Back when a dollar went a lot further than it does today, an overnight stay at AMC’s Carter Notch Hut would run you 75 cents.
That was a century ago, and while the Consumer Price Index has since seen more hikes than a chapter trip leader, one could argue that the value of a visit to Cozy Carter today is as great as ever. The oldest existing building in AMC’s hut system, Carter marks its centennial this year. Improvements to the Carter campus over the ensuing decades have included creation of two bunkhouses (recently remodeled), a wash house, kitchen upgrades, composting toilets, a drilled well for potable water, renewable energy systems, and interpretive education programs.
All this and hearty meals, outstanding scenery—and a ghost. That would be the ghost of Milton E. “Red Mac” MacGregor, a friendly apparition who has been the alleged force behind phantom footsteps and doors opening seemingly on their own from time to time. Red Mac was Carter’s first caretaker and later became AMC’s first huts manager, overseeing Carter, Lakes of the Clouds, and Madison Spring huts from 1921 to 1927.
The experience of hiking to Carter Notch and spending a few days nestled between the Carter and Wildcat ranges has changed little since those days, written accounts tell us.
AMC member Harvey Newton Shepard was an early proponent of the creation of a hut system in the Whites similar to that found in the Alps. As noted in Passport to AMC’s High Huts in the White Mountains, Shepard wrote that those three early huts “throw open, as never before, the summits of the great range and the little traversed wilderness to the east of [Mount] Washington.” He noted, “A tramper can be. . . free of tents, frypans, grub bags, and endless and weighty things….Tramping clothes and a cheerful spirit are the really only necessary things.”
As with all of AMC’s eight huts, the Carter Notch Hut logbooks throw open a window to mountain days past, and the visitors who have traversed the threshold. One notable guest, the logs reveal, was Emma “Grandma” Gatewood, who visited Carter in 1955 and 1957, during thru-hikes of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.), which runs past AMC’s huts. In the Aug. 25, 1957, entry, Gatewood notes that she was “the first woman to hike the entire Appalachian trail (sic) in one continuous trip” two years earlier. It continues: “I am now on my second trip starting at Mt. Oglethorpe Georgia April 27th 1957.” At the time, Mount Oglethorpe was the southern terminus of the A.T.
Built in 1914, Carter, like Madison, was crafted of stone. As documented on outdoors.org, “It received the first permit granted by the U.S. Forest Service for a permanent structure in the recently formed White Mountain National Forest.”
Standing at 3,288 feet above sea level, Carter Notch Hut is precisely 3,000 feet below the summit of lofty Mount Washington, its tallest White Mountains neighbor. While fine views can be enjoyed from the slopes of Carter Dome and nearby Mount Hight, fans of Carter Notch aren’t typically drawn there by panoramic views. Rather, visitors revel in a scramble over the jumble of boulders that make up the unique Ramparts; enjoy casting a line for brook trout in one of the two Carter lakes; and simply appreciate the quiet of this secluded mountain pass. Just as they did a century ago.