Taming the Wildcats

Day 76

A nice sunrise before the Wildcats. Margaritaville said “lets tame these kitties!” and I responded “rawr!”

We started early. Up by 5:00 early. Hitting the trail by 5:30 early. We knew what was in store for us and clearing the Wildcats before the mid day sun made sense to all of us. The climb was slow and quiet. I was the slowest one, so I was trailing behind everyone as we all negotiated our way up Wildcat D. After an hour or so and only going 0.5 miles, we took a short rest near the gondola and watched the sunrise in the distant. We slammed some energy bars and then made our way towards Wildcat Mountain. By 8:00 we reached this summit, but we didn’t stop because the Carter Notch Hut was less than a mile away. Maybe there would be some free food for us? We thought wrong. Apparently this hut notoriously gets zero visitors because of how secluded it is compared to the other huts. Because of this, breakfast was not made that morning because the hut didn’t have a single guest. We did, however, find the crew to be extremely friendly, and we ate an early lunch with them. While eating, some other thru hikers walked in, all slackpacking via the Barn Hostel.

Eventually, we decided to hike on and finish the Whites. We only had Carter Dome, South Carter, and Mt. Moriah left to clear for the day. And for that matter, those would be the last 4k mountains in the whites. Additionally, Jackrabbit would be finishing his final section of the AT tomorrow! We had to celebrate. So after descending from South Carter we stopped at the base of Moriah to discuss our plans for the end of the day. I found a campground called White Birches that seemed to be accommodating to thru hikers. I called them and reserved a spot for all of us. After this we decided to take another break for lunch because we realized we had ample time to complete the day. While eating I choked on a luna bar. I had to get on all fours while I dry heaved, trying to dislodge the particulate our of my throat. Margaritaville had to slap me on the back multiple times to free me of this minor asphyxiation. It eventually came out to the amusement of everyone who watched me squirm for multiple minutes.

If you look closely you can see a “this car climbed Mt. Washington” sticker on my water bottle. I thought it would be funny.

Margaritaville, Chill Out, and me going up Moriah (I think)

Well after clearing Moriah, the trail eased off significantly. It flattened out as we walked along the Rattle River. My partners decided to jump into a swimming hole, but I pushed onto the parking lot. I don’t particularly enjoy swimming and walking in wet clothes, so I opted out. I put on some Willie Nelson and enjoyed the alone time. When I got to the parking lot, I met other slackpackers who were waiting to get picked up by the hostel. I decided, since I was waiting, to call my friend Kylie to tell her I was finishing New Hampshire tomorrow. After some time, the other three got to the parking lot. White Birches picked us up, and we were at the campsite in no time. It was a huge campground with lots of car campers who seemed to have a permanent residence there. We were given a nice, flat campsite in the woods (flat campsites were hard to come by). To make things better, we decided to order pizza from Mr. Pizza in Gorham. I had a meatball Marinara, some breadsticks, and four craft sodas. Demolished. We spent the evening washing our clothes, showering, and reminiscing on what we had just done. Tomorrow would be Jackrabbit’s last day with us, so this was a nice way to end his last on trail. Tomorrow we would cross into Maine, our final state.

I got some celebratory glasses for Jackrabbit’s last night!

Hiking with a group, especially after hiking alone for a while, provides a different experience. It has felt weird being the slowest one in the group. For miles and miles I was passing people, getting little rushes as I zoom by big groups. But now, I struggle to keep up with the person in front of me. Humbled? Definitely. Do I miss the serenity of being independent? I do. And I still prefer to hike alone. But I need my trail family. I need them more than they need me. I have told them how close I was to quitting. But words can’t convey the emotional onslaught I was feeling that rainy day in the Whites. I am not sure I would have made it through the Whites if I had not hiked with them. Heck, I don’t even know if I would have continued if I didn’t find them. They found me at my breaking point, and they helped build me back up. The past few days rejuvenated me. I have people to wake up early and crush miles with. We seem to speak the same language and for the first time in a long time, I can say I am really having fun. I do miss the ability to make impulse decisions without needing to consult anyone, but hey, this trail is all about change. And I am changing. You know, maybe I could have stayed solo and got through the Whites. My stories would be a lot different. Maybe I would have made it out. Maybe. But the trail, in all of its truth and wisdom, brought our stories together, and I can’t help but feel that this was how it was meant to be.

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