Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Bigelow Loop - 10/6/2012

This weekend brought our adventures back to Maine as we sought out some more New England 4000 footers. We considered several options for our hike plans to take on Maine's peaks. The weather to start the weekend wasn't great, so we weren't sure how much we'd get done. We decided to start with the Bigelows and a Bigelow Loop over Avery, West Peak, and South Horn. We arrived at the parking on Stratton Brook Road in the dark and started the walk down the road further to the outlet crossing. It looked pretty intimidating at night, but we managed it very well. (You'll see it later on the way back.) Off we were on the Firewarden's Trail.
Firewarden's Trail to the Bigelows 
Steep trail, wet roots and leaves makes for a careful and slower ascent 
The foliage color of choice was yellow/orange everywhere
As we ascended we had occasional glimpses back of the clouds laying low in the valley. The trail was steep making for a tough start to the adventure, but we did know would be steep. We arrived at Bigelow Col where we came across some signage about the "reforestaion" (re-for-est-eye-on) efforts. We could not help getting a kick out the misspelling of reforestation multiple times on multiple signs. I'm not sure if there is something behind this or not? But it was funny.
TAKE NOTE: "Reforestaion" taking place in the Bigelows!
After the mind boggle and laugh, we went up the trail a few feet to drop the packs, and off we were to the summit of Avery Peak, our first 4000 footer of the weekend. Although it was completely overcast, the view most certainly did not disappoint. There was a section of under-cast that was practically right up against our feet and had mountaintops protruding. It felt like we were near 20,000 when you blocked everything else out. We enjoyed the misty, cool, windy summit for a several good moments.
Mt. Bigelow, Avery Peak summit

Flagstaff Lake - 4th largest lake in Maine
We descended back to our packs, and then the col. The summits are very close to Bigelow Col, so pretty quickly, we were coming out onto another rocky summit. This time, we were encased in moving clouds and a swift gust. The view was nada for this one, but we stood with the sign, and checked another of the list. The only faint view we had was looking at the impressive above tree line trail ahead. It was certainly just like a short section of the Franconia Ridge Trail, with a drop-off to make you notice.
Reaching West Peak 
Leaving West Peak on the way to South Horn 
Nothing better than being above tree-line on any day!
The distance to South Horn was a little bit further now between mountains, but it wasn't bad. We were already behind since it was tough to get the legs moving after an immediate stream crossing and going up such a steep trail, so once we realized that, we were less worried about trying to get another hike in today. We still had a good chance, but we did still have a good amount of trail to cover.

There was a slick ascent up to the summit of South Horn. The views were very impressive, and Horn's Pond is a magnificent tarn nestled in between South and North Horn.
Appalachian Trail in Bigelow Preserve 
South Horn summit 
Happy for a nice NE 100 Highest Peak.
Horn's Pond - Bigelow Preserve
The descent down to Horn's Pond was very steep and the rocks were wet. No issues, just careful eyes on our steps. We glanced around at all of the huts and shelters in the area. There was a caretaker in a caretaker tent, but other than that, we had not seen anyone all day. That was the amazing thing we noticed early on was that it was so quiet and peaceful. Right after I said that, we passed two parties, which was funny, but it didn't override that feeling.

The descent seemed like it dragged, but the Horn's Pond Trail is a really pretty trail. We passed an open meadow, and then began to descend next to and across  a few streams which form from the pond and near that meadow, a few of which were really pleasant to the eye.
Horn's Pond Trail skirts this meadow below South Horn 
A crisp autumn waterfall on Horn's Pond Trail...
...crosses our path, and descends the mountain with us 
Another beauty of a babbling brook through some pines, flatter now
Finally, we were getting much closer now, and we were eager to see in the daylight what the start of the trail looked like. We knew we crossed an outlet and passed Stratton Brook Pond, but what would it look like? It looked like a postcard view, to us. Then ultimately, we were at the outlet crossing. It looked about the same as when we did it at night. We both crossed fine with no leakage, but you need good waterproof shoes because you have to step on rocks that are covered at least an inch with moving water. 
Stratton Brook Pond & Bigelows 
Bill looking enjoying the scenery and looking for any movement
Crossing the Stratton Brook Pond outlet

That's it, we would be done after a short walk up the road to the main parking area. This was a cool hike because the peaks are right there at the col on each side, but still the Firewarden's Trail was pretty steep and relenting to get there, especially for us so early in the morning. It was tough to get going. We didn't seem to be up to our best effort yet, but all three peaks on this loop had a lot to offer, and we took them all in. Hopefully we'll be back here some other day.

Hike Stats
Trails: Fire Warden's Trail, Appalachian Trail, Horn's Porn
Distance: 12.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 4,083 ft.
AMC Book Time: 7hrs 30min
Actual Book Time: 8hrs 50min


  1. I think these peaks deserve a second visit on a clear day (judging from pictures anyway)!!

    Congrats on a few more peaks.