Yvonne once again prevailed over my laziness– After Nancy Pond, I was so tired and aching that I didn’t think we could possibly make our bid on Mount Carrigain. It would be twice the distance, at nearly 15 miles, and almost two-thousand feet more elevation gain. But Yvonne wouldn’t let me consider a shorter hike. We had to hit Carrigain. And it’s not like I didn’t want to hike that mountain.
|The view on the way up the mountain for most of the day.|
Ever since my hike on the New England Trail, Carrigain has been one of my favorite mountains in the Whites. No, it wasn’t because I had a killer view from there. The NET was the only time I’d climbed Carrigain, and the lack of a view that day was a huge disappointment. But I still loved the mountain because it is plainly visible from almost any peak in the White Mountains. Carrigain stands almost alone, towering above the surrounding mountains at 4700 feet, and is one of the easiest mountains to pick out in any view of the region, thanks to its secondary peak (Vose Spur) and the long shoulder on its southeast slope (Signal Ridge).
|Just as we start to clear the trees, now we can see the sky.|
Yvonne and I started off early in the morning on Monday, carrying our snowshoes and trudging on Microspikes the whole way. To add to the ten mile round trip on the Signal Ridge Trail, we had two miles each way of the Sawyer River Road, which is a snowmobile trail in winter. We made quick work of the road, and then the flat beginning of the trail. The sky was clear, temperature moderate, and the trail was broken out and solid for easy walking.
|Suddenly, Carrigain Notch (and Crawford Notch in the background) popped out of the clouds.|
Once the Signal Ridge Trail begins to climb, it climbs hard. In a 1.7 mile stretch, the trail gains about 2200 feet, before mellowing out again for a short distance. As we climbed slow and steady, the sky above and around us drifted in and out of clouds. I resigned myself to seeing only the inside of a cloud again, just like in 2009, but we kept moving up the trail– a couple dozen steps and then pausing to catch our breath, then a couple dozen more steps, and on.
|Looking up to the summit from Signal Ridge.|
Just as the trail began to emerge from the dense spruce forest on Signal Ridge, the wispy clouds parted in a big way, and we suddenly had the most incredible views. From the ridge, the slopes of the mountain seem to drop off into nothingness on both sides, so we could look straight down into Carrigain Notch. The clouds continued to dissipate until we had a clear view of Carrigain’s summit, as well as nearly every other mountain in the region. I felt like a kid in a candy store– the view was better than I had imagined, and we weren’t even at the top yet.
The last mile or so climbed even more steeply to the summit, and then there was the short observation tower to improve the already stellar views. We stood on the tower for a few minutes, until the blasting wind forced us to take cover. Unlike summer, the victory break would have to come somewhere away from the exposed summit. Signal Ridge, with perfectly open views and enough wind shelter, served our needs just fine. After a quick break for candy bars and snacks, the trip down sped by in a blur.
|Yvonne showing off with Mount Washington in the background.|
We returned to Glen Oaks Inn by 6 PM, had another large dinner in North Conway, and were asleep by 9. We didn’t bother making big plans for Tuesday, since we figured we’d have an easy day and then the return trip to Keene. When we awoke to find light snow falling pleasantly from the sky, we decided that maybe we should have a relaxing day instead of hiking into a cloud. We’d had two phenomenal hikes in what finally felt like winter weather, we’d had plenty of good food and relaxation, and we could rest easy knowing that we’d had a very full weekend.
|Heading back home, across Signal Ridge and toward North Conway again.|
The bed and breakfast probably isn’t the kind of thing we can do more than once a winter, but we’re already pondering the idea of renting hotel rooms with several friends in order to avoid having to drive three hours before and after a hike. Having a place to stay near a big hike makes a huge difference in terms of being able to relax and get nice, early starts. The gears in my head are cranking pretty steadily now. Until then, though, a few good hikes last week satisfied me pretty thoroughly. It’s good to know that, even though the temperatures in Keene are still too high and there’s no snow here, it just takes a quick jaunt to the north to find the good stuff.
See a gallery of all the photos from the weekend here.
|And just for fun, from 2009, the view of Carrigain from North Tripyramid. Carrigain stands alone in pretty much every view, and Signal Ridge on the side makes it pretty easy to identify.|