Monday, July 20, 2015

Carter Dome in the Rain

Who could turn down these faces?!
The big weekend!!! Everyone was more than ready to embark on our Bonds trip bright and early Saturday morning.  But Mother Nature cares nothing for plans and every once and awhile, the weather gods have to put me in my place after a string of sunny hikes.  Saturday was rained out and called for thunder.  The group agreed to hold off but still wanted to get out for a dayhike Sunday, which looked decent.  But of course, as everyone prepared to leave RI for our home in Saco on Saturday night, the Mount Washington Observatory and local forecasts predicted thunder.  Even Ty would turn down a hike if it includes that.  But our will to be in the mountains was strong....

Molly and her dad still needed Carter Dome for the 48's so after talking with Dan and everyone at the house, we agreed to defy the predictions and around 8:00 converged on the Nineteen Mile Brook Trail in Pinkham's Notch.

Top line: typical 19MB trail conditions for the first 1.9 miles.  Bottom line:
one of the many gorgeous views of the river from the trail.
I should introduce the "we...."  Linda, who had last done Tuckerman's Ravine and Frankenstein Cliffs/Arethusa Falls with us; my friends Liz and Shawn with his malamute mix, Pele;  Dan and Molly all hit the trail with Tybtangs, our foster Liza, and I.  Now that's a pack!!

The canine portion of the hiking party.
From top to bottom: Pele, Tango, and the dingo ladies
(Ty, Liza, and Molly)
Ty and Pele led the way, trotting through the woods with intent.  The trail was damp but the walking was easy, over mostly dirt.  The first section of 19MB is one of my favorite trails for its easy grade, okay footing, and numerous points of access to the brook, not to mention the gorgeous man-made pool.

By the time we reached the junction for the Cater Dome Trail, Molly was off leash, Tango was bringing up the rear in his Ruffwear Swampcooler, and Liza's bungee leash was dragging.  The dogs were evidently feeling like a pack and it was incredible to watch.
Left turn onto the Carter Dome Trail
Back to the trail description - the grade remained moderate and the footing was still decent.  The rocks were slick but still maneuverable due to their low profile.  We moved away from the river and onto the mellow switchbacks.  Somewhere along the longer switchbacks, the skies final let loose.  I was far behind by then with Tango and Liza.  At that point, she was leashed back up temporarily as she tried to hide from the raindrops in the bush and refused to come out.  Backpack issues unleashed themselves as I became drenched; in that moment I would've been happy to throw in the towel and I had Liza's vote.  But the group was waiting for me, donned in rain gear and the dogs varying in emotion from impatient to sulking in a self-made hole.  We asked Molly why she thought a hole would help shield her from the rain but we merely got the stink eye.  Positivity is infectious and being back with the group, I was happy to move forward.  The rain had let up by the time we reached the junction for the Zeta Pass/Carter Moriah Trail.

We still had plenty of views and sounds
of the water until just before the switchbacks.
The switchbacks were often root covered but not steep.
Between there and the summit, the grade continued to be moderate (though it seemed steeper on the decent) and the ground became more small rock than dirt covered.  Still no big knee-lifters, which I was grateful for since I'd been lax on my exercises for my knee and for Tango's level of enjoyment.  There were two more junctions where we could've made a detour to Mt High.  Had there been a chance for views, we would've done it.  Our arrival at the summit was greeted with more rain that subsided after a couple of minutes, allowing for just enough time and motivation to snap a couple of photos.
Mt High is said to have incomparable views
but we skipped it since we'd be looking at clouds

On the way to the summit
Some portions were easy, others required more careful footing
As usual, not much to report about the decent.  It's easy to go at a decent pace (2-2.5 miles an hour) without risking life and limb falling but does become rocky at times.  We stopped at the first water crossing we enountered and hung around for a bit.  The sun had come out, the humidity was starting to pick up, and it was simply beautiful.  I was as happy as I was on the ascent for the numerous water sources; reaching the warmest point of the day, the humidity was affecting Tango and I made him put his Swamp Cooler back on.  19MB Trail always seems to end abruptly and before long, Linda, Tango, Liza, and I (who had fallen behind) were back at the lot, reconvening with the rest.
To the left is the trail; the summit marker is just outside the photo.
The "trail" to the right is to an overlook (below).

The day's biggest challenge was the weather.  The route we took is, in the context of a NH 4000 footer, moderate.  The description in The Four Thousand Footers of the White Mountains is spot on.  It can be very difficult to judge something so subjective as difficulty for others' benefit.  In a lot of ways, this hike reminds me of Galehead.  At 10 miles, it is on the longer side of what we do but they're not trying, difficult miles.  I enjoyed the multiple junctions to give me markers.  Until the first switchback on the Carter Dome Trail, running water crossing or parallel to the trail is plentiful for the dogs.  It's available again at the next junction (Zeta Pass/Carter Moriah Trail) and here and there on rainy days (or in puddles on the trail) after that.  The summit clearing is broad so the dogs could spread out and entertain themselves as we took pictures.  (It is generally still wooded, which we appreciated as we waited out the rain.)  There are a couple slick sections of rock that challenged newbie Liza but no places where hoisting was necessary.  I would consider Carter Dome a great peak for those who've already built their dog up to 4000 footer-level difficulty but now want to work on distance/endurance.

The two newest trail dogs seemed quite happy with Carter Dome (minus the rain!)
While yesterday's hike was awesome and I learned my memory had not done due justice to Carter Dome, most of what I find myself continually reflecting on was the experience.  Hiking with five dogs, members of some of the oldest breeds in the country, the sense of being a pack was magnificently strong.  They stuck together, checked in, teased, deferred to, and respected one another.  I found myself constantly mesmerized watching them interact.  On top of that, I have rarely seen so many great examples of the human-dog bond that I can appreciate at a deep level.  The photos won't show that, not quite, not ever.  But hopefully they're experiences readers will pick up on when they're out there!
Most of the humans!

Sunday was also Tango's birthday.  Though I'm not sure most 8 year old's would want their birthday party to be a hike, he was as happy as I was for the wonderful company we were in with friends and family and got  cheeseburger in addition to use usual post-hike treat!  I did promise him no more 10-milers and no more humid days!


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you very much! It was a fun day but also full of reminders to heed lessons learned in the past ;)