Days 3-6: The Carters, Moriah, and Madison

We wrapped up our “easy day” of hiking Willey at Joe Dodge Lodge in Pinkham Notch. I kind of love Joe Dodge. It has a very retro feel to it, and while spartan compared to a regular hotel (1 towel apiece, shared bathrooms, family style or buffet meals), it’s luxurious compared to camping, and more than adequate for what H and I need/want.  We ended up in one of the renovated queen rooms. I’m not sure how I feel about the renovations. In pulling down the bunks, it seems they also lost the pine paneling that gave the rooms a slightly kitschy but lovely rustic feel. The new decoration is much more standard hotel-like, and feels a little like lipstick on a pig, but the bed was large and squashy and I slept like a rock.
We packed our gear the night before and were up early, scarfed down a huge breakfast in the dining room, and hauled out to 19-mile Brook trailhead to begin our great 1st backpacking adventure. 19-mile Brook trail, like North Twin, is badly eroded in the lower parts. I believe the AMC is gearing up to re-route it come fall, but for now hikers are left either picking their way through the exposed rocks in the trailbed or following the beaten path on the eroded bank. The storm had left many downed trees in the brook as well. Carter Dome trail suffered as well, though not so badly, and a hard-working maintenance crew was out both times we hiked through. The footway on Carter Dome was less damaged and relatively easy to get through, and the switchbacks were wonderful. We made a relatively fast and easy ascent despite mild protests from our legs and found ourselves at the intersection with Carter-Moriah in good time.

The northbound section of Carter-Moriah is GORGEOUS! Cool lichen-covered woods, wet mossy areas with bog bridges, ledgy sections on Middle Carter and the minor peaks…and very few other people. A handful of thru-hikers passed us heading towards Katahdin, but otherwise we saw no one  until we were nearly to North Carter. There, an older couple passed us heading south. They told us they’d spent the night at Imp Campsite, our destination, and warned us that we had quite a descent ahead. They were right. The White Mountain Guide describes this section as “steep and rough” and cautions that those with heavy packs should allow extra time. This description doesn’t really capture the experience of this section of trail, which includes parts where we inched our way down slabs of rock that were 70-80 degrees with the horizontal, and scrambles that involved hugging short vertical rock faces and groping for hand- and footholds. It was not a nice descent, but proved much more fun on the return trip the next day.
Needless to say, we were relieved to reach the bottom and find more bog bridges, and even more relieved to find the turnoff to Imp Campsite. We took a lunch break on our tent platform, set up the tent and stashed our food in the bear box, and tanked up our water supply (using a Sawyer Squeeze filter that worked great the whole trip, and was quite idiot-proof even for me). Finding it still early, we hit the trail again with much lighter packs, and wound our way north over the gorgeous ledges that form the route to Moriah’s summit. Actually, we very nearly missed the summit and would have except for a camp group with sharper eyes and clearer heads. We reached the intersection with Kenduskeag trail and couldn’t figure out where Carter-Moriah went…and then a kid from the camp group spotted a blue blaze on a sheer rock ledge where the trail went up. It was a fun scramble, and short, and the views from the summit were absolutely worth it. After a short rest, we surrendered the summit to the camp kids and headed back to Imp, playing leapfrog with three very fast young men from the group.  We made dinner in a ledgy area just north of the campsite (H’s idea) and enjoyed the views.

(more to follow…must get ready for work)


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