Today was the day to finish my 48! I chose to save Carrigain for the finisher of my NH 4,000 footers quite a while ago upon advice of my husband who had already hiked it and said the views were really fantastic. I’ve seen Carrigain from many different peaks, always out there and knowing it would be there when I had hiked all the others peaks on the list. We’d been hoping and praying for a good day – if we going to hike a peak known for its views, a good day was a must. The weather had been hot and hazy all week, and I wasn’t sure if we were going to get a nice day or not. When we left house very early Saturday morning, the sky was grey and there were some rain showers. A quick check of the radar weather showed that the skies would be clearing mid morning and that we should have nice views.We arrived at the trailhead, and the skies were still grey. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing – the overcast kept it a bit cooler and the rain would hopefully clear up some of the haze in the skies. We headed out onto the trail a little later than we wanted to at 7:50a, but it was still a reasonable start.
Up the Signal Ridge Trail we went. The trail was nice and gentle, following a stream part of the way. The stream crossing were easy, so we made good time and arrived at the junction of the Carrigain Notch and Signal Ridge Trails pretty quickly. The lower portion of the Signal Ridge Trail was really nice, almost city park-like in places, which was interesting considering that we were about 2 miles from the parking area and another 2 miles or so from the nearest paved road!
Once we arrived at the beginning of the true elevation gain, that changed. The first section had some loose smaller rocks and reminded me a little bit of the lower portion of slide on Owl’s Head. The trail quickly then became the typical White Mountain trail complete with rock steps, roots, ledgy sections and the steeper grade. With a couple of good snack breaks and some breathers along the way, we finally broke out onto the open portion of Signal Ridge. It is a long ascent and near the end, you do start to wonder if you’re going to get there. My husband was the only one of us who had been on this trail before, and he promised that the ridge views would be worth the work to get there. We finally popped out onto the open sections of Signal Ridge and were certainly rewarded with some great views. We could see the adjacent Mt. Lowell through the trees a bit on the way up, but the views from Signal Ridge were even better. It nice to get a little bit a break for the final ascent to the summit and observation tower, which was straight ahead and not too much further. The trail went back into the woods for the final ascent, winding up and around to the left and arriving right at the tower.
Around 11:30a, we arrived at the summit marker and took pictures before ascending the tower to enjoy the views I had so long thought about. I was not disappointed and my husband was not wrong – the views were really astounding. Most of the haze was gone, and although it wasn’t crystal clear, I was able to look upon almost every peak I had stood on previously. It was fun to look out and pick out ranges and peaks and remember all those trips, whether solo, with friends, with my son or with my husband. We ate lunch, and just enjoyed the tower all to ourselves. We were soon joined by a couple and their very nice trail dog. By this time, we had been on the summit for about an hour and decided it was time to head home with the promise of a celebratory trip to our local Mexican restaurant.
On our way down from the summit, we passed quite a few groups headed up on our descent and we guessed that the tower was probably a pretty busy place that afternoon! The first part of the descent wasn’t too bad, but then it started to get long. We knew we were making good progress, but the car still seemed like a long way away, especially for my son. We finally made it back to the loose rock and knew that the last couple of miles would be easier on the footing and descending. My son seemed to perk up with a good snack, a water break and being back on easier terrain. He picked up the pace and really impressed us with his speed at the end of a 10 mile hike. We made it back to the car a little after 3:30p.
My son did a great job – I think this was a harder hike than the 10 mile trip to Moriah we hiked together. He’s still young and learning about pacing, when to take a break and all those things, but he’s getting better with each hike. This was #16 for him, so he’s a third of the way through the list. One funny thing happened on the way down. We passed a large group and a lady asked him how much candy he had at the top. My son said he only had one piece. She remarked that sometimes you have to bribe kids to hike. After they had passed, my son turned to me and said, “You didn’t have to bribe me, I wanted to come today.” I wouldn’t bribe him, either. If he didn’t want to join me on my adventures, that would be fine. He’s been a good companion for many of my hikes and it has been a joy to watch him get stronger,and learn about the natural world we’re blessed to have. It is always a fun moment to see the look on his face when we get to a viewpoint or summit and he takes in his surroundings and the views.
It was also nice to have my husband along on this hike. It isn’t often that we get to hike together – many times I hike solo or with my son. We have had some interesting experiences hiking together, so it always is a question as to what the hike will bring, but today was a great day. Being a New Hampshire native, he seems to have an inborn love of the mountains that has certainly rubbed off on me. He has been wonderful in supporting my efforts to hike, through buying me equipment and snacks, watching the children while I’m out hiking solo, and just letting me go out by myself and not worrying (well, not too much) about me. He’s even confident enough to let me take our son out, too. I couldn’t ask for more than that – he’s been a great support in helping me achieve my goals.
I certainly had a great hike to Carrigain and have been very blessed to live where I do, to have family that loves and supports me, and to have the health and resources to hike and enjoy the natural world that God has given us. I am truly thankful for all the places I’ve been and the people I’ve met through this adventure. I have had a few people ask me what I plan to do next. Well, I don’t plan to stop hiking any time soon. My son would like to finish his 48, and since he’s only 10, he’ll still need transportation to and from the trailheads for at least another six years. I’ve got my eye on Vermont’s Long Trail, which would also include all of VT’s 4Ks, and if I do those, I might as well go hike the ones in Maine, too and finish the NE67, and then . . . . who knows? There is still so much to explore right in my own backyard of the White Mountains, too!