Sunday, March 18, 2012

Last "Winter" hike of 2012 - Carters 3-18-12

Sunday I woke up at Joe Dodge Lodge ready for one more trek in the "winter" wonderland. With temps forecast to be near 50 on the rockpile and in the 70-degree range in the valleys, it was going to be more like many summer hikes I've done. The nice part was I could dump some of the extra layers I've been carrying all winter, losing a couple pounds of pack weight. The bad news was that I was almost certain I would need the snowshoes for a good chunk of the day, in soft snow (ew!).

The plan was to do all 3 Carter plus Hight (since it was to be a clear sunny day and it was). I decided the night before to do Carter Dome first, then Hight, and so on until I hit the North Carter Trail where I would head down, grab the South Imp Loop until the old logging road to Camp Dodge, and a short road walk back to the 19-Mile Brook Trailhead.

I eventually got rolling on the trail near 8:30, not exactly looking forward to the descent at the end of the day with ice likely and only one treking pole...(see the Moosilaukee TR). But this was the plan and I was sticking to it if possible. The trip up the 1.9 miles to the Carter Dome Trail went fast, despite stopping often to look at the quickly-running brook. 40 minutes for this mileage (plus 950 feet gain)!

19-Mile Brook running solidly

I hit the Carter Dome Trail and headed upward. It felt slow at times, but I still hit the ridge in good time to continue the full time. I've had some good trail times this winter, I'm still not sure if that is due to the general lack of rocks and such or hiking most every week, I'll just go with both and leave it at that. It's allowed for some awesome longer hikes that I would never have tried before! (Such as this one).

I headed along the Carter Dome Trail to the Dome, putting on snowshoes just past Zeta Pass. I wasn't post-holing yet, but things were soft and it wasn't going to be long. I left them on until partway down the Imp Trail. The only other time I wore snowshoes for more than 2-3 miles this winter was the day on the Wildcats...

I made the summit of Carter Dome uneventfully at 11:30, took a few pictures at the overlook towards the Presis, then headed to Hight for a longer stop. This climb was easy, though I knew the descent would be interesting. The section of the Carter-Moriah Trail between Carter Dome and the split to Hight was post-hole-riddled. Luckily people today were all putting snow shoes on after a post-hole occurred. Drifts in spots were over 5 feet deep still, and even in snow shoes, step off the forming monorail and you're going to post-hole to your hip. Hight was awesome! Well worth the side trip and I spent my longest break of the day here.

The Northern Presidentials

Eventually I left, and headed to South Carter, and then the slow trip up to Middle Carter. I saw a total of 3 people along this stretch, 2 RUNNING Southward with 3 dogs, and one just below Middle Carter heading towards the North Carter Trail with a stove out cooking lunch.

On the way to the North Carter Trail I thought about taking a stab at the bushwhack to Lethe, as the summit is only about 150 feet off-trail according to the topo maps. There appeared to be a herd path heading to the summit from the height-of-land on the Carter-Moriah Trail, and it was well-packed. I dropped my pack, grabbing the map and compass and GPS and started out on it, but it petered out after about 20-30 feet in a nasty tangle of spruce branches. Must have been a popular pee trail... I was tired, and didn't want to deal with this even though I could see roughly where the summit was. Too much nasty stuff to push through at the end of the day so I bailed and headed down the trail to the road.

Heading down the Imp Trail I eventually removed the snowshoes and microspiked for a while, before the trail dried up of all snow (though not all mud of course...). When the trail bent away from Cowboy Brook I was looking all over for the old logging road toward Camp Dodge and finding nothing. I recalled that it was lower down the trail, just before the trail crosses a smaller stream. There was nothing here either that looked like a trail. The woods were open hardwoods with little snow and I could easily have headed through towards Camp Dodge but didn't want to bother. I was a little peeved figuring I missed the road and wondering how I missed what was supposed to be a pretty obvious path. I resigned myself to a long road walk, carefully crossed the stream (which was BARELY rock-hoppable as it was running deep), and was faced with a huge blowdown blocking the trail. Right before this blowdown was what I had been expecting earlier: an obvious logging road crossing the trail. There was still snow on it and there was lots of evidence of people on this path before, and off I went. It was pretty easily to follow...

The "bushwhack" to Camp Dodge

Being in Camp Dodge when it was shut down was eerie-feeling. Lots of skeleton tent frames and the like. There were also a bunch of old trail signs on one of the bunkhouses. Guess we know where some of the retired signs that don't get auctioned go...

Don't think Mt. Pemi is that close...

I was back at the car at 4:30, and tired. 3.5 hour drive home now. But up to 27 winter 4Ks! A beautiful day to cap off the winter, even it felt more like spring or summer.


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