May 25, 2015.
Salvaging the weekend that wasn't and I'm heading back to Carr Mt for revenge or redemption or just to get that damn part of the trail finally done. The plan is to finish this region, Moosilauke, in the AMC Guide which will also include an out and back trip on Mt Kineo Trail. Leaving the house early so I can get this done in time to beat the traffic heading south on a holiday weekend plus there is a threat of rain in the early afternoon.
It's a little after five in the morning when I pass by Stinson Lake on the way to the trailhead for today's finale. I pull over to stop and get this serene picture of the first morning sun hitting Stinson Mt behind the lake. A few minutes later and I am at the Three Ponds Trail head once again. Just after 5:30 and the shoes are on the trail.
My pace is quick as I make it to the junction with Carr Mt Trail. A big difference from when I was out here over fourteen months ago as I turn left onto the trail.
The trail heads down into a ravine to the crossing of Sucker Brook which is easily rock hoppable and not frozen over as the last time I was here.
The woods are cloaked in their spring green as I head up the trail which is a huge difference from that March day when the woods were open and covered in a blanket on snow. The one nice thing about redoing a section of trail in different seasons and even though these pics are from the same spot they look like nothing alike. The tell tale giveaway that this is the same trail are the two distinct birch trees on the left.
I pass by a large boulder on my left that looks vaguely familiar and not much farther it is all new terrain from here on up as I pass by the spot I retreated from. Without the snow it took me thirty less minutes to reach this spot. Today's pic is looking up from the turnaround spot and last year's is looking down the trail.
I continue the climb up and reach a spot where the trail looks like it once went straight. Turns out is a snowmobile trail in the winter and the hiking trail turns right at this spot. Along the way I get a tease peek at the ridge that makes up the long length of Carr Mt.
There is even some odd blazing up here as I stop at one spot and ahead of me are yellow blazes but behind me are blue blazing.
Pushing on I make pretty good time as I pass some neat features along the way. Large bouldery ledges and then near the ridge crest some bog bridges.
An hour from the turnaround spot and I am back at the junction with the summit spur trail where just three weeks ago there was three feet of snow still up here. Hard to believe that it has all melted in that short span but I am thankful that I did not encounter any of it today.
Looking back the way I came up and the single bog bridge is nowhere to be seen three weeks ago.
So for the second time in three weeks I am on top of the summit of Carr Mt with the fire tower footing remnants. Today the views are not as nice but this day was more about finishing the trail up from the east side. Off in the distance I can see Mt Washington and the next objective for the day is Mt Kineo through the trees.
Not lingering long like I did last time I need to get a move on as I want to beat the rain coming in from the west. Leaving the summit and turning right onto the trail after the spur path and in the woods are the last vestiges of snow. Down further and there is a tree just hanging onto the ledges with its roots. It is just a matter of time before gravity wins and this tree falls to the forest floor.
Back past where the snowmobile junction is and another flower that has eluded me since I started hiking, a Trout Lily. And just before the trail junction with Three Ponds Trail the small and delicate Starflower.
Reaching the junction and it is decision time. Do I continue up Three Ponds Trail to get the section of Mt Kineo Trail as an out and back or do I drive over to the northern trailhead off of Hubbard Brook Road? The mileage is doable but would add some time to my day and I know that the rain is not far off. I also do not want to turn back on this area for another time. Today is the day I put this area to bed and finish it once and for all. I opt for the drive and head back down Three Ponds Trail to the car and drive over to the other side of Mt Kineo.
Heading north on Stinson Lake Road and I pass by a waterfall that is coming down Brown Brook. I had seen this when I took this same route after hiking Stinson Mt and was heading over to Peaked Hill Pond back in October of 2014. About an hour later and I am at the Mt Kineo Trail.
This is another trail that has eluded me. I made an attempt to get this trail back in March of 2014 but was thwarted by deep unbroken snow again. I was attempting a loop via Hubbard Brook Trail to Mt Kineo Trail and a return via Three Ponds Trail. After my debacle with the northern side of Three Ponds Trail this past December I'm glad that hike never panned out. The turn off Hubbard Brook Road that leads to Mt Kineo Trail from today and the last time I was here.
This part of the trail is located in the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest. It is a lush green forest that is used for forest study and the effects from the environment. The trail climbs up to the ridge of Mt Kineo then drops back down to the junction with Donkey Hill Cutoff and Brown Brook. It's a gradual climb up with the trail lined with hobblebush.
At most of the brook crossings there is flagging where they are monitoring the water. Along the trail is a large old yellow birch tree with my poles leaning against it for reference.
I'm sure if one was to venture off the trail into the deep woods more old trees could be found. After the yellow birch the trail opens out into an odd grassy area. Beyond that the trail disappears into a hobblebush patch. The wildness of this area is a welcome relief from some of the logged areas I have seen next to trails.
The only sign of civilization out here is a game camera I pass along the trail. A first for me as I smile when I pass by it. Forty minutes from the trailhead and I am at the height of land and thoughts of following the ridgeline to the un-trailed Mt Kineo flash through my mind. There is flagging heading towards that way but I am not sure that is someone marking a path or the scientists flagging. I refrain from heading that way it stick with the current goal of finishing this trail.
If I have the energy on the return trip and if the weather cooperates maybe I'll consider the one mile bushwhack to Mt Kineo. Right now I just want to finish this area and only return if I want to not because I have to. Down the trail I head and soon it gets steeper. For the most part it is manageable and a few spots take some care to stay on the trail.
Forty minutes from the height of land and I reach the junction where the snowmobile trail and hiking trail merge together. This is what I had scouted the first time out in this area and I thought went all the way over to Hubbard Brook Road from Donkey Hill Cutoff. What a disaster of a day that would have been knowing what I know now. Down the trail and there is fork after the bridged brook crossing. The only signage is for the snowmobile trails and nothing at this junction for the hiking trail. Taking a guess and I head right which I quickly figure is the wrong way as the trail does not match up with the GPS.
Following the left snowmobile trail and occasionally I find a blaze on the trees assuring me I am on the right path. Approaching the first of some wetlands and I can see where I was earlier this morning, Carr Mt. Ten minutes down the trail and thankfully the hiking trail diverges right off the snowmobile trail.
The trail between here and Brown Brook is an odd mixture of everything a trail can throw at you. From a nicely leaf lined path to a wet almost flooded swampy section.
Then through a boulder strewn dry brook bed and finally ending at the snowmobile bridge crossing with Donkey Hill Cutoff. There has to be a story of where Donkey Hill Cutoff got its name as there is no Donkey Hill.
Finally I am done with this area and more importantly I am done with the Moosilauke Region of the AMC Guide. There are twelve regions in the guide and this is the first one that is 100% complete. No time for celebrating as it is time to return the way I came. Halfway up and the rain begins although luckily it is very light and under all this fresh tree canopy I am fairly protected. Re-reaching the height of land and looks like Mt Kineo itself will have to wait for another day. The rain doesn't last too long but the damage is done as the wet hobblebush lined trail soaks my pants as I make my way down and out of the woods. Revenge, redemption or maybe it is accomplishment but what ever the case it is done and after I don't know how many tries at doing these trails I have finished them finally.
Final numbers: 13.8 miles, 7 hours and 45 minutes.
Redline Miles: 5.2, Total to Date: 793.4