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Mt. Carrigain... Glorious and Cleansing for the Soul

                Slow it down… Enjoy the ride… You’ve been in survival mode for almost a year and all along, the mountains and Isis have been there. Today, we were heading up Carrigain which is a sweet spot for myself considering I finished my 48 in 2012 with an over nighter at the summit. What a great trip that was. This would be my third visit to the summit and Isis’ second. The time had come once again to escape for a little while and just be. Today would be a treat for us as every other visit involved an additional 2 miles for the road walk. Yes, today I finally get to drive to the trail head and cut out 4 miles and making this a 10 mile trip over 14 and perfect prep for our backpack coming up later in the week. We set out a little before 8am with a hope of getting to the summit for Noon and a little lunch. There are not many cars in the parking area however, it is busy. I was hoping that I picked a quiet peak for this weekend to enjoy some much needed time in the woods.

Signal Ridge trail as a general rule has a gentile grade to it and I enjoy the lower sections of flat trails winding through the woods on a wide trail. Isis enjoys the grass and the many streamlets that allow her to drink. We make good time as far as I can feel (my only time piece is in my bag to reduce my connection to the world). The major water crossing that stymied us once before is a non-issue today with minor wet boots and paws. We had yet to run into a soul on the trail. I held a conversation with the trees and with Isis (along with lots of encouragement for her). Things were feeling strong for me today and I will say that I like this feeling over my feeling at sea level. There is a breeze but I can still feel the heat of the day.  I started out with sunscreen and at this point broke out the bug spray. They were like little black clouds of hate today. I even sprayed Isis but was careful of her dermatitis on her butt even though my spray is all natural, it does not need to be aggravated any more than it already is.

As we began out climb on Signal Ridge, I came across my favorite tree with crazy looking roots. Of course, I made Isis get up on it for a picture… What else am I to do when hiking solo? She’s my photo fun. The trail is in decent shape at this point and there are only a few step overs to contend with. We run into our first hikers after a break. My back was turned and I was of course talking to Isis, they snuck up on me. Yes, I talk to myself and my dog on the trail and it’s quite funny sometimes. We let them pass after not a whole lot of conversation and then continued.

The trees were beginning to break up as we hit the switchbacks and I got my first views. The sky was the same blue as last week on the Presidential Range and I was happy. Signal Ridge would be beautiful as always. Isis and I continued climbing over the rocks and roots that were becoming more plentiful. Eventually the trail gives way to more rocks that roots and I am fondly remembering winter. Just before we broke out of the tree line, we run into Steve who is completing his 48 today solo. We again, let him pass and opt to hang back to continue enjoying the quiet trail. My mind drifts from a variety of memories and planning for our first back pack coming up later in the week.

We break tree line and are greeted with miles and miles of views. Stopping at the first outlook for a few pictures, there does not seem to be anyone coming up the trails yet. I had high hopes of sitting on the summit for a long time today and enjoying a leisurely afternoon at the summit. Isis and I enjoyed walking the short ridge that we now loved so much (better than Franconia IMO). Enjoying the views and the breeze as we pass back into the trees, we begin climbing once again to the observation tower. The trail is rocky but I am managing well with the uneven terrain. We soon pass the non-potable well and begin a final push. First we stop at the site of my camp out and I remember it well and think of how far I have come in the year and a half (ish) since. The last section of rock steps will lead me to the tower and first Isis and I stop at the marker for a quick photo of paws and feet.

We climb (ok, I carried her because the stairs freak her out) the tower and the top grate is very loose which in turn freaks me out. Steve is at the summit deep in his map of all the surrounding peaks. Isis and I eat and drink as well as take our own pictures and have Steve snap one. We returned the favor for him. In the process, the summit is overrun with hikers and dogs… Too many for my liking since Isis does not do well with a large number of loose dogs. Our time of the summit is over and we opt to go have lunch on the ridge.  Making our way back down, more hikers are coming up. Busy season in the Whites is in full swing and I am hoping for a quiet time during the weekday backpack while expecting a busy Saturday as we exit by the Bonds.
Isis and I find ourselves on one of the outlooks talking with two guys from Boston who were up for a camp out and decided to hike up. Not bad for guys who are not really peak hikers. Isis is resting well and is being quiet. As people continue to pour over the ridge, many more dogs are on their way up and I quickly have their owners control their dogs. I’ve just reached a point in my hiking where if you don’t know the etiquette, I will let you know. Have control of your dog either by voice at the very least and leash at the most. I don’t do this because I want your overly friendly dog in my less friendly dogs face. I do this because it stresses my dog out when your overly friendly dog is in my dogs face. So, when I tell you my dog does not like other dogs, it does not good to reply “That’s ok, my dog is friendly.” It’s not about your dog…. Control your dogs and look at the trails outside of yourself for others experiences. End hiking rant….

The trail down is packed with not only people heading down but also those that got a late start. Most have never been to this summit and I believe very few hikers today are actually peak baggers. Isis and I begin to keep to ourselves and try and maneuver around some college kids. There are finally some long sections of quiet again I enjoy the hike down. All those rocks and roots begin to trip up tired feet until we reach the flatter sections. Isis is getting tired and I think to how she will manage the Pemi later in the week. Then I remind myself to slow down, enjoy the ride, and take myself out of survival mode. All will be well and we will have a good trip. Making great time on the lower trails again, the heat of the day is apparent and the bugs are possibly twice as bad. We come back to the water crossing and I want Isis to get into the water and cool off. I force her to walk it a little and her belly gets wet (mission accomplished). We made great time over the great lower trails and are back at the car by 4pm.

A very cleansing trip for myself up Carrigain as I once again find my center and my faith. It seems that I lose it very often in the stress and the worry at sea level. Having been in a constant state of survival for the better part of a year as I scrape together a living on my own for the first time, I am looking forward to continuing to foster a more positive outlook (I’m human though and will slip). I’m stronger for my broken places and thankful that I have both Isis and the mountains to bring me back to center.

Time now to prepare for our biggest challenge… The Pemi Loop as a backpacking trip, coming up later this week.

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