This weekend, the long awaited Carters + Moriah 4-bagger were on the menu after a 3 month summer backpacking hiatus which in hindsight is inexcusable. Gus and I hit up Dolly Copp campsite at about 10 pm and got a fire going. We drank a few brews, scoped the full moon from the field and split up group gear and passed out around 1 am. I slept with the rain fly off and woke a few times to see the moon staring brightly down at me. We were awakened by the camp caretaker for not paying the fee at 7am. Since we got there late and the campground is quite large, we figured we’d pay on the way out and apparently the way out part doesn’t fly with them. My alarm went off as he walked away so it worked out.
Day One: 11.15 Miles & +4872 Vert/ -3184 Vert
We hit the 19 Mile Brook trail head at 9:20 after a short drive and started on our way. Our last time up this trail was in the dark in a small flash blizzard in early April during the Wildcats Overnight. This time, the sunlight shone on a beautiful trail as we leapfrogged a family with two great yellow labs. The weather was actually perfect in the mid to high sixties with a cool breeze and blue skies.
We got to the notch in a bit under 2 hours and were amazed at how different the Carter Notch Ponds look when not frozen. We lingered and snacked for a bit taking pics before heading up the 1.2 miles to Carter Dome on the Appalachian Trail. We took our time getting there in three hours total. We broke out lunch at the viewless summit but after eating realized their is a small clearing a bit further on with some decent views of the Carter Range that would have been preferable.
We headed off to Mt. Hight and arrived there shortly taking pictures in 50 mph gusts that made you double check your footing. The views here are definitely spectacular on all sides. We knew they would be the best of the trip but they definitely exceeded expectations especially after being fairly disappointed by Carter Dome. The Presidentials were clear and the Wild River Wilderness had nice early foliage colors coming in while East to Maine was adrift in a gorgeous clouded skyscape. The whole trip actually had really great spread out views in all directions except the final day.
After Mt. Hight we dropped down to Zeta Pass, a large clearing by the trail junction. Climbing up South Carter was great, the trail on this whole ridge is one of my new favorites with random view points and sporadic bog bridges. These summits aren’t very exciting but the epic trails and unexpected viewpoints more than made up for it. Every quarter to half mile or so it seemed like there was a rock ledge with awesome views which kept it interesting.
Although this is only an 11 mile trip, the vertical loss is about equal to a 4,000 footer day hike and with a 25lb pack it gets tough, especially when the map still says your 3 or 4 miles away. The descent down North Carter was the steepest of the day but provided views of Imp Mountain and the following days terrain up to Moriah.
Finally we reached Imp Campsite where we intended to stay in the shelter due to a forecast of rain and looming storm clouds. We grabbed some spots on the top platform and shortly after two guys and then three AT Thru hikers Candyface and Caterpillar arrived followed by Titus.
We all chatted and the four of us interrogated the Thru hikers about their experiences. They were finishing New Hampshire with very limited time to get to Maine as Katahdin/Baxter State Park closes for the year on October 15th giving them 23 days to cover a little over 300 miles or 13 miles a day with no zero days. Everyone agreed anyone behind them probably wouldn’t make it unless they nailed weather and hauled ass. These three were on the fringe and if they did finish would likely be the last of the year to do so North-bound. The rain picked up as we all cooked dinner and chatted. The two male Thru hikers smoked a lot of cigarettes which was counter intuitive. We smoked cigars, drank whiskey sours and told tales of legendary butt sledding. Somehow we got on the topic of music and 3 of the 7 people there played Cello. Weird… We exchanged trail stories until about 8 and turned in and were asleep by 8:30.
Day Two: 8 Miles & +1426 Vert/ -3822 Vert
The night brought howling winds and driving rain. Someone was a baritone snorer and overall it was an awful nights sleep but preferable to a tent as we stayed warm and dry. The next morning the group awoke at 7 am to light drizzle. We cooked our individual breakfasts and made coffee and Titus was the first to scram after one last cigarette. I put my money on him to finish. Patrick and Marlo, the weekend backpackers left soon after and we said we’d try to catch up to them as they had offered a ride. We ate oatmeal and chatted with Candyface and Caterpillar for an hour as they seemed reluctant to head to Gorham to the hostel. Eventually they left and we finished packing and took some pics before heading out ourselves. Strangely, everyone we stayed with was heading to the same place in the same direction which is rare.
Luckily it had stopped raining just as we started hiking again although their was a heavy fog and everything was drenched and flooded. The bog bridges were a help but slick as ice and we almost went flying a few times. The way up to Moriah is dotted with cliffs and views but we could see little in the fog. The summit is strangely elusive in the fog as its not much higher than most of the ridge trail. We passed the Thru Hikers and caught up to the two backpackers Marlo and Patrick as they descended the summit spur trail. We figured we’d catch up to them later as we were a bit faster so we ate our lunch on the rocky summit with mere 40 foot views. The birds however were amazing here and I saw about 6 kinds in a brief period including a huge flock of about 40 Blue Jays, a lone Northern Flicker, and a few new ones I could not identify. Eventually it got chilly so we took off down the Kenduskeag Trail to the Rattle River Trail. We met Marlo and Patrick after the junction eating lunch and hung out with them until they finished.
Around this time, the sun started poking out and the sky got increasingly clearer. We hiked out we the two of them trading stories and joking around. We stopped at all the stream crossings for breaks and eventually the Thru Hikers passed us. After the first stream crossing, the descent slowly becomes less steep and the trail more enjoyable. The foliage colors here were the best of the trip so far and we were having a great time on the cool down leg of the hike.
Eventually we caught back up with the Thru Hikers at the Rattle River Shelter which is literally in the middle of the trail and isn’t a very nice shelter compared to Imp but does have some tent platforms and is near the river. Also a very sketchy South Bound “thru hiker” was eating a fist sized raw jalapeno pepper and a raw onion. He had a colorful stick with a carving of a devil or Satan on the side and kind of freaked me the fuck out. We kept it moving and got out to the road around 2ish. Patrick and Marlo hooked up a ride back to 19 Mile Brook and we all went out for beers and burgers at Red Parka Pub where they were hosting the award ceremony for the Black Mountain adult Downhill Trike Race. Fuck yeah…
Total: 19.15 Miles and 6298 feet of Vert with 7005 feet of Vert lost
Things I/We Did Right:
– Stayed in the shelter. I can’t imagine how badly a tent or hammock would have sucked.
Things I Did Wrong:
– Went a little too light on food.
– Didn’t fully charge camera or phone (backup camera).
– Should have started Sunday wearing shorts, pants got too hot. When in doubt copy the thru hikers.
– Deflated my pad too much Sat. night.
Total Peaks Bagged: 4 Official + Mt. Hight & North Carter
Total Miles: 19.15
Total Elevation Gain: +6298 feet / -7005 feet
Total 4ks: 39/48
Total Backpacked: 36/48
NEW GEAR: Smartwool Socks – I approve.
Bad Ass Awards/Shout Outs: Patrick and Marlo for the company and the clutch ride. Titus, Candyface and Catepillar the thru hikers; good luck in Maine.