Saturday, September 13, 2014

Wildcat A - Flags on the 48 (2014)

For several members of our team, this was our second year of participation in the Flags on the 48 memorial (FOT48).  If you are not familiar with FOT48, here is an excerpt from the organizer's website (www.flagsonthe48.org):

"We in the hiking community continue to honor the deceased with a tribute: flying the American flag atop all 48 four-thousand foot and higher mountains in New Hampshire on the weekend closest to September 11 each year. By demonstrating our steadfast unity in this challenging endeavor, we also hope to express our unwavering support to the families, friends and communities whose losses are beyond comprehension and whose suffering we remember in our hearts."

Very powerfully said indeed!

This is such a popular endeavor in the hiking community that once the online annual registration opens, many if not most of the 48 mountains have teams assigned in minutes.  In fact, the process can be a bit chaotic.  That simply speaks to everyone's interest in participating and also how much of an honor it is to carry and erect a flag on these 48 summits as a way of remembering those affected by the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The FOT48 event is also important to the 100's of other hikers who make certain to summit one or more mountains that day just to see the flags and to pause in remembrance.  Whether assembling a team and erecting a flag or simply hiking to see flags erected by others, all are profoundly impacted by this memorial event.  For me, the very recent and well publicized terrorist killing of a NH man held captive by ISIS made this year's memorial even more poignant.  Lest we forget...

The event this year took place on Saturday September 13, 2014.  It was unseasonably cold which was made worse by strong winds at the summits and a bit of late afternoon rain.  Teams are limited to 10 participants and Leslie our team leader did a great job of organizing a full team of friends for this hike.  Shh...don't tell anyone but there were actually twelve of us.  That is, if you count Benny the wonder dog who has already completed the 48 4k's and is now working on his Trailwrights 72 and Walden the pup who hiked for the first time today (he did take a deep nap at the summit!!).

Our team used the Nineteen Mile Brook and Wildcat Ridge Trails to reach Wildcat A, our assigned mountain.  We also made a quick stop at the Carter Notch Hut on the way to the summit which is about a .6 mile RT diversion.  The total RT distance for this hike was 9-miles with 3,228' of elevation gain.  The only truly challenging part of this hike is the last .7 of a mile up the Wildcat Ridge Trail with 1,027' of elevation change over that short distance - a real heart thumping, lung stressing climb.

Let's move on to some pictures with some added commentary.

Our team members while fresh were all smiles as we departed the trailhead at about 7:45 AM.  Left to right; Paul, Kristen, Angie, Erlinde, Scott, Leslie, Sue, Ray (mois), Lauren & Mark.

There was a traffic jam at the junction of the Nineteen Mile Brook and Carter Dome Trails as this was a convenient spot for everyone to take their first break 1.9 miles from the initial trailhead.  There are so many people here because the team covering Carter Dome had arrived just minutes after our team.

We've  arrived at the small open ledge immediately adjacent to the wooded summit of Wildcat A.  Our flag pole sections have been assembled and Leslie, Angie and Paul work to secure the flag.
 
 
 Right on cue as it was just a minute or two before noon when our flag was raised.

  Now that is a pretty site.

Our full team takes a photo to remember the moment.  Benny the golden makes it into the shot but I think Walden the pup may have been napping having tired from his first 4,000 footer.
 
A photo across Carter Notch with Carter Dome in the upper left.

The same view as above but zoomed in on the AMC's Carter Notch Hut below.

With binoculars we could actually see the flag on Moriah in the distance (I think its Moriah).  Not long after these photos were taken, the clouds moved in over the Carter-Moriah Ridge and we could no longer see those summits.

There's Walden.  Even after a nap he still looks tired.  He did a great job for his first hike and on the descent he was even able to go off leash for a time.  Walden's "mom" Kristen is in the background.

This part of the story is both sad and uplifting.  We admittedly took our flag down at about 1:30 PM.  Technically the event runs till 2:00 but it was so cold and the traffic had thinned so we made a decision to head down a bit early.  In addition, rain was forecast to arrive at 2:00 PM and we wanted to get down the very steep Wildcat Ridge Trail while the rocks were still dry.  No sooner had everything been put away when two dads and their two sons arrived.  They had driven from CT that morning with the clear intention of hiking Wildcat A and seeing the flag flying.  It was upsetting to all of us when those two boys rounded the corner and did not see a flag as they were clearly let down.  Scott from our team jumped into action and without hesitation began reassembling our flag and poles.  Better still, he enlisted the help of the two boys in the process.  They were thrilled.  Once everything was assembled and the flag was waving, the requisite photos were taken (sadly I personally did not take a picture).  The boys then helped us take everything back down.  In the photo above one of the boys is teaching me the proper way to fold an American flag, a process I literally was unfamiliar with.  In the end, what could have been a disaster (the boys missing the flag after a long drive and hike) turned out to be a real positive experience for all of us.

The mandated photo at the actual summit of Wildcat A.  It is actually a pretty nondescript summit.  Thank goodness for the great views from the ledges a few yards away.

A portion of our team on the descent that afternoon.  Four members had decided to bag Wildcat D and then descend the ski slopes of Wildcat so they could check those off their 48k lists.

Several of us made a stop at Dairy Queen to enjoy some ice cream treats.  We had spent all day in the cold and now we needed ice cream.  Really?

THE END!

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