NE115: Mount Carrigain


Time to rise and shine. 

The day begins with nothing unusual: french press coffee, apples cut up for the post-hike hunger, water flasks filled, double-check shoes, gaiters, extra layers of clothing.

Check, check, and more check. 

Everything needed for a fantastic day out – sprawled on the wood floor and waiting to get all loaded into the Subie.

The frost crackles under my tires as I depart, down the driveway and eight miles further into town. As I gaze at the starlit sky above – the memories flood into my mind banks: twenty eight years ago this journey began..


As a youngster we took ‘family vacations’ every weekend; camping and exploring, backpacking several nights with the end goal of standing atop Mount Marcy, we were also frequent visitors of Algonquin and Giant Peaks in the Adirondacks. These New York high peaks were playgrounds for my sister and I growing up, fast forward twenty five years and I would finally be worthy of sewing an Adirondack 46er patch on my weathered packs!

One by one the boxes of once unattainable milestones began being checked off: first, my father, our friend Wendy and I hiked all 46 peaks above four thousand feet in New York State. Next, Ciara and I stood atop several twelve and thirteen thousand footers while out west – and we only wanted to see and experience more!

At the conclusion of our cross country travels via Honda CR-V and 3 person tent, Ciara and I found this little mountain in New Hampshire called Moosilauke; together with our two doggie bro’s, we climbed that via Beaver Brook and fell deeply in love with the mountains of New Hampshire – their mostly unsigned summits ringing of an untamed wildness that we could not find in our native Adirondacks.

We were out for adventure and epic butt-sliding each weekend as we began adventuring to names such as Cannon Mountain, the neighboring Kinsmans, and as far north to Cabot; we continued our tradition of backpacking, camping, car-camping and all around exploration of White Mountain National Forest areas.

To me, hiking in Maine just seemed so distant, so foreverly far away! I had heard of these peaks, but as a 7 year old hiker – they could have existed on another continent for all I knew, we often did not make it past our neighboring Vermont or Massachussetts for family outings.

Continuing my drive to “check off” new things on my invigorating quest of health and well-being, following my first marathon and just two weeks later, running my first (of many to follow) 50K – I wanted more than anything to pay a birthday visit to this jagged peak so far away that I had heard ruminating tales of: Katahdin in far northern Maine.

I was still not convinced that I would traverse any subsequent 4000 foot summits of Maine, in my mind.. I was still just ‘out exploring and seeing new places‘.

Then it happened.. early autumn 2019 saw my Subaru and I embarking on a 3am spur-of-the-moment trip to Saddleback, the (at the time) closed ski resort in Rangeley, Maine – deeper and deeper I was falling in love with the mountains and sleepy ski villages of Maine – the autumn colors on the mountain-sides were of oranges and yellows from birch trees in ways I had hitherto not yet witnessed.

The planning continued on and on.. the following weekend saw me spending a 28 degree, frosty evening in the back of the Subaru, a first for me!

I had planned for a lofty day, and concluded by meeting some incredible new friends at the summit of the Redington bushwack. The following day, I would meet and greet more amazing folks as we stood at the old firetower base located on Avery Peak, soaking in the sunrise – in complete disbelief at the lack of wind – true luck for sure during that weekend in Maine as I stood atop Bigelow West, my 114th four-thousand foot summit in the Northeast 115.

Then, only one remained. 

That peak welcomed me at every thought to come run and frolick on its slopes and eventually stand to peer around, celebrating at its lookout tower which stands at roughly 4,700 feet.

We had accumulated a light layer of snow at the lower altitudes so I truly did not know what I was in store for this morning as I would be climbing Mount Carrigain, the season had not changed nearly enough into winter for most folks to begin posting trail reports on yet. 

I packed all I thought I would need, just in case of surprises!

The forecast was calling for clear skies, low winds and unseasonally chilly temps this Saturday for my trek in the Pemigewasset Wilderness.

To my elated surprise, the seasonal gate leading two miles to the trail head parking lot down Sawyer River Road remained open! I followed two other cars down this narrow and winding road at 7am.

Plenty of water was stuffed in my 12 liter Salomon running pack, several extra layers, compass, headlamp, map – all of the ‘extras’ that I hoped I would not need were neatly taking up space on my back as I grabbed for my trekking poles, fixed my gaiters to my Altra Lone Peaks, set my COROS Pace to record my journey in ‘trail run’ mode and I was off, bounding down the trail. 

