With a slightly better chance of nice weather, we decided to go back to Plan A from the previous week and hike Carrigain as a loop via the Signal Ridge, Carrigain Notch and Desolation Trails, and then descend Signal Ridge Trail.
To get to Sawyer River Rd. for the Signal Ridge Trail we took the scenic route across the Kanc., and up Bear Notch Rd. to the 302. It ended up being a good choice because we saw a nice bull moose on the road. He looked at us for a few seconds before deciding that we were of no interest and proceeded to walk up the road a bit before heading into the woods. I wasn’t fast enough to get a photo of him facing us, but I did get a reasonable picture of him!
Excited that we had seen a moose, we arrived at the parking area on Sawyer River Road, geared up and started up the trail. Ethan had not been on any of the “new” parts of the trail, the reroutes that had been done after Irene. The reroutes are nice, as they avoid several stream crossings, effectively leaving only one to cross, which was easily rocked hopped and not until almost two miles into the hike. We hiked in at a good pace, past the old junction with the Carrigain Notch Trail and on to the new junction. Neither of us had been past the new junction, so it was a new adventure. The hiking was pretty easy and we kept an eye out for the large boulder that marks the start of a bushwhack up to Vose Spur. We were looking for it, just in case we decide to try that some day. Sure enough, we found it, very hard to miss and easily the largest boulder in the notch near the trail. After a little investigation into the surrounding woods, we were off again to the junction with the Nancy Pond Trail, which we would go past on our way to the junction with the Desolation Trail. The weather wasn’t clearing and becoming partly sunny as predicted, and just under the clouds, we continued through the notch, catching only glimpses of what was on either side, with no real idea of what the views were.
We reached the junction with the Desolation Trail and after a break to admire some metal relics presumably left from the logging era, we crossed the stream and started the trek up the Desolation Trail. The Desolation Trail was an interesting trail, with several distinct sections to keep things from becoming a treadmill in a green tunnel. The elevation gain started right away, but was pretty moderate, then the trail became really straight, which is pretty unusual for a White Mountain trail. It was weird to look ahead and be able to see the trail ahead in the distance. Somewhere in there, we found the telephone wire on the left side of the trail. It can be hard to see, and in some places looks just like roots.
About half way up the Desolation Trail, we hiked into the blocky rock section, where the grade becomes steep and the footing is much rougher. At the top of the section about a mile further, the trail levels out and the footing gets better, right before the last steep little bit to the summit. Right before the last steep section, we looked up and could see the top of the tower and hear voices, so we knew we were close. We arrived to a summit full of hikers, with several NH48 list finish celebrations but no views. I’m sure the views along Desolation Trail might have been interesting, but the weather didn’t improve throughout the day, and considering this, we stayed at the summit long enough to climb the tower and go back down. We moved quickly down trail and began the long descent back to the car. We moved right along, and soon were on another new section of the Signal Ridge Trail that Ethan hadn’t hiked yet and mercifully off the more difficult and rocky footing. That section was short, and then it was business as usual, a quick hike out to the car.
Was the weather perfect for Plan A? No, not really, but we still had a great day together, with a moose sighting, hiking new trails and seeing places new and old. Overall, I thought the Desolation Trail was pretty interesting and I’m sure I’ll be back on a sunny day to hike it again.