Monday, March 14, 2011

Mt. Hight

The weather forecast for yesterday called for fog, temperatures in the twenties dropping to the teens, and winds 25-35 mph with gusts up to 45 mph in the high Presidentials. Our group of five plus Kodi had planned to hike the 5,366' Mount Madison. Given the likelihood of fog and near-zero visibility we chose a lower peak - the 4,675' Mt. Hight in the Carter-Moriah Range just east of the Presidentials.

A compounding factor for this hike was the time change. We all moved our clocks forward an hour Saturday night to ensure we awoke at the correct hour of 4:30 am. Although we all moved time forward and arrived at the trailhead by 8:00 am, our bodies did not spring forward. We were all a little sluggish on the hike; all but Kodi, who was in top hiking form. Still, we all were happy to be on the trail as light snow fell, the air temperature was comfortably in the high twenties with little wind.

We set out on Nineteen Mile Brook Trail, a scenic trail that parallels the brook for 1.9 miles. The trail lies on a narrow terrace on the slope just above the brook. We passed cascading waterfalls and deep pools.

The trail was well-packed -- perfect for snowshoes, which we wore all the way up and down. We frowned at several other hiking parties who were in bare boots and leaving deep "post holes," when their boot sank up to three feet or more in places where the snow was a little soft. This ruins the trail. Inexplicably many of these folks had snowshoes strapped on their packs.

The steady climb and our relaxed pace allowed us to take in the beauty of the brook and surrounding forest. I saw fresh marten tracks, but no sightings this time. From 19 Mile Brook Trail we turned east and began a steeper climb up the Carter Dome Trail to Zeta Pass and the Carter-Moriah Trail, part of the Appalachian Trail. This leg of our hike passed through a beautiful stand of paper birch and then into more spruce and fir. We crossed a tributary to 19 mile brook, still rimmed with four feet of snow.

After a rest and snack at Zeta Pass -- a small opening in the forest -- we continued on and up. The 0.4 mile hike up to the summit of Mt. Hight from the Carter-Moriah Trail is deceptively steep. Our pace was slow and steady, while Kodi scrambled easily up the slope. Once we emerged above treeline, the wind blew hard and the visibility was low. Still, it was beautiful and the cold wind cooled our over-heated bodies from the climb.

We laughed at Kodi's antics on the summit. He loves to hike and seems exhilarated in the cold and wind of these summits in winter. He scampered, and rolled, and chased his tail.

We both enjoyed the wind on our face.

Then we descended back down the steep pitch to Zeta Pass for lunch of hot soup and sandwiches and dried fruit. And started planning our next hike.

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