Three Carters the Long Way

June 17-18, 2017.

A little revenge as I go for my first overnighter since last year when I did an out and back in the Wild River Wilderness. I know that in order to finish my redlining this year I need to do some overnighters. So being a bit more mentally prepared I am off to get some more trails in the Carter-Moriah region and once committed there is no turning back this time. The plan is to head back into the Wild River Wilderness and finish the Black Angel Trail, head across the Carter-Moriah Trail to get a missing piece and then pick up the Moriah Brook Trail on the way out.

The long drive up to the trail head which is located on Wild River Road at the campground. There is no luck in trying to get this one started early as I set off heading back down the road at 8:30. I'm heading down to the trailhead for the Shelburne Trail to pick up the southern section of the Highwater Trail located on the other side of Wild River. It's a quick fifteen minute walk when I get to the Shelburne Trail. A few more minutes and I am at the river and the direct route across is not going to happen. The Wild River is fairly shallow for this time of year but the first section on the other side of that birch tree is well over waist deep.

 

On go the waders as I make my way upstream looking for a better spot to cross. Luckily there is a spot not too far up where I pick my way across reaching only knee level. On the other side I notice my shoes are wet for the second time since buying the waders. Last time I used then when doing the Bog Brook Trail I noticed it but chalked it up to being in the river for so long they got saturated. Now I think I have some leaks to address. Back to the trail and it leads through the woods crossing a normally dry stream and then Bull Brook. On the other side is the junction for the Highwater Trail.

 

The Shelburne Trail heads straight which is for another time. I need the piece from here up to the col where the Kenduskeag Trail begins. Today it is a left turn onto Highwater all the way to the junction with the Black Angel Trail. To the right is the rest of the Highwater Trail which I'll get at a later date with the Shelburne Trail. Just around the corner the trail recrosses Bull Brook and this also is not going to happen at this spot. There is debris piled up at the spot and a deep pool right in front of me. So upstream again and I find a rock hoppable spot to cross.

 

On the other side of the brook the trail heads back to the Wild River through the woods and eventually breaks out right next to it. The trail alternates between being next to the river to heading in the woods out of sight but not out of hearing distance.

 

I reach the junction with Moriah Brook Trail which enters in from the left where the suspension bridge that was here last year is no longer. The Forest Service in their infinite wisdom decided to tear it down rather than repair it due to some Irene damage along the embankment. Just after the junction is the boundary for the Wild River Wilderness as the two trails coincide for a short bit. Breaking back out next to the river and the trail is slowly being eroded into the river. A ten minute walk on the two trails and then they go there separate ways with Moriah Brook heading off to the right and Highwater to the left.

 

Down the embankment and then across Moriah Brook which is a non-issue crossing. On the other side the trail climbs up and then levels out. This section of the Highwater Trail is more overgrown in places. Sometimes the hobblebush closes in on the trail obscuring the pathway. The trail climbs up and away from the river crossing a few more brooks along the way. Then it descends back down to the rivers' edge as it crosses Cypress Brook and then passes by the location of the old Spider Bridge.

 

Just past that is the junction for my next trail, Black Angel Trail. But first I head down to Wild River where the trail crosses it and stop at the river edge for a break. This is the same spot where I took a break last year during Memorial Day Weekend. Refueled and refreshed it is time to move along back up to the junction.

 

The Black Angel Trail starts out pretty mild as it slowly heads up to the ridge between Carter Dome and Mt Hight. It's 4.9 miles from this junction to the ridge. It begins to steepen as I reach a birch glade and like most in the White Mountains they have been damaged by ice or wind.

 

I run into the first people I have seen all day about halfway up as they are doing the same loop but in the reverse direction. We exchange notes and tell me how I will love Moriah Brook Trail when I come down tomorrow. Higher up I reach an opening in the trees and get a view of North Baldface across the Wild River Basin. Just after is a small brook coming down the steep shoulder of Mt Hight. Running on fumes and knowing I still have some climbing to go I stop here for my late lunch/early dinner. I fill my pot from the brook and use my new Esbit stove for the first time. Esbit is a solid fuel and easily lights as I sit back and wait for the water to boil. I'm having a Mountain House Beef Stroganoff meal and for being freeze dried it is pretty good and hits the spot.

