Pete Mattox, who took care of the place during the late fall, left the hut in stunning condition for me before he left on Wednesday morning, after we overlapped for one night to pass the torch. But the notch is usually a fine place to arrive. There is no pack trail to the huts that end as invitingly as the hike to Carter: the top of the notch after the 3.5 mile climb, the frozen lake under the cliffs of the Dome and Wildcat, and Cozy Carter wrapped among the small spruces and boulders of the Ramparts. And unlike last year, there is already a good deal of snow on the ground in the Whites, enough to ski down part of the 19-Mile Brook and Aqueduct Trails on Wednesday when I went back to Pinkham for lunch and extra warm clothes. Rain followed for most of Thursday, but the mountains are still white, even if the skiing won't be any good until the next significant storm.
New Year's Eve brought a nearly-full house, mostly of Bates College kids who took over an entire bunkhouse as well as three families who were good-natured about the rowdiness. One of these families hiked up live lobsters, in water, to boil them in the Carter kitchen, which may have been the first time that those crustaceans have lived, however briefly, in these mountains. I was also happy to host nine good friends, old and new, in a happily-crowded crew room. We had good food of our own and also helped the Bates kids work on their leftovers before we counted down to 2006 on the ice of the upper lake. As I wrote a year ago, the passage of time is usually something that I don't care to celebrate. But last week, the new year coincided with our being back in the north country and among old friends. These things deserve, and did receive, a lively celebration.
Wildlife sightings this week:
Lots of chickadees, black-capped and boreal, and a nesting pair of ravens in the cliffs of Wildcat above the upper Lake of the Winds. Some fox tracks on the Wildcat Ridge Trail just above Gunsight Gap. No signs yet of the notch's resident pine martens, but tracking conditions weren't ideal this past week.
This week's reading: