Peak Foliage Backpack to the Carter Range of the White Mountains October 2016

30th November 2016

"I have a vacation day I need to burn, do you want to go backpacking?"

Did I hear that right? Did my wife just say I can leave her with a newborn and gaggle of children for the mountains overnight?

I'm not sure if I said yes or walked out the door first.

Either way I capitalized on this fortuitous offer made at the exact moment foliage was hitting its peak the Friday before Columbus Day 2016 and headed up to the White Mountains in my home state of New Hampshire. My day started by doing a sunrise hike of the 3 mile Boulder Loop Trail and I caught excellent light over a sea of orange and red colored valleys which I posted pictures for in my previous blog post. My bigger trip destination was a 2 day, 1 night hike into dramatic Carter Notch 3288': a deep gap between the cliffs of Wildcat A 4422' and cliffs Carter Dome 4832' with two smalls lakes and car to small house sized talus to climb.

Day 1

The Nineteen Mile Brook Trail up had many sections of pure gold birch trees:

My slower photography pace(well really more erratic) allowed me to notice and capture detail you would ordinarily have to rush past on a peakbagging day hike.

Soon enough I had arrived at Carter Notch, dropped my heavier gear, and then headed up the very steep trail segment to Wildcat A. The trail climbs 1200 feet in .7 miles!

The reward is a tremendous perch looking down into the talus fields of Carter Notch and up the cliffs of Carter Dome. You can see the green roofs of the buildings associated with Carter Notch hut a specks in the bottom portion of the photo.

Looking further North along the Carter Range:

I enjoyed these views for a while and then descended back into the notch to spend sunset in the talus field.

View from the notch. The fall foliage snaked its way up into the cliffs of Carter Dome nicely!

I scrambled around up in the talus field to gain a high enough vantage to see into the valleys below for sunset. The rock in this talus field known as "the Ramparts" range between boulders, car sized boulders, and mini house sized boulders:

Lots of deep holes in between these rocks so be careful!

Finally the light began to grow soft and sat with a (plastic) glass of wine and watched the magic happen over the Wild River Wilderness located to the east of the Carter Range.

House-sized boulder silhouette framing the same view.

As it does every night, the sun set and I retired to Carter Notch hut for the night. Off season this place is a great deal at about $30 for the night. In summer its $130 a night! You get a bunch and access to main hut with a kitchen, running water, electricity, and even a refrigerator (no heat though). Despite being the Friday before Columbus day weekend, there were only 6 other guests that night, a group of which graciously shared some of the pasta they cooked with me! When the night is longer than 12 hours, as it is in October, it is kind of nice to be able to hang around in the hut with the lights on and chat with people instead of staying in your tent for that long.

Of course you can always wander around outside and take photos, like this one I shot that night of the Milky Way over Carter Dome.

Finally I retired to my bunk. The foam pad provided is plenty comfortable, and my sleeping bag kept me nice and warm. The best part was, I had my own bunk room to myself so no snorers! I slept great.

Day 2

Before the first light I headed back out into "The Ramparts" talus field.

While I was waiting for the sun to rise, there were several interesting little cloud formations in the sky.

Angel above Carter Notch:

Wispy formations would change by the second:

Finally the sun rose and began to illuminate the mountain slopes in the Wild River Wilderness:

The sun hitting the colorful slopes of Wildcat A peak

Me in the notch once the sun fully illuminated the colorful cliffs of Wildcat.

Finally it was time to say goodbye to Carter Notch and hike North along the Appalachian Trail up those dramatic cliffs of Carter Dome. The skies clouded over shortly after leaving, changing the light for the rest of the trip.

The trail offers several clifftop viewpoints back down into Carter Notch. It was nice to see it from the other side! You can see the buildings of Carter Notch and the lakes in this shot (one of them has gone dry in this summers drought!)

After the 4832' foot summit of Carter Dome, there are several viewpoints of the Presidential Range along the way to Mt. Hight 4675'. The valley was insanely red!

The Appalachian Trail passes right over to above treeline summit of Mt. Hight.

Hiking north on the Appalachian Trail with a view to Mt. Washington

Thru hiker headed south on the Appalachian Trail with Carter Dome close by and Mt. Washington in view.

Even the high altitude blueberry bushes turn red in fall, making for a great foreground to frame Mt. Washington and the Presidential Range

View North towards Mt. Moriah, Shelburne Moriah, the Wild River Wilderness, and the peaks of Maine

At long last it was time to head down and make it back home to help with the dinner fuss. Rain was scheduled to move in soon and it got windy and cloudy. I ended up being a little late for dinner because the cloudy skies provided even lighting for some photography of nice trailside details,

Unique cascade along the Carter Dome Trail

Bracket fungus

Wind brought down colorful leaves on the trail, it was raining leaves!

All in all, I must say I definitely appreciated the opportunity to slowly explore this slice of the White Mountains at a time of year when people from all over the country and world (I have encountered photographer from as far away as Japan this time of year) visit. What a blessing!

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