Mt. Carrigan - Signal Ridge and Desolation Trail - October 8, 2017
I woke up at 3 am, grabbed my stuff and was on the road by 3:15. The Signal Ridge trail head is pretty far from route 93 and arrived just before 6 am. There is a large parking lot on Sawyer River road and a few cars parked there. It was still dark when I started and there wasn't really any light until the junction of the Carrigan Notch trail. As soon as the sun came up it started lightly raining.
The rain was on and off mostly, gradually becoming heavier. Once I gained some elevation I could see that I was hiking into a cloud although it wasn't foggy and visibility on the trail was fine. Just before Signal Ridge there were a couple really big gusts of wind and the rain picked up a lot. I'm not sure if this is just because I was higher up, but it was also going to be the worst around 9am, and it was around 8am by now.
Once I reached a flat portion of the ridge I actually thought it was the summit of Carrigan and the rain had stopped for a moment so I took some pictures. There was nothing really to see, just bright white in every direction. I kept going and then it went higher, and I then I remembered there was a lookout tower. Only slightly disheartened I carried on and the wind and rain picked up significantly and the ridge was very exposed. You could see maybe 500 feet and looking over the ridge, which had a sheer drop, felt like I had walked to the end of the earth. This was the highlight of the trip, I wish I could have taken a picture but it was raining too hard for me to mess around with my phone. Even though it was raining I was warm and had plenty spare layers. I was glad to have my wool hat on the summit and it kept me warm despite being waterlogged.
View from Signal Ridge
The rest of the trip sucked. Fin.
Despite my better judgment I continued down my planned route of Desolation trail. At first I was glad because it quickly took me out of the weather and onto the more sheltered part of the mountain. It wasn't too steep at first, but soon became a lot steeper. I did stumble once in the beginning and fell completely forward onto my hands. After that I realized I needed to go even slower. I started to practice "silent feet", so if my feet moved at all or I had to adjust I considered that a failure. Really it was mentally tiring to have one hundred percent focus going towards my feet placement.
Then for a couple hundred feet it got really steep. I tossed the stick I had been using for assistance and crab walked my way down. The rain and slick rocks created a challenge, but it was really just a matter of moving slow and carefully. I also wasn't sure if anyone else would be on the trails for awhile given it was Sunday and the poor weather. Really though it wasn't technically challenging I knew to keep a low center of balance and not do anything stupid and I would be fine. I eventually reached more level ground, it was nice to let my mind relax a bit and start moving quickly again.
Before reaching the Carrigan Notch trail head I did run into a hiker who had been camping the past 5 days and was heading out to the same place I parked. And there was another hiker after him. The rest of the hike was mostly flat and the rain was still on and off. By this point I was completely soaked, since it was warm I didn't take out my dry layers and rain coat. But I also didn't stop for any breaks, I just trudged on. The Carrigan Notch trail followed a dried out stream. In the spring I imagine it's pretty wet as it had dug a pretty deep cut into the ground.
At some point I looked over and saw Mt. Lowell to my left. The sky had cleared enough to see it. The rest of the hike mostly follows a rocky dried out stream bed. Unlike the other stream, Notch Brook, this had not cut into the ground and was mostly flat.
The very last part, that I had done earlier in the morning, follows Whiteface Brook. This was full on running water and there were many areas it pooled up and looked like a nice soaking spot. By now the pads of my feet hurt pretty bad and I contemplated soaking them and resting as the weather was clearing up. I decided against it mostly because I thought I'd have some blisters turned opened wound I didn't want to expose. I saw one hiker coming in on this last section. By the time I got to my car and drove out the sun was out and the sky was clearing. The hike had taken me just under 7 hours. Not bad for almost 13.5 miles, I had prepared to be out a lot longer, the low elevation and easier walking than around Mt Adams certainly helped.
At the car I changed into my dry shirt and underwear, they were in my pack the whole time and stayed dry. I decided against a spare pair of pants when packing the night before. That would have been really nice right now. Instead I drove back in my underwear and took in the scenery and saw crowds of people on the roads doing the same.
Full loop on google earth satellite view
Time: 6 hours 30 minutes
Cumulative Elevation Gain: 3973'