- Elevation: A Peak 4,422 Feet, D Peak 4,070 Feet
- Location: Gorham, NH
- Date Hiked: 9/22/2018
- Companions: Stud
- Trails: Wildcat Ridge Trail Trail/Appalachian Trail
Drove up to Pinkham Notch on a sunny late September late Sunday morning and the notch was crawling with visitors. We got the last parking spot at the 10 Mile Brook Trailhead parking lot. The air was crisp and sharp and we quickly put on all our layers and gathered our packs preparing for 2 days of hiking and a night at Carter Notch Hut during self-service season.
We shyly put our thumbs out hoping for a quick and easy hitch down to the Wildcat Ridge Trailhead but the cars were all zooming by so fast and there wasn’t a great spot for them to stop so we started walking down the road. We walked on the shoulder of route 16 with our thumbs out and eventually came upon a wider shoulder when a car slowed down and pulled over. We jogged up to find this nice pair of young women smiling and welcoming us into their car as they quickly tossed all their hiking gear aside to make room for us in their back seat. We thanked them profusely and they said they were on their way to Pinkham Notch from Quebec to go hike Mount Washington and were happy to drop us off just a bit past that.
We waved to them as they drove off and felt very happy with how our day had begin. We found a tunnel under the road that lead to the trail head and were met with an unexpected large river crossing to get to the trail. It was cold and my legs felt wobbly as I balanced my way across the rocks trying my best to avoid getting wet. We made it across and were on our way up the Wildcat Ridge Trail being greeted by steep rocks and instant views.
Before too long we found the summit of Wildcat D which is also a ski resort with some buildings we sat at a nearby picnic table eating our lunch, watching hikers go by and folks ride up and down the gondola enjoying the summit. From here we had superb views of Mount Washington, Tuckerman’s Ravine, Huntington Ravine and the northern presidentials. The sun and food revitalized us and we trekked on towards Wildcat Peaks B, C, and A which we hiked right over without noticing a cairn or a sign before finding a nice outcropping of rocks giving us our first views down into Carter Notch and we could see the lakes and the hut netled down in the shadows as the sun began to dip below the mountains. We took a short break here wondering if we had already submitted Wildcat A. As sunset moved in so did we, feeling the temperatures drop and as we hiked on we discovered that we were descending into the notch down the steep eastern slope of Wildcat Mountain which means that we had summitted all the Wildcats and would soon be at Carter Notch Hut where we would be spending the night.
It turned out that there were only 9 hikers staying the night at Carter Notch so lucky us, we got our own room! We settled in and then hiked back to the main lodge to make our dinner. During self-service season, you make your own food in the huts and bring a sleeping bag. Its pretty sweet cuz it costs about $100 less than full-service season, there’s way less people, and they still give you a bunk with a mat and a pillow and full use of the kitchen.
We made our dinners and sat with some other hikers including an eclectic little group of straggling thru-hikers, meaning Appalachian Trail Hikers who are maybe not going to finish the trail this season but are making their way north and south and have been out on the trail for months. We were stoked for them because they got their own rooms too. The moon was huge and lit up the notch. We wanted to go see it by the lake but we were so tired. So we watched it from the porch of our cabin until we were too cold and sleepy to stay standing.
Stud and I were in our sleeping bags by 7:30pm and both asleep by 8. We woked up around 5, I bundled up to go outside and relive myself expecting Stud to be upright when I returned and that we would start our hike but she was still alseep so I got back in my sleeping bag and we waited for the other to initiate getting up but niehter of us did and we snoozed until almost 8am which is unheard of.
The hut caretaker’s hospitality was amazing. She went above and beyond…given that its self-service season, she baked some oat bars and offered them up to us all. She offered us tea and hot chocolate. In the morning, she made a pot of coffee to share. So I gave my fancy instant coffee packs to a thru-hiker who gratefully accepted them along with some other snacks from my food bag that I was happy to pass along. Stud and I labored down our oatmeal and finally set off.