We had big plans for what seems like will be our traditional Fourth of July hiking trip. Last year my husband and I did a partial-Presi traverse and side trip to Isolation. This year we decided to include our son on a two day Cats and Carters traverse with a stay at Carter Notch Hut. The reason for this was because both Ethan and Cameron needed all the of the Cats and Carters peaks for the their NH48 lists.
We made the necessary reservations and we were off to Pinkham Notch for the start of our adventure. We had a beautiful, sunny day, with nice puffy clouds – good weather and with the breeze in the higher elevations, it was just about perfect. We started out on Lost Pond trail, right across Rt. 16 from the Pinkham Notch Visitor’s Center. This was a great little trail, mostly flat and with great views of Lost Pond just feet away from the trail and Mt. Washington further off in the distance. We didn’t see much of the top of Washington, due to the clouds, but we knew it was there.
We quickly arrived at the junction of the Lost Pond Trail and Wildcat Ridge Trail. This is where the adventure would really begin. I had never hiked the portion of the trail from Rt. 16 to the gondola. The last time I visited the Wildcats it was raining, so I took the ski trails to the top. New trail is always interesting, and this one didn’t disappoint. This trail is certainly challenging in the consistency of steepness. As soon as we’d come around a corner, there would be another set of stone steps or another steep section right in front of us. It got comical at one point. Fortunately, among all the steepness, there were a few fun rock scrambles and ledges with fantastic views. This gave us a bit of a break for snacks and picture taking.
The trail really has two steep sections separated by a section that is more moderate. You kind of get a breather before that last push up toward the top of the ski area. After a good snack, we attacked the second steep section and before we knew it, we passed Wildcat E and started to see nicely dressed, clean smelling people and children in cute clothing and sandals- an almost positive sign that they didn’t hike up from the other side of Wildcat Ridge. We then heard the gondola machinery running and soon popped out of the trees to watch groups of people getting out of the gondola and enjoying the top of Wildcat. We headed over to the platform on the summit of Wildcat D to enjoy the views and to have a late lunch before working our way across the rest of the ridge. It was here that Ethan put on his knee brace. The same knee that had given him trouble on Passaconaway was starting to give him some slight twinges of discomfort, especially during descents. For the moment, he wanted to prevent any further injury and just see how the knee would do with a little support.
Refueled and ready, we took on the rest of the Wildcats, C, B and A. This section has the most variety of the trail, ups, downs, and level sections. This is also where Cameron started to really get tired and understandably so. The distance wasn’t the problem, but the terrain was challenging, and by the end, he did not want to hike down and then have to hike up one more time! We kept at it, taking breaks as needed, and finally got to Wildcat A, and actually much sooner than I expected or remembered. We had nice break, saw the hut down in the notch below from the viewpoint, checked the time and knew we’d certainly be a little early for dinner. After a few photos it was time to make the final descent for the day.
Cameron and I scurried down the trail and waited at the Wildcat Ridge and 19 Mile Brook Trail junction for Ethan, who was taking it easy due to his knee. We waited so that we could all go together to the hut. He was pretty close behind, and we hadn’t been there but a few minutes when he showed up.
We got to the hut in plenty of time, relaxed and enjoyed our dinner. Ethan was pretty tired and went right back to his bunk, but Cameron and I hung out in the dining room working on the Jr. Naturalist Booklet for something to do before going to bed.
The next morning we woke up to the sound of rain. Ethan’s knee was not much better, and with the prospect of wet rocks and more rolling terrain after the initial steep hike out of Carter Notch, we decided the best thing to do would be to hike via 19 Mile Brook Trail out to our car, which was parked at 19 Mile Brook trail head. After breakfast, we packed up and headed down the trail. Nineteen Mile Brook Trail does have some Irene damage, but we passed two work sites, where the trail crew was busy repairing the damage. The rain stopped after a while and by the time we got to the trail head, we saw patches of blue sky and sunshine.
While we all were a bit disappointed that we didn’t hike the Carters, no one was upset or teary over the decision to hike out and wanted to do what was best for everyone involved. The three of us agreed that we had done a good job in completing the trek over all the Wildcats, getting some new peaks, and that the Carters will be there for another day and another adventure.