It had been a while since I was up in the Whites or so it seemed. The lingering ice from the winter kept me from heading up there. I had done some other hikes in the southern regions of NH to bide time for the northern ice age to melt away.
I wasn’t quite sure if I was going to try Isolation or Wildcats until that morning. Decided on the Cats to get my 2 for 1 😉 .
Made my way up north the typical way. This being a big holiday weekend, I avoided much of the traffic the prior day(better weather) but still noticed Appalachia and even Pinkham Notch VC had overflow parking into the streets from the prior day(many over nighters). Found a spot in the PNVC lot and headed across the street to Lost Pond Trail.
I really liked this stretch of trail. Very serene and beautiful. You could see beaver activity and I would expect to see moose in this area, but not today.
Once beyond the pond, picked up Wildcat Ridge Trail. Apparently the originators of this trail only knew one word, UP. This trail quickly ascends at a steep grade but is well maintained. I did manage to get off trail at one spot. I followed a drainage instead, which had some old blazes, so I think it was part of a reroute. I wasn’t alone as I was also following other slip marks and crushed leaves/twigs. After a few minutes, pulled out GPS and confirmed I had drifted about 25 yards left. I bushwhacked back to trail and continued UP.
While steep, the trail has decent footing, with well placed rock steps. Much of it was steep enough to use hands to help along. After a while of this, you reach rock wall where you navigate around via some well placed steps. The drop to your left was a bit much for me(I’m a wimp with drops and exposure), but I suspect many thrill seekers like this stuff. I gritted my teeth (and cussed in my head) and made my way up and around. Once you accomplish that you are on to the next ‘chimney’ style chute. It isn’t very tall, maybe 20+ feet, but again, a decent drop below made it seem more to me. There were some trees below, so it felt a little more secure to me. I scrambled up and over and looked back at my accomplishment.
After a couple more zigs across some ledge, the trail ducked back into the woods. The cloud cover was quite low so no significant views. That only means the beauty is in the journey on the trail. I had a grouse introduce himself to me. As I was scrambling up from a small col, he was just about 2-3 feet away from my head on the next step and flew away in quick fashion, startling me. We chatted briefly and off I went.
After the majority of UP, I reached Wildcat E, the first summit. It was an easy trip to the top of the ski area. The tram at the top of Wildcat Ski area(near summit of Wildcat D) looks like some futuristic space ship. It was more odd given the cloud/fog cover today.
There are many ups and downs along this ridge. I was disappointed at the lack of obvious summit markings(signs/cairns). I don’t recall seeing anything significantly marking each of the many summits along Wildcat Ridge Trail. I stayed on the trail and likely missed the markings.
I reached the look out and 3 gentlemen were taking a break enjoying the view less view. They asked me how far until we reached Wildcat Mountain(A). I became instantly discouraged and clamored, “This isn’t Wildcat A??”. After chatting and double checking maps and GPS, confirmed this was A with much relief. A brief chuckle and off they went back toward Glen Ellis Falls.
I had a caffeinated Clif bar and started my descent toward the Carter Notch Hut. This descent was decent ;-). It is a bit steep, but the footing was stable and rocks placed nicely in step fashion. I quickly made the ponds which were eerie which the cloud cover sitting on them.
The hut had a few occupants chatting away. I breezed in and stole some water and snacked outside. After my short break, I made way back around the ponds to 19 Mile Brook Trail. I took this trail out from my overnight on the Carters last year. I really like this trail as an out from the notch. However I can only imagine it being a never ending slog coming up to the hut from Rt 16.
The sun peeked out as I was descending which made for an even better trip out. Once I reached 16, I swapped socks and planned to hoof it back 3+ miles to PNVC. I got about a quarter mile 19 Mile trailhead and was quickly offered a ride from a kind couple heading there too. On the ride back, we were held up in traffic on 16 because the line to drive up Mt Washington Auto Road was about 40-50 cars deep out onto Rt 16.
This turned out to be a really nice hike(haven’t had a bad one yet).