Sunday, June 30, 2013

Carter Dome and Mt. Hight June 22, 2013

Carter Dome (4833') and Mt. Hight (4675') via Nineteen Mile Brook, Carter-Moriah, Zeta Pass and Carter Dome Trails, June 22, 2013. 

Distance: 10.2 miles (lollipop loop)

Elevation gain: 3,600'

Trailhead:  The Nineteen Mile Brook trailhead is located on Route 16 several miles north of Pinkham Notch Visitor Center.  $3. to park. 

Carter Dome is a New Hampshire 4k and I was looking forward to revisiting that summit (see previous post).  None of us had done Mt. Hight however, so we were looking forward to the adventure.  Mt. Hight is on the Trailwrights list (a list I am not working on but you may be!).

We stayed in North Conway the night before and got a late start (still room at trailhead parking though).  Thunderstorms were predicted but for us this was a "no pressure" conditioning hike; we would modify our plans if need be to stay safe.  All we really wanted to do was condition our legs and get out in the woods.

After some discussion, we decided to do the "lollipop" loop counter-clockwise, taking a left at the Carter-Moriah trail junction, climbing steeply up to the summit of Carter Dome, hopping on Zeta Pass to the summit of Mt. Hight (if weather allows), and then proceeding down Carter Dome trail back to Nineteen Mile Brook trail.

Trail is very mellow to the junction of Carter-Moriah trail.

Not much to write about the hike up to the Carter-Moriah trail junction. We met other hikers and saw that someone had made camp at the junction (we'd meet those ladies later that day).  We turned on to the Carter-Moriah trail, descending immediately to the pond below (one of the two ponds called the "Carter Lakes").

AMC's Carter Notch hut is just beyond the pond. 

Around the pond we walked and then up the steepest part of our hike.  The last time we hiked Carter Dome we descended this part of the trail, which I recall being steep and exposed but going in the opposite direction? .... not so much.

Steep, but not as exposed as I remembered.

Beautiful views of Wildcat on this side of the trail.

Sandy standing at the edge, Carter Notch hut is waaay down there!

We were wet with sweat from exertion when we arrived at the cairn just before the summit of Carter Dome. It started drizzling.  People were milling around on the summit, resting on the base of the fire tower.  We had a leisurely lunch and proceeded down the Carter Dome trail toward Zeta Pass. 

On the way down I turned on my cell phone and checked in on the website, quite a thrill to get a boarding pass at 4,500' in the middle of nowhere!  Cell service has improved in the area over the years.  I can remember hearing that you should never consider your cell phone for communication in the Whites because you won't find service.  Last year, our WFA instructor suggested bringing a cell phone as one form of communication on hikes in the White Mountains (though I would suggest you shut it off while hiking to preserve the battery).   

Zeta Pass came up quickly and we hopped on this mellow trail.  I don't remember much in the way of ascending and before we knew it we were on a rocky top with 360° views.  The rain had stopped.

We would remember this as the "Hight" of our trip.
Our views to the east.
Clouds coming in.
When it came time to head down we scouted around to find the right direction. 

Look toward the east and you'll see this rock with the AT blaze.
 We were quite surprised to find such a steep descent back to Carter Dome trail (so much for reading about the trail ahead of time).  No problem, even though the rain had started back up, we were able to descend in good time. 

That's Pinkham Notch Rt 16, 3.5 miles, not 163.5!
 The rain became more steady when we reach Carter Dome trail.  Things got wet and we stopped to put on raincoats and pack covers.  I'd been on this trail several times but never noticed how lush and beautiful it is.  It was just that kind of a day, no pressure - it's all good!

In the background is a beautiful waterfall- surreal!
Heat and humidity increased as we descended. Things got wetter before they got better but the sun poked through during our last mile, ribbons of light as mist rose up from the raging brook.  We got back to the car, changed out of our wet boots and headed to Moat Mountain for a draft beer. 

What a great day!  The simple act of walking through the woods, up and then down, enjoying the lush of the ferns and the sound of our footfalls made us all very happy. Draft beer helped too. 

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