We were up early and on the trail at 5 am. That way, if we ran into an unexpected situation, we could still make it to the gondola in time. (as a last resort, I had checked out the ski slopes the day before. We could fairly easily walk down a green circle or blue square trail if we missed the last ride. But I really did not want to have to do that!)
Marni, the hostel owner, heard of our early start and gave us some leftover breakfast burritos since we would be gone before breakfast. We headed out with our food for the day, water, and headlamps, since sunrise wasn't until 6 am. Fortunately, the first few miles were relatively easy and flat- perfect for traveling by headlamp! We did get turned around once, when the trail crossed a river and we weren't able to see the white blaze on the other side. But we got is squared away pretty quickly.
Sunrise came as we began a slow, steady climb. The light brightened as we headed higher up. We came to a nice summit above tree line where we stopped for a break and busted out the breakfast burritos. Nice and hearty, they would give us lots of energy for the rest of the day! We continued along a high ridgeline, with lots of little ups and downs. Lots of walking on rock slabs, lots of treeline and above stretches. It was clear and dry, perfect weather for this kind of terrain.
We ran into CodeWalker, who had started the trail in April with Subaru. CodeWalker was light and quick and had pulled ahead fairly quickly. But unfortunately, COdeWalker contracted Lyme disease and ended up getting off the trail for a couple weeks to recuperate. And now Subaru had caught up to him. So they had a nice little reunion on the trail. After a while, I pulled ahead, knowing that Subaru could easily catch up to me and not wanting to wait too long when we were pressed for time.
At long last, we came to the hard part of the day: the descent into Carter Notch and the subsequent climb back out. It was a LONG, steep, rocky descent! The kind of terrain which slows me down to a snail's pace. We were leapfrogging back and forth with another couple of hikers who were doing a hut to hut trip. Whenever we thought we were getting close to the bottom, we would go around a corner and see another long drop. We came to point where we had a panoramic view into the notch below with the hut. We had been descending for almost and hour and we were nowhere near the bottom! Nothing to do but continue on.
At the bottom, we stopped into the hut for another sustenance break. It was set right along a beautiful pond with great views. It would have been nice to stay in this hut! After our break, we started on the climb. We ran into the Professor and Grizzly heading north, and told them about the White Mountain Hostel. The climb was significantly shorter, faster, and less steep than the descent, so that was good.
At the top of the climb, I thought I was home free; the profile map showed 2 miles of flat terrain. I should have known by now to always fear the flat looking profile! It was the hardest part of the day! Roller coaster terrain chock full of rocks and roots. Grrrr!
We made it to the gondola at 3:15, and hour and a half to spare! Rode down and got a quick ride back to the hostel from Chillin', a Wildcat employee and section hiker.
When we got back to the hostel, we had a nice surprise waiting. LIttle Engine, Timber, and the Ambassador were there, who we hadn't seen since Massachusetts. As was Ledge, who I hadn't seen since south Virginia. CodeWalker was also there, so it was a nice atmosphere. We all ordered takeout and sat around the big dining room table talking, trading stories and observations, and having a good time.