The signage in the Whites hasn't been too great, and the white blazes have been VERY sparse. We are used to the AT being the main trail, but it isn't so up here. Some of the signs don't even say where the AT goes. It can be confusing.
Soooooo... Somehow we went from the Madison Gulf Trail to the Great Gulf Trail without knowing it, and we ended up going the wrong way... For 2.6 miles until we hit a parking lot with a map. Ugh!!! Since I've remained a purist until now (I've hiked every foot of trail, in order, South-North, with my full pack on), this was a big deal. But I didn't want to hike back up even though the path was quite pleasant and followed the river, and it was another gorgeous day. We could've hitched up to meet the trail, but what about those miles I'd miss? Are a few miles really that important? Did it matter now that I was only 330 miles from the end?! I was bummed.
With convincing from Boss, we back-tracked. It was clearly the only solution and the only way I wouldn't be down on myself. 5.2 extra miles in the day wasn't horrible, and of all the 5.2 miles to backtrack, these were not that bad. And , like I wrote, it was a beautiful day!
Back at the sign where we went wrong, we silently cursed the confusing arrows and continued on the way we were meant to hike. We took a short snack break and got water. It was 11am, and, as far as the AT was concerned, we'd only gone a mile. But then Deetz/PP/Miles caught up! A nice plus side to our side trail adventure.
We told them all about our unfortunate goof, and they said they almost did the same thing. We hiked on with them and Prophet until we glided into the AMC center. Boss ate lunch while I took a 6-minute $2 shower. Got the hair washed! Felt good.
I ate a sandwich and a few treats from Miles before bringing my Platypus water bladder into the outfitter in the center. There's been a hole that I've sealed up, but I called the customer service who said it was covered by warranty, so I got me a brand new platypus!! And it's so much cleaner than my old one. High point of the day....?
After hanging out at the center for over an hour, weighing our packs (mine was just over 33 lbs with two liters of water and two full days of food - not bad!), and eating a bunch, the six of us (me, Boss, Miles, Deetz, Power Pack, Prophet) took off for one of the most challenging climbs on the trail. Pinkham Notch. It was steep. Rock climbing, hand-over-hand type stuff. Very tiring, but also a lot of fun.
There were nice views along the way that made it easy to stop to breathe every so often. We climbed that crazy, steep Wildcat mountain and eventually hit peaks E and D before taking a short break at the ski lift, which was operating. Then onto C (ugh) and B and then finally A. Joyous!! From peak A, it was only .9 miles to the next hut. It was getting late, so we wanted to make sure to get there soon. It was a very steep, slow downhill though, so we had to be careful. It took a while, but Boss and I got there at 6:30. And we're not sure why that mountain is called Wildcat, but it may be because you looked like you've been scratched up when you're done with it. The trail is a bit overgrown with branches all over. It would be difficult to avoid them.
There was work-for-stay available and we could stay in the bunkhouse AND Rorshach was there! Hadn't seen him since Hanover. But also, Wilbur was there?!? I hadn't seem him since Fontana Dam - right before the Smokies. Blast from the past!
We all caught up in the bunkhouse until the guests were finished eating. We got a delicious meal of chicken, rice, soup, peas, cheesy bread and apple spice cake. It was really, really good. And the croo (Michelle, Ben, Lucinda) were very cool. Unfortunatly, our work was trying to clean the drying racks for all the plates/bowls/cups. It seemed an impossible task with the tools we were given, but Boss, Wilbur and I gave it our best shots. After two hours of scrubbing, our hands were pruney, and the trays looked only marginally better than before we began. They were disinfected though! We'd done our best, and we were tired.
After a quick chat with Michelle and Ben, we all hit the sack in the bunkhouse (what a treat!). This means we get to sleep in a bit in the morning. Should be nice.
(10.7mi (+5.2!?) 5st)
-- Posted from the trail...
Location:Carter Notch Hut