There are many things to love about hiking in the White Mountains. The scenic views, the interesting people you meet along the trail, the wildlife. To me,though, the best part is the companionship and camaraderie of hiking with friends.
This was more apparent than ever when three of my buddies, my wife and I hiked 18 miles through the Wildcat, Carter and Moriah ranges.
For starters, getting up at 4 a.m. to drive two and a half hours isn’t so bad when you know you’ll be riding with people you care about and who care about you. The car ride north from Manchester was filled with both serious and comical discussions on life and theories of social networking.
Once we were off I-93, we began to see signs of foul weather. Rain and lightning made me question whether we had driven all this way for nothing. We also saw signs of Tropical Storm Irene. Detour signs for Route 302 lined our drive into Gorham and Route 16.
Because this is a point-to-point hike, we drove in two cars. My van, containing the Manchester crew, met up with my friends from Auburn and Chester at McDonalds before heading to the parking spot for my van (we took the small car to the start so when we were sweaty and nasty at the end of the day we’d have more space to breath).
The five of us piled into my friends Jetta and drove the 10 miles to Pinkham Notch and began our hike. By the time we started, it was apparent the worst of the bad weather was pulling away, so we decided to give it a go.
The first part of the journey through these ranges is the most difficult and we spent the better part of the morning completing the fewest miles. The trail starts by climbing 2,000 feet in 3.5 miles as it travels over the Wildcat range (Wildcat D and Wildcat are both official 4,000-footers). From the summit of Wildcat, it plummets 1,200 feet into Carter Notch and then climbs 1,500 feet straight back out again to the summit of Carter Dome (another official 4,000-footer). Carter Dome is at mile 6.3 of this hike.
We were happy to finally ascend Carter Dome, even though clouds engulfed these higher elevations. We bypassed Mt. Height since there would be no views and went merrily along our way, covering the rest of the trail with much greater ease. The climbs were still challenging, mostly because of the hard morning climbs, but we were often running along the more gradual portions of trail (to the incredulity of many hikers we passed).
The Carter Range passed and we descended into the col between them and Mt. Moriah. This part was fairly technical, containing a variety of wet rock, plank boardwalks and scrambles. A funny thing happened along this stretch. I rounded a corner at a good job and miss judged a wet sloping slab, set one foot down and managed to fall, do a 180 on my back and then somersault backwards. I got up laughing, because what else can you do in that situation?
Climbing to Moriah’s summit (the fourth and final 4,000-footer on this hike) from the col was over ledges and went by quickly. Reaching the summit was a triumphant moment I shared with my wife and friends as we stretched out in the cooling breeze and relished in the fact that the climbing was done and we only had to descend 4 1/2 miles to the van.
To finish off the hike, we ran down the trail from the summit of Moriah, wrapping up our trek in a total time of 8h 40m. We were all glad to have arrived at the van.
This hike was a challenging and enjoyable experience made more pleasant by sharing it with my wife and friends! I hope everyone reading this gets the same opportunity to share memories on the trails with their close friends and families. A big thank you to those of you who made this a great experience for me!