Using the word "purr-fect" is a bit corny to describe a hike involving trails that are named after cats. Nonetheless, I did find this loop-hike to be very enjoyable and nearly perfect for my hiking tastes.
On other occasions, I've hiked the Wildcat Ridge Trail, but only the segment from "D" Peak to its eastern end at the Nineteen Mile Brook Trail (located slightly beyond "A" Peak). I've never hiked the 2.0 mile segment of this trail which runs between its western end and the "D" Peak. The use of alphabetic letters for naming peaks is a bit unusual. And so, for anyone unfamiliar with the Wildcat Ridge Trail, the map shown below might be helpful. This map also has my complete route highlighted in pink.
Map showing my route which is highlighted in pink
This loop was overall about 6.7 miles, and the elevation gain was a tad over 2,400 ft. At a leisurely pace and with frequent stops, it took just under 6 hours to complete.
The first 0.9 mile of my trek was on the Lost Pond Trail. If you've ever been on this trail, then you know that it is not as mild-mannered as one might suppose it to be. There are several places where you need to carefully watch your footing on uneven rocks, and when navigating through the boggy areas. Nonetheless, there are very nice views across the pond toward the high peaks in the Presidential Range.
The sky in this next photo looks like it is "photo-shopped". However, what you see is what you get! The sky really was an electric-blue shade on this exceptionally clear day.
View of Presidential Range from east shore of Lost Pond
After completing the Lost Pond Trail, it was time to tackle that 2.0 mile segment of the Wildcat Ridge Trail (WRT) which was new to me. Quite honestly, I was unsure what to expect! I had little doubt but what it would be steep. However, I was uncertain just how tough it might be to negotiate some of the scrambles over ledges and rock slabs.
After now having hiked this segment of the WRT, I can confirm that many sections are indeed very steep. But, it's not a continuous "steep" for the entire distance. There are even some sections that are basically flat. And in terms of negotiating the scrambles over ledges and slabs, I can see where this would be very problematic when wet or icy. But when dry, these scrambles were generally less intense than those for many other trails in the White Mountains.
On some of the steeper slabs along the route, there are wooden steps fastened to the rock which are very helpful.
Wooden steps on steeper rock slabs along the WRT (Wildcat Ridge Trail)
Perhaps I should also mention that there are several ascents and descents along the route of this segment of the WRT, and therefore it does have a roller-coaster aspect to it. However, I'm pretty well convinced that this is true for almost any trail in the Whites which has the word "Ridge" associated with it! :-)
The next photo was taken from the WRT, and shows one of the "ups" that lay ahead of you along the route.
Trailside view of one of the "bumps" along the WRT (Wildcat Ridge Trail)
There are frequent views as you make your way up the WRT toward "E" Peak. More and more of the Presidential Range is revealed the higher you go.
Presidential Range from lower part of WRT (Wildcat Ridge Trail)
Presidential Range from upper part of WRT (Wildcat Ridge Trail)
There are also nice views looking southward down Pinkham Notch toward peaks in the Sandwich Range.
Southward view from WRT (Wildcat Ridge Trail)
Also, I took zoomed photos of various features in the Presidential Range. The next image shows the Huntington Ravine. The area labeled as "The Fan" was where my friend Marty and I were just a couple of weeks ago.
(Click HERE to read that report.)
Zoomed image of Huntington Ravine
I also took a zoomed image of Tuckerman Ravine, as seen in the next photo.
Zoomed image of Tuckerman Ravine
And last, but not least, I zoomed in on the summit of Mt. Washington (next photo).
Zoomed image of summit of Mt. Washington
In much less time than was expected, I was on "E" Peak! As I understand it, the WRT passes within a few yards of the true summit. I had intended to do a mini-bushwhack to officially bag this peak, but forgot to do so! Oh well! My guess is that I didn't miss too much since it's wooded and viewless. However, it is interesting to know that "E" Peak used to be considered as one of the NH 4,000 ft peaks.
It's a very short jaunt from "E" Peak over to the touristy area of "D" Peak. During the warm-weather months, many tourists pay to ride gondolas on the Wildcat Express which terminates at the saddle between "E" Peak and "D" Peak.
A Wildcat Express gondola
Although I'd been there multiple times, I went to the top of "D" Peak anyway. If nothing else, the newly reconstructed viewing platform made a nice spot for a lunch break!
After a quick bite to eat, I began the descent leg of my loop by using the recently mowed Polecat Ski Trail. Sometimes an alpine ski trail can be unpleasant to hike since it's not really graded for hiking, etc. However, the Polecat is very pleasant for hiking. And in my opinion, the views are simply fabulous, especially in late summer and into the autumn season. The next five photos show a sampling of some of the views that are "in your face" as you descend the mountainside.
Polecat Ski Trail View_1
Polecat Ski Trail View_2
Polecat Ski Trail View_3
Polecat Ski Trail View_4
Polecat Ski Trail View_5
Also, the Polecat Ski Trail has more to offer than the stunning mountain vistas. There were fields of colorful ground cover, such as the patch of bunchberry shown in the next photo.
Field of Bunchberry
There were many butterflies along the Polecat Ski Trail. They are so fast, and with my little "point & shoot" camera, I don't have the ideal set-up for capturing images of these little winged creatures. But finally, with a little patience, I was able to capture one image worthy of posting. I'm not a butterfly expert, but I think this one is called a "Painted Lady".
A "Painted Lady" butterfly
Once I reached to bottom of the Polecat Trail at the Wildcat Mountain Ski Resort, I then did the 1.0 mile road walk along US 16 to return to my starting point at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center.
To sum it up, I'll once again repeat the corny word used in the title of my report. This was a "purr-fect" hike! I loved the scrambles over ledges and slabs on the Wildcat Ridge Trail, and the views were awesome, especially on the Polecat Ski Trail. Also, not only was this a trail segment that was new to me (which I love), but it was also a section of the Appalachian Trail that I'd never hiked.
If I could change one thing about this adventure, I'd park at the Wildcat Mountain ski area and do the road walk at the beginning of the loop, just to get it out of the way. Then, at the end of the loop, I could simply jump right into the car and head for home.