Saturday, July 5, 2008

Carter Dome Hike

We spent the last few days backpacking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. It was the 4th of July holiday week, so we chose to go a little farther off the beaten track so as to avoid the crowds that typically show up in more accessible areas of the mountains. The route approached Carter Dome from the Wild River Valley side closer to Maine. The unfamiliar trails were not too intimidating on paper, but there were many stretches of tough terrain. There were many beautiful spots, and we had a ton of fun.

Wednesday's hike was a short hike up to the Spruce Brook Shelter from the Wild River Campground. Leaving the campground, the Wild River Trail follows the aptly named river for an inviting 3.5 miles mostly up an old logging railway bed. Crossing the Wild River was fairly tricky and somewhat wet, but we were nicely rewarded with a terrific (and empty) campsite at the rushing confluence of Spruce Brook and the Wild River. It was a real treat to have the cold mountain river nearby. A thunderstorm rolled in and rumbled around for a bit, so we hopped into the tent for some cards and sleep.

Getting up early is the best part of camping. It's chilly when you pop out of your sleeping bag into the damp morning air. The birds are in full swing, and the river is constantly rushing. It's a great time for a cold dip in a river followed by a hot cup of tea before breakfast. The Biscuit gets out his morning crazies while we quietly begin the day.

The day's hike follows the Black Angel Trail. Maybe I should have read more into the name, maybe adding an "of Death" is warranted. It started gently with a hike through open woods at a moderate grade. It quickly transitioned into a smorgasbord of difficult trail. On this day, we experienced the full fury of black fly and mosquito season. Adding to that were many unexpected sections of boggy mess on the overgrown trail that probably hasn't seen 5 hikers this season. We slogged through and encountered the "steep, ledgy section." While there were many fine views, we focused mostly on scrambling up rocks over some sketchy ledges, passing the packs and boosting the dog in parts. Our cooperative efforts persevered and we reached Carter Dome under foreboding skies. A couple of through-hikers validated our opinion of the "Maine" trails saying that most of the of 300 miles going northeast through Maine is boggy and difficult. We hurried down off the summit. What we though would be a short hike over to the Perkins Notch Shelter turned out to be pretty difficult as well. We rolled into camp quite battered and worn.

Food cures quickly. We set up camp in a soft flat clearing and prepared some of the best Trader Joe's pre-made Indian fare ever. A little chocolate wrapped up the meal. Again it started raining, but it was blessing. We were running low on water and the No-Ketchum Pond nearby was not accessible. Our tarp caught several liters of water for us. I guess it was karma paying us back for a tough day.

The next morning we slogged through several more harsh swampy sections but reached the oasis of Spruce Brook quickly enough. By then the sun came out and our packs were empty and light. We stopped for a leisurely lunch by the river and the hurried out to were we started two days before.

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