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Thread: Maine 4Ks Weekend #1 TR - June 2014

  1. #1
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    Default Maine 4Ks Weekend #1 TR - June 2014

    Bigelow Mtn, West Peak & Bigelow Mtn, Avery Peak - Maine
    6-14-2014

    Fire Warden's Trail, Horns Pond Trail, Appalachian Trail, Fire Warden's Trail

    Distance: 11.549 mi.
    Elevation Gain: 2,766 ft (overall) 3,632 ft (total)
    Time: 3:27 (South Horn) 5:02 (West Peak) 5:36 (Avery Peak) 8:18 (total)

    In my attempt to hike all of the New England 4Ks this year, I knew Maine would be the hardest part. Luckily, 9 of the 14 peaks are in the Rangeley area. This means All I needed to do was find a place to camp for a few weekends this summer and start bagging peaks.

    My first trip to Maine was a three day weekend with hikes planned for each day. The first hike would be the Bigelows with South Horn through in too for a New England Hundred Highest peak as well. Unfortunately, the start of this weekend brought left over showers from last week and wet/muddy trails. But since I was here to hike, I still hit the trails. I started off from Stratton Pond Road onto the Fire Wardens Trail. The first water crossing was my only real concern for today. It was nice to see steeping stones were all the way across the pond outlet, but with recent rain meant many were partially submerged, although not deeply. After this, the trail was easy all the way to the Horns Pond Trail. It rained off an on most of the morning, but footing was good so far.


    River crossing

    On the Horns Pond Trail, things started to get steeper, but still not bad. One side hill section had a few brooks crossing it, but there was some great stone work diverting the water and even making a couple bridges. Following near a brook, the trail gained elevation without being too difficult until reaching a bog. Here there should have been a view of the horns, but clouds didn't allow it. After this, there was a beautiful section of woods with a nice easy trail for a distance. This section of trail even passes by a very large glacial erradic that doesn't seem to have any place in these woods as there are not even any other small ones in the area. After a bit more climbing, I was up to the Appalactian Trail and then the Horns Pond shelter and tent site.


    A great section of woods

    Under the shelter of the leanto, I put on my second pair of socks as the first pair was getting wet. The clouds were still engulfing the area, but the rain was much less frequent now. I then headed up the trail to South Horn. This would be the steepest climb up of the day. Luckily, it's relatively short. Soon I was at South Horn and had a great view of the inside of the clouds. With 50 foot visibilty, it didn't make any sense to go check out North Horn which is supposed to have nice views.


    Check out that view

    After a few pictures and a snack, I was back on the trail. The stretch to West Peak didn't have much for steepness. It was pretty gentle, but was very wet. In some places the trail is the low spot and water was standing 6" deep in the middle of the trail. There was also some more very nice sections of forest though to help make things better. After a little more hiking, I was starting to come out of the trees some as I neared West Peak. There still wasn't any views to be had though.


    More nice forrest


    West Peak view. You can now see 100 feet

    I took a few more photos and headed back out. There wasn't too much sense of hanging out in the clouds and wind. Coming down off West Peak is a bit steep in places with a couple small scrambles to get down. It wasn't bad for the descent though. I then passed the tent platforms and started the climb up Avery Peak. This climb was a bit steeper and certainly rockier. There were some larger rocks that required steps from one to another. Before long though, I was coming back out of the trees again to the summit. As I was taking pictures here, the clouds acted like they wanted to break and some views might open up. Well they did, but only for about 5 seconds at a time. As soon as you could see a view, it was already closing back in. At least the wind was making it fun. There were even a couple young south bound thru-hikers having fun in it.


    The best brief view I got

    Eventually it was time to head back down. At the tent sites I put on another pair of dry socks for the walk out. Although with my boots being wet, it didn't make tons of sense. I headed down the Fire Wardens Trail from here to the car. Being as I do better going down steep stuff than up (too much weight to carry up the steeps), I was glad I did today's loop in the direction that I did. The Fire Wardens Trail drops off steeply and just keeps at it. According to my GPS, it dropped about 1400 ft in around a mile. That would have been a steep climb up. The trail does have some great stone work and LOTS of stone steps built into it. Once back down onto flatter trails, I was able to make good time on the way back to the car in the still very damp conditions.


    Step section of trail

    Back at the campground afterwards, I started a fire and tried to dry my boots. It was at this time that I found out my feet got so wet because both of my water proof boots had holes worn in the sides.

    For all the pictures from the hike, just go HERE

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    Saddleback Mtn & Saddleback Mtn, The Horn - Maine
    6-16-2014

    Appalachian Trail out and back

    Distance: 12.847 mi.
    Elevation Gain: 2,467 ft (overall) 3,665 ft (total)
    Time: 3:36 (Saddleback) 4:46 (Saddleback, Horn) 5:51 (Saddleback) 8:43 (total)

    After Saturday's hike of the Bigelows, Sunday's plan was to be the Saddlebacks. Very wet feet and boots that didn't fully dry by the fire Saturday night changed those plans though. When I woke up Sunday morning, it had rained more and it was still a bit cloudy. I didn't want to push my feet too much and honestly didn't want to hike only in the clouds this weekend. While the skies did clear during the day, I still took it off and did some exploring. I checked out the area some and also drove out Caribou Valley Road and Rapid Stream Road to check out how bad they were for getting to trailheads I would be using in the next few weeks when I came back. It turned into a great day for driving around and relaxing.


    A clear afternoon view of Bigelow Range from my campsite

    Monday morning though, I packed up the campsite early and headed to the AT crossing on route 4 to climb the Saddleback peaks. The trail heads down to a stream crossing which is done on a nice aluminum bridge. It then works back uphill a bit and become very gradual. There are some nice bog bridges and easy terrain. Only a couple small brook crossing which posed no problem. It didn't seem to take too long to get to the Piazza Rock tent site area. I made a quick stop here for a bathroom break and then kept going. The trail heads slightly downhill after this and got a bit muddy, but the White-Throated Sparrows singing off in the trees made it pretty nice.


