Due to all sorts of things, I just haven’t been out hiking the past couple of weeks. Now that things have settled down a bit, I scheduled a day off just to go hiking. The weather looked promising over the weekend, so my first choice was Lincoln and Lafayette. The weather forecast changed, so I decided to go with Plan B: the Wildcats. I would still get two more peaks for my winter list, and yet be on a more protected hike.
As I drove through Franconia Notch, it was very apparent that Plan B was the right choice. It was yucky and socked in, and was the same way when I drove back through in the afternoon. By the time I got to Wildcat, the clouds had started to break and I was blessed to have sunshine, blue skies and light wind for most of the hike, with the exception of the last mile or so when the clouds rolled back in. Across Rt. 16, the clouds never did lift off of Washington and the other peaks, but I did get some nice partial views into the ravines and up to Lion’s Head.
After arriving at the ski area and getting my $10 hiker pass, I headed over to the trails. I asked for quick directions to Straycat and Polecat to make sure I got on the correct trails. The last time I hiked up the Wildcat trails, I ended up on the Lynx trail, which although shorter, is much steeper! With the right directions, I was on my way and up the slopes. Straycat hadn’t been groomed, so the snowshoes went on and stayed on for the rest of the hike.
After a while, it looked like there was another snowshoe track on the ski trails, so I thought might actually meet another hiker. I saw plenty of skiers and snowboarders, most of whom either waved or said, “Hello”. I even had a few stop and chat with me. One gentleman even asked if I was hiking the winter 4,000 footers! The hike up was pleasant and not too difficult and soon I came up to the top of the ski lift. Here was where the real fun and work would begin.
NHITHIKER did a great job on Sunday breaking out the trail after the big storm, but I figured on some trail breaking with the new snow that came on Monday. From what I could tell, it looked like there was fresh trail breaking up to D peak. which was nice to see. I went up to the D platform, took a look around and started the journey over to A peak.
About a half mile from D peak, I met the other hiker returning to D peak. We chatted about trail conditions and I thanked him for breaking trail that morning, and then asked if he had gone all the way to A peak. He said he had and I asked if he got any views down to Carter Notch. He said he had a view, but not down into the notch. Okay, maybe it was cloudy, I’ve been up there before and couldn’t see the bottom due to clouds. I then asked if he had seen the USFS Vista sign and he said no, but that he might have missed it and had started to go downhill. At that point, I wasn’t sure if he’d went all the over to A peak, and I said I’d just follow his tracks and wished him a nice day. I followed his tracks and they stopped shortly after C peak. I felt badly for the other hiker because this guy worked hard breaking the trail, but stopped a bit short. Wanting to go on to A peak, I broke out the rest of ridge following NHITHIKER’s previous break out, in 4-6″ of new powder, plus drifting in some places.
The trail rolled along, down into cols and up to the peaks, and eventually I saw A peak and knew that I was getting close. When I arrived at A peak, I very glad to be there as I was starting to get tired from trail breaking. I went to the outlook, gazed down to Carter Notch Hut and across to Carter Dome, took my photos and made the u-turn back to the ski area.
The trip back seemed a lot quicker than the trip out. I had never hiked the ridge from A to D, always the other way, and it seemed much easier. I’ll have to try that again sometime and see if I still think that or if I was just happy to have bagged the peak and was on my way back over a partially broken out trail.
Closer to D peak, I head skier’s voices and knew I was close to the ski area. Sure enough around the next corner was the platform. From there it was a very easy walk down hill and back to the car. Overall, it was a good day, with a nice mix of easy and hard sections, great weather and winter wonderland scenery!