The White Mountains have officially opened up and I thought I’d get my hike on (practicing good social distancing and hiking conservatively, of course). Last weekend I hiked Mt. Waumbek on Saturday and Wildcat D on Sunday. These were both peaks I had hiked years ago and were my 2nd and 3rd repeats since completing the 4,000 footers. As I was hiking, I imagined young Katie on the trail ahead of me.
Saturday was quite cloudy, and thunderstorms were rolling in and out throughout the day. Usually on a hike day, my dad gets us moving early and out the door soon after waking up. But Waumbek is a short hike and we wanted to find the perfect window of time to hike and not get rained on. So, we waited until after lunch and began at the trail head around 2. By the time we started, the rain had passed, but the sky was still blanketed with clouds and water hung in the thick air. It was hot, humid, and sticky. Beads of sweat ran down my back as dew drops fell from leaves. Zealand laid in every stream we trekked by.
Waumbek started off fairly steep right from the start. The forest around us was hardwood and thin and my dad noted that it would be a great backcountry ski location. About two miles in, the trail took a sharp left hand turn into pines. The turn marked the general end of the steep section and beginning of a variable section, containing gradual ups and downs. We soon came out to a great lookout of some purple pinnacles.
The peak is not far from the lookout and is marked by a cairn. I smiled and celebrated my 50th 4,000 footer. It is a wooded peak, so we headed back to the lookout for more views and an orange, aka the best hiking snack ever. (Trail mix lovers, please don’t hate me)
Throughout my hiking years, I have tried again and again to start a tradition of meditating on mountaintops. I’m not much of a meditater, but the idea of crossing my legs, making circles with my fingers, and saying “Ooom” on the highest point around just kind of sounds cool. So I have said, countless times, “I am bringing back the meditating tradition.” But, countless times, I have forgotten or it has just been too windy and cold to stop moving for more than 30 seconds. But, that Saturday, on Mount Waumbek, I said I was going to start it up again and I meditated breifly on the outlook. (Spoiler alert: It was too cold to meditate the very next day on the Wildcat peak and my intended streak was broken within 24 hours). Below, enjoy a picture of me meditating on some 4,000 footer 4 years ago. I really did think that I could maintain a super cool tradition. Maybe I will try again in the future…
The next day, we hiked Wildcat D, which is the ski mountain peak. I had previously hiked this one by hiking trail, so we thought we’d change it up a little and try hiking up a ski trail. This was, we found, much less difficult than hiking up an official hiking trail, but also much less picturesque. We pulled into the parking lot of the ski mountain and looked up a trail map to determine a route. The majority of our hike was on the Tomcat and Polecat trails. (Side note: I noticed that so many trail names were cat-themed. There was Bobcat, Topcat, Lynx Lair, Feline, Hairball, and so many others) As a skier myself, I thought I had a good idea of how steep green circles, blue squares, and diamonds were. But, as it turns out, ski trails seem much flatter when they are covered in snow and you are gliding down them than they are when you are hiking up them. We hiked a section of a blue square that was ridiculously steep and exhausting and I thought, “How could an intermediate ski this?!” But, I looked downhill, imagined some snow, and envisioned myself on skis… It still doesn’t make a ton of sense to me, but somehow ski trails are so, so much steeper when you are hiking up them. The hiking was very tiring, but I was slowly making my way up into the clouds with each footstep up the slope.
Sunday was much colder than Saturday and I struggled with finding a balance in clothing and layers to keep my core a good temperature. I was alternating between feeling hot from rigorous exercise and cold from the wind on the wide, exposed ski trails.
Zealand, on the other hand, was having a field day. Literally, a field day because the grassy wide trails were like long steep fields. She loved it. She ran through the grass, up and back as we chugged our way along.
Finally, we had hiked up into the cloud level. Fog surrounded us and the wind threatened to send my hat flying into a cloudy abyss. It was hard to see far ahead. At last, we reached the top of the ski area. The official peak, though, is a short push from there. There is a wooden outlook marking the spot. I wished for a view of Mount Washington, but all we could see was white fog.
I did see a quick view of the bottom of Washington on the hike down though. I could see Tuckerman’s Ravine, a backcountry spring skiing location I have skiied a number of times. It was closed off this year due to the pandemic. I have a poster of the bowl in my room, but it was nice to see it in person.
It was a good hiking weekend. I bagged two majestic peaks and got to spend a lot of time outdoors with my dad and doggy. My school year ends next week and I’m looking forward to a summer filled with many more hiking adventures.