The Last Ones: The Wildcats

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.]


View from one of the ski slopes on Wildcat.


Wildcat, D Peak

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.


Wildcat, Peak A

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.


View of the Presidential Range from Wildcat.

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.

32px-Black_Paw.svgA 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.



First Whites Hike of the Summer Season: Kinsman Range

Most people start their hiking season in May, typically during Memorial Day weekend. For us, that didn’t happen this year. With weddings (including our own) and a few hiccups (car and health problems), we finally started off our summer hiking in the White Mountains the weekend after July 4th. Our first two attempts were for Mount Cabot and we never summited. We thought with our next attempt of a 4,000-footer hike would best not be Mount Cabot. Save our last attempt for another time – third time’s the charm right? Instead, we opted for North Kinsman (4,293 feet) and South Kinsman (4,358 feet), located in the Kinsman Range in Franconia, New Hampshire.

We began our hike on the Lonesome Lake Trail located in the Lafayette Place Parking Lot in Franconia Notch State Park. The first 1.5 miles are fairly easy with flat, gradual ascending terrain starting by cutting through the campground. It is a very popular hike as many families like to hike to, and stay at, the Lonesome Lake Hut. We were actually surprised to see many families on the trail as it was a rainy day and not all too pleasant to hike in. I was certainly having an off day as it was a combination of not feeling too well and hiking my first 4,000-footer hike in about eight months. It was definitely a slow hike to begin with.

From the Lonesome Lake Hut, it’s a moderate, rocky (and wet) 2.2-mile ascent on the Fishin’ Jimmy Trail to the Kinsman Ridge Trail/Appalachian Trail and another 0.4-mile until the summit of North Kinsman. Nothing too thrilling to see at the summit as it is directly on the trail. We didn’t stop as a Boston AMC group was taking their break on the North Kinsman summit and we would be retracing our steps to descend back to our car.


This is the only indication that you’ve reached the North Kinsman summit.

We continued 0.9 miles on the Kinsman Ridge trail to South Kinsman. This portion of the trail is much more pleasant and easy to deal with as it is along the ridgeline and only a few hundred feet in descending and acceding between the two peaks. We encountered three hikers who were surprised to see others on the trail. Surprise surprise! There are people who will hike – rain or shine. Anyhow, the summit is just off to the east of the trail in an open area. No sign marks the summit but it’s obvious as the trail descends on either of the point as we looked around to make sure. We took a break to eat but it didn’t last long as the weather was still wet and cold. We took our obligatory summit photos and made our way back to North Kinsman to do the same as the Boston AMC group was gone.


Family photo on South Kinsman.

The 2.2-mile descent on the Fishin’ Jimmy Trail was a slow one with steep, slippery rocks to contend with. When I was about ¼ mile from the Lonesome Lake Hut, Chris and Milo turned around to see where I was at as I was taking a little longer than usual. My excuse was that I stopped to eat as I’m not a big fan of eating on the go.

Just a little beyond the junction of Fishin’ Jimmy Trail and Lonesome Lake Trail, we saw some stopped hikers as they saw a single rose off the trail. It was perfectly planted rose that seemed amiss in these New England woods. It was definitely a sight to see but pretty cool. We’ll chalk it up to Sasquatch.


The magical rose.

It was easy peasy from the Lonesome Lake Hut to the Lafayette Place Parking Lot. We were a bit speedier towards the tail end and made it back to the car in good time. Overall, an 11.2-mile easy to moderate hike that can certainly be done with family members of all ages. With the Kinsman mountains complete, that means five more to go! The countdown is on.

32px-Black_Paw.svgA Dog’s Walk:
The Kinsman’s are an easy to moderate hike. The easiest parts are the 1.5 miles on the Lone Lake Trail as they are flat and gradual ascending terrain and the 0.9 miles on the ridge to South Kinsman as they are also pretty flat. The only difficult part would be the 2.2 miles on the Fishin’ Jimmy Trail and 0.4 miles on the Kinsman Ridge Trail as the terrain is more moderate and steep but certainly do-able. No need to boost your pooch for any part of this hike. There’s also plenty of water along the trail, including at the Lone Lake Hut, in case your dog needs some hydration. Overall, a great, long hike for your furry companion that will surely tucker them out by the end of the day! Milo surely loved it despite being wet and muddy from all the rain.




© Elizabeth Tran 2011-2017