Guess what?! We finished our NH48 journey with the Wildcats two weekends ago! It’s been a long journey filled with mixed emotions. It’s a relief to know that we finished our goal but what to do next? Before we get ahead of ourselves, a recap of our last NH48 hike.
Located in Gorham, Wildcat – D Peak (4,070 feet) and Wildcat – A Peak (4,422 feet) are a moderate to difficult 8.4-mile hike. Wildcat has five summits but only A and D are part of the 4,000-footers. You’ll most likely hit all five summits if you’re peak bagging.
It was a late morning start, around 9:30 a.m. as it was a long drive from home. Once we arrived at the Glen Ellis parking lot off of Route 16, we were able to snag a spot as it was almost full. We started the hike by crossing under Route 16 through the foot tunnel and rock hopped over the Ellis River. [Last time we did this, we barely crossed when we decided to turn around because our friends didn’t want to continue because of the “raging” river.] I’m not a graceful or confident rock hopper so Chris had to help me on one of the rocks. At about 0.1 miles, we hit the junction for Glen Ellis Falls and continued on the Wildcat Ridge which is also the Appalachian Trail. Soon after the junction, we hit the steep elevation gain. Holy moly. I thought the elevation gain would be gradual but Wildcat Ridge Trail just wanted to start out with a bang. It’s definitely a workout for the beginning of a hike. You’ll encounter steps, rock and wooden, and bouldering along the way.
It’s about two miles to Wildcat – D Peak. We certainly took plenty of breaks along the way as it’s a tough steep climb. There are no signs on any of the peaks so we guessed which peaks we were on as we ascended and descended. We knew we were close to D Peak when we could hear the gondola. It’s a sound you can’t miss because it has this annoying sound every time a passenger cabin offloads. The area near the gondola is open on two sides, giving a nice view of the White Mountains including Mount Washington. We stopped for lunch and people watched the gondola riders and other hikers. Where the gondola drops people off is not the summit. D Peak is actually about 200 yards further on the trail. You’ll know you’re there when you see a lookout deck. When we arrived, we met three other hikers who were interested in Milo and he certainly loved the attention. We chatted with them for a bit and headed off towards A Peak. [We would see them again as we played some leapfrog.]
It’s about another 2.1 miles to get to Wildcat – A Peak. We initially thought we were going the wrong way when the trail from D Peak kept descending, but no, it was the right way. It was just a lot of up and down, mixed in with some flatness. We weren’t sure if we arrived at A Peak until a couple we met on the trail said it probably was because if you continued on the trail, it descends and the next peak’s distance didn’t make sense to still be a part of Wildcat. Someone did point out the cairn off in the middle of the trees to mark the summit just off the trail near the viewing area. Well, with our arrival at the last NH48 peak, we popped – more like twisted – the caps off our mini champagne bottles and celebrated. We stayed there for a bit, greeting hikers as they came and went.
Knowing that we had to get back to the car before dark, we begrudgingly started our journey back. We did encounter a fellow NH48-er on his way to his 47th peak and some AT thru-hikers so that made for a more interesting journey. When we took a break on D Peak, we were tempted to ride the gondola down. I even asked the attendant how much it cost for a one way ride. As soon as that question left my mouth, he said you’re cheating. And it’s not the first time someone’s ridden the gondola down either. According to him, “many” hikers have done it this summer. Fear not, we didn’t ride the gondola down. We were tempted but we wanted to finish the NH48 honestly and according to the AMC rules, so we could earn our patches and scrolls. Chris said we could take the gondola next time we hike the Wildcats.
The journey down was a long one that included butt sliding and a foot getting stuck in a crevice. I did come upon a couple enjoying the views and I thought they hiked down from the gondola because they were wearing jeans. I’m always surprised when people wear jeans for strenuous activities because they aren’t comfy or forgiving. However, that wasn’t the case. They hiked up from Glen Ellis and didn’t even know there was a gondola near the summit. I mentioned to them Wildcat is a ski mountain, hence the gondola. When they asked how far it was to the gondola, I told them at that point I stopped keeping track because of how exhausted I was getting and just wanted to get down. Leaving them behind, we kept trucking along. It helped that we remembered where all the lookout spots were as we could estimate how much distance was left to the parking lot from those spots [You can see Route 16 and the parking lot from some]. I knew we had a ½ mile left when we encountered what I called the Spider Man wall. You have to use all four to climb up or down it. Us humans took some time while Milo just went for it with no fear. By the time we crossed Ellis River and arrived at our car, a good number of cars were left – either late hikers or overnight campers. From the parking lot, we could see the viewpoints on Wildcat where we saw our car which is pretty cool. To cap off our last NH48 (aside from the earlier champagne celebration), we headed over to the Flatbread Company in North Conway for our tradition of pizza and beer.
Well, it’s been a long adventure in the White Mountains but we finally completed all 48 4,000-footers. We’re excited that we finished our goal. We have mixed emotions now that it’s done. We’ll certainly enjoy sleeping in on the weekends but of course, we’ll be thinking of what our next adventure is in the mountains. There’s just so many to choose from. Until then, we’ll just enjoy our accomplishment. My next post will be on highlights on our NH48 so stay tuned.
A Dog’s Walk:
The Wildcats are a moderate to difficult 8.4-mile hike consisting of steep, rocky trail conditions. It’s not recommended for all dogs as it does require some skilled agility especially on the bouldering portions of the Wildcat Ridge Trail. Milo needed help here and there but for the most part was able to mountain goat it fairly easily. Small to medium sized dogs can hike the trail but may need boosts from their human companions. There’s barely any water on the trail except for the Ellis River crossing and water stop about ½ – ¾ mile in so bring plenty of water for you and your pooch. And don’t forget to take breaks. Humans and dogs will need it as you ascend and descend five peaks for the hike.