Sunday, August 26, 2012

Big Beautiful Bigelow

Saturday, August 18th, 2012

... that would be Bigelow Ridge: and it has instantly become one of the top five of my 208 day hikes thus far.

The views were abundant and spectacular. What I couldn't photograph was the lush verdant mossy boulder strewn ascent from the Bigelow Ridge trail junction to The (south) Horn.  The boulders didn't get in the way, just made for interesting views.  The high altitude woods were alive after all the heavy rain - mosses and lichens of a hundred kinds, all flush and verdant with the new moisture.  It doesn't get any better, but it also didn't present a good photo-op.  The rest is just unabashed eye candy.  Enjoy.

Avery Peak and Flagstaff Lake as seen from West Bigelow Peak
Plaque on Avery Peak
Signs at summit (approx 2000 mile mark), Myron Haliburton Avery Peak
Flagstaff Lake from West Bigelow Peak
Horns Pond from the Horn, south peak
Horns Pond and the north and south Horns behind
Horns Pond
View of Sugarloaf Ski Area and environs from W. Bigelow

Touch of Fall color at a small Beaver Pond wetland area
Young Moose, Sugarloaf Ski area access road
Another look at the moose

It was a stellar day - 11 1/2 hours on the trail, great variety, and not one dull moment - one of those days that makes me wish this adventure would never end.

For those interested in more trail detail, I've pasted my personal journal entry below:


Leaving Stratton Brook Pond Road northbound the first thing the trail does is go up some steps to a little viewpoint then down a steep slope to Stratton Brook where there is a big footbridge. The water level seemed high – flowing over grassy tufts in places. Then there’s about a mile of gentle slope and easy trail passing the Cranberry Brook campsite and two stream crossings, then a steady climb but not too steep and not on hard trail – just lots of roots mostly. It pauses in its climb to pass a place just called Beaver Pond, which is just that, although the main pond is drained and has been abandoned by beavers (the dam has eroded away at the outlet). Still, it was a pretty place.

The weather was cooler and the sun was moving in and out of high clouds. These entirely gave way to sunshine by late morning as I climbed the steeper, rougher section up to the low ridge before Horns Pond. That climb was fascinating. It was among huge boulders, but these boulders were scattered, not so dense that the trail forced you to scramble over them – just walk among them for the most part.

The trail does get a little slow and tough in places near the top and on that ridge where there are two viewpoints looking across the valley toward Sugarloaf and on south. The second of these viewpoints also gives you a beautiful overlook of Horns Pond and the two peaks called the Horns beyond. There’s some rough descending in a couple spots to the pond itself where there are actually three lean-to’s—one built in 1936 is no longer used for camping, and two newer ones side-by-side nearby.

I headed on from there to climb up to the south Horn – steep but not too difficult and with nice views on top – the first breathtaking views of Flagstaff Lake, which is a huge lake that fills the broad lowland on the north side of the Bigelow Range. It was literally glowing, reflecting white clouds on the next range of hills. On that range were dozens of big white windmills (electric generators).

By that time I was becoming convinced that today was turning out to be one of my best hikes ever – the juxtaposition of the huge lake and the mountains and the great visibility, perfect hiking weather, calm winds and lush green moss all just blew me away. I descended from the Horn and crossed the high ridge toward West Bigelow, with largely easy trail but a few steep pieces. Then the climb up West Bigelow was again steep but with few difficult footing issues, same as the Horn (on both sides). The views from the summit of West Bigelow were just as spectacular.

Then I headed down into Bigelow Col where there used to be a shelter named for Myron Avery, but now there are just tent sites. Then immediately the trail climbs again, including one very tough (for me the toughest kind of trail) piece over big jumbled rock with no clear places to comfortably put your feet. That doesn’t last too long, however, and the rest of the ascent to Avery Peak is not difficult and not even that steep.

At the summit there is a foundation of an old fire tower or tower keeper’s shack, a big boulder with a plaque about Myron Avery, and a new MATC sign that includes a ‘2000 mile’ marker, although the actual 2000 mile point is now somewhere just below the ridge south of Horns Pond.

I reached there after six hours and five minutes of hiking, so it was my perfect turn-around point—I get to come back there tomorrow, though that will be a pretty long hike (I’m hoping the trail is generally a bit easier on that side, but there certainly are no guarantees of that).

I enjoyed the return trip just as much, but kept a brisk pace. I was thinking that I might be able to catch the tail-end of the AT 75th anniversary festivities at The Rack restaurant at the base of Sugarloaf, just a couple miles from where I was parked.

I got back to where I had parked at 5:40 and drove over there, but there was nothing formal happening – people were just standing and sitting around talking, some leaving, the whole shin-dig was seriously winding down. The person at the registration table ignored me completely when I hovered around there looking at stuff, and at the adjacent table where they were selling memorabilia I got the same total neglect. So I just took a couple photos and moved on.

And WOW was I glad I did. I drove on up toward the Sugarloaf Base Lodge and hotel and there, right by a sign saying ‘Watch for baby moose’ was a young moose standing in the road. I got a couple of good photos of it, which I never would have gotten if I hadn’t had my camera out to take photos of the AT gathering. There must be some food (bait) set out there to attract the moose, so in some sense (because the sign was right there) I was suspicious that it may have been an ‘artificial’ sighting. But it was a free ranging moose and the first one I’ve ever seen even half-way close in my life. (Way back in 1970 I saw a moose in a lake a long distance away on my cross-Canada trip.)



Below is the map of today's hike with a link to even more great photos:

AT Day 208 - Bigelow Ridge at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in Maine

1 comment:

  1. Hello Seeks It! I doubt your moose was baited. Moose (and some other critters) tend to follow game trails established by generations of wildlife always following the same routes, in much the same way that moose will often follow hiking trails for good distances. It's easier for them to use a trail. So, where game trails cross roads (often near good feeding grounds such as bogs) moose sightings are more likely and highway signs are put up.