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Monday, April 13, 2009

South Carter (#28) and Middle Carter (#29), April 12, 2009

19 Mile Brook Trail, Carter Dome Trail, Carter-Moriah Trail, out-and-back.

11.8 miles roundtrip.

Though it was Easter Sunday, it felt like Christmas. We were back to using our balaclavas, hats, and handwarmers as we started out along the 19 Mile Brook Trail.

Flat Stanley, a nice fellow who arrived at our house the other day, accompanied us on today's journey. He and Alex got along just fine.

The trail looked like standard spring conditions...rock, mud, snow, ice.

We reached the dam (1.1 miles) in about half an hour...we were making very good time.

At this point I discovered the meaning of the word "monorail," as it applies to spring hiking...

It was a firm walk, the cold temps made it a nice microspike hike.

Without much ado, we reached the Carter Dome Trail. Flat Stanley asked to take a break here, so we obliged.

I tried to get him to eat or drink something...I was a bit worried he was going to "bonk" on us if he didn't refuel. However, he was adamant about not wanting our snacks. Something about needing to stay thin in order to preserve his reputation. Since I realized I could handle carrying him out if it came to it, I grudgingly respected his refusal of food.

Off we went, experiencing the Carter Dome Trail monorail.

We used this route to get to Carter Dome weeks ago...this time around, we didn't recognize one major water crossing. Last time, we walked over a firm snow bridge. This time, careful rock-hopping was required.

We all made it over safely, staying completely dry. Soon afterward, the monorail turned into a winter-looking, firm sidewalk.

Last time we did this route, this stretch up to Zeta Pass felt like it took forever. This time was no different. I swear this cannot be 1.7 miles. Don't know what it is about this stretch, but it just plain isn't any fun for me.

We reached Zeta Pass and took another breather.

Again, Stanley refused sustenance. He was chipper and in fine form, so I decided not to worry.

From here, we took the Carter-Moriah trail to South Carter. The trail was a nice, firm sidewalk, and the walk felt serene.

We soon reached the short climb that leads to the summit. We followed the spur path and snapped our picture. Flat Stanley's first 4K!

After a short break, we headed toward Middle Carter. Here it is, in front of us.

And now the fun began. Almost all of the 1.2 miles between the peaks consisted of walking through pine branches. Seriously. Alex and I both got smacked in the face countless times. Flat Stanley started to grumble for the first time during our hike, so I put him in Alex's backpack. He was grateful for the reprieve and promptly took a nap while we fought our way through the friggin' trees.

We came up to a ridge, and the sight of Middle Carter's summit encouraged us not to give up the spruce fight.

From this spot, several nice views were had....

South, toward South Carter, Carter Dome, and the Wildcats...

Out into a valley....

We sat down to get out of the wind, and enjoyed the views for a while.

A short while later, we reached the summit area. We walked the entire length of the summit, trying to make sure we walked over the top at some point. Then we took our picture by this dead tree, which I THINK marks the actual high spot.

I woke up Stanley and encouraged him to come out of Alex's backpack. He was happy to see we had reached the top.

Congrats on 4K #2, Stanley!!

A view from the top...

We began to head back down, and Wildcat D sprung into view...

We reached the ridge section again, and Alex became enchanted by this icy branch:

Those icicles were begging to be broken off, so of course Alex did the honors...

Soon afterward, we fought our way back through the branches to South Carter, and then down again to Zeta Pass. Alex asked me to make a video. Here's Part One of short, casual conversation...

And Part Two...

Back down to the car we went. I had to stop at the intersection of the 19 Mile Brook Trail to take a rest. While we were there, a big, strapping man came by with his 3 very friendly dogs. We exchanged pleasantries while the dogs licked Alex all over, then they went on their way. I asked Alex if she would drag me back to the car please, but she refused.

We trudged our way toward the car -- well, I trudged -- Alex skipped and narrated happy stories all 1.9 miles.

And here we are. We congratulated Flat Stanley on his hike, and thanked him for being such a cheery fellow.

He left our house that evening, continuing on toward his next adventure...

A nice hike, though it beat the tar out of me. And I still have whip-marks on my face from a few of those branches!


  1. Wow, this blog is a huge inspiration. It's so great to read about a child's enthusiasm for climbing the 4Ks, and her parent's experiences of hiking with her.

    I have a six-year old daughter and have spent much of the winter thinking about taking her hiking in the Whites this summer. We've done a lot of shorter hikes but no 4Ks yet.

    Reading the descriptions of the first peaks you bagged last summer is really helpful. In retrospect, if you were starting over again, which peaks would you try for a young child's first few 4Ks? Eisenhower, Pierce, Jackson, ...?

    Are there some that you and Alex did early on but that turned out to be less fun? (Cannon?)

    Anyway, as I said this is a great inspiration to those of us with young kids. Thanks for taking the time & effort on this blog.

