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Scratching the Itch on Carrigain

It's like an itch that needs scratching and no matter how many times I tell myself to stay low for the weekend, by Tuesday the itch is present. By Wednesday, I have looked at the weather and decided a few locations I can scratch the itch. This weekend, it was Carrigain. Five miles out on the Signal Ridge trail and then five miles back to the car. The forecast looked favorable, at least it did before I left the house at almost 5:30am (earlier than I go to work!). The ride up to the trail head was chilly. I think this was the first time I had the heat on full. Too many clouds to see the the mountain tops by the time I got into the region but I did witness some pretty decent Alpenglow. Once at the trail head and being thankful that the gate was still open and we didn't have the additional 2 miles to walk, I got my boots on and Lil' Nugget ready for the day. I was packing tomato soup, extra sharp cheddar, and sliced salami, along with several selections of treats for Lil' Nugget. This included dehydrated muscles which she loves. 

Starting out, it's fall. I can hear the winds and at some turns feel them. The ground is leaf covered and there is a constant crunch when I walk. I'm happy as can be. Signal Ridge down low is relatively flat and very enjoyable. Lil' Nugget and I ran into our first hiker who had apparently done an early morning summit. He was super friendly and loved Lil' Nugget of course (who doesn't??). He was most impressed by how much she had hiked. After we left him, there is one water crossing that was easy to cross and we stopped for our first break. If nothing else. we are well fed today. I have my gloves and hat on to help keep in some of the heat. I'm also conscious of not generating too much sweat which could make me colder.

We soon reached the elevation gain I had been anticipating. This was extra fun and after the bog bridges where I hurt my foot last time. I say extra fun because of the leaves. Under the leaves are loose rocks... Yippy! Watch your steps. Lil' Nugget wants to play with sticks and I discover  way to finally get her to look at the camera. The climbing is slow going today as I wrestle with feelings of not being fully into it and Lil' Nugget's play time which causes me to stop short a lot. I told myself at this point that if it were easy, I'd not want to do it because of the boredom. then I told myself to suck it up and get to the top. It worked! So, I continued to take my time and in the middle of the switch backs, we started to feel the freezing fog. I wanted to get to the other side of the ridge before I put on my winter coat. I thought I'd be fine in my long underwear top, Omni heat mid layer, and wind shell. It quickly became apparent that even though my wind shell had some thickness to it, it was not going to cut it. On came my winter coat (got it for $30 at EMS and it was originally $120... I love a tent sale). We were all set to break tree line and ran into some other hikers on their way down. Everyone was super friendly and happy to be out on the marginal day.

Of course, there were no views on Signal Ridge. I have fond memories of sitting on the rocks for lunch and just soaking in the view along with the sun. Lil' Nugget of course wants to keep going since she hates the wind. We are getting blown around quite a bit but we make it to the other side and back into the trees for that final push to the summit tower. The frost from the ridge dissipates and we begin climbing once more. This is the final push past the well (Non-potable water) and up to the summit. I notice that there seems to be some considerably more open sections that would make good back country camping. I'm also sad to see this as when I camped up here, it was a little less open and a lot more sheltered. The trees are just thin now. Up the rock stairs, Lil' Nugget and I pop out at the summit proper. It's super windy and everything is rhimed.

I make the attempt to get us both up the tower but only get to the first landing. It's really freaking out Lil' Nugget and I try and turn back but get almost knocked over. She's squirming and believe it or not, got unhooked from her leash. When I put her down, she was wandering free on the summit. Stayed relatively close and was able to stop on a stern command. But was poor at other commands so, I would not exactly say I'd fully trust her... Yet. I attempted another climb of the tower on my own but turned back at eh landing again for the winds. She and I got a few pictures on the summit as well as video of the winds and then ducked back below the trees for lunch. The soup warmed me up a little and then we were back on our way across the ridge. We got caught in some winds but they were just gusts. Once they died down, things were perfectly still. It's beautiful with the cold and the rhime. Even in the marginal weather, I still love this ridge. Not another soul was up here this afternoon and of the 8 we saw on the way up, we were the last ones down.

As we ducked back into the trees, I began negotiating the same rocks from the way up in reverse. They seemed easier to navigate this time though and as it was typical, the descent was a lot quicker. I was hit once with a big gust that blew in a lot of frozen fog and I was covered in frost. As things eventually warmed up (slightly) I changed my layers and felt very comfortable to leave off my gloves. The hat stayed fixed to my head though. There was one other soul on the way up. He thought he'd be the only crazy one out today. I told him that he was not alone indeed. I was just as crazy. We wished each other safe travels and parted. Slowly, Lil' Nugget and I returned to fall and eventually on the low trails, we just took off due to the flat sections. The water crossing was still a non-issue and while my feet were getting tired, I was finishing strong today. We got back to the car in good time. It was not record breaking but for us, it meant a good full day on the trails. I changed at the car and we were bound for Dunkin' Doughnuts, which I would benefit more from than Lil' Nugget.

Yes, no matter how many times I say that I'm staying in the low lands, it never fails. The itch needs to be scratched. I'm OK with this and happy to spend a day on the trails with my best trail partner. I'm pretty sure that she is my saving grace these days. Always happy to see me and always eager to make sure I'm doing OK. There have been moments over these past 3 years with her that I was never more happy to have her in my life above anyone else. She's come a very long way, as have I. I'm looking eagerly to the winter season and planning out my final goal as well as where I want to go after I complete it. 

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