Oh, wait.. before I could rush out onto the trails, I was bombarded by a very enthusiastic man standing about eight feet tall with chatty friends who looked straight out of the 1980’s Campmor catalogues standing nearby: “looking for the JASON Group.. or just hiking solo today?!” The man questioned. “Solo, brother.. have a great day!” I replied as I was honestly completely unsure if he was ever even talking to me.

Now my hike officially began: at a moderate pace to begin, I was quickly reminded of trekking along the old railroad grade of Lincoln Woods once again as I swooshed past several other hikers – I certainly had much less gear than most of my friends out here this morning.

Just shy of two miles I slowed to a hault, with a chatty group of boys and fathers trailing – I adored the fun they were having, but was ready to climb up and away from their raucous that echoed through the still morning air. I stared face to face with Carrigain Brook, while I would not consider the water as ‘high’ so much, the rocks were frosted over and a dunked foot this early into the day would send me straight home.

Following what appeared to be an old herd path briefly down the right bank led me to a logged crossing – slick, but easily managable!

Once across, my pace as well as the altitude began to increase steadily. Switchbacks up onto a mini-ridge doubled back along the wooded ridge – I was totally loving this trail so far! I wanted to run, but didn’t want to sweat too much until my return from the open summit air.

My Lone Peaks continued to put the first tracks of the day onto the mountain-side – until out of what seemed like a bushwhack became .. crampon prints in the snow? 

What I saw, and followed did not make sense to me – unless the owner of these tracks were into complete overkill, the trail thus far contained packed leaves and about 3 inches of powder – no need for snowshoes nor crampons up here!

I watched the tracks traipse from down the middle of the trail and dive deep into the thick of forest just straight into the woods, I began to worry for the owner of these spikey prints.. could they actually be lost out here this morning?

Again, the set of tracks emerged from the trees and when I could finally recognize the imprint of a pad.. I knew I was following something a bit more hunched over and four legged than a human – it was wildlife up in these hills for sure!

The switchbacks continued and the ascending never ceased until I came to the first lookout at 4.5 miles. This could have been my summit and I would have been beyond thrilled to experience this – the frosted trees framed in some of the finest views of the far distant Presidential range, all the avalanche scars well masked behind a coating of white powder.

I could have stood here all day just burning this incredible blue and white mountain view onto my retinas!

Around the next slight bend the iconic view up to the summit cone and lookout tower atop Carrigain came into view – my next and final destination!

Down the col and henceforth back up even higher now, past the rickety old bucket at the well and up a few pitches over some basketball-sized boulders and there was my objective, a mere twenty feet infront.

Poles and gloves were tossed aside as I found no wind to speak of at 4,700 feet as I looked at my watch – 9:24AM and I now stood alone atop my 115th northeast high peak.

Ten.. easily fifteen minutes must have passed as I stood and soaked in the views from every angle – it was time to begin my return jaunt before the hoards of weekend warriors made their ascent up the tower steps as well, and my silent summit would be brimming with activity, life and laughter once again.

With delicate steps I made quick work of the descent and within just minutes found myself staring back up the final slopes of Carrigan: “I was just up there, I did it, that really did just happen!

I met the same familiar faces as I began the switchbacks to lower ground, “dang.. you made quick work of that!” one hiker exclaimed as I jammed past and wished them a terrific ascent as well.

Stopping for a moment to say good morning to a woman making her solo climb up, she told me all about the three other occassions she had summited Carrigain and how this was not her first pick of the day; I felt like after today – this would be my first pick any day!

After several minutes and also wishing her a lovely bluebird day in the mountains, I heard from the distance: “HEY WAIT! I have a question for you!!“, she yelled back through the trees to me. I began walking back up that hill toward her, “did you actually just say this was your NH48, NE67, AND NE115 summit?!

I assured her that she had heard me correctly and just then she went absolutely eccstatic with enthusiasm, perhaps with even more than I was trying to contain! I could have hugged her for all the congrats she gave, but she was too far up the slope.

I must have passed at least 35 people from the time I departed the summit of Carrigain to the moment I returned to my car at the trail head – these folks really picked a gem to hike on this wind-less morning!

