Mt. Carrigain 2-4-12
Sawyer River Rd --> Signal Ridge Trail
Distance: 9.2 mi. (Mountain hiking) 4.0 mi. (Road hiking) 13.2 mi. (Total)
Elevation Gain: 3,768 ft. (Overall) 3,952 ft. (Total)
Time: 5:34 (Summit) 9:04 (Total)
The trail starts off pretty easy with the two mile warmup walk along Sawyer River Rd. The road was freshly groomed and hadn't been ridden on much yet today so it was pretty firm. I wore microspikes through here, but could have gotten away without them just fine. After a little under an hour, I was at the Signal Ridge Trail and stopped for a drink. The trail starts off easy and soon reaches a crossing of Whiteface Brook. This was well bridged out with a bit of a zig-zag path across it.
Sawyer River Rd
Whiteface Brook crossing
From here the trail follows the edge of the brook for quite a ways while slowly gaining a bit of elevation. A couple very small brooks cross the trail to the river, but you can easily step over them. Soon the trail turns away from the brook. The trail heads northwest with some long mostly flat straights. So far it has been pretty easy going.
Long mostly flat straight
After 1.7 miles on the trail, you reach the junction with Carrigain Notch Trail which was used recently, but certainly not as heavily. In about 50 ft you come to the crossing of Carrigain Brook. There are plenty of small stones to step across to stay out of the water here. With microspikes it was nice and quick. The group I was behind at this point had mostly been wearing snowshoes so far and took those off to cross. They went a little slower across with bareboots. After some more straight easy stuff, the trail crosses on small brook (bridged) and then starts to head uphill some more. About 4 miles in, and finally getting to some climbing.
Carrigain Brook crossing
The trail isn't overly steep, but it is finally heading uphill. After a short distance, you come to a series of small switchbacks that are pretty easy. After these, you are still heading up steadily. Now you go through a long section of hiking along the side of the mountain. For the most part, you do this all the way to Signal Ridge except for the second set of switchbacks.
It was towards the end of this section that my legs started acting up. The upper thighs were getting a bit tired, and near the viewpoint just before the upper switchbacks, my lower thighs cramped up quite bad. I think this was mostly due to poor meal choice this morning and last night, and not drinking enough water so far this trip. I took a break at the viewpoint to get rid of the cramps.
Nearing the ridge
Going up through the switchbacks, my legs were still bothering me some and made this section seem much longer than it did on the way back down. I kept hiking when I could and took breaks when I needed to. Eventually, you hike straight while heading uphill for a short bit and pop out on the ridge. There is a small viewpoint on the right, but just a few feet further you get a much better view up on the ridge.
I stopped here for some pictures and to give my legs a break. The summit was finally in sight and I knew I could slowly make it the rest of the way up. I was out in the open on the ridge, but there were clouds around in almost all directions other than south. It had been predicted to be somewhere between partly cloudy and partlly sunny, but it was looking like it would stay cloudy. But since it was snowing heavy for the last hour of the drive up, that wasn't surprising.
The summit in sight
I headed over the ridge and back into the trees. The last stretch up to the summit is probably the steepest, but isn't overly long and was still pretty easy today. When I got to the base of the tower, the two hikers just packing up said I was there at a perfect time as the clouds were starting to clear. I guess tired and crampy legs can have a benefit. I set down my stuff and geared up for the wind I knew I would see on the tower. Up I went and sure enough, It was clearing off nicely. The Presidentials were still mostly in the clouds, but most other directions were clear.
View towards the presidentials
I took a bunch of pictures and took in the views. I got out my weather meter and it was 5 degrees with a -17 windchill. The wind was averaging around 10mph and gusting around 22mph. It certainly seemed windier than those numbers show though. After enjoying the view and having something to eat, I geared up and started back down. It was after 2pm and I was already glad I had what I needed to hike in the dark. The legs slowed me down almost an hour more than expected for the hike up.
Towards the Bonds
Going down, my legs felt pretty good and the hike went smooth and pretty quick. Once off the ridge, I was always in the mountains shadow as the sun was getting lower. My main goal was to get to the Carrigain Notch Trail before sunset, but would really like to get to Sawyer River Rd by that point. The hike went quick enough, that I came out to the road 15 minutes before sunset and was back to the truck 40 minutes later. With a nearly full moon and clear skies, the headlamp was never used.
This hike retaught me a lesson I thought I had already learned about meal planning before hiking. But considering it was probably the longest hike distance wise and possibly elevation gain wise, it went pretty well. The day turned out great and I enjoyed some terrific views. I can't complain about that.
Looking back at the ridge
Crawford Notch and Washington trying to come out
Another look back up to the summit
For all the pictures from the hike, just go HERE
The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to sdways01 For This Useful Post:
Anna LeBlanc (02-13-2012), KathyC (02-13-2012)
Thank you for a great TR and Beautiful photos Adam!
I loved your pictures, all of them. And a great TR, sorry that you had the crampy legs, what should you have eaten to not have that happen?