Saturday, October 12, 2013


The mighty Carrigain had been on my hike wish list this year, and when my good friend Harry Cunningham called and asked if I wanted to hike it with him this week, it was a go. Harry drove up from Concord in the morning, picked me up in Lincoln, and we headed over to the Sawyer River Road. We were on the Signal Ridge Trail just after 9:00 am on a cool, crisp morning with high thin clouds but excellent visibility.

The Signal Ridge Trail gives you a nice easy warm-up in the first two miles, including a scenic stretch alongside Whiteface Brook.

On the third of three 2012 relocations, the Signal Ridge Trail now crosses Carrigain Brook on a section that was formerly part of the Carrigain Notch Trail.

We made a short off-trail foray to the edge of a beaver meadow for a neat view up to Signal Ridge.

New bog bridges near the beaver meadow, placed in June by volunteers organized by the Four Thousand Footer Committee (led by Keith D'Alessandro) and the Saco Ranger District (Cristin Bailey).

October is a great time to be in the hardwoods, here on a new trail segment along the relocation. The hike to Carrigain is now 5.3 mi.each way, 0.3 mi. longer than before, with an extra 50 ft. of elevation gain each way.

Shortly beyond the relocation, the trail gets down to business and begins a long steady climb up the east flank of Signal Ridge. The crux is a mile-long sidehill traverse that features some tedious, sharp-edged rocky footing in places.

A framed view east at about 3400 ft. along the traverse.

A twisting, turning stretch of trail ascends to the crest of Signal Ridge.

First open views on Signal Ridge, looking down into the lower Carrigain Brook valley. Still some nice foliage colors down there.

Harry takes it all in - a fitting reward for a long climb.

Relaxing on the ledges at the top of Signal Ridge - one of the great spots in the mountains.

Looking north from Signal Ridge past Vose Spur and peak "4266," northeastern spurs of Mount Carrigain.

Getting ready to head for the summit, just a half-mile away.

Along the ridge we chatted with AMC trip leader and "grid" finisher Dave Langley, who was hiking with Walter (L) and Kody (R). Dave is proprietor of Paws Applause Natural Pet Supplies & Grooming Salon in Scarborough, ME.

Peering down into Carrigain Notch. Some of the early ascents of Carrigain by members of the White Mountain Club (Portland, ME) were made up this precipitous slope. They named this "Burnt Hat Ridge" after an incident in which a chapeau fell victim to a campfire.

We checked out the old firewarden's well on the way up to the summit. Definitely don't drink the water...

A well-built rock staircase on the final approach to the summit.

Summit benchmark under the tower.

In the tower, newly refurbished by the Forest Service in September, Harry makes friends with a local resident.

Looking down on sharp-edged Signal Ridge.

The wild, cliff-faced peak of Northwest Hancock with the Franconia Range beyond.

Layers of ridges beyond the pointy peak of South Hancock. Killington Peak in Vermont can be seen in the distance on the far R. Distant points visible today included Dix Mountain in the Adirondacks, Mt. Snow in southern Vermont, Mt. Monadnock in southern NH and the Camden Hills on the Maine coast. This morning the Mount Washington Observatory had reported 130-mile visibility!

Mt. Washington and the Dry River valley beyond the Webster Cliffs.

Harry gets in his traditional summit snooze. There was literally zero wind up in the tower, and we were in shirtsleeves all day. A perfect Carrigain day!

My favorite view from Carrigain is north over the vast forested expanse of the eastern Pemigewasset Wilderness.

A zoom on Mt. Hale through Zealand Notch.

The broad mass of Mount Moosilauke beyond nearby North Hancock.

South to the Sandwich Range. Forty-three of the other forty-seven White Mountain 4000-footers were easily visible today.

We had the tower to ourselves for all but about 20 minutes of our 1 hour 40 min. stay. One group of three guys from Maine came up the Desolation Trail, having done the loop through Carrigain Notch. (See this blog post for a report on that route from a 2009 hike.) Just before we left, a solo hiker came up and obliged us by taking our photo.

Pausing for a last look from Signal Ridge on the way down. A trek to Carrigain is always a memorable event, but this day was extra special.

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