My daughter turned 10 this year and I felt she was ready for a "Girl Power" road trip across the White Mountains, into Maine, and up into Nova Scotia. We had numerous wonderful experiences, but this post will focus on our 3.7 mile hike up Wildcat Mountain to Carter Notch hut.
As I mentioned, she is now 10. We had walked several trails around Rhode Island, including Pulaski State Park in Chepachet, RI, where we found Bullfrogs, juvenile American toads, two garter snakes, and much evidence of beaver, and through the Chafee Nature Preserve to Rome Point, exploring the rocks, finding crabs and anthopods, and looking at seals through binoculars. I'd also hiked around Arcadia Park despite continuous flare ups of plantar fasciitis.
Climbing a mountain is a whole other experience.
We got to the trail head and packed as lightly as we could. I had the bathroom supplies, first aid kit, snacks, camera, and my sleeping bag. She had her sleeping bag, her backpack stuffed with a monster-shaped pillow, both our waters, and of course, sock monkey. It wasn't long before I was carrying both sleeping bags...
We were instantly in another world. It started off with mud. We stepped on rocks when available, noting the deep tracks of hiking boots that didn't care. Occasionally boardwalks appeared. Then we stopped to look at mosses and mushrooms. One tree was covered in an unknown bracket fungus, layered like a gray army of the Unseelie Court. Between my need to photograph every mushroom, interesting bark, or overturned tree, and my daughter's need to rest every 20 minutes, it took over six hours to reach the hut.
We climbed huge rocks and passed boulders left behind by glaciers. We got excited to see the occasional flat dirt path. I sped up over the steep rock climbs and rested while Autumn caught up. Sometimes I was literally pulling her up, sonetimes coaching her as I retraced my steps, stretching the path between us like cotton candy.
We continued, carefully navigating the path in our worn sneakers as four-legged hikers with their long poles occasionally sped past us. We'd ask others how much further, asking three times before we even got half way! 3.7 miles is a lot further uphill carrying gear.
I made Autumn carry the first aid kit after another snack break. The two sleeping bags were wearing on me. She asked why we even brought it at all. We used the first aid kit three times on the trail: Scraped knee, twisted ankle, more scrapes. Autumn was tired, but brave.
One birch tree was naturally marked with a heart.
But it's not the destination alone. Along the way, we found several waterfalls, including a triple waterfall! At every elevation, every stop, there was something new. I motivated my daughter to keep going by wondering what other wonders we would find, as well as the promise of dinner at 6 p.m. sharp we did not want to miss!
Cold stream water cooled our hands and faces. Sitting on rocks or logs, we pic-nicked with granola bars, jerky, and water. Keeping up on hydration made her pack lighter and lighter, but that four pound sleeping bag I kept switching between hands and shoulders didn't. Still, we persevered.
One hobby of mine is looking for edible plants. I am quite familiar with meadow plants, but in the forest, it's another book entirely. There were no wintergreen I noticed and it was a bit eary for hen of the woods. Also, oaks were less common, but the river birch and various pine were plentiful. I photographed species to identify later. Could this be a golden trumpet, a turkey tail? No, a red-banded polyphore.
I'd later learn the blue berries below were called Clintonia. Autumn made a faery home with cushion moss, sticks, and stones.
We started seeing faces and hands in the forest...
The reflection was amazing! Our energy was renewed!
Here is where we ate a very heart dinner, arriving at 6:03! Autumn still talks about the "three bean soup"! We had great conversations with the people also lodging there for the night. The hut is over 100 years old, and the lodging cabins newer. They have solar panels, a generator, and composting toilets. I admired the crew who took care of us! Everything we ate for dinner and breakfast had been hiked in by these strong college-aged girls!
We explored more the next day...
Then it was another six hours down, Autumn finding the occasional spot to rest!
A King Bolete? So many mushrooms! So much to learn!
The river birch trees shed big swaths of skin! We took one home we found on the trail.
A cap and warts. What kind of Amanita is this?
Atop one boulder, someone had stacked a number of stones. You can see it to the left of the two skinny trees.
Curiouser and curiouser...
We walked on. Sometimes, it seemed the trees walked with us. Tall river birch stood on roots that might have wrapped around rock and soil before spring run-off washed them away. I think Tolkien must have seen Ents like these.
Good-bye White Mountains! We will visit you again!