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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Wildcat D (#23), February 28, 2009

Straycat, Lower Polecat, Middle Polecat, and upper Polecat ski trails, Wildcat Ridge Trail.

About 5.5 miles round trip.

Alex came down with the flu two weeks ago, and she was still getting over it last week. This past Monday she developed an unrelated infection and was quickly treated. On Wednesday, she finally seemed back to normal. She expressed interest in hiking this weekend -- since we might not be able to hike next week (Hugh may be away and therefore unable to watch Sage), I thought we could perhaps sneak in one of the easier peaks.

The day started with a surprise -- Alex woke up on her own and seemed excited to get out there. She was wide awake when we left....she's almost always napping in the car on the way to the trailhead and waking up somewhere around the first half-mile. Today, however, she was rarin' to go.

We got to the ski area and I let the folks inside know what we were up to, just so the staff would have the knowledge that we were out there on the ski trails. The staff was friendly and helpful. Very pleasant people work at the Wildcat ski area!

We set out for the first aid building, looking for the Polecat ski trail.

We overshot it and went up Straycat instead.

Freezing rain the night before meant many of the ski trails were closed while the groomers did their thing. We had Straycat to ourselves, and we made our way slowly up.

Alex was walking at a snail's pace. I asked if she was okay, and she said she still felt tired from being sick. I asked if she wanted to come back and do this another day. She said no, but she wanted to go slowly and take many breaks. I agreed to those terms and thought it would be safe to continue, as long as she felt okay to do so. We made our way slowly up the mountain. Her spirits were very positive, she was warm and comfortable, and I wasn't worried about her. We just needed to take our time.

Straycat intersects with Lower Polecat -- and here came all the skiers and snowboarders! We trekked upward, amused and impressed by the snow athletes' antics.

The sun was out and it was a beautiful, clear day. I turned and took a picture of Alex behind me, Mt. Washington just across the street.

We made it up to a hairpin turn of sorts, just beneath Middle Polecat. We made our way to a safe corner where the likelihood of being run over was minimal, sat down for a while, and had a nice break.

We then slowly made our way up and onward, eventually coming to the Upper Polecat trail.

Mt. Washington was bright and clear the whole way up. I told Alex there were probably a zillion hikers up there today, so she waved at them.

We made it to the top of the ski area in three hours -- faster than I had anticipated, given our very slow pace.

Here we saw our one and only trail sign for the day, pointing the way up a short hill toward the summit building (0.1 miles away from the ski buildings).

The Wildcat Ridge Trail was kinda-frozen-posthole-hell, but we only had a short ways to walk, so it wasn't too terribly bad.

Looking back down toward the ski area, about twenty steps up the trail...

The trail went into the trees, and we were out of the wind...which had been near-howling at the top of the ski area. We came upon a lovely viewpoint looking eastward...

A few dozen steps later we were at the summit building. The stairs to the building are currently blocked off, so we didn't walk onto it.

We walked all around it, then stopped on the west side to enjoy the views of Mt. Washington. Alex again waved at all the hikers over there.

She then posed for her traditional summit photo...

We then had a lunch break. It was warm enough to sit for a while, as long as we were out of the wind. Alex chose a somewhat sheltered area near the summit building, where we still had a nice view of Mt. Washington.

After our lunch, we headed back down, enjoying the nice view of Mt. Washington as we went.

Near the lower part of the Middle Polecat Trail, Alex noticed this lake in the distance, thought it was particularly beautiful, and asked that I take a picture.

Here's a close-up of that lake...

*****edited to add -- NewHampshire from Rocks and VFTT notes this is not a lake but a clearing near Mt. Washington's Auto much for my powers of observation...*****

We made it down to the bottom of the ski area shortly thereafter. Alex was happy to have completed her 23rd 4K.

We went into the ski building and had a snack. She remarked that she enjoyed the hike, but thought it was kind of weird hiking up ski trails. She says she definitely likes walking through the woods better.

Total time today was 5 hours and 20 minutes, a relaxed pace that worked very well for Alex but felt excruciatingly slow for me at times. I've been hiking without her a fair bit lately, so on this ascent I found myself having to really kick my patience up bigtime. Hiking with Alex is an entirely different experience from hiking without her -- it requires a specific mindset and attitude, and it all has to be tailored to her pace and ability each and every minute. I much prefer hiking with her than without her, but for some reason when we started our hike I had trouble re-adjusting to the slower-than-normal (for me) pace. I may actually curtail my solo expeditions a bit until she's finished her 4K quest -- I don't want to become so used to hiking at my own natural pace that I become impatient with hers.

All that being said, it was a good hike -- Alex was warm and comfortable the entire time, and she enjoyed herself in spite of being a little on the tired side. This was definitely the right 4K peak for the day -- Alex got to scratch her hiking itch without physically overdoing it.

On the way home we stopped by the Mountain Wanderer and I got to meet Steve Smith -- a huge honor, I was thrilled to shake the hand of one the men whose books I hold sacred. Alex played her shy card. Every time Steve said something to her she'd turn bright red, turn her head and smile. We also met two other hikers in the store -- a man I'd met on Eisenhower in early January and his girlfriend. I'm sorry, I can't remember your names!! It was lovely seeing you again though, I hope we get a chance to meet in a circumstance where I'm not distracted and can hold a decent conversation.

On the way out, Steve gave Alex a bookmark with all the 4K peaks written on it. She LOVED it -- she started reading through all the names right away. In the car, she was completely absorbed by it, and she showed it to Sage when we arrived home. Thanks, Steve!

In conclusion, 'twas another nice day outside. It may be two or three weeks before we're back on the trails again -- looking forward to reading other people's TRs in the meantime.

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