Saturday, May 28, 2011


I belong to a small (perhaps very small) group of hikers who might be called "Devotees of Carr Mountain." This 3453-ft. peak dominates the southwestern corner of the White Mountains, and is, really, an eight-mile long mountain range in and of itself. But relatively few hikers are conversant with Carr, even fewer since it was recently dumped from the "52 With a View" list.

Carr's summit, once the site of a fire tower, is flat and thickly wooded, and does not provide a lot of obvious excitement. There is little in the way of views unless you are standing atop one of several rocky knobs, or the concrete steps of the old tower. The top can be a real letdown if you're used to dramatic perches such as Mt. Garfield, the peaks of the Franconia Range, or even nearby little mountains such as Welch and Rattlesnake (which is the southernmost outpost on the Carr ridge).

AMC explorer W.M. Beaman, who ascended Carr in 1887, referred to it simply as "a very long and thickly wooded mountain," adding that "the view from the tree-tops of Mt. Carr is very fair, if one has time to climb trees enough; for the summits are all quite flat." The photo of Carr seen below was taken from a ledge on Downing Mountain and shows the main ridgecrest from an eastern perspective.

Actually, the northerly views available from Carr today are quite impressive, once you get over disappointment with the summit flatness, and as long as you go on a clear day and don't mind standing to take them in. Believe it or not, you can spot the summits of 31 White Mountain 4000-footers from up there. (I'll list 'em if anyone wants to know.)

I like going to Carr for the views, and for the beautiful forests that cloak its slopes. There's also a fascinating mystique about the mountain, harking back to the 1770s, when a local settler named Carr tried to cross over the ridge and spent several days wandering through the woods. It's said he sustained himself by dining on frogs he nabbed along the shores of the Glen Ponds, now known as the Three Ponds, which are nestled at the eastern base of the ridge.

As I've discovered on a half-dozen trailed summit ascents, and more than a dozen bushwhacks to various locations, there are many treasures to be found along the ridges and in the ravines of this massive, hulking mountain.

My recent climb of Carr would be my first visit to the summit in nearly six years. As is usually the case, I decided to come up from the east side, starting at the Three Ponds trailhead on Stinson Lake Road.

A big thank you goes to the trail adopter. Though at times in the past the upper part of this trail had been seriously overgrown, the route is now well-cleared the entire way.

This is one of my favorite kiosks in the Whites, with its neat illustration showing the layout of the Carr-Three Ponds-Kineo region.

I always stop to look at this lightning-struck tree a little ways up the Three Ponds Trail.

After a half-mile on Three Ponds Trail, I turned L on the Carr Mountain Trail and descended to its crossing of Sucker Brook. I was concerned about water levels and was carrying my Crocs, but was able to rock-hop a route off to the R.

The next mile is one of the nicest hardwood walks in the Whites, through a fine mature forest.

A high canopy of sugar maples shades the trail.

A mossy ledge deep in the forest.

There are also many large white ash trees in these woods.

This beautiful corridor stretches for a long way.

In here were some of the last trout lilies of the season.

At the upper end of the hardwood section, halfway up the mountain, the trail makes a sharp R turn, at a spot where a snowmobile trail ("Annie's Loop," shown below) continues ahead. This turn is unmarked and easily missed.

The upper half of the climb is mainly through a mossy coniferous forest. There are some wet sections, especially where the trail crosses a shoulder around 2800 ft.

These woods feel very remote - no highway noise to be heard!

Higher up, I left the trail and did a bit of bushwhacking on a knob north of the summit, where once I had found a ledge with a decent view to the NE. I didn't find the ledge, but did come upon this framed vista looking across the basin to Mt. Kineo, with the Upper (in back) and part of the Middle Three Ponds visible. A long-term quest of mine in this heavily wooded region is to find a clear view of these ponds snuggled on their high plateau. This one one of the better looks I've found, even if the camera refused to focus properly.

From the knob I bushwhacked along the wild ridgecrest to rejoin the trail.

Along the way I found a view towards Sandwich Dome from a blowdown patch.

Back on the trail, which is mossy and mysterious as it ascends to the summit.

Some recent bog bridge work has made passage easy over the worst of the mucky spots.

A sign marks the high point of the Carr Mountain Trail; from here a side path leads 200 ft. to the summit and tower site.

According to the website, this tower was in operation from 1939-1948, and was removed before 1967.

