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Carter Notch Hut, NH
Sunday, June 7, 2009 - 9:00am by Andrew
Nik: How's it going?
6 miles and 5 hours from our last stop - 1 night stay
At some point in the early hours of the morning, I vaguely remember desperately pressing buttons on my watch to stop this annoying beeping noise that was impeding my sleep. I eventually woke up to Nik holding his watch in my face reading "8:17" - over 2 hours later than we had been planning on waking up. We didn't sweat it though - today was just a 6 mile hike to Carter Notch, where we would hopefully find a site nearby the AMC Hut.
We got ready, enjoyed a nice breakfast with a spectacular view and then headed back to the Visitors Center where we filled up our water bottles and got ready to get hiking. The trail started off nice and flat, passing by some swampy areas, but then started climbing fast as we made our way up to Wildcat Ridge. We were both tired - really tired. Our breaks to eat gorp and drink water became more and more frequent.
We eventually made our way up to Wildcat Mountain with its 5 summits. We ate lunch at the top of the D summit (the second summit from our direction) which had a running ski-lift that visitors took up to reach the top and walk around. We envied the families who reached the same destination in a 3 minute gondola ride that we had spent the last few hours struggling to reach. We eyed the heavyset man with a ponytail, who sat at the top of the gondola making sure that everyone got off, and wondered whether he'd let us take a loop around for free. Nik went up to him, attempting to start conversation that would eventually lead us to a free gondola ride. The conversation didn't start out great:
Nik: How's it going?
Gondola Guy: Shitty
Nik: Oh, I'm sorry. Why's that?
Gondola Guy: Workin'
It certainly didn't look like he was working. Nonetheless, the conversation progressed a bit and after seeing Nik waving me over towards the gondola I realized that he had succeeded in getting us a free ride.
After enjoying our nice gondola tour, we thanked Nik's new friend and hit the trail again. We passed over summits C and B pretty quickly as we entertained ourselves by singing Kelly Clarkson songs really obnoxiously. At the summit of Wildcat A we had a steep view down to Cartner Notch Shelter, our hopeful endpoint for the day. We were both tired and didn't feel like hiking any more so we lied around eating cheese and napping for a while.
Eventually we roused ourselves up again and made the push forward. The descent to the notch was somewhat painful on the knees and ankles, but morale increased, as it always does, when we approach a shelter. It had started to lightly rain (our first of the trip), and we began dreading the thought of cooking and setting up our tent. In the back of our minds we hoped that the caretakers would offer us work for stay again, but neither of us felt like explicitly asking.
As we reached the shelter, we headed inside to talk to the caretakers who were cooking dinner for their two guests. Carter Notch Hut is much more secluded than the other AMC Huts in the Whites, being the only one East of Pinkham Notch. Therefore, they don't receive nearly as many visitors, and the hut was much more modest and cozier than some of the others. We started small talk with the caretakers, throwing out hints that we were looking for some shelter. "Oh yeah, we met Hillary. She let us stay in Madison. She's really cool." "Man, it's sure gonna suck finding a campsite and cooking in this rain". It took longer than I had expected for them to catch on, but just as we were about to walk out the door they bought it and offered us a stay. Success!
One of the caretakers escorted us to the room in which we would be staying, which far exceeded our expectations being much nicer than the dining room floor that we had back at Madison Hut. Not only did we each have our own bed, but we had our own room to ourselves. In fact we had an entire bunkhouse to ourselves. Besides the main hut where the caretakers slept and the guests would hang out and eat, the Carter Notch hut consists of 3 bunkhouses each with 3 or 4 rooms with bunk beds. Since there were only two paying guests this night, they had plenty of open space and were able to give us a room to ourselves.
We did, however, notice that the caretakers tried to keep us as separate as possible from the two paying guests that they had tonight. Not only was the bunkhouse that we were given as far as possible from the other guests' bunkhouse, but they also asked that we stay in our rooms while the guests ate their dinner, and that we could come for leftovers after they were done. I guess they didn't want their guests, who were paying 90 bucks for this experience, to feel jealous when they saw us two bums trucking in and getting the same deal for free.
Nik and I each claimed our own beds and gave them a little test run. We couldn't believe the difference that a mattress made over our half-inch ridge rests - it felt like we were lying on clouds. After doing a bit of unpacking we made our way out to our own personal front porch where we sat for a while and enjoyed the beautiful view. The weather had cleared up and the sun was shining. We almost would've preferred seeing pouring rain at this point to make our stay in the shelter worthwhile.
As the guests finished their dinner, one of the caretakers came to get Nik and I to let us know that we could eat now. Dinner was great. I'll take a free homecooked meal over Knorr's Rice any day. The "work" aspect of our "work for stay" was even more of a joke than last time. Nik and I spent about 25 minutes washing dishes and cleaning out the stove. That was it. What a deal.
We spent the post-dinner hours in the main Hut hanging out and chatting with the caretakers before making our way back to our rooms to get ready for bed. The combination of the comfortable mattress and the provided wool blankets (which were a great alternative to my disgustingly sweaty sleeping bag) lead to one of the best night's sleep I can remember. I think Nik can agree as well.
Carter Notch Hut location map