A bit removed from the crowded trails of the Presidentials in the White Mountains, there are four summits in the Carter-Moriah Range with the name Carter. There’s a story that says the Carters were named for a man who used to hunt in these mountains, and that nearby Mount Hight is named after his hunting partner. Whether that’s actually true seems to be lost to history, but its as good a story as any and it sticks harder to fact with every retelling. Hight is where the views are, but not on this day. With the summit of Hight socked in we stuck with the Carters on a Sunday morning hike that lasted well into the afternoon. Our hike was a 14 mile endurance test for a sore ankle, and generally I was pleased with the results.
Carter Dome is the southernmost summit and the tallest of the four. Running northeasterly from Carter Dome are South Carter, Middle Carter and North Carter Mountains. Each was deep in cloud cover and gusty wind on our hike, but Carter Dome seemed to be spared from the winds blasting the rest of the range. There are remnants of an old fire tower on Carter Dome, with scattered window glass on the ground right around the base. That glass, the concrete footings and a few rusted steel bolts are all that remain of a steel tower built in 1924. The tower lookout had a hut a mile away that became the AMC hut. The tower itself was replaced by spotter planes after World War II.
The Carters feature several bald faces along the ridge line that offer beautiful views. But not on this day. Still, there’s something stunningly beautiful about being amongst the wind-whipped firs deep in the clouds. We felt a bit of ice mixed into the mist swirling about us, a clear sign that summer is drawing to a close. This was the first hike of the summer that I used every layer I brought, and it had me thinking about using a bigger pack as we shift towards autumn. The sun eventually came out in the valley below the range on our descent, warming and drying us off.
One of my hiking partners informed me after the hike that we had over 4300 feet of elevation gain on the 14 mile hike. I believe it, but the challenge for me was the descent down the Imp Trail, which had me thinking about Game of Thrones while I navigated a nasty stretch of boulders, rocks and roots on the descent. Classic New Hampshire trail, this Imp Trail, and it tested the ankle and my new hiking boots synched up tight to support it. Not wanting to be left out, my knees both started complaining about halfway down the descent. This was about 12 miles into the 14 mile day, and they’d had just about enough of my aspirations. But we made it down to Route 16, walked the shoulder back to the cars, and headed to Gorham for some much needed pizza and beer.
I love a good solo hike as much as anyone, but I was grateful for the company on this day. In fact, were it not for the invitation from my power-hiking friends I probably would have skipped the weekend altogether to give my ankle another week of rest. But sometimes we get a little too soft on ourselves, and the morning after the hike I believe I’m not the worse for wear. Good boots and hiking poles made all the difference for the ankle, and persistent friends made all the difference in my getting back on the trails. Another good lesson on living, with a nod to the couple who prompted me to shelve the excuses and get back out there.