I spent a good portion of my hiking this summer following Cameron along a trail, and this Saturday was no different. He decided he wanted to join me on a longer hike and see what was left of the fall foliage. After discussing some options, we decided to go with Carrigain. He hadn’t been there in two summers, and I hadn’t hiked it since Feb. 2012, so neither of us had hiked the relocations that had been made after Hurricane Irene.
Cameron wanted an early start time, so we got up, drove to Sawyer River Road and were on trail by 7:30a. Our car was the second car in the lot, the truck already there looked like it had been there overnight. We started up the trail, which now headed along the left side of the stream and followed the trail back to the stream, but did not have to cross it. The morning was cool, and almost all the leaves were down, so were crunched our way further toward Carrigain, trying to avoid the hidden perils of roots and rocks lurking beneath the leaf litter. Some easy hiking later, we came to the old junction of Signal Ridge and Carrigain Notch Trails, where the signs had been replaced with a small sign with a carved arrow indicating that we were to head to the right. About 50 yards down the trail, we came to the first and only stream crossing of the hike and saw our first people of the day, some guys camping out at a really nice spot near the stream. We crossed the stream and continued into Carrigain Notch, not knowing what to expect since we’d never been this way before. It was more easy walking and then we arrived a the new Signal Ridge Trail junction. We knew that after this, in less than a mile that the grade of the trail would increase.
We started up hill, and after the trail rejoined the old trail, we started the hike upward. Cameron didn’t remember any of this section from two years ago. Lucky him. He remembered the first section near the trailhead, and everything from the second set of switchbacks near Signal Ridge through to the summit, just not the middle section where all the elevation gain is! I did remember, but it wasn’t worth discussing how far it was or how much elevation gain we’d have, as we were headed to the summit regardless. We kept steadily hiking up the trail and soon thought we saw the opening to Signal Ridge – we were right! At this point, there’s not much hiking left and the tower is visible, tantalizingly close, but with a ridge and a small climb in between us and it. We noticed right away that the platform was still yellow and not weathered and grey, as it had been rebuilt recently.
Sure enough upon arrival, the platform was brand new. We’re guessing it wasn’t too old as no one had carved into it or used markers on it yet! The views were slightly hazy, but with blue skies, sunshine and light clouds, we weren’t going to complain. Washington shed the last of its morning fog jacket and we were treated to clear summits from the Presidentials to the Franconias.
After a picture taking session and some lunch we hung around until we saw some old friends arrive – the grey jays! Of course, we included them in our lunch, and with everyone fed, it was time to head down. We started the hike back and that’s when we started to see more people. We had only seen 3 other hikers between the hike up and spending time at the tower. On the way down, we saw 24 people and 6 dogs out for a nice hike up Carrigain. We made good time on the way out, and had sunshine right until we got the trailhead. By the time we were headed back across Rt. 302, the skies had thickened up with clouds. We were really thankful then that we got up early and were able to enjoy blue skies during our hike!
We had a really great day! It was fun to hike with Cameron again. Since he is back in school, we can’t hike together as much as we did this summer. He’s still a great partner, and since he’ll continue to grow, I think in a few years I won’t be able to keep up with him. He assures me that I’m still a good hiker, but deep inside I know I’ll be following along for a long time.