Hitting the Big 4-0 with the Carters, #38-#40, 6.17.10

While I haven’t personally hit the big 4-0 just yet (that’s coming up this fall), I did get to #40 on the list with a traverse of the Carters.  I had a free day, so I chose to hike all of the Carters in a day.  I had never been to this side of Pinkham Notch and it was a great experience.

I was up early and headed to the 19 Mile Brook trail head and on the trail a little before 7:15a.  The 19 Mile Brook Trail was a really nice trail, not too steep, pretty scenery with the brook nearby and a nice warm up for the rest of the day.

19 Mile Brook parking area and trail head.

A little bit of the upper portion of the 19 Mile Brook trail, between the Carter Dome junction and the Carter Lakes.

I decided not to go up the Carter Dome Trail, but to continue on 19 Mile Brook until I reached Carter Lakes and the Carter-Moriah trail.  The reason for this was two-fold.  One, I had never been to Carter Notch and wanted to see the lakes and the hut, and two, I wanted to refill my water if necessary.  Soon enough I found myself at the Carter Lakes, where the Wildcats rise up on one side and the Carters on the other.  At this point, the skies were clear and blue and the scenery just beautiful.  This is some place I’d come back to visit again.  I stopped by the hut and was glad that I did once I saw that my water bladder was half empty!  After filling up and admiring the scenery, I set out out on the Carter-Moriah trail towards Carter Dome.

Early view of one of the Carter Lakes from the trail.

Carter Notch Hut

The Wildcat Ridge rising above the lake.

The Carters - my destination for the day.

Starting up the Carter-Moriah trail towards Carter Dome.

I arrived at Carter Dome a little after 10a, but not without a steep climb.  It is work to get to Carter Dome this way and this was the trade-off for the ease of filling up my water at the hut and enjoying the pretty views.  The first .7 or so is pretty steep, and reminded me quite a bit of the ascent of South Twin via the Twinway from Galehead Hut.  The good news is that it does level out after that and climbs easily to the summit.  The summit at one time had a fire tower and other trails converge here, but I didn’t spend much time here due to the ferocious flies.   This is the point where I got out the insect repellent.  There were mosquitoes on the 19 Mile Brook trail, but if you kept moving, they didn’t bother you.  These flies were another story.  After spraying myself down, I quickly moved down the trail toward Mt. Hight.

Looking back toward the Carter Lakes and the hut from partway up Carter Dome.

Mt. Hight is a little side trip that you can take between Carter Dome and Zeta Pass.  It is well worth the effort and just about the same distance to Zeta Pass if you decide to skip Mt. Hight and take the Carter Dome Trail to Zeta Pass.  Mt. Hight has great 360 degree views because the summit is open and is mostly bare rock.  The bugs weren’t too bad here, as there was a slight breeze, so I stayed a little longer and ate some lunch before moving to Zeta Pass.

View of Mt. Washington from Mt. Hight, with just a little lingering snow in the bowl.

Last look at the rocky summit of Mt. Hight before going to Zeta Pass

A few weekends ago, my husband found a shovel on the Gale River Trail heading toward the trailhead.  Probably left by trail crew intending to come back and finish up a project.  I also found something interesting on the Carter-Moriah trail.  Just past Zeta Pass it looked like there was some flat areas used for camping, and some nice person had left a roll of toliet paper for the next guests.  How’s that for trail magic?!?

Zeta Pass

Trail Magic?

Moving along, I ended up on the summit of South Carter around 11:45.  I looked and couldn’t find a sign, but it was the highest spot along the trail and had a small cairn, and fit the summit description.  At the Middle Carter summit, I didn’t find the sign, I think I was looking on the wrong side of the trail.  I know I passed it, because I eventually came to the North Carter Trail junction, which was part of my descent route and .6 mile north of the Middle Carter summit.

South Carter summit cairn

Junction of Carter-Moriah and North Carter trails; this is where I turn left down the North Carter trail to start my descent.

After a quick break for a snack at the junction, I started the descent back to the car.  I could hear the traffic in the notch almost the whole way, so I knew I was headed in the right direction.  After a little bit, I picked up the Imp Trail and continued to descend.  My plan was not to take the Imp Trail all the way back to Route 16, that would put me further north of the 19 Mile Brook parking area than I wanted to be.  I knew I’d have to do a little road walking, but I wanted to minimize that.  I knew there was a little side trail/old logging road that would take me to the back of Camp Dodge and the plan was to take that.  It wasn’t hard to find, and within a few minutes I was walking through Camp Dodge toward Rt. 16.  With a very quick, less than a mile road walk, I was back at the car.  I was in the car and driving past the Wildcats by 3:00p.  Not a terrible pace and a great day, with good weather, beautiful views and going somewhere I’ve never been.  I will say, though the clouds did roll in throughout the hike, but I missed the rain.  I was driving past the Rocky Branch trail head by the time it started to rain.

Back at the parking lot, after a quick road walk down from Camp Dodge.

Bagging the Carters leaves me with only 8 to go.  The Wildcats, the Owl, Isolation, Moriah, Adams, Madison and finally Carrigain are left.  I’m not sure that I’ll hike them in that order, but I know I’ll get to them.  Adams and Madison are part of an early July Presi traverse with my husband, and I hope to bag a few more peaks before then.

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