There are several rocky knobs around the summit area, each of which provides a somewhat different viewing perspective for the standing hiker.

The best views are from the small set of concrete steps by one of the firetower supports. On a clear day, the vistas NNE to the high peaks are excellent.

Here's the same view with some peak ID.

Looking NE to the Presidentials, Hancocks, Carrigain and Osceola.

A good look at the Sandwich Range: (L to R) Tripyramids, Sleepers, Passaconaway, Whiteface, Sandwich Dome.

North to Moosilauke. After admiring these views, a snooze was in order.

Glacial striations on the summit ledges [?]

Nice light while descending along the ridgecrest.

Back down in the hardwoods, a neck-straining sugar maple.

Before heading out, I did a little exploring upstream along Sucker Brook, chancing upon some nice cascades.

Then I poked around a beaver meadow that is just south of the Three Ponds Trail. There are a number of these scenic openings in the broad basin between Carr and Kineo.

Looking up at the slope of Black Hill.

A look back at the long north ridge of Carr, behind which the sun has disappeared - a nice spot to cap off the day.

ADDENDUM: While in a Carr frame of mind, I decided to be indulgent and add some scenes from bushwhacks along various ridges, spurs and valleys on this wide-spreading mountain.

A cascade on a nameless brook flowing off Willoughby Mountain.

Waternomee Falls on Clifford Brook, which is accessible via a spur trail from the western end of the Carr Mountain Trail.

In the late 1800s, several more water and rock features were noted as landmarks along Clifford Brook above Waternomee Falls; these can only be seen via a bushwhack.

Bear Slide Cascade - cool name, and a cool place on a hot day.

Diamond Rock.

Diana's Wash Bowl.

Bald Ledge is one of several low, named spurs along the west side of the Carr Mountain ridge. It's only partly bald these days, with a view west to Smarts Mountain.

Ames Mountain is a ledgy spur, wooded with oak and red pine, farther north along the west side of Carr. It has views across to the south ridge of Carr...

...and up to the main summit ridge.

Looking at the wooded back side of Ames Mountain from a ledge on a western shoulder of Carr; Currier Hill is partly visible to the R.

A cascade on Martins Brook, east of Currier Hill.

View up to Carr from a ledge on Currier Hill.

Over on the east side of the ridge, a view of Upper Three Ponds from a low-elevation cliff.

The north ridge of Carr from Foxglove Pond, along the Three Ponds Trail.

Foxglove Pond and Carr from a ledge on Whitcher Hill.

A frozen Lower Three Ponds and Black Hill from a northern knob on the main Carr ridge.

Stinson Lake and Stinson Mountain from a ledge south of the summit along the crest of Carr.

The south ridge of Carr from a beaver pond on Basin Brook, north of Willoughby Mountain.

Looking down to the beaver pond from a ledge on the south ridge.

Stinson Lake and the Sandwich Range from a ledge on the south ridge.

And lastly, a few images from a memorable 2005 off-trail journey with master bushwhacker J.R. Stockwell, six or seven miles north along the ridge from Rattlesnake Mountain to the summit of Carr. Click here for a written account of this trek.

A view south from Upper Rattlesnake Mountain.

A ferny col where the abandoned Stevens Brook Trail crossed the ridge.

View east from ledges on a nameless knob.

J.R. ascending through a grassy area along the ridge.

A panorama of the Basin Brook drainage and Willoughby Mountain.

View down the south ridge from one of several open ledges at the south end of the upper Carr ridgecrest.

At the last of many open ledge spots that we visited, about a mile south of the summit, we found this etched triangle and bolt that were presumably placed by the U.S. Coastal Survey in the late 1800s. There is no "datasheet" for this location on the website of what is now the National Geodetic Survey. A few months after our trip I emailed the NGS to see if they had any record of this survey station, but they found nothing in their files.

Just around the corner from the survey mark there was a ledge with a sweeping view to the NE, all the way out to the Presidentials. This was our last vista until we got to the summit of Carr, late in the evening. From there we descended by trail to the Three Ponds trailhead, the last couple of miles by headlamp.

Someday I hope to fully traverse the north ridge of Carr, from the col with Whitcher Hill to the summit, and find an elusive ledge that overlooks the Sucker Brook valley. Also on the list are Rocky Falls on Patch Brook, an old mine site west of Willoughby Mountain, more ledges on the south ridge, an exploration of Red Brook and the spur on its north side, and other as yet unknown destinations on this fascinating mountain.