Monday, October 21, 2013

Carter Notch Trip Report - October 18th & 19th, 2013

After a fun solo trip up Stairs Mountain back in July during Vacation Awesomesauce, Amanda expressed interest in joining me on a White Mountain adventure.  I soon hatched a plan for the two of us to stay at the Carter Notch Hut during the offseason, making it a lot cheaper and giving us time to prepare for the trip.  And preparation we would need as we'd be hauling sleeping gear, clothes and all our food.  We knew the heavy packs would be taxing so we wore them while walking the dog, getting used to the weight.

The plan was to head up to NH after work on Thursday and stay with friends in Dover. That morning, Amanda tweaked her back badly trying on the pack and by the time I picked her up after work she was walking gingerly.  We were really bummed because we had both really been looking forward to this trip and now it looked like hiking for Amanda was not possible.  We drove up to Dover anyway since the kids were taken care of and we had Friday off.  After a night of drinks and laughs, Amanda woke up feeling much better and we decided to make a go of it.

We took the Nineteen Mile Brook trail in to the hut.  It's almost four miles and the grade is very manageable throughout.  Still the heavy packs took their toll on us and we broke for snacks and rest at regular intervals.  The foliage in this part of the Whites was well beyond its peak and a thick blanket of leaves littered the lower portion of this trail.  The trail's namesake ran alongside most of its stretch and we crossed several bridges, ranging from well built to slippery log crossings.

The brook was our constant companion

Halfway to the hut
0.3 miles to go!
Finally we reached the Notch after about three hours and came upon two small ponds.  Up in the mountains, the serenity of these ponds was impressive.  Definitely had a great vibe about them.  Just beyond the ponds we arrived at the Carter Notch Hut.  We checked out the main hut - nice kitchen with running water, electricity and all the amenities.  Completely off the grid.  The bunkhouses are separate from the main hut and just above it on the hillside.  Each bunkhouse has four rooms with 4-6 beds each.  No heat in the bunkhouses.

They fish trout out of these small ponds
We made it!
Taking stock of the hut
A shitload of propane
We had our pick of the bunkhouse
Caretaker Bill showed up a hour after us.  He was a twenty-something out of college.  Nice guy.  We found out that we were the only guests for the night.  I thought there'd be more but I guess everyone was coming on Saturday instead (they had a full house of forty guests.)  So we had the run of the kitchen for dinner and breakfast. A couple of Bill's friends hiked up later using headlamps and they showed us how it's done, carting in pasta, eggs and bacon amongst several other tasty foodstuffs. Their dinner put our simple meal to shame.

For Day 2, the original plan was to leave the hut and follow the Carter-Moriah trail over several peaks to the Imp Trail, which we would then take down to Route 16.  This would have been an ambitious goal for us in top form.  With Amanda not at 100%, we opted to just climb Carter Dome sans heavy packs and then return the hut.  This proved to be the smart move as the initial climb up to Carter Dome is dreadfully steep and gave us a helluva workout.  I can't imagine us trying to climb that first steep section with the big packs.

My alpaca sweater allows me to be both fashionable and warm

Crappy picture of the awesome stove
Banana Oatmeal and Turkey Spam for breakfast
Tuckered out after Day One
After 20 minutes of steady climbing, we were finally rewarded with some fantastic views of the Notch.  The hut and bunkhouses could be seen in miniature, with the propane tanks glistening white.  Years ago a rockslide created a massive rock garden near the huts - from above it could truly be appreciated.  The trail moderated after the initial steep section and the rest of the ascension wasn't nearly as taxing. After about an hour we reached the summit and I bagged my 22nd NH 4000'. Looking at my guidebook, the last 4000' I bagged was Mt. Hale back in 2002. It has been a while!

The summit of Carter Dome is wooded but it still afforded good views of the Carter ridge, which includes Mt. Hight, South and Middle Carter.  The presidentials could also be seen from the right angle.  After some sights and snacks we began to cool off so we made our way back down to the hut.  It was faster going down but once we hit the initial steep section, care had to be taken.  I had dropped my water bottle on the way up and it had bounced behind us into the woods.  On the way down I caught a glimpse of its blue metal and was able to retrieve it.  Success!

Carter Dome - 9th highest peak in the Whites
You can see the huts just above the smaller pond

Back at the hut, we had some lunch and repacked our bags for the trip to the car.  These trails clearly get a lot more traffic on the weekend - a group of ten or so stopped at the hut for lunch and to check out the building.  Grudgingly we donned our heavy packs (though a little lighter from reduced food supplies) and headed back down the Nineteen Mile Brook Trail.

The trip down went faster but it was taxing.  The packs still weighed a good amount and the downhill really beat up our legs.  We passed lots of hikers heading up.  Some looked like they were out for the day but we went by a large contingent of boy scouts who were staying at the hut that night.  Amanda and I were very glad that we had the place to ourselves rather than endure a crowded hut full of teenage boys.

We arrived at our car not a moment too soon and we were awfully glad to slide the backpacks off for the last time.  Yesterday when we had arrived at the trailhead there was probably only four cars. Now there must have been at least thirty, with plenty of them parking down the road a ways. I had read that this place fills up on the weekend and now I believe it. And so we began the long trip back to Rhode Island.  We stopped halfway in Dover for dinner and then drove the rest of the way home.

The next day I woke up with sore calves and serious pain in my upper back.  Amanda is pretty much sore all over.  I'm still impressed that after hobbling around on Thursday she was able to don the pack and climb that mountain.  She is incredible and I was so happy to have my best friend share this adventure with me.  I've already begun to think about our next trip.  A big thank you goes out to our friends and family who took care of the girls while we were gone which allowed us to make this adventure possible!


  1. Looks like a good hike and good time
    I live with a bunch of city slickers – my family would never do that
    Nice recap and pics

  2. I stayed in some of the AMC huts on an exciting week-long mountain adventure back when I was 18. Lake of the Clouds Hut was my favorite. Have always wanted to get back, and still hope to, but thanks for your vicarious adventure for now. Kudos to Amanda - what a trouper!

  3. Absolutely Awesome!!! I bet I could talk Dave into this! So cool!!