We woke up for our included breakfast (awesome) – creme brulee french toast (and coffee of course). Yum!
We had signed up to stay 2 nights at the White Mountain Lodge and take advantage of “slack packing” a 21 mile section of the trail. We took all we needed for a day hike, got driven 20 minutes to Pinkham Notch, and started hiking the trail Northbound for a day back to our hostel. About 20 minutes in Ryley gave a “whoa!” and I looked up to see a big brown body turning in the trail ahead of us – our first moose we’ve run into out here! It headed in to the woods off the trail and had a pretty new-looking calf trailing after it.
We were warned by the hostel owner, Marni, that this 21 miles is not for everyone, but only for “trail beasts”. It was a big climb up the side of Wildcat Mountain (also a ski hill) and we got to the top around 9:15am to see the attendant getting out of the gondola – well that would’ve been easier than a 2000ft+ climb…then we walked along a ridge line of different mountain summits/peaks – Wildcat A, B, C, D, E (very imaginative summit names), Carter Dome, Mt Height, Middle-Carter, and another couple I don’t remember the names of. We were tired at the end of the day but the beginning felt a bit like flying with the light packs and we made good time.
A very long steep descent from the last peak down to a fairly flat 3 miles out, and we ran into Windwalker, who had come up the trail to wait for Red Feather (Clara Hughes), who was doing the same 21 mile section as us today and started a 8:20am, 1/2h behind us! He and Ryley chatted about the PCT and CDT (Windwalker had hiked the PCT in ’93, the CDT in’ 94 and ’13, and had hiked most of the AT previously and had just filled in the last sections to complete his triple crown). He decided to walk out with us as he and Ryley we’re having a good chat about the trails – I decided to take his place and wait for Red Feather. She wandered down the trail a while later and so I did indeed get to meet her and hike the last couple miles of trail with her! I warned her about my dorky sign – she liked it and indulged my request to get a photo with me 🙂
It was very cool to get to meet her after looking up to her as an athlete and Canadian and for her continuing humanitarian work.
Ryley and I considered actually taking a day off tomorrow and staying at this awesome hostel one more day but after briefly looking into it – they’re all booked up tomorrow anyways! Easy decision – onwards tomorrow to hike Mt Washington.