Location: Wildcat D
I hiked a difficult ten miles today through the cold rain. I left Imp Campsite early and reached Carter Notch Hut around lunchtime. I had already eaten lunch in the late morning on the summit of Carter Dome. I chatted for a bit with the hut master. He let me fill my camelback and water bottles at the hut’s sink before I began my climb into the Wildcat Mountain range where water is scarce. When I heard rain tapping on the tin roof of the hut, I decided I should start moving down the trail before the weather turned really bad.
The climb up Wildcat A was difficult, mainly because the rain began to pour and the rocks became as slick a glass. I had to make sure that with each step my poles were firmly planted and my boots were gripping a rock edge or crack. The climb was only 1000 feet, but it rose over the course of 0.9 miles. To me, 1000 feet in a mile is steep. Once I got to the top of the mountain range, the climbs and descents between peaks were not so difficult. The names certainly implied a tedious nature: Wildcat A, B, C, D, E. There were five peaks on the range, but my mean elevation didn’t change much. While I was still on Wildcat A, I met a man lugging a heavy pack and wearing a rubber rain slicker. He wasn’t very happy about the rain or the cold. He asked if he should turn back. The question caught me off guard just a bit, but I quickly said no. The best place for him to go was down into Carter Notch where the temperature was warmer and he might find shelter at Carter hut. He continued on with a sigh. I realized while standing there that the temperature had dropped and I decided it would be best if I put on my jacket, just in case.
I continued to cross the rolling peaks of the Wildcats over the next few miles. Some of the trail was above tree line, but lightning didn’t accompany the rain storm. When I crested Wildcat D, I could hear the mechanical grind of the gondola. I slowly followed the trail around each turn. I didn’t want to pop out at the top of the ski slopes as night approached and possibly unveil my plan to the gondola operators.
When I realized that I was at the last turn before seeing the gondola, I stopped on a rock to wait for the gondola to shut down. It didn’t take long. Soon I heard the lift lose power. I rounded the bend and walked onto the top of the ski slopes. Two lifts emptied into the area. I could barely distinguish between buildings and trees because the go was so thick. I explored the buildings for a bit. I first found the ski patrol hut unlocked, but I was still uneasy about going in so early so I walked around the summit for a while longer, making sure that none of the booths and none of the buildings still had employees inside of them. I found a number of doors padlocked. One door, on the ground level to the summit house, had neither a door knob nor a lock. I pushed it open and walked inside. It seemed that renovations were being made to the building. Only the main hallway was accessible. The interior doors and windows were boarded or locked. I returned to the green grass on the summit and walked to the edge of a black diamond slope leading downhill. I peaked over the edge and could barely make out the building at the base of the mountain. Cold and wet, I decided it was time to go inside the ski patrol hut and see if I might stay there.
The hut had no electricity. Obviously it had been shut off for the summer season. I did, however, check the circuit breakers to see if I could get the heater and possibly the television working. I could not. The hut smelled terrible from years of mildew from melted snow carried on ski patrollers’ boots and skis. I figured I would be sick for sure when I woke up in the morning, but the hut was dry and out of the wind. Shortly after disrobing, I saw two hikers checking the doors of the main summit building. I stuck my head out of the door and yelled, ‘What are you doing?’ They both jumped and I laughed. I invited them into the hut. Snake, from Alabama, and Grizzly, from Charlotte, NC, had started their northbound thru-hike in February. I was glad to finally meet a couple of northbounders that were taking their time to enjoy the trail. I had begun to think that I was the only one moving slowly on the trial.
The three of us stayed. We read skiing magazines and told stories in the comfort of the hut. Our body heat raised the temperature in the hut to 67̊ according to the thermometer. Grizzly, a sophomore at Appalachian State, traded me his alcohol stove for a granola bar, a pack of nabs, and a breakfast bar. He needed food to get to Gorham, NH and I needed an alcohol stove. The stove weighs an ounce, maybe two. It is fashioned out of a Pabst Blue Ribbon can. Very college.
Grizzly, Snake, and I ate dinner and then went to bed. I claimed the largest couch in the hut when I first arrived. It isn’t a full length couch, but it also is not a love seat. Grizzly took the floor and spread a plastic tarp on the ground because he was afraid of the germs and mold. Snake took the other couch. In the smelly hut, we all went to sleep comfortably before night as the thunderstorms strengthened once more.
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