Shortly prior to reaching the brook crossing for the final time, I reached the party of dogs and folks heading up for a friends Grid finish – that was when I heard: “HEY!… I remember you from the Adirondacks!!

What a small world it really is sometimes!

A friend Ciara and I ran into at the Upper Works in the Adirondacks, who, at that time was hiking Mt Marshall for his finish of the Northeast 115! How the tides had turned and we cross paths once again, and of all days.. on my finish of the NE115!

It was so good to see old friends and talk to so many friendly hikers, especially on a day when I figured it would be me alone, keeping myself company!

The crossing of Carrigain Brook was easy this time, knowing this time where to go and where to step across that frosty log – and the remaining two miles out was one of the most happily satisfying snowy trails that I had ever ran!

I brought along Hillsound spikes, but never truly needed them – they would have just been dulled on bare rock more than anything. The Altra’s performed beautifully, despite not being waterproof they did great in the snow with my thicker Darn Tough wool socks and traction was not an issue.

Back at my car, I dove straight into the bananas and apples – completely satisfied with my day in the forest.

I accomplished what I set out to do, and had way more fun than I ever could have imagined going into it!

What a truly fantastic group of people us hikers, trail runners, backpackers, and forest hermits can be. What an incredible journey over the past twenty eight years this has been!

What began with a seven year old kid who found solace in solitute atop Mount Marcy, to an old dude standing atop Mount Carrigain breathing in youth – may the mountains and our love of adventure forever grow in size!

Thanks for following along my journey – it surely will not end, many, many more trails out there to explore..


Happy Climbing!

– Erik, NE115 #1013


Overall stats for the day:

Recorded with COROS Pace

  • 10.64 miles
  • 3hr 51minutes
  • 3,829′ elevation gain
  • Mount Carrigain – 4,682′


Saddleback & The Horn

I write this from the back of my Subaru; wrapped up in a sleeping bag and munching on bananas, fresh off the trail and spending the night in Maine – which is quite fitting as I am recounting my excursion from last weekend.


The name of an old time favorite back in the Adirondacks, I’ve seen that Great Range gem in every season – and it never gets old in my humble opinion! But with an epic steep climb up an old landslide resulting in some of the finest views one could possibly hope to find anywhere in the Adirondack state park.

However, this is of a different Saddleback, this is the Saddleback of Maine! Turns out this was not even my ‘first pick’, in all honesty, I suppose I had just simply not thought of it! All of my sights were tuned into the big brothers in the area, with names like Bigelow, Sugarloaf and Redington (which is an almighty bushwhack!).

As per my typical planning regime: I began checking the weather the instant that I returned to work on Monday morning. Knowing that most accurate mountain weather apps generally do not broadcast that far out into the future, I just could not resist the temptation to day dream even for just a moment on this Monday work day!

Weather looking good, my sights quickly switched to researching trails – I was in the mood for something out of the ordinary – my destination didn’t have to be the steepest trail, or even the longest hike imaginable, sometimes I just want different – such as several weeks ago – Ciara and I went for a spontaneous sunrise hike in Vermont, turns out not far off the trail was an old airplane fuselage from a mountain-side crash landing many moons ago (spoiler alert: the pilot lived!).

When I realized that I was contending with a +4 hour car ride one way to hike any of these far away four thousand footers, I knew I had to re-organize my thoughts.

Saddleback was the closest of them all; I sat there at my laptop with several tabs of google-maps open thinking nearly out loud, “why had I not looked into this by now?

At about 3 and a half hours one way (still seems crazy as I type and hear the words aloud in my head!), Saddleback would afford me an extra hour and a half of time back into my day – which was perfect because this was one weekend when I need to get there and get back to spend time with Ciara and the doggies!

So.. what’s so ‘out-of-the-ordinary’ about this Saddleback place?

First off, it’s a ski resort. I really didn’t look into the details, but after returning from hiking via the ski slopes.. I almost want to dig in deeper! The resort is closed, but all of the quickie searches for Saddleback Mountain have informed me that there is a person or group actively trying to re-open the resort for the 2020 season.

The resort itself appears to remain in great condition, only a wee-bit eerie when I pulled into the lot with not a soul to be found, no sounds, just pure silence – and as I peered into the windows as I passed, the chairs were all up on the tables but everything else has been removed: 110% eerie.

