After spending fourteen hours on this section of Trail today I felt
like I'd been our there for three days!
My knees were so sore, it was hard to walk after sitting down for several
minutes to eat dinner at 8:45 PM. My shins and knees were bleeding from climbing
up and down rocks all day. My fingertips were abraded from the same.
All I wanted to do was go to sleep.
Four days of rain. Five inches recorded in Carter Notch in the last 24 hours.
Flooded lakes covering parts of the Trail. Flooded creeks and rivers to wade
through. Trail sections that became creeks with all the run-off. Submerged bog
boards. Puddles covering the Trail. Blow-downs blocking the Trail. Branches and
limbs across the Trail. 60MPH wind gusts. Tangled roots. Rocks galore. Vertical
walls to climb up and down. Suicide slabs (AKA "exposed rock ledges"). Ascent of
1,000 feet in one-fourth mile (Peak E of Wildcat Mtn.). Ascent of 700 feet in
less than one-fourth mile (bottom portion of Carter Dome). Equally steep
Does the fun never end in the White Mountains???
This was just today - and the sun was out! It doesn't include all the fun
I've had in the rain on a couple of previous days.
You know the scary part? I hear it's worse in the Mahoosucs . . .
This was one tough twenty-one miles. I guarantee you I'll never do any part
of it again. Yes, there were some impressive views of the parallel Presidential
Range and there were three lovely lakes. But the terrain was so doggone rugged
that the rewards just aren't great enough to entice me back.
WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE
I started at Pinkham Notch right at dawn, knowing it would be a long day. It
was very windy but warm - already 66 degrees at our campground. After four days
of rain, a dry, warm front was blowing in. Clouds hung over Mt. Washington and
the Presidential Range nearby, but the lower Wildcat-Carter-Moriah Range I'd be
running and hiking was clear.
The flooding in the first mile surprised me. There hadn't been nearly as much
rainfall in the valleys as in the mountains but I didn't know that until I
talked to the caretaker at the Carter Notch Hut. He's the one who told me that
five inches of rain fell in the notch in a 24-hour period ending during the
night, and several more inches had fallen the preceding three days.
Lost Lake, above, was so full it covered parts of the Trail near the start.
The two Carter Lakes in the notch were six feet over normal levels, flooding the
Trail near the hut. I was never in over my knees, and could see bottom, but it
was still unnerving and at times I wasn't even sure I was on the AT. (Trail
markings have been a real problem for me in New Hampshire.)
I was a little concerned about encountering creeks so full I couldn't get
through, but that didn't happen. The deepest ones were near the end, before
dark, while I was with Jim. He was a sweetheart and came out four miles from the
end to meet me so he could help me get through the final mile(s) in the dark.
The runoff started very near the summits of each mountain I climbed. The
trails were little creeks even in the afternoon, many hours after the rain
stopped. I'm guessing the moss ground cover in the alpine zone acts like a
sponge, slowly releasing the water.
What this meant was running water in most of the trails and standing water
in flat spots. The wet areas (bogs) were flooded and some of the boards
bridging the areas were submerged. In addition, rocks that would normally be dry with all
the wind and sun were wet, making them harder to climb up and down. Fun times.
BLOWIN' IN THE WIND
The wind was strong in exposed areas all morning and in the late afternoon.
Carter Notch hut had gusts up to 60 MPH this morning. It's in a fairly protected
area at only 3,288 feet. When I was on the Wildcat peaks (five of 'em) in the
morning, I was up to 4,500 feet. Carter Dome is 4,832 feet. The windiest spot
was at the Wildcat gondola (for skiing) because the trees were cut down there.
There was a lot of debris in the Trail all day. I saw no other hikers until
afternoon. No one had removed any of the branches and limbs that fell
overnight. There were several recent blow-downs that were difficult to get
I was hit in the back of the head by a small branch on Wildcat Mountain.
Fortunately, I wasn't hurt. Unfortunately, it didn't knock any sense into me! I
just kept on going . . .
One good reason was that I was not about to go back down that hairy climb on
the suicide slabs!!
This section has some very difficult climbs and descents, very steep as noted
above. The worst was probably the initial climb up Peak E of Wildcat Mountain
because of the exposed rock slabs, which I henceforth will refer to as "suicide
slabs." One misstep here and you're dead. Thank goodness I wasn't going down
this side. (Especially since it would have been in the dark if I'd
The climb up Carter Dome was very steep at the bottom, then became more
moderate. After climbing only twenty minutes I came to a rock outcropping where
I could look down on the Carter Notch Hut. I was amazed how far down it looked.
I took this photo later on Mt. Moriah, looking back at the Wildcat and Carter
peaks I'd hiked already:
There were a lot of bog boards up high today. On North Carter Mountain I
came upon the cute little woods grouse in the photo at the top of this entry. (S)he
let me take the photo, then started walking ahead of me over about twenty
boards. When (s)he ran out of boards, off (s)he flew off. (I was wishing by that
point that I could just fly right over the wetlands, too.) These grouse
are much friendlier than the ones I encountered in the South.
On his way in to meet me Jim stopped at the Rattle River shelter 1.6 miles
from the end and talked with the hikers there. It was dark enough to turn our
lights on when I got there, so I didn't talk long with them. "Boo Boo" and
"Stinkerbell" met us just before they got to the shelter and we talked a bit.
They are doing a flip-flop from Harpers Ferry. I met them a couple days
Jim usually gets crappy, unrunnable trail when he comes in to see me but
this time the last four miles were the best of the day and he could run some of
it. I was able to run a little before it got dark, then I just slogged as fast
as I could. I was out of energy and wanted to be done.
It was a long fourteen hours. I'm glad tomorrow will be easier. I'm almost
done with the Whites, thank goodness.