Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Cloudless Hike To Mount Carrigain

I decided to forego my hiking last weekend as the weather was not looking favorable. That's the beauty of living close to the hiking here in the mountains, I can go at the spur of the moment when the conditions are good. The forecast for this week had a great stretch of Spring weather ahead and I needed to take some time off at work so I thought today would be a great day for a hike. Sawyer River Road recently opened and it was looking perfect for a hike to Mount Carrigain (4,700'). Fellow hiker Brian was on vacation and he would be joining me today. Our plan was an out and back ten-mile hike on the Signal Ridge Trail.


 Carrigain Brook

Brian trying to cross Carrigain Brook

  Brian finds a better crossing

A former beaver pond

Trail splits

 Beaver dam

The Sawyer River Road has been open for a couple of weeks, otherwise it adds two miles to the hike each way. I drove up to the trailhead parking and was there a few minutes before Brian arrived. Several cars were here so that meant hikers were already on the trail. It was a cool comfortable morning with a clear, blue sky and lots of sunshine.

 Red trillium

 Ice starts but easily avoidable at this point

 Walked around this serious bulge of ice on the trail

 Unrelenting ice begins

 The microspikes go on

We were soon on the trail. The first couple of miles is a very gradual climb with stretches of flat, smooth trail and allows for a nice warm-up before reaching the steeper, rocky climb to Signal Ridge. The first part of the trail also runs beside Whiteface Brook with its many cascades and waterfalls to enjoy along the way. We stopped at an old beaver pond to grab some photos and we thought this looked like a good spot to maybe see a moose but no such luck today. While I walked through the brush I was thinking about the ticks that might be looking for a free ride and meal. Sure enough, further up the trail Brian saw a tick on the back of my pants.

 Summit tower from Signal Ridge

 Summit Observation Tower

 A view from Signal Ridge

 Arriving at the summit

About three miles in I started to spot ice around the rocks on the trail. With the increase in elevation the ice increased on the trail. We were pushing our luck by not putting on traction. We eventually gave in to the ice and put on our microspikes. That made the hike a whole lot easier, safer and improved our pace! I noticed areas of deep snow out through the woods while other areas had no snow at all.

Sawyer Pond

 Enjoying the summit views from the tower

As we got up onto Signal Ridge the ice went away and the spikes came off. The views opened up and they were spectacular. The wind came in intermittent gusts, I added an outer layer. We took it slow and got lots of photos before makine the final climb to the summit. As the trail dropped down into the woods the ice was back and the spikes went back on. The ice remained until just below the summit when we were able to take the spikes off again.

 Signal Ridge

Zooming in on Signal Ridge

 Mount Washington

The observation tower came into view as we came up onto the summit. There were a couple of other hikers relaxing under the tower, and a dog. I climbed the tower while no one was up there so I could get my customary panoramic video. Without a cloud in the sky the 360° view was amazing today! I took plenty of summit photos. The wind was still gusting up on the tower but down below we were sheltered from any wind and the sun was warm. It was a good place to eat lunch.

 Mount Chocorua and the Sisters

Unidentified flying insect

Starting our descent

A view toward Mount Washingto in the far distance

Brian enjoying the hike along Signal Ridge

We spent some time relaxing on the summit but it was time to start our descent and begin the five mile hike back to the parking lot. We hand-carried our microspikes knowing we would be putting them on shortly after leaving the summit. Sure enough, we put the spikes back on and dropped back down to Signal Ridge before taking them off again. Once again we hand-carried the spikes across the ridge then they were back on shortly after descending into the woods.

Deep snow in the woods

After passing the last of the ice we packed up the microspikes for the rest of the trip. It was getting warm so I went to short sleeves and shorts. The warm sunshine had the red trillium blooming and green vegetation was emerging from the forest floor. We made it over the water crossing with dry feet and were soon back at the trailhead parking lot from where we began, my GPS indicating a 10.47 miles hike.

This was my third time hiking Mount Carrigain. Each time I have been lucky enough to enjoy the views whereas I've heard many hikers stories about climbing this summit into the clouds and frigid subzero temps. But not today. There was warm to comfortably cool temps, a cloudless sky with lots of sunshine, no bugs and no crowds. It was a beautiful Spring day for a hike in the mountains!

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!

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