Big Hike on Bigelow Range

After I reached the top of Mt. Redington, I took another night at the Stratton Motel, where I enjoyed a long hot soak in the bath tub immediately after I got in the room.  I had a few choices as to where I’d hike next, and narrowed it down to heading over to Saddleback or exploring the Bigelow range.
I’m really enjoying going through the newly revised Maine Mountain Guide, which also happens to have a nice topo map of the Bigelow Range, where you can knock off two more of the Maine “official “ 4,000 Footers with Bigelow West ( 4,145’) and Avery (4,080’) Peaks .

Strava record of the hike

It took a full day of fairly steady moving.
I left the car at the parking area on the nicely graded Stratton Brook Pond Road at 8:30 AM and made it back at exactly 4:00 PM.  I did a loop, going up via the unrelenting Firewarden’s Trail which started at 1700’ and took me 2,300 feet up to Avery. There was water flowing everywhere, but thankfully I didn’t have to feet my feet wet in crossing the outlet at Stratton Brook Pond at the start.

Warren going over outlet from Stratton Brook Pond

I passed two parties of hikers on the way up but another day hiker caught me at the intersection of the AT, where I got screwed up following a blue blaze up a rock face. We hit it off and hiked together for the rest of the day.  His name was Warren, lived in Weld, and was retired from AT & T and was ticking off his own Maine 4,000 footer list.   Warren is another avid hiker who only does day hikes.  He is not interested in camping or backpacking, which surprises me.
I was disappointed to see that the wooden top and roof to the fire tower on Avery had been burned down.
I had last tried to get up Bigelow in 2011 via the FW trail  with Tenzing and Auntie Mame, but we only made it to the tent platforms just before the AT when we ran out of time.

Colors coming

The foliage is still only 30% of peak, with the rich red and orange colors just coming in around the edges of ponds and swamps.
We took mandatory summit photos from the top of Avery, and then headed along the ridge over to West Peak and over the top of the South Horn ( 3,805’) where we descended the nice stone stairs down to the Horns Pond lean-tos and tent sites, where the caretaker was away for the day.

Looking back over to West peak from South Horn

I am still impressed that this camping area is still free.  What a contrast to the money-pit AMC world of the Whites in New Hampshire!  I’m sending the Maine Appalachain Trail Club another $25 for their efforts.

World class eye candy

Warren and I  descended the 2.5 mile Horns Pond Trail  back to the intersection with the Firewarden’s trail and then walked out the way we came in, completing the 13 mile loop trip in about 6 hours of moving time.
On the way out I spotted a new blue sign that indicated a mountain bike path  along the north side of the Stratton Brook Trail.  That’s something I have to check out.
A day hike over the Bigelow Range is admittedly an undertaking that is best left to a hiker who has the skills and energy to put in a serious day of exertion.  It is classified as a “Serious Hike” of 9 hours and 30 minutes, “not counting snack or lunch stops, scenery appreciation , or rest breaks” in the Maine Mountain Guide.
I think I did very well up there today, and headed back home to rest up, before the next adventure.
For a detailed read of how to break this same hike up and use three days with two nights of camping, see the following entries from a 2008 backpacking trip  that Auntie Mame and I enjoyed that September.