 

My goal for the day is to at least make it to halfway of the total mileage I have to do. Unfortunately carrying all this weight makes the going slow and steady, even more so with the long climb. So having filled my stomach it is time to pack up and get up to the ridge. Across the brook the trail steepens even more and then the blowdowns hit.

 

No trail maintenance up here yet and with the full pack it makes it harder to maneuver around them especially the duck unders and crawl throughs. As if that wasn't enough the trail completely changes as the scrambles make an appearance. Again, on a normal hike, not so bad but with my full framed pack...ugh!

 

It continues like this for a good distance, at least it seemed never ending, as the scrambles just wouldn't let up.

 

But in the space time continuum, known as wishing the end was near but always seems far away, I reach the edge of the Wilderness and just beyond that is the junction of the Carter-Moriah Trail. Pass the junction for Mt Hight and I head down the Carter Dome Trail looking for a spot to set up for the night. As I am heading down I get a peek at tomorrows destinations, South and Middle Carter, through the trees.

 

I reach Zeta Pass and beyond I find a suitable spot to set up the hammock for the night. It's a small race to get the hammock hung as the mosquitos buzz me and try to fill up on my tired blood. But, alas, I win and soon enough I am settled in for the night by seven. A much needed rest as I had been hiking just shy of ten hours today as I reached my halfway point.

Day 2

I get up early the next day and make myself another Mountain House meal. This one is the Breakfast Skillet and I did not like it at all Sam I am! Maybe next time I will try your Green Eggs and Ham. But I had to eat and so force almost all of it down knowing I needed the fuel for the day. Just before 6:30 I am on the trail heading up towards South Carter for only the second time since I started hiking. This time in the reverse direction and no snow as it was New Years Day of 2012 when I was last up here. The day starts out easy across a bog bridged trail. Soon that changes as a climb I do not remember begins.

 

Last night when I got into Zeta Pass the clouds were constantly blowing through in an eerie manner and this morning is no different as the woods look like something out of a movie set.

 

The trek up to South Carter does not last long as it only takes thirty minutes but as always seemed longer. Nothing to see here at the wooded summit as I move along as my memory plays tricks on me. My very faded image of this ridge is nothing like it is today. For some reason I thought it was much flatter between here and Middle Carter. Instead it is an up and down ride with some small scrambles mixed in.

 

I do remember getting some great views up here and if not for the clouds rolling through today would have been no different. A look back at Mt Hight with Carter Dome swallowed in a cloud. No big deal as a few minutes later while still up on the ridge another view back now has Carter Dome cloudless. South Carter is visible behind the spruce tree on the right.

 

Across the street the Presi's are in view with a cloud sweeping over the top of George. A zoom into Tuckerman Ravine reveals there is still snow while it is mid June.

 

A few minutes up the trail and I reach the wooded summit of Middle Carter. A thirty minute trip from Middle Carter to the junction with North Carter Trail which comes up from the Imp Loop. From here it is all new trail along the Carter-Moriah Trail. Heading up to North Carter the morning sun's rays shine through the forest.

 

Across a couple of open ledges and then the summit of North Carter. There is a spot just before that I thought was higher but this open area seems to be the accepted summit. Now for the dreaded descent off of North Carter. I heard it is steep and with a full pack a little trepidation of what lies ahead is in order. The first ten minutes down the trail are not out of the ordinary and I begin to wonder what some people call steep really means.

 

But that level of comfort changes quickly as I reach the steep section and it lives up to its reputation. The descent goes slow as I hit steep scrambly sections one after another. With the full pack it is even more dangerous as sometimes I opt to slide down rather than looking for foot and handholds.

 

Thankfully it only lasts for about thirty minutes and I reach the bottom where the trail returns to normal. A small break in the trees and I get a look back up to North Carter and what I just came down.

