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Mount Carrigain (4700')


2003 July 19

Carrigain is said to have the best view in the White Mountains. I've heard this and read this numerous times before we went and I've been looking forward to hiking it on a nice day. Well, the weather was perfect that Saturday. It was partly cloudy with clear views, temps in the high sixties, and black fly season is over. We parked at the Sawyer River Road trailhead and hiked up the Signal Ridge Trail after snapping a picture of a very unusual but healthy zig-zag shaped tree. The tree is odd, but I think the poodle parked at McDonald's was even more odd.

odd zig-zag tree Poodle Drives

It's a nice hike into the Pemigawasset Wilderness although not too spectacular since there are no views until the last half hour of the hike to the summit. The first section of the trail is and old logging road which made for a very easy hike. In fact, we reached the summit in about 3 hours even though it was 5 miles away and 3250 feet up. After a couple miles, the Signal Ridge trail starts a steady climb to the top of the ridge. When the trail opens up to spectacular views, it's easy to think you've reached the summit although the a quick look ahead reveal the lookout tower sitting on top of the actual summit about 500 feet higher up.

Carrigain view of Pemigewasset Wilderness and Presidential Range.  Not a very good panorama.  Mount Garfield clearly appears twice!

We decided to eat lunch on the ridge then hike the summit. We sat facing the atypically cloudless Presidential Range and the wide open depths of Carrigain Notch and the cliffs of Mt. Lowell. The sense of seclusion really started to sink at this point and when we reached the summit platform, there was no denying it. With a 360 degree view high above the surrounding terrain, we could see everything for miles. The closest man-made object I could see was a section of route 302 about 7 miles away. The rest is forest and lots of it. It's hard to believe all of the trees in this area were cleared 100 years ago for logging. Today it's as dense as could be for as far as we could see.

Carrigain Notch with Vose Spur on left and the scarred face of Mt. Lowell on the right.  Washington and Presi's in the background. Carrigain Tower on_tower_sm signal_ridge

The views aren't hyped. Carrigain is in the middle of it all. most of the major summits surround this isolated spot in the Pemi. Many hikers, myself included, stood with maps on the platform trying to determine where they've been, where there going, or the name of a certain summit. The Franconia Ridge was clearly visible to the west with Mount Lafayette looming over it. The Presidential range is an awesome sight to the north and served as a backdrop for our summit photos. It was clear enough to see the summit structures on Washington, even in the pics. Facing east we could see past Attitash and into Maine and all the southern White Mountains could be seen clearly. I got my first look at Stairs Mountain which is clearly visible as is the giant stair-like formation from which the mountain gets its name. Some argue that Bondcliff is the ultimate in secluded, expansive viewpoints and purists add that it does so without a viewing platform. But at 10 miles round trip, Carrigain is accessible to most day hikers. Bondcliff on the other hand is an 18 mile trek, reserved for the most adventurous.

Stairs Mountain and it two distinct and enormous stairs. ash_sm.jpg on_tower2.jpg Mount Washington and Presi's

Book time is 6:40 which is exactly how long it took us to hike the 10 mile, 3250 foot climb. We could easily have hiked it in less than 6 hours but we took extra time to enjoy the good weather and incredible views. It's worth noting that we drove up through Bear Notch Road and it didn't save us any time getting to the trailhead because of the slow-moving traffic on the Kanc. We drove back via Route 302, 3, and 93 and stopped for breakfast at the Crackerbarrel off exit 4.


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