Wednesday, March 25, 2015


The Carter Range is one of my favorite places to visit in March, when the deep snowpack on these high wooded ridges lifts you for huge views, especially eastward over the Wild River Wilderness. This Tuesday was a grand sunny day during which I had the peaks of South and Middle Carter to myself.

I started out on the Nineteen Mile Brook Trail at 10:00 am. This popular trail was a hardpacked snowy sidewalk, a type of walking I've seen very little of this season. I strapped my snowshoes to my pack and barebooted it for the first 1.9 miles.

This spot can be icy in lean snow years, but had a nice shelf to walk on today.

A scene along Nineteen Mile Brook.

The bright March sun was flooding into the valley.

The lower part of the Carter Dome Trail winds up through a pretty little valley. On this section I met a hiker who had stayed at Carter Notch Hut the night before and had done the loop over Carter Dome and Mount Hight. He warned of significant drifting up on the ridge. I saw no one else on the trail the rest of the day.

A birch glade along the Carter Dome Trail.

This trail eases you up to the ridge with moderate grades and several switchbacks.

Arriving at the junction with the Carter-Moriah Trail in Zeta Pass.

I made a short bushwhack out to the east edge of the pass.

From a scrubby spot I enjoyed a view out over the remote Cypress Brook valley and its snowy beaver meadows.

Rugged slopes on the flank of South Carter, with the tip of Middle Carter just peeking over.

Open woods in Zeta Pass.

Heading towards South Carter on the Carter-Moriah Trail, I found this view back towards Mount Hight, just off the trail.

Nice fir woods on a rare well-tracked stretch of trail. Most of the way up to South Carter the trail was drifted in from high winds the previous two days.

Typical drifts across the trail. These made for pretty heavy going at times, especially where the snow had become soft and wet in the sun.

The summit of South Carter, with the cairn just poking up through the snow.

I found the nearby geocache.

Who says South Carter doesn't have any views? Of course, this is a late winter/early spring vista only.

There is also now a year-round viewpoint atop a small cliff, reached by a short side path just south of the summit side path.

Mount Hight and Carter Dome loom close by to the south.

The snowy slide and great ridgecrest snowdrifts on Carter Dome.

Nice vista out to the Meader-Baldface Range.

After a nice break sitting in the sun at the viewpoint, I continued on towards Middle Carter.

Along the north shoulder of South Carter a short bushwhack revealed this expansive view of the Cypress Brook valley. No trails down in there!

Looking north to the steep SE face of Middle Carter. This is the rugged side of the range.

Breaking into the open partway up the climb towards Middle Carter.

The summit in sight ahead.

That ledge provides great eastward views, summer or winter.

A section of open snow ridge.

The ridgecrest of Middle Carter is highly entertaining, featuring a series of fine vistas.

A zoom on the Cypress Brook beaver meadows. Back in the fall of 1996 I visited these with bushwhacking buddy Creston Ruiter on a day where we traveled about eight miles off-trail.

Looking back at Hight, with its massive eastern shoulder, and Carter Dome.

Emerging on a large subalpine meadow on the west side of the ridge.

Looking NW to the Crescent Range and Pliny/Pilot Ranges. The cliff of the Imp Face can be seen below.

The Presidentials, backlit by late afternoon sun.

Big George dominates the westward view.

The summit crest of Middle Carter.

With the deep snowpack, this was a completely open, stunning east-facing viewpoint overlooking the long ridges and broad valleys on the east side of the Carters. This area puts the "wild" into the Wild River Wilderness. The long ridge snaking away in the center extends for about four miles down to the Wild River. It has been traversed (separately) by bushwhacking legends Guy Waterman and J.R. Stockwell.

The sprawling Moriah Brook valley, with Caribou Mountain, the Royces, and Speckled Mountain beyond.

Looking north to Mount Moriah and countless peaks beyond in Maine.

The impressive ledgy mass of Moriah, burned over in an 1895 forest fire.

Looking south.

I couldn't find the Middle Carter summit geocache. It was buried somewhere here in the snow.

Heading north off Middle Carter on an open ridge section.

The knobs ahead, with the broad crest of Mount Lethe on the right.

Looking back at the summit of Middle Carter.

The view back from the next ledgy knob. There are views galore in this section.

The last view in this section, looking north to North Carter.  You can see the great view ledge on North Carter in this photo, but I didn't have time to visit it today.

Winter wonderland in Carter Range woods.

The junction with the North Carter Trail, the upper part of my descent route.

Drifts near the top of the North Carter Trail.

My tracks through the drifts.

Descending into the light. From the lower end of North Carter Trail I followed the south branch of the Imp Trail, then a short logging road section to the AMC's Camp Dodge and a half-mile road walk on Route 16 in the dark back to my car.