Everything happens for a reason and everyone that comes into your life is there for a reason. I am a firm believer in this. Even the darkest situations are happening to teach us something and if anything it’s to stick it out and fight like hell to get back to the light. The last time I was attempting Carrigain, I was turned back at the water crossing for the rerouted section of lower trail. That time, the water was just too high for Isis and I to get across. Today, it would seem that the temps would put the hike in jeopardy as the wind chill would be well below zero. The company however, was welcome and I was finding that my winter peaks were better reached with others for both safety and good company. Today, I would be joined by Lady Grey and I knew I was in for a fantastic day, provided that the temps would not turn us back. Meeting at the Hannafords in Plymouth, we carpooled to the Sawyer River road trail head. The morning was looking beautiful as we drove there. I got Isis in her coat and we each got our packs together. Snowshoes were worn starting at the car and proved to be a good choice given the snow pack. We made our way up the two mile road walk with no issues and even Isis was having a great time playing all the way. All we could do was watch the cuteness in front of us.
At the trail head, I made an adjustment to my snowshoes and we began to make our way down the trail. Each of us noting that while we knew the temp was really cold and in the negatives, the morning was not feeling like it was in the negatives. The lower trail was in great shape. It was well packed out and not very icy at all. Both Lady Grey, myself, and Isis moved over the trail with no issues. The river itself was looking a lot more frozen that it had in recent winter seasons (as observed by Lady Grey). Each of us passed the time on the lower trail by sharing stories about our lives and hiking. It felt really good to make a connection with someone and to have those conversations that I had been craving. We began to hit the lesser water crossings and most were step overs for us and Isis would jump them. Most of these little tributaries were frozen with a few running. We were making great time on our fourteen mile day although; I knew that the slow inclines leading to the ridge would add to our time for climbing. Having last done this trail back in August of 2012, it was a whole new experience in winter.
Lady Grey and I took the old trail as opposed to the reroute (which is where I went last time). The water crossings were manageable by rock hopping and or just walking through. I carried Isis since the water would surely freeze her paws. Winds were low and I found myself taking off my gloves in spite of the cold temps. I was working up a sweat and enjoying to day. We continued to laugh our way up the trail and Isis was handling her new coat and cold temps very well. We hit the steeper sections and things began to slow down. I was concerned that stopping too much would let the cold over take myself and Isis and I was really not interested in turning back. The sun offered just enough heat to keep us warmed and smiling. The pace was slow and while it was steady, I did stop a few times. The trail remained packed out really well and made the difference in how easily we traveled. The ice was minimal as we made our way to the ridge too. The distance between Lady Grey and I grew as I slowed down and made a few stops to catch my breath with each of us now hiking at our own comfortable pace.
We did find ourselves a few icy sections on the upper trail and while it looked tough, the ice was able to be grabbed with snowshoes. Isis also handled the ice well and we continued on to the ridge. Snow began to drift into the trail and we had a job to break out the trail to the ridge. Lady Grey remained in the lead and Isis and I followed. Through the trees we caught brief views and watched the blue skies, now knowing that we would have a beautiful ridge walk. I was getting excited to see what I did not see on my august of 2012 trip. Lady Grey added a layer and we were ready to hit the ridge. Once there, the world opened up and we could see for miles.
“Holy Shit!” was the first words out of my mouth as we broke tree line.
The wind was blowing but not enough to push us over. It was enough to make us remember the low low temps for the day. We moved quickly agreeing to get pictures on the way back. We headed back into the trees and warmed just a bit as we continued to break trail through the drifts. The three of us made it to the clearing that I once camped at just below the summit. The landscape had changed due to the snow cover and I smiled for the memory of finishing my first round of the forty-eight. Shortly after the clearing, we climbed to the summit tower. Due to not wanting to take our snowshoes off, we opted for photos at various outlooks and quickly made our way back down as temps were cold at 4700 Ft. Making our way back down we slide down some of the trail (which further packed out the drifts) and to our luck, the wind had died down on the ridge. We snapped pictures of the views and took more mental pictures to carry with us. We each acknowledged how lucky we were for experiencing a day such as this. We had both been concerned for the temps and agreed that while it was cold, we were able to manage with no issues.
The trek down from the summit always seems to go quick and the conversation that passed the time was nothing short of entertaining and enjoyable. Lady Grey and I enjoyed the connection on the trails and within no time, we were back at the trail head, getting ready for the two mile road walk back. Much like in the morning, the road was no issue and we were even passed by some snowmobilers (a family). Arriving to an accident scene back at the car was not something that we had planned however, the pudgy state troopers had it covered as it looks like a truck didn’t break soon enough and hit the car in front of them. The ride back to Plymouth continued with more conversations and a general feeling of satisfaction for the day. We were lucky to overcome the temps and see the views that we were able to see from the ridge for the day. Everything truly does happen for a reason and perhaps the reason to turn back the first attempt of Carrigain was to have this shared experience. Finally feeling as though darkness is behind me and getting to shine in the sun above 4000 feet. I would not have my life any other way at the moment and everything else's will begin to fall in place as I travel on. By climbing today, Isis claimed her 42nd summit and I was able to count it as number 44 for round 2 and number 30 for winter as we make our way to March…