Second cool factor is that there are multiple ways to hike this hidden gem! The Appalachian Trail traverses the summit ridge and continues over to other series of bumps and rocky outcrops, the nearest being also one of the 4000-footer summits of Maine, wicked Bonus!

As I returned from my morning jaunt up along the ridge, I had several people (from different groups of hikers) asking me where the pesky trail was! Trying to be helpful, I pointed them to the slopes around back of the lodge to where I began my ascent, “it’s back there, you can’t miss it.. but if you do.. just keep climbing until you can’t climb no more!

The talus-filled ski slope that made up my trail.. and it was much like a trail after all, began as a muddy single track width of boot and trail runner prints quickly sprawled out onto a poorly maintained maintenance access road – and got steep, real quick!

About 20 solid minutes of warm up climbing was all it took, and within minutes the once sprawling fall foliage vistas were completely shrouded in white mist as I quickly ascended into the blanket of ominous cloud cover – but for those few brief moments of incredible views – I could tell Maine was darn close to Peak Foliage around there! The yellow birch leaves and deep reds mingled with the rusty orange hues, all offset by the spruce and evergreen needles sprinkled throughout just seemed to spread out and unroll across the countryside like the most vivid quilt ever quilted!

Nearing the ridge line, the winds masked the sounds of thru-hikers who made their beds in one of the shelters just off the crest of the ridge – the scent of their bacon and maple syrup wafted through the air. Now over 4,000 feet, the air was growing more and more tumultuous, whipping the heavy cloud layer all around, whirl-winding that sweet maple syrup right up my nose!

Once out on the ridge line, visibility narrowed to a slim 15 feet in any direction, the whipping wind was alive and in full force now with 40-50mph gusts forcing me to brace each step with my trekking poles – mildly nerve-racking to say the least while trotting down open granite slab with a drop off to the right that disappeared into who-knows-what kind of abyss far below.

I was very pleasantly surprised with my inaugural break-in of my first pair of Altra Lone Peak 4.0s! They seemed to grip the bare rock better than any other shoe I had hiked in, I expected them to give up their hearty traction and send each of my legs flailing in varying directions.. I can pleasantly say that the Lone Peaks did stellar – now I just need a bit of snow and ice to test them in!

It really was not difficult at all to follow the ridge despite being shrouded in a thick undulating cloud layer – the AT was marked very well – and the notorious white blazes almost appeared to have been recently repainted! There were of course large rock cairns every so often to follow when the snow flies and the visibility is reduced to footprints.

I thoroughly enjoy a hike where I can employ my arms and legs both – and Saddleback was definitely the hike for that! Heading over to The Horn just over a mile away saw a lovely granite sidewalk that was easily runnable (even when wet!), rocky scrambles, a deceptively thin wrought iron ladder that looked as if I would step through each rung, and boat loads of rocky outcrops that would have made great resting view points had I not been over four thousand feet up in the clouds!

Once up the last steep pitch to the summit rocks of The Horn at 4041′, I quickly spotted the burnt orange MATC signage surrounded by boulders helping to keep it upright in these torrential wind gusts. I have grown accustomed to the dark brown signs with yellow text found in the Adirondacks, the rough wood plank signs of the Whites, but the uniqueness of these bright orange trail signs found on Maine mountains still seem so exciting and new to me!

The summit of the Horn is one that there could be fifty people stuffed onto the summit rocks, and with such an open summit, there would be plenty of space between groups as to not be jammed on top of one another.

After several photos and slamming gusts of wind later, my fingers made the call that it was time to pack up shop and head back to warmer pastures found in the treeline!

After a run through the col, and beginning back up the Saddleback side I was quickly stopped dead in my tracks. Just several quick moments of when the sun began to shine through the clouds, even from up so high the views to the west began to shine through the cloud that I reluctantly called my ‘home on the ridge’ for this morning.

I could literally see the water droplets that made up this cloud wiz past my face, but now they were so few and far in between that the most colorful artists palette of fall foliage shone through – to the untrained eye, a passerby may assume that the cold wind was whipping tears across my face, I might just say that it was such a magical experience to be there in that moment!

