Saturday, August 9, 2014

Wildcat D - Does The "D" Mean Doggone Tough?

Nine (9) days ago I sprained an Achilles tendon on a short local hike of Mt Major and I've needed to lay low since.  As we looked for a first hike on my return from injury, we wanted something not too long in case my sprain gave me problems.  We focused on the 52-With a View looking for something we had not yet done.  Ahh..., but then I stumbled across Wildcat D.  

With it being only a 4.25 mile round trip hike from the Glen Ellis Falls parking area, it seemed like the perfect match. In addition, we needed to bag this summit as a part of our 48 4k's.  That said, we also need Wildcat itself and most hikers will combine the two into a single peak bagging hike.  We however, are planning on hiking Wildcat on September 13, 2014 as a part of the Flags on the 48 (FOT 48).  If you are not aware of this inspiring annual 9/11 memorial event, click the link to learn more.  

Yes, we could have gone up Wildcat first for the FOT 48 and then descended across Wildcat D but hey, let's not make things too simple.  The psychological advantages of bagging one of our 48 4k's while only hiking 4.25 miles was just too much to pass up.  This hike also had just 2,100' of elevation change and 2,300' of elevation gain -- though it sure seemed like more, much more! Maybe its just me but someone needs to calibrate their distance wheel and altimeter.  It could be our ages and fitness levels but this hike seemed much longer than advertised and with more elevation gain.

This "little" 4.25 mile hike turned out to be a challenge greater than we were expecting.  Note to self:  Do more research before selecting a hike.  A couple of days after completing this hike, once I was again able to think straight, I checked the White Mountain Guide and therein were printed all the warnings we had needed.  Unfortunately, it was too little, too late.

And I quote from the White Mountain Guide, "...very steep and rough, and there are several ups and downs and other steep, rough sections along the rest of the trail that make it more difficult and time-consuming than one might infer from a casual glance at the map or distance summary. (Caution: The section between NH 16 and E Peak [the section we hiked] may be dangerous when wet or icy, and hikers with heavy packs should allow substantial extra time.)"  Book time for the distance we traveled is 4 hrs & 10 minutes -- our actual time was close to 6-hours -- OUCH!  Mr. & Mrs. Slowsky were at it again.

And as if that is not enough, Sue hates difficult water crossings.  Truth be known, so do I, though I don't disdain them quite as much as she does.  Hmm....maybe I should have also read this passage in the White Mountain Guide; "...but this end is more commonly reached by following Lost Pond avoid the often-difficult and sometimes-dangerous crossing of the Ellis River."  Trust me, we should have heeded this advice!

Though we made it across the Ellis River - carefully and with lots of trial and error - there is more to the story.  You see, we brought an entire cooler of Trail Magic for thru or section hikers on the AT (the Wildcat Ridge Trail we hiked today is on the AT).  For those who don't know, trail magic is defined as an unexpected act of kindness and is a quintessential part of the Appalachian Trail experience for many long-distance hikers.  Our cooler had Gatorade, Snickers Bars, salty peanuts, delicious plums, apples and baby wipes.  We thought we were on the AT so it made sense to drop it off before crossing the Ellis River (heck, I had a hard enough time getting myself across that river let alone myself and a heavy cooler).

About .1 mile after crossing the river we hit a trail intersection.  Oops!  The cooler was not actually on the AT as we had not carried it in far enough to actually reach the AT.  So, we headed back to the river and we scanned up and down 50 yards in each direction trying to find a spot where we could safely carry the cooler across.  After about 15 minutes we finally gave up and began our ascent up the mountain to Wildcat D.  The cooler remained on the other side of the Ellis River, no where near the AT.

The good news is that at least a couple of AT thru hikers were able to partake in some of the goodies (we know because they left notes).  I assume they may have left the trail to take a dip in the Glen Ellis Falls pools (???).  Other day hikers probably also had some goodies which was fine with us.  

On to some photos:

This picture does not do the steepness justice.  You'll have to trust me, it is steep for much of the way.

One of the first restricted but beautiful views.

Sue pauses while developing a plan for climbing this chimney.  It would have been easier if the rocks wedged into the crevice had come farther down.

Mt Washington in the distance.

We are about 1/2 way down the mountain at this point and we are on the open ledges overlooking Route 16.  The Pinkham Notch Visitors Center is just to the right of our feet in this photo.

A view of Mt Washington with somewhat ominous clouds overhead.  This photo was taken from the elevated platform atop Wildcat D.  Tourists riding the Wildcat Ski Area Gondola in the summer months make their way to this platform for better views.


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