The original plan was a mid-fall Presidential Traverse and I was really looking forward to the undertaking. Isis would stay home and I would have gone with friends, John and Brenda. It was going to be epic. Well, the only thing epic was the cold and the winds. I can hike in a lot of conditions however, wind was not one I wanted to really deal with. So, as I was driving out, I was consulting with Silverfox and discerned that this trip was not meant to be. A quick call to John and there was no debate. I was heading home and it was for the best. A normal Saturday would be interesting. I have not had one of those since the beginning of July. So the errands got run, the coffee maker got replaced (a sad night waking up to start a presi with no coffee), and Isis got a good walk around Ashuelot Park in Keene. We got back to the car and she looked at me as if to say, “is that it”? So, a plan was made for the Carter’s. Three peaks for the grid and for Isis to get closer to her forty-eight. I figured if I tossed in Mt. Hight, I could get a red line or two as well. Seemed like a good day to get back in the mountains after a relatively normal Saturday.
The last time I was in the Carter Range, life was a disaster for me. I was between jobs and in limbo in a relationship. I was literally walking the world numb and as a result, the hike was horrendous. I had to split the range and then I had to split the Wild Cat's when I tacked them onto Carter Dome. This time, feeling a little different and excited for this not really favorite set of peaks. I had begun hiking with different people since July and was looking forward to today’s journey. I was joined by Chris whom I have not hiked with since the great bushwhack on Moose back in June. It was great to see him after a rather snowy commute to the mountains. I had been stuck behind a few plows and late. I made it to the trailhead for 8:30am. We were off down the trail shortly thereafter.
The snow was accumulating on the trails and just beginning to cover the rocks and roots. There was not enough for microspikes yet however, we both knew that would be coming soon. We continued up the 19 Mile Brook Trail and negotiated the rocks and roots with relative ease. My footing was feeling good and Isis was at least trying to stay in line. She seemed to enjoy the return of the snow as well. Following the brook, we admired the water as it cascaded over the rocks. Water crossings were negotiated and I opted to pick up Isis to save the ice from forming on her paws. We made great time to the junction and began to make our ascend to South Carter, all the while enjoying both the scenery and the intermittent conversation and silence. I was trying not to stop too much however, sometimes it was necessary to catch my breath.
A younger girl and older woman (possibly her mother), had caught up to us at the next junction as we were breaking for a little food and drink as well as to put a layer back on that we had stripped off on the 19 mile Brook Trail. We chatted for a brief moment before we began to head up the trail to South Carter and I was stopped by a Spruce grouse on the trail who was not too concerned about anything. We all waited for the bird to move and of course snapped a few pictures.
There were sections of bog bridges to go over in-between more ups and downs on the trail. The ice was also beginning to build as we climbed. A feeling that we were getting closer to the summit overcame me and sure enough, we had made it. A small cairn and a summit post on the back of a tree. Chris offered to snap Isis’ picture with me and number 25 was in the book for her. We had a little something more to eat and I had some of my Gatorade. We got moving again as no one seems to rest long in winter conditions. The ridge was a little exposed in places and beautiful views were all around us as we continued to negotiate the rocks and the snow and ice. I was sure that this snow was here to stay until spring time. Moving from South to Middle carter proved a little more difficult as the ice was thicker and hidden under snow. There was not enough Ice to warrant spikes though and I continued to slip and slide all over the place happily. The views were incredibly dramatic and that more than made up for a few falls. At Middle Cater, we stopped by the cairn for more pictures and a little food. Isis got her bowl of trail mix and devoured it along with some cheese. She also tried to get food off of Chris and was given a stern no from the both of us.
Once rested, we began moving again so that we did not get too cold. Making our way back over to South Carter and back the way we came. The original plan was to back track and get Carter Dome however, I had grown concerned for Isis who seemed to be favoring a back leg and walking just a little funny (in-between runs and pulls of the leash) and I was also growing tired. I had one significant fall where my leg was caught on a tree and bent in an awkward position causing me to land on it as well. I was able to shake it off and even still it takes a lot out of someone. We made the turn to make an attempt at Carter Dome however, I changed plans and we headed back to the car. I just could not see pushing Isis to go up the ledges and myself for that matter. Hiking in winter conditions turns a relatively easy hike into something of a major undertaking. So, as we made our descend, I didn’t beat myself up for turning back. I simply let it be. And as we made our way back down the 19 mile brook trail, the payers came off as the snow was all but melted. The trail was looking muddy and green again. For how long that lasts, no one really knows. Conditions could change tomorrow.
There were congratulations handed out at the parking lot and Isis and I were on our way again sure that we would all hike again sometime. We took the long way home and enjoyed the night while thinking about the day. I was on the verge of another job change that would bring me closer to home as closer to bringing my life back to the way it was a little over a year ago prior to the disastrous relationship from my previous hike of this range. I as eager to get back into that space and looking forward to the many hikes Isis and I had on the horizon for the month of November and into the start of the winter season.