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Hike-NH.com - View topic - Carrigain via Signal Ridge 23-Aug-2008

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 Carrigain via Signal Ridge 23-Aug-2008 
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 Carrigain via Signal Ridge 23-Aug-2008
23-Aug-2008, Carrigain (#45) out-and-back via Signal Ridge, 10 miles, 3250',
5:30 (hiking), 7:00 (elapsed)

Carrigain. When I first started the NH48, I thought I would save Carrigain for last. It is a popular place to finish, the last I heard the most popular place to finish. Then, after battling my knees for 10 months, I thought I might never see the place. Finally this summer I knew I would get to see the views for which it is so famous. Due to an interest from my children, I decided to finish on Jackson so that they, and my wife, could join me, perhaps kindling the flame in each of them that has been burning in me since Moosilauke in May of 2006. This weekend, having a fabulous forecast, was the perfect weekend to finish up the first 47, making the next available day the day with the family. I had Carrigain and the Wildcats and because Saturday initially looked better than Sunday, I chose Carrigain for Saturday. It was a warm morning and the high in the valleys were predicted to be well into the 80s.

Since I was planning to stay in Gorham (as I type this I am at the Gorham Motor Inn, which does have wireless internet, but it is a bit flaky and I can't get images to upload), I was not in a rush to get going this morning. Still, I woke up early and unable to go back to sleep, headed north. There were already many cars in the lots, including some pop-up campers (so much for camping at the trail heads.) I knew I would have plenty of company today, which turned out to be true. Most of the people I ran into were on their way up when I came down.


I left about 7:30 and headed up the Signal Ridge Trail. It was still damp, with mud in a few places and running water in others, but nowhere near as difficult to negotiate as the Hale, Zealand and Twins loop from last week. I met a man from Connecticut, Dave "Drac", who was on his way to Vose Spur, with a printed sheet from Bob & Geri's trip there, and we walked and talked together until the Signal Ridge / Carrigain Notch split, at which point we wished each other a nice hike and went our separate ways. To this point, there was very little elevation gain along the former fire tower access road. There is the constant company of Whiteface Brook though, and while not swollen, it still provided many opportunities to photograph its many cascades.

After following the Signal Ridge Trail left at the split, the trail begins climbing steadily, mostly over rocks. A few sections have small, loose scree, while most of the trail is over larger, well-planted rocks. This section includes a few stretches of stone stair cases as well. It was interesting to note that I don't recall seeing a single blaze. There wasn't ever a doubt about which way to turn. Overall, a very pleasant trek. About 2 hours and 45 minutes later, I topped out on Signal Ridge itself. Still no wind, which made it hot. At this point I actually wrang out my shirt, something I have only had to do once before. Despite the lack of wind, the bugs were not too terrible.


The views from Signal Ridge were as good as everything I had heard, and everything I expected. I looked down at Vose Spur and wished Dave luck again. Although you can see most of the Presidentials, Mount Lowell is the most interesting peak in view. As I was hungry, this spot served fine for lunch number 1. I was in no rush at all today and I relaxed and enjoyed myself. But, peak-bagging is about getting to the top, and the tower was staring down at me, so off I went. Along the way I came across the clearing that presumably held the former fire warden's cabin, and the remaining well and its much-debated "Non Potable Water." It was pretty clear, although that means nothing, with a few things floating on top. The water level was not much below the ground, which should come as no surprise. Shortly the final right turn up to the tower was in view. It appears that this area is popular with camping, although I couldn't see how by any measure it was 200' off-trail.


I touched the summit benchmark to make it official and looked around. If it weren't for the tower, Carrigain wouldn't have all those excellent views. And climb the tower I did. There were 4 other hikers up there, including a couple I met in the parking lot some 3 hours 15 minutes prior. I took many pictures, but as is typical on summer days, the camera has a tough time with the haze. As I looked at each of the peaks, I recalled something about each one. In a lot of ways, it was a finish a few peaks early for me. After a solid hour, I packed up my stuff and turned to head down. There were two pretty good groups on Signal Ridge snacking and waiting to go up. While not nearly so omnipresent as Carrigain, Stairs Mountain certainly is distinctive and easy to recognize and this was as close as I have ever been. I packed away the sunglasses and hat and descended at a pretty good clip (for me, I'm better at going up.)

I had one more mission left for this hike. I wanted to take photos of Whiteface Brook, which wasn't well-lit earlier in the day. I did do some recon on the way up though and a couple of the cascades were reachable with some careful climbing. I spent another 30-45 minutes taking the photos and some of them came out very nice (see the complete album for the best of them.) I did find one "posthole" of boot-sucking mud when I missed a rock in a muddy area, so do keep an eye on your footing in these areas.


On the way to Gorham for the night, I stopped by on the Saco River and joined all the kids. The water was cold, but boy did it feel good after sweating all day. Because the motel has a pool, I had brought my bathing suit. Boy that pool looked kind of... uninviting. Dinner was at Mr. Pizza where I watched the US women's indoor volleyball team across the bar. In the next motel room was a gentleman from Illinois who had been doing time at various huts for the week and was off to somewhere in Maine the next morning. I got up the next morning and went to traverse the Wildcats.


All photos

Tim

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Mon Aug 25, 2008 5:35 pm
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Carrigain is bar-none my favorite peak, and I doubt any other will eclipse it, especially at peak foliage. I'll probably be heading up again this year, although the usual rule I use of a week before Columbus Day looks like it's not going to hold this year :?

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Mon Aug 25, 2008 6:25 pm
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