Bigelow Range- 2011 Version

Auntie Mame behind a windshield of ice

Woke up to a layer of ice this morning on the Caravan windshield outside our room at the Stratton Motel, where our the warm room had two double beds, a hot water bathtub,  fridge, microwave, and even better, no management here for the past 18 hours- how about the 28 degrees outside !
On the way up, I received an email from the owner, Sue,  to just go in and take room  #3 if she wasn’t around. Sue remembered me from several other times I’ve stayed here.  Easy.
Clarkie was to be over to hit breakfast at 7 AM when the restaurant opened. I was up early and decided to bestow some trail magic on a couple of hikers who were in full packs and shuffling around in the parking lot at 6 :20 AM, looking dejected after their 6 AM shuttle failed to show. I gave them a ride down Route 27 to near the AT where a gravel road dug right toward Crocker Mountain. I was unable to get more than a half mile there due to a washed out culvert, so they had to walk the remaining 3 and 1/2 miles to a trail head.  Nearby was  a section of Route 27 that had been washed out during Hurricane Irene, with a crew from Colorado was there on major rebuild of the road. 
When I got back to the motel, Sue showed up just before 7.  She took $50 cash for the room, taxes included.
Good breakfast at the White Wolf Inn, where we also ate last night sharing the table with Clarkie and Carol.  Get The Wolf  Burger. Yes.  Our breakfasts featured a choice of three types of home made toast- thick sliced- and the eggs were local. I had Eggs Benedict for $6.95. Decent, but nothing special.
Then the ride to the Firewarden’s Trail, two and a-quarter miles down a partially washed-out Stratton Brook Pond road that Clarkie negotiated with no problems.
We parked the car as far as we dared on the gravel road, and then walked to the pond, where our first challenge was to get across the inlet without slipping on a rock.

Auntie Mame tested

What a day!  This is, so far, the best hiking day of the year: cool, clear blue skies, ample water (for drinking), light breeze, rich golden sunlight, and foliage bleeding with fall color.
The morning’s walk was one sustained ascent of over 3,000 feet in elevation.  It started flat, then went gradual, up to intermediate, and lastly – significantly steep. At times, there was mud to avoid, even up high.

No mud on Mame

The last 3/4 mile to Bigelow Col is exceptionally steep, climbing over 1,300 feet in that distance up a section of natural rock stairs that appeared as if they had been planted there centuries ago.
We three were fine in reaching to within  0.4 of a mile of Avery Peak. At this point we sacked out at one of the tent platforms just below Bigelow Col, where we enjoyed  the sun and our lunches. I unpacked my little percolator and made fresh strong coffee for Auntie Mame and myself, laced with powdered Nido ( whole milk) and some sugar. By now it was past noon, and since Clarkie had to be back to Rangely by 4:30 PM, we turned around and headed back down the same way we went up.

Going Down!

Both Mame and I greatly appreciated the attitude that Clarkie ( AKA Tenzing)  brought to this adventure.

Tenzing at the ready

It was simply put: “If we don’t make it all the way to the summit, we’ll have a great time just being out, being together, hiking around, and enjoying the jewels along the path. We can always come back again and give it another go.”
The down was much quicker than the up. The air was refreshing and  light was stunning, illuminating the changing forest zones and rocky, stream ribboned areas for the next couple hours. I took some good photos as souvenirs, along with three perfect boletus mushrooms that I’ll slice and dry when I get home.
By the time Clarkie dropped us off at 3:45 PM at our our Caravan in the Stratton Motel parking lot, thru hikers had taken all 4 of the rooms at the motel.  Both Marcia and I were beat, so we decided to take a $65 room at the White Wolf Motel, which was half filled with ATV (All Terrain Vehicle) folks. At one point, mud encrusted ATV’s outnumbered the cars in the lot here.
Our room was a bit of an upgrade from the Stratton motel, and was clean and apportioned with the one thing I wanted most- a bath tub. I stretched out under the hot water,  laid my head back on a bunched-up towel, and proceeded to pass out in the tub for a half hour.
Dinner was in the room, and consisted of some fresh mufalletta dip, hummus, and Fritos followed by fresh pizza ( $6.95 !) from the store next door, with chocolate Haggen-Das ice cream for dessert.
The evening’s entertainment was watching My Cousin Vinnie on the TV.
I love Stratton and look forward to more adventures up here, no matter when, where, with who, or how they will unfold.

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