Lying on back at Zeta pass and staring at the sky.

Middle Carter (4610')
South Carter (4430')


2005 September 10

Never underestimate a hike's potential. I had slated the Carters as a rain hike a long time ago because most of the time is spent in viewless terrain. Because other summit destinations were chosen for the inclement weather of the past, we were now left with an 11 mile trek over Middle and South Carter with perfect weather in the forecast. This worked out very well for us since the views were excellent (although limited to a few locations) and much time was spent at the several outlooks on the ridge. Our trip started the night before in Jackson, NH.

It was late Friday night when we crossed the 103' long, 129 year old, covered, wooden Honeymoon bridge into Jackson village. Jackson is well known as a ski town and general vacation spot, but we would just spend the night. Just outside of the village is the Windy Hill Bed and Breakfast. It's a B&B in the traditional sense, located in a farm house on a hill with a majestic view. We arrived late, so we dropped off our stuff and headed out for food.

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The first stop was Shannon Door. We had Shepard's Pie which only suited as an appetizer, so we paid the bill and went to the Red Fox. The Red Fox hasn't nearly the character of Shannon Door, but it had the food I was looking for. Satiated, we made our way back to the B&B.

While staring out the back window of our quaint B&B quarters, I thought I saw some flashing lights. We turned off all the lights in the room and stared out the back window. As our eyes adjusted, the faint green glow of the northern lights became clear. This is the first Aurora we've ever seen. I cross-checked our sighting with the info on Space Weather and sure enough the forecast indicated aurora activity for Sept. 9, 2005 and the coverage map clearly extended into northern NH.

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We skipped the customary breakfast usually provided by Windy Hill and opted for the leftover Pizza from the Red Fox. We made a quick stop for supplies and were hiking by 8:50a. Our route began by walking up the road to Camp Dodge where we Bushwhacked to the Imp and North Carter trails. It was a much easier bushwhack than our Owl's Head bushwhack and saved us considerable distance. The trail was very moderate. For some reason, we had expected rougher terrain, but we weren't complaining. We made quick progress and reached the first outlook near the summit at 12:08p.

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I can't believe I had been keeping the Carters set aside as a rain hike. What a loss that would have been. The view was awesome. West of the Carter-Moriah range are the Presis with their imposing presence and east is the Wild River Valley and Maine. We could have stayed much longer, but the first summit needed cresting and we were hungry. At 12:25p, we reached the viewless summit of Middle Carter and had lunch on another fabulous outlook just south of the top.

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The Carter-Moriah ridge has easy footing along this stretch with long timber puncheons which sped us along to South Carter by 1:33p. While coming off South Carter, I nearly walked by a spruce grouse standing a rock at the edge of the trail. It was only two feet from my waist when I noticed it staring at me. I was completely unfamiliar with this bird until I looked it up later. They're nicknamed "fool hen" because their fear of humans is absent and they will allow humans to approach within a few feet before flying, or in our case, running. They apparently depend on their protective coloration to conceal them and will often just sit still and let predators walk right past them. They've even been known to allow themselves to be picked up! Our grouse took off before I could take any pics, but here's a pic of what it looked like:

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We took a long break at Zeta pass which was also the start of familiar ground. Carter Dome was only a short distance away and we had recently climbed to this point when bagging the nearby summit. Today, we would head in the other direction, but not until we took a yoga break. Yes, a yoga break. Well, we didn't roll out yoga mats or anything but some serious stretching was had. It made a huge difference and staring up at the sky through the trees was very cool.

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Limberfied, we made a fast decent down the Carter Dome and 19 Mile Brook trails with peak bagger from Manchester. He was obviously out to knock off a couple summits whenever he could squeeze it in. Wearing jeans and a hip pouch with a couple water bottles, he hustled down the trail to try and make a 6pm engagement back home. His pace motivated us a little and we shared the trip from Zeta pass to the parking lot. We packed up the car at 3:40p and found ourselves back at the house by 7:00p

Next Stop? Isolation.