Carrigain – 2/28/2016

View of Mt. Carrigain and Mt. Lowell from Signal Ridge, New Hampshire

I was beaten up from hiking the Cog Railway to Mt. Washington the day before (and a very active fall/winter of hiking), but I had good weather and 3 weekends left to hike 3 mountains to complete my Winter 48, so I went to see Mt. Carrigain and cross her off the list.

This was a solo hike, and Carrigain is a good mountain for it.  The entire 14 miles is pretty, in a variety of ways.  It’s also completely protected except for the short but amazing exposed section of Signal Ridge.

14 miles is a winter thing – when Sawyer River Road is open, it’s only a 10 mile hike on Signal Ridge Trail.  But you need to walk the road 2 miles each way in the winter.  It’s not hard, and has some interesting things to look at along the way.

Ruins of a brick building on Sawyer River Road, New Hampshire
Ruins of a brick building on Sawyer River Road

2 miles pass quickly on a road walk in good weather, and there’s no way to miss the Signal Ridge trailhead with the giant parking lot across from it.

Signal Ridge trailhead sign, Mt. Carrigain, New Hampshire
Hard to miss with the parking lot and bridge over the river
Whiteface Brook in winter, Sawyer River Road, New Hampshire
From the bridge at the trailhead

The trail was in great condition.  Well packed snow and nice and wide.  It would be fast moving – or so I thought, until I hit the first real incline.  My legs were spent from the day before.

Luckily, so much of this trail is mellow.  Down low, this hike has a nice feel to it, and scenery that isn’t super common on the trails to the 4000 footers in New Hampshire.  Lots of open hardwood hiking – really nice.  Especially when the sun is out on a warm winter day.

This trail was rerouted due to beaver activity that affected (submerged) the trail.  There is a big, obvious fork in the trail just a bit before Carrigain Notch Trail continues on and Signal Ridge goes off to the left.  This is the split between the new and old Signal Ridge Trail.  Stay on the right.  The giant tree that blocks the path on the left was cut and left there on purpose.

A fork splits the old and new Signal Ridge Trail, Mt. Carrigain, New Hampshire
Left = old, right = new

This can be a bit confusing if you’re coming back here for the first time since the trail was rerouted.  It had been a long time, and I thought this might be the split between Carrigain Notch and Signal Ridge.  I remembered the wet area and the beavers were just ahead, so I figured this might be a reroute.  Then I remembered someone mentioning this very situation while we talked on the Tripyramids.

Confident now, I went right and soon saw the true split.

Signal Ridge Trail and Carrigain Notch Trail diverge, Mt. Carrigain, New Hampshire
Two trails diverged in a wood…

Even with the reroute, there are still significant crossings on the Signal Ridge Trail.  They can be tough with high water – and it had been warm.  Luckily, they were fine today.

Water crossing on Signal Ridge Trail, Mt. Carrigain, New Hampshire

Not too far from here, things get steep.  Well, I think they do.  It definitely felt steep to me, but my legs were garbage (have I mentioned that yet?).  I was actually taking micro breaks every 10 minutes or so from here on out.  This is how I hiked when I first started.

After what truly seemed like forever, I stepped out onto the open section of Signal Ridge.  What a great spot.  I think this is a more interesting place to see Mt. Lowell from than the summit is.  Does anyone else think Lowell looks like someone’s head if they were on their back, looking up at the sky?

Mt. Lowell from Signal Ridge, Mt. Carrigain, New Hampshire
Mt. Lowell, watching the clouds. Mt. Nancy is 2 peaks back, behind Anderson

It’s a quick trip to the summit from here.  All of a sudden you’re staring at the fire tower.  I usually don’t like manmade objects on mountains, but I’m glad this summit isn’t officially in the Pemi Wilderness, or this tower wouldn’t be here.  This is a good one.  One of the best views in the Whites.

Carrigain is placed in the heart of the White Mountains.  You can see 43 other NH 4000 footers from here on a clear day – it ties with Mt. Washington for the most.  I’m proud to say I can find and name every one of them, and lots of smaller peaks.

I’m a fool for not bringing my DSLR today, especially since I’ve been lugging it on every trip since November.  Why would I want it on Carrigain?  Idiot.

I’ve very recently been on quite a few of the mountains I could see.

Mt. Nancy was close by, not far from Lowell.  Washington, Eisenhower and Monroe, Liberty and Flume, Garfield, Isolation, Hale, Adams, Passaconaway and Whiteface, the Tripyramids, Scar Ridge, The Moose… the list goes on.  I love this place.

View North into Pemigewasset Wilderness from Mt. Carrigain, New Hampshire
Into the Pemi – high winds (lenticular clouds) over the Twins, but not much here
View toward Crawford Notch and surrounding peaks from Mt. Carrigain, New Hampshire
Tom, Field, Willey, Webster and its cliffs, and the Presi’s
A few south from Mt. Carrigain, New Hampshire
To the south… Chocorua, Passaconaway, Whiteface and Tripyramid

I stayed for quite a while, about half an hour – and I really didn’t want to leave.  If I had my DSLR with some zoom, I’d probably still be up there.

My legs were happy to start carrying me downhill, and the rest of the hike was a breeze.  I was dealing with some serious pain – I had worn an old worn out pair of socks since the ones from the day before were wet.  These were now wet from sweat, and grinding away at me on the slope.  But I turned off the pain and increased my speed.  I’d rather have more pain for a shorter time than less pain for longer (usually).

I slowed down in the hardwoods again to take in the scenery, and stopped at an interesting reflecting pool for some food.

Trees reflecting in a still pool, Mt. Carrigain, New Hampshire
Nice place to eat

Upon reaching the car, the bottoms of my feet actually felt like they were on fire. Large blisters covered about half of the area on each.

Worth it, but it would be a fun week at work.


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