So again, “The best laid plans of mice and men.” When Bruno dropped Pilgrim, Slim, and me at Pinkham Notch this morning, our intention was to hike a 13.1 mile day to the Imp Campsite. But when cold rain started pelting us a little before 2:00 after only a 6.2 mile day which took over six hours, we realized an early stop was mandatory. Thankfully, there were four bunk openings at the Carter Notch Hut. We bit the bullet and paid the $93 fee for the night. None of us wanted work for stay. We were happy to pay for the bunk and hot meal. I must have drunk at least six cups of hot tea during the rainy afternoon and at supper.
The day had started well. With a gentle trail for the first quarter mile,
we were able to get back into the hiking regimen after what could be considered two days off. The flat terrain around a pond was short-lived. And when the climbing began, it was intense. The task was to ascend four peaks of Wildcat Mountain. The climb was over 2000 feet to the first, peak E. I have no idea how they are labeled; however, the second peak we reached was D. At the top of D were two picnic tables next to an operating gondola. During our break only one group arrived at the peak by this method. The gondola operator looked kind of lonely.
Early in the day we hiked around Goose and All the Way. After the break on peak D we helped each other find the correct trail. Few white blazes are available in New Hampshire in places. It seemed like a long while before we located one on the short descent. Finally Goose hollered up that he had found one. From there we had to ascend again to peak C and eventually to 4422 feet on peak A. From there the trail got really tough on the descent. Even though it was only 600 feet, the rocks continued to present
For me these downhills pose the greatest challenge. I often find myself needing to hug a ledge to keep my balance. I hiked most of the day with only one pole. This way allowed me to have a free hand to pull myself up the rock faces or use small trees at the edge of the trail for support. Still I had to sit on my seat and slide a few times due to the slanted, slick slabs. It’s just all real time consuming and frustrating to be hiking one mile or less an hour. After averaging over 18 miles a day through Vermont, the slower, deliberate pace tries my patience. It also requires a concerted focus at all times. Being someone who likes to think and daydream while I walk, this method of traversing the trail is downright torture.
So when we reached the Carter Notch Hut in the cold rain, we called it a day. Pilgrim and I are sharing a bunk room with Rodney and his 12 year old son Josh. Josh is working on summiting all the 4000 footers in New Hampshire. Slim is is another room. At dinner we sat with members of a large family who were out for three days. Bill from Philly was to my right. When he discovered that we were thru hikers he asked many questions. Another member of the family said her father had worked at the hut in the 40’s. Carter is the oldest original hut in the Whites.
So now I’m in my bunk writing this entry. Pilgrim is trying to sleep. He strained his back washing dishes at Lakes of the Clouds, and it’s still bothering him. The father and son appear to be reading. It’s dark outside. We are all using our headlamps. I will sleep soon because my alarm is set for 5:00. With wind chills below freezing on the higher elevation summits and wind gusts up to 60 MPH in the afternoon we plan to get an early start. Hopefully we will have the strength and will power to reach US 2, a hike of 14.9 miles which could take 15 hours, as we desperately try to soon get out of New Hampshire, the toughest state by far on the Appalachian Trail.