With the days feeling more and more like winter, it is hard to pass up a mid to high 40’s day. I decided to continue my trend of 4,000 footers before the New Year is upon us.
As I was going through the various maps, books, and online resources, I eventually decided that I had to do Mount Carrigain. I was reading through the U.S. Forest Service road closure website and saw that Bear Notch Road was closed, but Sawyer River Road was open. If I wanted to get this peak bagged I had to do it now before they closed the road for the winter.
Also driving down Sawyer River Road is a treat in itself with the old cellar holes on either side of the street. This area of the White Mountain National Forest is filled with deep history of the old logging railroads and towns, which offers a different perspective to the hiking trails we all use today.
There was only one other car in the parking lot when I arrived at the trail head, which was about right with what I have been experiencing with mid-week hikes this part of the year. I really enjoy hiking when there are only a few people as it offers an escape from the busy center of town. As I followed the twisting trail through the forest I noticed how little snow and ice buildup there were. It was not until after the 1.7 miles of hiking into Signal Ridge that I began ascending slightly and the ice and snow started to show itself. Signal Ridge is a very popular trail not only because it leads to a 4,000 footer, but because of the views one acquires on the ridge itself. This turned the small amount of snow on the trail to ice and made not wearing extra traction a little challenging. I definitely recommend light traction for all hiking at this point!!!
As you continue the ascent, you receive glimpses of the nearby peaks that surround you. This gives you that extra push to continue climbing to get a better view. When you feel like you’ve had enough, the trees decide to part ways and open up to the ridge line. There is nothing in the world that I would trade to be above tree line on a crystal clear day. Here you can see Carrigain with the fire tower right in front of you!
Once you reach the fire tower with no one around and a slight breeze you can really take in everything you just accomplished.
Hiking back down Carrigain on Signal Ridge with the ice buildup was a bit trickier than what I had wished. However, slowing everything down you begin to see everything you missed hiking up rushing to get to the top. I was able to see a few openings in the trees that gave beautiful views of snow covered peaks in the distance and interesting ice melts on the rock slabs nearby.
Once I reached the intersection for Signal Ridge and Carrgain Notch, it was nothing but flat ground back to the parking lot. This allowed me to pack up the poles and enjoy the walk in the woods.
As always you can check AMC conditions for the latest report and/or call us here at Pinkham to see what we’re seeing out our windows and for the best trail advice we can give you!
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Backcountry Information Specialist