With an ache still in my shoulder from the dislocating jar it took on my last trip, I once again headed north for my next adventure on the road to 48.
I got dropped off in the parking lot for the Signal Ridge Trail, took a deep breath and plunged into my trail. It started off fairly easy as I hugged the river next to the trail but I soon realized that all was not as it seemed. My first clue that things were amiss was when I came to a fork in the trail and there was no sign egging me on in either direction. I slowly took the trail on the left and continued on for 10 minutes before I realized I was quickly approaching the point of no return so I pulled out my handy White Mountain Hiking Guide(ding ding) and grimaced when I saw it reference the parking lot to the trail was 2 miles from the parking lot I was dropped off in. I started walking back when I saw something out of the corner of my eye and realized that the road I needed to walk 2 miles on was parallel to the trail I was on….so not all was as lost as I was.
I cut over to the dirt road which is apparently closed in winter and July as I started to sweat from the thought of having to walk 2 miles up a road just to get to my trail head….or it may have just been from the actual hiking itself. Regardless….I eventually finished my hike to the start of my hike and took my first ever water break at the start of a trail.
Luckily for my drained stamina…..the start of the hike was extremely flat which tends to make hiking a little easier. I was able to catch my breath as I kept an eye out for bears and crossed a couple roaring streams. I eventually came to a clearing that looked like a scene out of some bear horror story and it was around this time that my bear spray made the leap from my bag to my hand as things really started to get tense.
It was starting to dawn on me that because of the closed road to the trail…I may very well be the only person hiking this mountain. In fact, I was just coming to that startling conclusion when I heard some noise up the trail and turned my attention to a fellow hiker coming down from the summit. It was pretty apparent from his condition that said summit was no where close but I was just happy to see it wasn’t just me and the animals sharing the woods this day.
I started to settle into my landmark hiking routine which goes something like this. Pick out a landmark up the trail where I will stop and catch my breath. After breather, pick out a second landmark to stop and take a sip of water. After water break, pick out another landmark up trail to stop and take a break with my bag off. Rinse and repeat.
After doing this for what may have been hours or years, I finally started coming to some nice views through the trees. I figured this to be a sign that I was starting to get close to the summit but I was sadly mistaken. I eventually came to a gentleman and his dog who both seemed to be dehydrated and talking with a British accent. After trying to talk to him in British to no avail, I switched over to English and told him about the fabulous mud holes I had passed a few hours back where they could both stop to get a drink and some malaria.
I continued on as the trail really started to heat up in a literal sense but I knew I was starting to get closer to redemption when the random cool breezes began to make there way into the picture. I eventually busted through the tree line into what I took to be the summit but had to settle for just some nice views as I saw the infamous summit tower was on the next peak over. I had merely reached the smaller summit next door. As I stopped to get some water and admire the views from this bald minor summit, I heard a noise behind me and realized I was either not alone or hallucinating. Turned out someone had left their dog tied to a tree while they continued on towards the summit tower and as I started to do the same I could have sworn the dog was laughing at me.
After a few short dips, I started the excruciating climb to the summit of Carrigain. A few people I passed promised me a nice breeze on top of the tower and I pressed on towards this breeze like it was a pot of gold. Just when my legs were hinting they might throw in the towel, I broke through the woods into a clearing and the beautiful site of the summit tower directly in front of me.
I blew by a couple people unloading there packs and after a couple pleasant nods and a grunt, I started climbing the steps of the tower. It seemed alarmingly unstable but I made to the top to enjoy the nice views, breeze, and my lunch.
After saturating myself in the breeze, I took a deep breath and started the shin splinting trek back down. On the way down, I stopped at the little ridge and mini summit for some prime views and reflections on how good water tastes when your thirsty. After finishing off a bottle, I once again started my way down into the bug infested tree line.
If there was an Olympic sport for just hiking down a mountain I would be a house hold name by now. I blew by my fellow hikers and even leaped over a couple who had decided to rest by lying down in the middle of the trail. Always weary of the white mountain bandits who are constantly holding up hikers for their water bottles and socks, I tripled my speed as rocks and trees and my heart rate became a blur.
I finally came out of my speed hiking coma to realize I had come far but not nearly far enough. My head was pounding and I was starting to get cranky with the trees which I knew to be a sign of dehydration from my days in the grand canyon. It’s an even bigger sign there since the grand canyon doesn’t have any trees but back to my pounding head which had forced my hand into my bag to grab some water.
With a sinking heart I realized I was down to a half a bottle of water and no candy bars so I took a quick sip and moved on. A little while later I stopped again by a stream and was contemplating whether I should dunk my head in. I reached for my trusty white mountain hiking guide to see if it had any thoughts on the matter when I felt my hand brush against a mysteriously full water bottle I had somehow reversed hallucinated into not seeing at my last stop. Knowing it could very well be a poisonous trap planted by my old nemeses the bear, I made the executive decision to test it out on my head first.
After dousing myself and gulping down a bug chunk of water, my head started to feel better and I staggered the rest of the way down with only a few minor outbursts at the trees. Then I stepped off the trail and realized I still had a 2 mile hike down the road to where my ride was waiting for me.
5 down, 43 to go!!!