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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mt. Carrigain (#33), May 25, 2009

Signal Ridge Trail, out-and-back.

10 miles.

Today we had a treat -- we got to start our morning with Tobit of VFTT and RocksonTop. He had asked if he could join us today, and we happily agreed. We met at the parking lot around 7:15am, geared up, and had our boots on the trail by 7:30.

The trail started off flat and scenic...

...and soon (0.2 miles in) crossed some water...

...and then returned to being flat and scenic, all the way up to the intersection with Carrigain Notch Trail.

Alex wanted to take our picture.

At the intersection, we noticed a curious thing...someone had written the word "help" in the dirt multiple times, with an arrow pointing along the Signal Ridge Trail (in the direction we were heading). The word "help" was also spelled out with sticks. Scattered among the words were a bunch of beer bottle we weren't really sure what to make of it all. Alex and I went up the Carrigain Notch Trail a few tenths of a mile to look for more clues, but we found nothing.

We then continued along the Signal Ridge Trail and saw no more evidence of distress. We concluded the messages were a drunken hoax...

Soon after the intersection, there's a large water crossing. However, low water and lots of stepping stones made this a nonevent.

Some time after this crossing, the trail led us to a beautiful marshy area. I imagine many beaver and moose frequent this locale.

The trail left the watery area and continued along...everything was green and beautiful.

Alex wanted to trade riddles, which is one of the many things she likes to do while hiking, so the three of us spent the next half hour tossing verbal conundrums at each other.

At about the 2.4 mile mark, the steep and rocky switch-backs began.

We were almost at the top of the switchbacks when Tobit let us know that he didn't think he was going to continue upward. He has some joint and arthritis issues, and this was his first hike in a year. I think he was wise to know his limits, and we respected his decision to rest and then descend. He made it clear that he was okay getting down on his own, and that he didn't need our assistance. We therefore parted company -- we were sad to continue on without him, but we understood and thoroughly respected his decision.

We continued onward, and soon found ourselves hiking through a beautiful bunch of birch.

The trail then began a mile-long trek in one direction, moderately steep and very rocky.

At the end of this mile-long stretch, the trail turned abruptly left. I knew we now had 0.7 miles to go until we hit the ridge.

After the 0.7 miles, the trail leveled out, the trees became shorter...

....and then we were on Signal Ridge!

Lovely, lovely views to be had here.

We stopped a bit to chat with "thehikers" from VFTT, whom we had been seeing off and on during our ascent. Nice to meet you, folks!

From the Ridge, we could look up and see the observation tower on Carrigain's summit.

After some rest, we pressed on, into the col between the ridge and the summit. Here we found one last bit of winter snow.

After dipping down a bit, the trail begins a moderately steep ascent. It's less than half a mile though, so the final climb didn't feel all that bad to either one of us.

Just when we were really tired of going up, we reached the summit!

We donned our wind gear, climbed the tower, and took a bunch of pictures.

The wind was howling, and Alex wanted to climb back down and get out of it. She allowed me to take a quick panoramic video before we descended. (Turn down your volume if you watch this...the wind is screaming and I'm speaking very loudly).

We went back down the stairs, sat underneath the tower, and took a nice, long lunch break. In the midst of our noshing, a grey jay showed up! This was the first time Alex had ever seen one. She held out her hand with an offering...

....and the bird flew by a few times without landing. She tried again, and eventually it did settle on her hand for a moment.

Eventually, we bid adieu to the summit and headed down. I couldn't resist one more shot on the ridge before we descended below treeline.

The hike out was routine, though I was particularly tired and grumpy by the time we reached the trailhead. Alex was her usual cheery self on the descent. She talked and sang and did her usual thing.

When we reached the parking lot, I noticed Tobit's car was gone. Later, I confirmed his safe descent with a text message. Again, it was a pleasure hiking with you, Tobit. Hope to see you again soon.

We met quite a few cheery, friendly hikers on this trail -- I think there were about 15 people in all. We also met two cheery, friendly dogs. It had been a grand day, with great weather, views, and company.

Our next 4K won't be until mid-June...and then we'll tackle Adams and Madison. 'Til then, happy hiking, everyone.

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