All Quiet on the Eastern Front

On Thursday I hiked up the Aqueduct Road, hoped over the spillway in the dam in the 19-Mile Brook, and arrived at Carter just after 6pm. At the 7 full-service huts soup bowls were clattering on plates, and the cooks were barking out orders in the kitchens. At Carter a couple was reading quietly, and Bethany “Benny” Taylor, the Caretaker, was cooking a pizza. This hut is like an eccentric 92-year old man. The stone building is the oldest standing structure in the hut system, and it sees fewer visitors than the younger huts. It is worth a visit. In the ice caves beyond the woodshed ice persists through August. The ponds were once known as the Lakes-of-the-Winds. Up on the ramparts you can look down onto the fields of Jackson and the fattening pavement snake that is North Conway. There is a wildness to this Notch that reminds me of prints of the White Mountains from the 1800’s. In those prints there is an exaggeration in the jaggedness of the peaks and the depth of the shadows in the woods that is rarely matched in the actual landscape. Carter Notch is an exception. The cliffs of Wildcat rise out of the large pond in a jagged wall. Hundreds of feet above you can hear the wind scouring the rock and whistling through the krumholz.

I worked at Carter one late fall season. At that time of year the sun set behind Wildcat by 2pm, and I often went 4 days without seeing another person. It was one of the best times of my life. Solitude is a unique experience, and often confused with loneliness or exile. For the few months I lived alone by the Carter ponds I felt completely at home and content with my own company.

After eating pizza Benny and I went out to the Ramparts and watched sunset clouds sail over Wildcat like pink blimps. The porch lights were not on yet down the valley, but in the notch it was growing dark. Our four guests were already in bed. It was a typical summer night at Carter.