May 2, 2015.
Where to go? Every week I face this issue and on the way up I had two spots in mind. Both options for today are in the same area and while driving I kept flip flopping on which to do, Mt Kineo Trail or Carr Mt Trail. Not knowing if Hubbard Brook Road is open yet I opted for Carr Mt. The decision was easily influenced by today being a sunny day and I wanted some views. The plan is to head up from the west side and hike up and over the summit then down the east side to the spot where I turned around back in March of last year.
Arriving early at the trailhead and I am off at 7:05. It's a glorious day out with blue skies already as I head up the road.
The road ends at "The Last House on the Left" (seeing a theme here the last two weeks?) and crosses a field with Carr Mt ahead before entering the woods. A look back from the top of the field and Mt Mist is visible which is where the AT crosses over.
Into the woods the trail heads and today is very much spring like unlike last weeks hike. The trail varies as it goes through some older woods, then a section that has been recently logged and slowly being swallowed up by the new growth and next a young birch grove lining the old logging road.
The trail gently climbs but deep down below on the left is Clifford Brook flowing fast and furious with the spring melt. Beside the trail is an old car/truck hood leaning against a tree. Just beyond on the right side is the crushed remnants of a Pontiac. Odd finds in the woods as I wonder where the rest of both vehicles are.
Soon I reach the junction for the path to Waternomee Falls which I'll visit on the way back down. The trail turns right here climbing up a little more sharply. Turning right it levels out for a bit and I stop to take off my long sleeve undershirt settling in with just a short sleeve shirt. Small melt streams are coming down off the side of the mountain as I head up higher.
Within five minutes of taking this next photo the day is about to change. I reach the first remnants of snow on the trail at 2400 feet. I hope this is just a short lived patch but soon find that this is the norm all the way to the summit.
It is 8:25 when I hit the snow. I have my microspikes but the snowshoes are way back home. It's only .85 of a mile from here to the summit. Should be there in an hour I figure with the snow slowing me down a bit. I could only wish that was the case. The snow is soft and trying to stay afloat on the monorail is a huge struggle. Sometimes it holds but most of the time I sink through. It is frustrating and painfully slow as every step is a cautious process. Stopping to put my long sleeve shirt back on as the snow changes the temps up here. I tamp down almost every step as I go trying to prevent sinking all the way,. It is deep as most of the times I am in up to my knees. Occasionally the whole leg sinks in where there are deep pockets. I'm at 3140 feet when I take this picture of my sunken hiking pole and it has taken ninety minutes to get here.
I still have a quarter mile to go and this area is beating me down again for the fourth time. Realistically it is my fault for my timing on choosing when to hike here but it sounds better when I blame the area. I keep pushing on as I just will not quit when I am so close to the summit. The trail is less prevalent as I lose it for a period and try pushing up through and I'll find the trail on the return trip. I give up on that idea and return to where I lost it and figure out where it goes. There is an opening ahead and I hope it is the summit but it is just a tease of a small open ledge area. It has taken thirty minutes to reach this spot due to the sidetrack and I still have at least a tenth of a mile to go. There is a blowdown patch just ahead and some bad postholes as I step in voids created by the fallen trees.
The tracks of whoever has been up here are long gone since the section where I lost the trail. So I pick my way through the blowdowns and come across a rope strung from tree to tree. It is a very odd thing to leave behind and the way it is somewhat embedded in the tree has been here for a little while. Finally just a few minutes away I reach the junction for the summit spur.
I look to my left as I pass the sign and what I see seals the deal for today. When I tried coming up from the other side last year I only made it to 2140 feet which is about 1.7 miles down the trail. It's taken me two hours and fifteen minutes to go less than a mile as it is now 10:45. There is no way I am going down an unbroken trail and then back up after what I just went through. I resign myself to coming back AGAIN to get that section of trail. This time I'll wait until the snow is definitely gone. Ahead is the bare summit and just 70 yards behind me is two feet of snow.
Carr Mt is on the 52 With a View list and I have heard varying opinions as to why it is on the list. Climbing the steps of one of the old footings of the long gone fire tower and there are absolutely views. Surprising views! The closest peak is Moosilauke which is still snow capped. Turning to the right and Franconia Ridge is also still covered in snow. Somebody send out the memo to the mountains that it is May.
I keep panning the camera to the right and more mountains come into view. North and South Twin are visible behind Liberty and Flume. Beside them are the three Bonds.
And the icing on the cake, which helps make the slog all worth it, Jefferson and Washington with their snow capped summits.
There are multiple rocky outcroppings and moving around to them helps improve the shots of some of the peaks since the trees are slowly filling in the field of view. This is a pano of the summit with all four footings.
I take a break on the ledge to the left in the above pano shot to collect my wits after the struggle to make it here. Plus the sun is warm and it feels good. The shoes and socks come off as they are soaked through and after having some snacks I lay down on the slab using my backpack as a pillow. I close my eyes listening to the quiet only interrupted by the chirping of some birds up here with me. Faintly I keep hearing a noise off in the distance and I swear it was someone playing a flute. I hear it several times so I know it is not my imagination or the woods playing tricks on me. Or maybe one of the fire watchman use to play one and it is there presence I am feeling and hearing. The woods sometimes carry noises for great distances or hold onto ancient noises from times past. I am in no hurry to leave as I dread the return trip back down through the snow but know the inevitable is soon approaching. Reluctantly I get my stuff together and head out. The trip down is no fun as I try to retrace my steps to help prevent punching through the snow. Sometimes this works and others I just sink right in.
It is compounded by the flowing streams that are hidden underneath the trail. I can hear the rushing water and when I do punch through the snow my feet end up in the cold stream.
Thankfully the trip down went a lot faster than the trip up. After an hour from leaving the summit I reach the snow line and snowless trail never looked or felt so good.
On the way down I pass a tree I did not see on the way up and I have never seen a burl this big. A little bit beyond and a parting shot of Moosilauke.
Back at the junction for Waternomee Falls and I make the short trip as this spur is on the redline list. I reach the foot of the brook and thanks to the melting snow and runoff from above the stream is flowing. I climb further up the banking and the cascades continue.
Satisfied I head out and make it back to the lot but not before having an incident at the last brook crossing. As I stepped on a rock to hop the brook the rock rolled as I pushed off and lost my balance and both feet went into the brook. So this area gets the last laugh at me as if it didn't punish me enough already today. To add insult to injury when I get home I for some reason question whether what I saw was Waternomee Falls. Looking up images on Google and of course it wasn't. The sad part is I had the description with me but failed to read it fully. I needed to cross the brook where the cascades were and up over a knoll is where the real falls are. Again this area is just humiliating me. I will have to return to get that small bit of trail plus to see the real Waternomee Falls. A bonus for the day is I had the whole day to myself as no one else was foolish enough to do this trail.
Final numbers: 6.2 miles, 7 hours and 25 minutes.
Redline Miles: 3.1, Total to Date: 759.8