Given the forecast it was time for another exercise hike this morning. I had planned this in advance of seeing the WMNF announcement that many but not all trailheads were reopened. The forecast was for wind but plenty of sun. The northern summits were in the clouds down to around 3K but by the time I got to Rt 16, Washington and the northern presis were all clear. Contrary to popular belief Wildcat is not and has not been closed to hiking of late. The owners have blocked off the main lot as otherwise it would be used by folks trying to sneak into Cutler River drainage across the street. There is no legal parking near the main lot. There is on the other hand the former RT 16 that is now used as the C lot for Wildcat. It splits off of RT 16 on the right at the base of a long hill north of the main lot. The lot is gated on the RT 16 end but there are signs that say foot travel welcome. There are no parking signs in the area of the gate but there is a wide gravel area along Rt 16 to the north that would allow several cars to park well off the pavement. I elected to go park about 100 yard north at scenic pull out on the west side of the road where a temporary state highway sign is flashing Tuckermans is closed. There is plenty of room for multiple cars in this completely legal parking area. The walk to the base of the ski area is no more than 15 minutes and a nice warm up.

It was windy when I started, but once I headed into the C lot I was sheltered from most of the wind. Once I approached the gondola and turned up the hill I encountered dirty ice and soon elected to put on the microspikes. I had hoped to get going early enough for hard crust as I headed up but the rain and warm temps overnight defeated that idea from the start. The surface was two to three inches of various types of slush on top of boilerplate underneath. I dont think snowshoes would have been faster. Once I turned into the sun it was warm but with the wind I needed to keep my skin covered. I made my way up and it was quite warm but as I neared the summit gondola area the summits were in and out of the clouds. Not much shelter up there but I found a nice spot behind the gondola operators hut. I then headed to the summit platform which right now has drifts around it as high or higher than the deck. I did post hole a bit coming up the steep hill just off the gondola area but the deepest I went was less than a foot. Its a bit steep for a good snowshoe track.

I am definitely not a skier in general or a back country skier but expect a Wildcat hike may be too much for someone who normally skis the ravines. From Wildcat they look perfect, Lunch rocks are just peeking out of the snow. Still plenty of chutes going over the headwall with the actual headwall rocks starting to form bands. First time I have ever seen that area this time of year without skiers spread out all over the snowfields. As I headed down the clouds mostly cleared from the summits so the views were great

After a short break I headed down into the wind. The traction was just about idea, the slush provided a bit of cushioning with good traction underneath. No slipping or sliding just really fast downhill walking. I expect it would have been wet and bit slow butt sliding. After about 20 minutes heading down I met the first person of the day. He was wearing snowshoes and complaining that he had come early to avoid the wet snow and was upset that it was wet already. As I dropped down the mountain, the winds dropped and I shed layers. Once I got to the base it was quick walk down to the gate. As I was coming down I saw a car parking and as I got to the gate there was someone just starting a hike with lots of photo gear. My guess was he was heading to Thompson Falls. I said Hi and he mumbled Hi back so I left him on his hike. Not much use for social distancing today.

Heading back down RT16, 19 mile brook had about 10 cars, Imp south had 2 and Stony Brook had about five cars.

Nice way to spend a morning, i started at 8:15 and was back heading down RT 16 by 11:45.