Bigelow Mtn, West Peak & Bigelow Mtn, Avery Peak - Maine
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.
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