  2. Hi, thanks for your nice comments!

    As to which I would recommend as the first few 4Ks...definitely Pierce or Eisenhower. Both hikes have moderate grades and fantastic views.

    Tom is pretty easy, but there is only one viewpoint at the top -- so you're in the trees and the pay-off doesn't happen until you're up there.

    Jackson would be a good candidate as well.

    If you want to do a hut stay, you can do Monroe and Washington fairly easily by going up the Ammonoosic Trail and staying at Lakes of the CLouds. You can then tag Monroe/Washington the next day and either head down, or spend another night at Lakes. It makes the trip much easier...though a lot more expensive (Lakes is pricey).

    I hear Moosilauke via the Gorge Brook Trail is rather "easy," but we haven't done that one yet so I can't speak from personal experience.

    As to early hikes that were not all that fun...definitely Cannon by way of the Kinsman Ridge Trail. It is short but STEEP the entire way. It was much harder than I had anticipated and neither Alex nor myself were all that happy on that hike. I find it a miracle she wanted to keep hiking 4Ks after that one...

    Please let me know if you get out there this summer. It would be great to meet you! And thanks again for your kind words!

  3. Thanks for the reply and the additional tips. I climbed most of the 4Ks as a kid but then moved away, so my memory is very hazy (I do remember that our first one was also Tecumseh -- don't remember the trail up at all, but we went down the ski slopes, which was fun).

    We've not generally used hiking poles, but it sounds like you really like them. On dry trails would you take both, or just one? Same for Alex? Do you ever find that it's a pain not having your hands free (for the camera, snacks, scrambling up slabs, etc)?

    I'm impressed that you did that trip up Washington with her so early. My family did that same route when I was a bit older, and I just remember the Ammo trail as being really steep and tiring! It didn't keep me from coming back to climb Washington lots of times later (via other routes), but I never went back up the Ammo route. Maybe it was just a bad day.

    I was thinking about Jefferson as an early 4K for our daughter, like you guys did. The rock scrambles seem like they could be tiring for a kid's short legs (though she's tall for a six-year old). Last June we drove most of the way up the auto road on W. and hiked across the Alpine Garden, then up the last part of Lion's Head trail and up to the summit. She did OK on the big rockpile but was pretty wiped when we got to the top. (She and my wife stayed at the summit while I zipped a mile or so down the Nelson Crag trail to get the car).

    Anyway, thanks again for sharing all this. It's especially great reading about what works and what doesn't (like the reply to someone else's comment, where you listed what you carry). Which reminds me -- what kind of radios did you get, and do you have any advice or thoughts about that?

    Jon (the 4/21 anon above)

  4. Hi Jon,

    Both Alex and I really like to use hiking poles. She now uses a pole that is made for children (they're technically for skiing, but they work fine for hiking). She used to use adult poles, but they hurt her hands -- she was forced to stretch her small hand around an adult's handgrip. By the end of each hike, her hands would ache....the child's ski pole solves that problem.

    In the winter, she can't use poles because her hands get cold quickly. She can't grip anything without losing a bit of circulation, her hands freeze up fast. So no poles for her during cold weather -- just lots of glove layers and handwarmers.

    Jefferson was a great hike -- just 1 mile and you're above treeline. Alex didn't mind the rock-hopping, and she enjoys scrambling. I didn't mention it initially because not all folks enjoy the scrambling aspect, and it is definitely a work-out.

    The Ammo trail was fine. The key for her is prep -- I had told her that trail would be two miles of easy, and one mile of very hard. We took our time on the steep parts, sang a lot of songs, took a lot of breaks, etc. There weren't any problems. She knew there was a hut waiting at the end of the trail, that also served as motivation.

    Radios...we picked them up at a local store. They aren't the super-expensive kind, but they do have a 20 mile radius and they worked well on Washington. Alex and I each carry one when we hike now, in the unlikely event we become separated.

    If you decide you want to get out there a lot, and you're the only one hiking with your child, you may want to consider getting a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB). They are very expensive, but if this is something you're going to be doing for a while, it's a great safety tool. Alex knows how to use ours, it's very simple.

    Also, bring some form of shelter so the two of you have something warm and dry to wait in should you need to await a rescue. I always carry a bivy, a closed-cell foam pad, and and a sleeping bag in my pack.

    In the summer, the liklihood of your being out there totally alone is almost nil, but I like having these things with me anyway.

  5. The key for her is prep -- I had told her that trail would be two miles of easy, and one mile of very hard. We took our time on the steep parts, sang a lot of songs, took a lot of breaks, etc. There weren't any problems. She knew there was a hut waiting at the end of the trail, that also served as motivation.This seems to encapsulate a lot of wisdom about hiking with children: make sure they know what to expect beforehand, keep it relaxed and fun, and plan routes that have interesting features like huts along the way.

    Anyway, thanks for taking the time to respond so politely to all those questions. We'll be doing some short hikes in the next month while the trails on the 4Ks dry out a bit, but we're all looking forward to trying one of those first big mountains!



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