    Bog bridges

    Eventually the trail gets steep for a little bit as it works up through a small gully. At the top of this though is the first of a couple ponds you will go by. Ethel Pond isn't very big or have much of a view, but it was still nice. The trail works around the side being mostly level, but strewn with some large rocks. I even some some lingering ice still down in a hole next to some of these rocks. You'll then head uphill again next to the brook that feeds into Ethel Pond. Soon you will work your way around Eddy Pond which is much bigger. I enjoyed the trail leading around the pond here quite a bit. The trees were pretty densly packed, but few lower branches made it still feel open.


    Heading around the pond


    Eddy Pond

    Just after Eddy Pond, you will cross an access road/ATV trail. Lookout for ATVs before crossing as it appears there are no warning signs about the trail and later in the day two went by while I was taking a break here and one of them never even saw me (the other barely did as he went by). After this the trail starts to get steeper finally, but not too difficult. In places the trail was a bit wet and some water flowed over the rocks in the trail. I never slipped at all though and the only tricky rock slab had metal rungs in it. As you continue up, the trail starts to be more over rock slabs while staying in the trees. Once you start to come out of the trees, you are rewarded with some great views. Continuing up the trail, you are lured into thinking the summit is just ahead, but the crest of the mountain hides the actual summit just a bit further ahead.


    First views above the trees with Eddy Pond in the foreground

    After a bit of easy walking, I was at the first summit of the day. The views are great from here and go for miles in all directions. I took a nice break here and looked all around before heading further up the trail. You drop down just a bit and then go up over a small hump which is just slightly lower than the actual summit. From here you get a good idea of the rest of the hike though. A substantial drop down into the saddle then back up the next peak.


    Saddleback summit


    Saddleback Mtn, The Horn ahead

    Dropping down off of Saddleback starts a bit steeply, but isn't too bad. There are some larger rocks to deal with and some slabs taht could be slick when wet. Soon you are down into the saddle and can see the climb in both directions. The trail through here was more open than I expected and stayed out of the trees for the most part. I got a fair amount of sun by the end of the day due to this. I always seem to do that once a year before I remember to start bringing sunscreen with me. The climb up The Horn wasn't too difficult excect for one spot. This spot does have a metal ladder for most of it though. The second summit is just as open as the first and provides a view to all of the other 4Ks in the area. It was great to be able to see all of them and get an idea for what they would be like when I come back.


    View towards Saturday's hike


    The summit of Saddleback Mtn, The Horn

    Hiking back down off of The Horn went smoothly. Coming back up Saddleback wasn't too bad given how steep it is. The hardest part though comes right at the top when you are the most tired. Back on Saddleback, I spent some more time on the summit taking in the views while trying to cover my forehead from getting too much more sun. Eventually I had to head back down though as I had a long drive back home still. Shortely after leaving the summit, I saw my first thru-hiker of the day and chatted with him briefly. Even though it is a bit early, I had seen hikers in both directions already this weekend.


    AT Trail marker

    Getting back down into the trees was nice even if it meant the views went away. I stopped and splashed up in the brooks as I went by them as it had gotten pretty warm today. This felt pretty nice and kept me going at a good pace. As I went past the Piazza Rock tent sites I saw the current caretaker and chatted with her a bit before heading out again. She later caught up to me on her way out at the end of her period there and we talked abit again as we hiked. Soon I let her go on though as she was less tired than me. The rest of the walk out was pretty good with gentle trails leading back to the car.


    Back down into the trees

    As I headed through Rangeley on the way home, I stopped at a nice BBQ joint that had some great food and was just opening up full time for the summer. The waitress wasn't a local and we talked about what drew her into the area coming up from Rhode Island originally. It turns out she wanted to move here as soon as she saw one of the "rest areas" nearby with it's river view, picnic tables, and grills. Something far different than what she was used to at home. After filling up my stomach, I headed out and made the 4 hour ride home getting home a bit late (partially due to a car accident that stopped traffic near home). I was already looking forward to coming back again in two weeks for more hiking though.


    Painted Trillium along the trail

    For all the pictures from the hike, just go HERE

  3. #3
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    Great reports and pics Adam! We have yet to do the Bigelows, though they have been on the radar forever. Looking forward to seeing them up close and personal now! We've done Saddleback and The Horn the way you did it, and also by hiking the ski slopes. It's been a long time since hiking it from rte 4 because I didn't even remember the ponds until I saw your pictures. Thanks for sharing and looking forward to reports from your return trip!

    KDT

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    Even though the Bigelows were in the clouds, I enjoyed the hike and look forward to going back. I'd like to do a mini vacation with my wife and daughter in the area sometime when the only goal isn't hiking. I really liked the loop I did (minus the wet feet). And from what quick glimpses I saw, the views look like they are great.

  5. #5
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    Love your photos and TRs Adam! I've done very little hiking in Maine, and what you show really makes me want to get up there. Thanks for sharing!
    Bob

    I never want to see a day
    That's over forty degrees
    I'd rather have it thirty,
    Twenty, ten, five and let it freeeeEEEEEEeeze!

    My Seek the Peak 2014 Photo Set

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snow Miser View Post
    Love your photos and TRs Adam! I've done very little hiking in Maine, and what you show really makes me want to get up there. Thanks for sharing!
    Other than a hike with family up Mt. Aziscohos (a nice little hike), I hadn't hiked any in Maine either. I've enjoyed it all so far and plan to keep at it.

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    Snow Miser (08-21-2014)

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