I really wanted to label this post, “Traveling with the Three Stooges” or maybe even “Rocky & Bullwinkle”, but I will stay with tradition and keep it to the Mountains, Huts, and trails.
My reason for the “Three Stooges” is simple, we could not leave the house, nor start our hike without M’s companions. Their real names are Whale, Mr. G and Mickey. When you hike with a toddler there are days, they will need their own items and crew members. It’s small potatoes to us adults, but true deal breakers for them. To keep the loving terrible twos at bay and M happy, we brought them. So, I am thinking this is probably the first time in history a whale, giraffe and mouse climbed up to Mt. Hight, then to Carter Dome, to Carter Notch, to the Carter Notch Hut then back to the car to complete the loop.
This is the second time we climbed this route. Our first time was last year, we ended up cutting the hike short and missing Mt. Hight. I am glad we did this since the weather was cooling and the daylight was falling.
We started at the Nineteen Brook Trail, located off Route 16. If you are coming from 302, Jackson, NH or Pinkham’s Notch, you will pass the Mount Washington Auto Road then travel roughly 5 to 6 miles. The trailhead is on the right side. Honestly, we hiked this last year with M, you can tell it’s the right parking lot because of the cars. It is definitely a popular place to hike. If you are unsure, look for this sign at the trailhead.
We started this hike around 8:00/8:30 in the morning. If you are hiking in the Fall, I would consider starting a little earlier. The ending of sunlight might cause you to push through some great views. Also, without rest you may ended up hurting yourself. All the trails are marked well and well used. You will walk along the Nineteen Mile Brook for some time. Then you will cross over the brook before the trail splits.
When you reach the trail junction, to head up to Mt. Hight (directly) you will go left and take the Carter Dome Trail. If you are hiking to Carter Notch Hut, you will continue on the 19 Mile Brook Trail. If you need to take a break, this is a good location to pull up a log or rock. It is a bit more roomy than anything you see face for roughly another two miles.
We went to the left and traveled up Carter Dome Trail for about 1.9 miles to another trail junction. The trail junction continues up to Mt. Hight and Carter Dome or you will take a ‘left’ to South Carter, Middle Carter, North Carter and Mt. Moriah.
This trail junction, this a great place for a break and many hikers use this location for just that. We met a two different groups of hikers here. Of course, they were thrilled and in awe to see us taking M up to the summit. This is where the game of “Whale” came about. Our little Miss M is a bit shy and tends to hide behind her stuffed animals and other items. With all the attention, she wasn’t sure what to do, so she created a way to say “hi” with Whale like she was waving, but every time anyone went to shake it or touch Whale, she would hide him. So, now this Whale game took place throughout the hike and carried into our next one. I am sure it will continue, since we cannot leave Whale at home.
After this break with a great group of hikers, we carried on up to Mt. Hight. You will travel along Carter-Dome Moriah Trail then take a left onto the Zeta Pass to climb up Mt. Hight. The first three-quarters to Mt. Height is pretty normal, but the last push to the summit is not for amateurs carrying a toddler or heavy weight. It requires climbing, some very large step ups onto rock facings, some balancing and without a doubt strong legs. I will say climbing up is safer than climbing down. You can continue on to Carter Dome then take the trail to Mt. Hight, if that works for you.
Mt. Hight was worth the climb and another good spot for rest. We did not take a rest there. We did snap some pictures then headed down to Carter Dome for lunch. Mt. Hight has some locations for children to walk around, but Carter Dome has a larger cleared area.
The descent from Mt. Hight to Carter Dome is easy and the walk over to Carter Dome summit is perfect after the climb up to Mt. Hight. Mostly, a straight wooded path.
By the time, we reached Carter Dome, I heard something that sounded like a little snore with my mirror I saw M passed out. With care and help J, got me out of the carrier and M was still sleeping. In fact, she napped through our lunch break on Carter Dome.