The mind blowing color shots did not last long, as I traced my steps and ascended back to the peak of Saddleback, I found myself alone again on this pile of rock. I did some exploring now though, checking out the old stone shelter that rose several feet off the backside of the peak. I was able to find an old USGS survey marker and for a change, just simply stop in time, walking slowly and intently, simply taking in the sights that surround my feet; looking at the colors of the alpine moss, watching grasses sway in the breeze, even birds all around that tried to defy wind speeds – it was all an incredible experience.

When I had my fill of playing explorer, I recalled my three and a half hour drive home. I met many families with youngsters making their way up, I wished them all a safe and fantastic trek up to the summit; most saw me still wrapped up in my Black Diamond wind jacket and eventually asked about the weather up top. It was only then that I admitted how strong the gusts were, how bone chilling the water droplets screaming by any bare skin had felt, but most importantly – I wanted each person who ascended after me to have the same magical experience that I had, whether they saw the clouds part or not! 

The Altra Lone Peaks make super quick work running down the boulder and mud slopes while heading down to my car, I have been thoroughly impressed by them – and not too sure why it took me so long to get around to taking them for a spin on the mountain-side!

Another hugely successful and enjoyable day – Saddleback along with the epic Horn traverse was my 5th and 6th four-thousand-foot peak in the incredible wilderness of Maine.

I am truly excited to venture back here again soon and see what other gems lay waiting for me and my Lone Peaks!


Until then,

Happy Climbing!

– Erik


Overall stats for the day:

Recorded with COROS Pace

  • 6.8 miles
  • 2hr 29 minutes
  • 3,255′ elevation gain
  • Saddleback Mt – 4120′
  • Saddleback Horn – 4041′


Finding yourself on new trails.

Today is a holiday for us folks who work on the clinical side of hospital operations and with Ciara 2600 or so miles away having a ball, roaming somewhere in the Sawtooth mountains – all this can mean only one thing: I am on puppy-watch until she returns to the east coast!

I’ve been hitting our favorite trails every day after work; lace up, collars on the boys, then start right from home. Boone and Crockett damn near pull me like a kite down the murky trails as we meander our way to their favorite spot on the lake – they know this spot well and need no guidance – the best place to jump in for a quick dip in the water, I suppose!

Today I craved something more, something that I had not done before.. which is really not at all difficult having nearly 80K of old abandoned roads and trails, with the addition of about 1,790 miles of Appalachian Trail to the south, with about 400 miles more heading north.

As of writing this, I actually have not found myself seeking out the AT.. sure, I know it is there and I know there are some absolutely stunningly beautiful sections of it nearby – but I always felt that I would like to leave its mystique and draw for the actual thru-hikers.. heck, I may actually be one of those rad long-distance trekkers soon!

There has been a loop poking at the “hey, I haven’t done this yet.. so let’s get to doing” side of my brain.. but with so much to explore, I just had not settled on it – until today!

The map packed (yes.. a paper map which I reviewed the night prior just to amp myself up!), topped off all of the 60 or so ounces that my running vest will hold, stretched just about every muscle in my body, had a mini-breakfast of tofu (I had an open block in the fridge that needed eating!) and a few bananas, laced up the Altra’s, slapped on my gaiters that I tore at Chocorua thinking “these are going to fall right off!“, set the Coros to record in trail run mode – and my adventure was unfolding right under my feet!

The initial miles slipped by, feet became wet from the mud seepage and before I knew it.. shoved myself right into the thick knit of pine branches that I knew would lead right to Smarts Mountain summit.

Breaking through to the official AT, I was drawn to the left, trekking south for those 10 feet or so – just to see the sign in a new light, focusing on the lettering and classic A over T logo harder than ever this time before scooting down the side of the mountain. I had read this sign many times leading up to today’s encounter, it read: AT North.

Sure, technically the Appalachian Trail does run back down the south side of Smarts Mountain – sure, I had been on that trail a few times now.. but something just felt different about heading down this side of Smarts, I was heading away from that cabin that I call home.

I noticed something different.. immediately as I passed that sign and concentrated on my feet as to not catch every root (heck, I do that enough.. always trying to not catch a toe!).

One white blaze after another, passing those marked trees, each 3×6 white paint strip took my thoughts deeper into remembering the time Ciara and I spent recently on the Northville Placid Trail. It took me back into the depths of my mind to each and everytime I had been anywhere else, be it north or south, riding in the car or hiking down (I see a lot of those white blazes hiking the Whites and living in New Hampshire..) the trail. My path was quiet as I was certain hikers were finishing in celebration at either end of the trail, but at least for a minute or five – no one was here with me.

