, over the tops of the scrub trees. Below you can see Mount Hight, South and Middle Carter, and Moriah stretched out to the north. Moriah looked small and far away. As the day wore on, I began to wonder if it would ever find its way under my feet.
Mount Hight is said to have the best views in the area, which I can confirm. I had my 'real lunch' here and took lots of photos, and generally enjoyed almost everything about it. I say almost because it was here that the bugs became a nuisance. Mostly they were flies which resembled little yellow jackets, but which didn't bite, just swarmed. In some of the photos, you can actually count them. Naturally 'the view' here is of Washington through Madison, but I enjoyed the views to the south and east as well. Attitash/Bear Peak showed behind Wildcat, with Chocorua's unique profile behind them. I'm used to seeing the three peaks across, not from the end.