 

Ahead is Imp Mt which the trail skirts around on it's slope to the right of the summit. Carter-Moriah Trail is fairly mild through this section and just before the shelter spur I come upon this section where the trail is slanted exposed ledge. I make it to just about the end and my feet slip out from under me as I go tumbling down with a few curse words.

 

Luckily no damage as I get up and few more minutes I reach the spur for Imp Shelter. Supposedly it is only two tenths down the trail but it seemed a bit longer plus it did go downhill! Past the caretakers setup and then the shelter is just beyond. Fresh water is just to the left as a brook is running down the mountainside. A couple of refills as it is cold and fresh and badly needed. My last fill up was at the brook yesterday where I made supper. Zeta Pass was dry as a bone when I went through. I had just enough water to make breakfast this morning and a bit to get me here so this was a refreshing break.

 

Sitting on the shelter's front I have my snacks and change out my socks as they are pretty wet from yesterday and today. The humidity levels do nothing for drying out the clothes during the night. The caretaker comes down and introduces herself as I am packing up and heading back up the hill. It always seems shorter and quicker on the way back up and re-reaching the junction I have just under three quarters of a mile to go to reach Moriah Brook Trail. Passing over a series of open ledges I keep getting looks back behind me to North Carter and Imp Mt. The trip does not take long and the terrain is pretty good as I first reach the junction with Stoney Brook Trail and right around the corner is the junction for Moriah Brook Trail.

 

Just 5.5 miles down! Shouldn't take that long. Besides the couple I met yesterday had good things to say about this trail so this trail should be a breeze...RIGHT? A few minutes down the trail and I cross back into the Wild River Wilderness. It doesn't take long before the "real" trail reveals itself. Moriah Brook begins up here and the trail runs right next to it. The trail is a wet muddy mess in this section and no way the feet are going to stay dry.

 

As the trail heads down from the ridge it crisscrosses the brook too many times to count. In between there are brief respites of dry trail and then back to wet sections. Huge boulders occasionally lie next to the trail most likely plucked off of the cliffy side of Mt Moriah.

 

There were some nice sections along the way so it wasn't all bad. At some crossings there are inviting pools to take a dip on a day when there is more time. Other stretches are reminiscent of logging railroad beds being straight and flat. Not sure how far up the valley the Wild River Lumber Company came up but today's Moriah Brook Trail was part of the rail line back in the very early 1900's.

 

More crossings and then the woods begin to open up. Not knowing what is ahead I pray the trail crosses here as I get closer to a flooded section due to some beavers. The area is not completely flooded but lined with little waterways and I lose the trail as I reach a dead end. Looking around and I dread where the actual trail might be...buried under the water. Retracing my steps to the last section that was definitely the trail and I see my mistake. I needed to cross over one of the waterways on these limbs.

 

The trail stays on some high ground and then crosses on this old beaver dam. After that is the last crossing of Moriah Brook just above Moriah Gorge. There is a steel pin in one of the rocks perhaps a leftover remnant of the old trestle that use to be here.

 

The crossing looks easy here but the one spot where the water is rushing over the small drop didn't look safe. The landing rock was all wet and you never know if that is a slick rock and if your foot is going to stick. Taking the safe route I head upstream a short distance and cross at a much better spot. Below is Moriah Gorge and I do not see any way to get a look at it so a return trip is added to the post redlining adventures.

 

A thirty minute trip from the gorge along a combination of muddy and dry trail and I am back at the junction with the Highwater Trail.

 

One more piece of the trail left as I reach the spot where Moriah Brook trail heads down for the crossing of the Wild River at the site of the recently removed suspension bridge. A quick stop to put on my waders and a fairly easy crossing due to the low water levels which for June seems odd.

 

Pass the stockpiled remnants of the suspension bridge and at the junction with the Wild River Trail I have redlined the Moriah Brook Trail. I quick trip through the woods on the Wild River Trail and I am back at the trailhead parking lot next to the Wild River Campground. A long but rewarding two days and I managed to stay out for the night with no regrets or second thoughts.


Final numbers: 21.8 miles, 19 hours and 25 minutes.

Redline Miles: 17.6, Total to Date: 1333.3