The AT itself seemed to contain a shimmer of magic, perhaps all of the past trail magic dispersed its way through these hills had settled into the soil, trees and water itself. Looking down, trying to keep myself up-right and moving forward, I was taken back by so many simple things – the most tangible, of course, being the AT itself – the amount of time plugged into these sections – to install waterbars, placing rocks to ford bottomless mud pits, all the wood beams carried in to build iconic White Mountain bridges.

The trail was clean, like.. really clean.

Sure, it sees its share of hikers annually, perhaps it will see another 700 or so finish their trek this year – flying over roots and rocks at 10am, these are the thoughts barraging my mind. I felt truly content to be sharing this section of the AT with so many other determined individuals – is it possible to soak up the energy, the laughter, the will to simply push on from these roots, rocks and flowing water? Some may argue: Yes.

I did see some thru-hikers, and it was a simply amazing experience to see their faces light up as I wished them an excellent rest of their journey – and of course, a super happy Fourth of July! I could tell quite a few out there on the trail had in fact forgotten what day it was, or perhaps just chose not to remember, only the present moment to be alive in – the way of life that I grew dearly to while traveling cross-country several years ago!

I should to add also that my perception of the AT between Smarts over to Cube may have been slightly biased because I finally finished reading last week a very excellent book by an incredible ultra-runner/athlete known by some as Scott Jurek, the read is simply titled: North.

It was an amazing read, and much like this trail today – it took me back to all of the places we have traveled, recounting the USGS marker on Cubetowns and nameplaces Ciara and I had encountered. Toward the final pages of this book there are several photographs.. the back of Jurek out on Lambert Ridge as he heads away, up to the summit of Smarts. In short: it reminded me of all persevering that friends and hikers exuded which then fell in the form of sweat into this soil and onto the rocks all around, a rather humbling thought for me to be on these trails at that very moment, sharing muddy footprints with so many others!

There were, of course, several thru-hikers who decorated their packs with the iconic American flag. Remembering this is a holiday and nice days such as today have a way of bringing everyone out, I took a few photos and moved on.

Some longhaul trekkers turned their weighty packs into pillows, catching some good ol’ vitamin D atop the summit of Cubebut even with hats over their eyes, everyone still gave a pleasant ‘hello!’ as I passed by, and I even tried to travel lightly as to not wake them!

For the route down.. sadly, I was now off the AT. The trail seemed to lose its charm as I passed families with their dogs all off leash – the encounters so frequent in fact, I had a mind-game going on, trying to figure out whose pup belonged to which family!

Let’s remember the day as what I already mentioned.. and not the overgrown, old logging roads that made up the remainder of my day. It only took two decent bushwhacks pointed in the general direction of “home” – and here we are! Writing about it, eating watermelon and listening to the gentle rhythm of the inhale-exhale cycle of both Boone and Crockett.

They ran, they ate, they are happy now.

I ran, I ate (a lot of watermelon!), and I am also quite happy now.

So keep an eye out on your morning commute, or afternoon bike ride – the looked over trailhead you’ve noticed a thousand times just may be the ticket you were looking for, the trails you’ve been dreaming of! Don’t be afraid of what you might find, make the time and decide to go check it out – after all, has anyone really been in a worse mood after spending time outdoors? Just get out and explore anywhere! See what nature has to offer, and while you are at it – pick up that wrapper that someone dropped, move that stick out of the trail before it trips someone! Say ‘hello’ and wish someone a nice hike, these things are small and so simple yet go so far! Let’s get more hikers and trail runners on the wagon! What can you do? Just be a thoughtful, decent human being.. and that alone should put you as well as everyone else around you in a better mood! 🙂


And if you made it this far: don’t forget to check for ticks after you and your pups spend any time outside!

It’s quick and easy to do – my boys love the attention of fingers running through their fur.. seeking out those dreaded little bloodsuckers, find ’em and crush ’em!

Today’s fun run stats:

Recorded with Coros Pace

  • 27.2 miles
  • 5hr 50minutes
  • 5,387′ elevation gain
  • Smarts Mt, 3,238′ – mile 5.7
  • Mt Cube, 2909′ – mile 13.6