We took about a 30 minute break here. We knew the climb down Carter Notch would be challenging. This is where your training really kicks in. Being fit is not about how much you can carry for a distance or how far you can go. Fitness is your rate of recovery. By the end of the lunch, I felt like I was just starting the day on fresh legs. Thank you off-season training.
M slept through getting back on my back and for her second summit picture of Carter Dome. This is where sleeping training for your child and helping them feel comfortable on a hike is worth its weight in gold.
After the nice rest at Carter Dome, we headed down to Carter Notch making our way to our next break at the Carter Notch Hut. You will follow the Carter-Moriah Trail to the hut. The climb to the notch is a simple descent. At Carter Notch, you will be climbing down rocks almost to the hut. My free advice is to take your time. If you planned your trip well, took your breaks, this climb is nothing. If you are tired and hungry this can be tricky and lead to injury. There are some great areas to take some pictures and to look out.
When you ask yourself, “Really, how much more of this before the hut?”. My answer is you are about half way there. Your climb down to Carter Notch Hut is absolutely worth it.
We had a lovely time at this hut. The crew at the hut was fanstatic. I suggest carrying some cash with you for some of their treats and meals. Our first step into the hut was like stepping into grandma’s house. They were cooking chili for dinner, had brownies and lemonade. My mouth still waters thinking of the smell. Miss M was up by the time we hit the hut and ready to eat anything and everything insight.
She enjoyed her sandwich while she talked and entertained the crew and two hikers we met way back at the trail junction at Carter-Moriah and Zeta Pass.
The Carter Notch Hut is a perfect place for overnight stays, water refills, bathrooms, food and rest. The above pictures should help you grasp the beauty. You probably want to book ahead for a stay and dinner or you may find yourself without a bed and seat. This link, here, should help you.
After our visit at the hut, we carried on back to Route 16 via Nineteen Brook Trail. After, Carter Notch descent the rest of the hike is pretty easy. The only thing you will may face is your mind kicking in asking when you will be done. Well, you have over 3 miles to go. So, use your break wisely.
On our descent, I needed some time to reset my mind, so I played some low volume music for myself and J. Well, after 3 songs, “Days Go By” by Dirty Vegas came on. I had the iPhone player set to random, I have over 2k songs loaded. I have a membership through MegaBoon.com, 10 cents a song. It beats iTunes, if you aren’t in a rush for the song. Anyhow… the proceeding conversation took place…
“Days Go By” by Dirty Vegas comes on …
J: Hey, do you think there is a Moose out there bee boopin to this song? You know, eating it’s dinner and dancing?
Me: Yeah, I am sure. And there is a Squirrel right next to it enjoying a nut.
J: Oh really, you watched “Rocky & BullWinkle”????
Me: Yes, re-runs…
J: I wonder if M would like it.
A few minutes pass on the trail then I get the hand signal to turn everything off, quiet Miss M and stay put. I am thinking is crap we crossed paths with a momma bear and cubs. But no, this beautiful animal walked right on the trail like she heard our conversation.
Well, we had nothing to do but play “follower the leader”. She led the way for about a half mile then went into the forest to the right. Not far off the trail, we heard her walking and then eating. What an incredible sound. We hung out for a bit. We didn’t know if she had any family in the area. But in about 4 minutes, she walked back on the trail and lead the way for another quarter-mile before turning off into the woods.
I got nothing. I am Irish, but this luck is purely beyond that. I am amazed but the cow’s actions and honored that she stepped out on the trail. We let every hiker we knew traveling up the 19 Brook Trail to be alert for a moose. We are not sure, she crossed paths with them or not.
After another quarter-mile, we crossed paths with a squirrel in the middle of the trail. Yup, you got it, sitting there eating a nut.
I got nothing, again. But I do know J cannot say he never saw a moose or a squirrel eating an acorn.
But, in all seriousness, when you hike down from Carter Notch Hut is basic and very pretty. This trail will lead to back to the first bridge crossing. The location of my first suggestion for a break.
If you hike the trail in the latter afternoon, I suggest keeping an eye out for whatever wildlife that may cross your path. I never would have thought a Cow would just walk out of the woods and hang out like she did.