11.6 miles, 1870.6 overall (Carter Notch Hut)
I sleep in a bit in the morning since I’m not anxious to pack up wet stuff. It seems like the rain has stopped and I hope my tent will dry a bit before I have to take it down. Around 7:00 I finally get up. I grab the food from my vestibule and am glad it is still there where it is easy to access. I eat my bagel and peanut butter in my tent, then start packing up. Fortunately I still have some dry clothes and, even though they are incredibly dirty, they are better than the wet ones. I opt for the dirty, dry socks despite the fact that my shoes remain soaked because the dry socks should help dry out the shoes faster than wet socks would.
By 8:00 I am ready to go. Five Pair is still packing up. I don’t want to wait for her today. I plan to be in Gorham tomorrow and that can’t happen if I hike another <10 mile day. She plans to get picked up at the Notch. I plan to hike on to the next hut. I check with her to make sure she will be ok for the last 6 miles to the notch and once she assures me she will be I get moving.
It is a steep downhill and the wet weather has made it a bit more treacherous so I’m forced to go slower than I would like. When I reach the tent site I stop for a break and run into some weekend hikers. They are excited to see me and ask if I want any food. I have plenty but I can’t resist saying yes. They give me a box of elbow macaroni and a Tupperware container of pesto. I’m excited about the possibly scrumptious meal and start thinking about when I could eat it. It is heavier than it looked and I want to get rid of it soon.
The rest of the trail to Pinkham Notch is pretty easy. It becomes a relatively flat section which crosses several large streams. One seems particularly hard to cross and, with a bystander looking on, I take my time but it turns out to be easier than I thought. Eventually the trail becomes practically a road walk and I hurry down it. As I go I listen to the last few chapters of Count of Monte Cristo. I’m almost done with the book and consider slowing down so that I can finish it before I reach the notch but decide against it. I arrive as the last chapter is about to begin.
At the visitor center I am surprised to see Peeper, Hawk, and Blues. They explain that they are getting a late start (it is 11:00 already) because they stayed at a cabin down the road. They arrived here yesterday just after it started raining and were able to eat dinner here. Blues recommends I try the chili burger. It sounds great so I head inside and, not seeing it on the menu, ask the cook. She says it was on the menu yesterday. I’m disappointed and she must be able to tell because she quickly tells me she could make it anyway. I thank her and wait in the dining room, sipping on some coffee while I wait for my burger.
It is 11:30 and must be lunch time for all of the visitor center workers. I watch as they come in one by one and grab their lunches. Some hutsmen are here too who I recognize from the huts I stopped in at. They must either be here to pick up some hut resupplies or to visit with friends on a day off. The entire staff in this park reminds me of summer camp. The huts perform skits for the guests to remind them how to properly fold their blankets in the morning and I can picture relationships between the various college-age workers. It amuses me while I munch on a delicious chili burger.
I get moving again around 12:30 and in the first mile out of the notch I finish my book. The ending is fitting but somehow anti-climactic. I wonder if it would feel the same way had I read it instead of listening to it. Pretty soon I’m on my way up Wildcat Mountain. This mountain has several peaks of increasing height that I must traverse to get to my destination for tonight: Carter hut. The climb is steep and rocky, just what I’ve come to expect from the Whites. On the way up I have views back to the visitor center so I can view my progress. At the top I pass a ski gondola that, were I willing to use the time and pay $12, would take me back down the mountain to a restaurant. I skip the side trip. On the way down the other side of Wildcat into Carter Notch, home of Carter Hut, the geology seems to change. I start to see lots of clays and mica on the way down. It is a simple change but it keeps me entertained a bit as I descend 1000 feet.
At the bottom I expect to have to climb a bit to get to the hut based on the listed elevation in the data book but the book turns out to be wrong. The hut is located directly at the bottom of the notch next to two glacially formed ponds. Carter hut is the oldest and most remote hut in the Whites. I’m surprised when I arrive by how small it is. The capacity is only around 20 guests, much smaller than Lakes which can hold 92. The dining room, bunk houses, and bathrooms are all in separate buildings. I immediately notice this since it means if I stay here I won’t be woken by the guests all night.
Peeper, Blues, Hawk, and Wiffle are all here. Peeper worked here in 2009 so she is enjoying some reminiscing. The others are enjoying coffee and baked goods. I sit down for a quick break before asking about staying the night. I explain that I have plenty of food and don’t need to take a work-for-stay that another hiker might want but that I’d like some place dry to sleep tonight. The hutsman explains that if I want to stay I’ll have to do work-for-stay because they try to treat all hikers the same. This is different than what I’ve seen at the other huts but I don’t argue. I decide to go ahead and take the spot, hoping I don’t bump another, more desperate hiker who might arrive later.
As Peeper et al prepare to leave Wiffle is waffling. He isn’t excited about hiking more today and is drawn by the allure of a large, hot dinner. At the last minute he decides to take the other work-for-stay spot and the others hike on. We hang out in the hut as the guests arrive.
Work here turns out to be incredibly easy. After the guests eat we get to attack the leftovers while doing a hiker talk. It is awkward to eat in front of them while we talk to them but I get over it quickly. Dinner is stuffed shells, salad, soup, and cake. Among the guests tonight is an older thru-hiker who ponied up and paid for a spot in the hut tonight. This is convenient because when we are too busy stuffing our faces to answer a question he takes over for us.
After the hiker talk the 11 guests head to the bunk houses. Wiffle and I have to sweep the dining room before bed, which we do very thoroughly. As we’re preparing for bed the hut crew asks for ideas about how to get rid of a wasp nest in their shed using household items that they might have here. After some quick brainstorming we come up with a plan: knock it into a double-bagged trash bag filled with a few cups of bleach, tie it quickly, and then roll it around a bit to soak them with the bleach. We aren’t sure if it will work and we make that clear to the crew but they like the idea and pretty soon they are all dressed in silly looking outfits to protect themselves from possible catastrophe. They head out to the shed while Wiffle and I do our last chore: setting mouse traps in the kitchen. The crew returns safe and triumphant, declaring that our idea was excellent. I wonder if they’ll have the same opinion in a few days when they have to dispose of the remains and discover some of the wasps survived. At least by then I should be many miles away. Pretty soon I’m asleep with a full stomach and a dry place to sleep, this time with no chance of being woken up by guests on the Appalachian Trail.