Traversing the Bigelow Range: AT Day 124
Rt. 27 to Little Bigelow Lean-to, 15.2 miles
In true hiker-trash fashion, I rode in the back of a pickup truck on the way back to Route 27. The sun was nowhere to be seen on this overcast morning, but at least it wasn’t raining. Jackrabbit and I were hiking by 7:30, beginning our ascent up to the Bigelow Range. The Bigelow peaks are well regarded for their jagged peaks and fantastic views, but no views would be had on these summits today. Views or no views, this traverse was the only thing standing in the way of flatter, easier terrain coming up, so I was pretty stoked about that.
I ascended just over 2,000 feet in about 2.5 miles before the trail flattens out as it begins making its way towards the North Horn peak. Now at 3,300 feet of elevation, the forest scenery was absolutely stunning, honestly some of the most captivating forests I’ve ever hiked through. The trail meanders through moss-covered spruce fir forests, and past the occasional pine and birch forests. The foggy weather seemed fitting for this scenery, and I quickly got over the fact that the sun was nowhere to be seen today. I was feeling on cloud nine on this traverse, soaking in the mesmerizing forest setting surrounding me. I soon reached the alpine zone as I approached the summit of North Horn , where very intense winds greeted me. Much like the Saddleback Range, I put my head down and slowly inched my way to the summit sign, doing my best not to be blown off trail. Visibility was extremely low in the clouds at 3,800 feet, and I heavily relied on the rock cairns to guide me.
The exposed, rocky summits of Bigelow West Peak at 4,100 feet and Bigelow Avery peak at 4,080 feet followed the North Horn peak, before beginning the long, steep descent off the ridge. Right on que, when I was back in thick forest cover, the clouds dispersed and the sun came out, as if the mountains were playing a prank on me, waiting for me to get off the ridge for the good weather to finally come. Halfway through my descent, I passed a sign that reads:
“Excellent views, this way”
How could I pass up excellent views? I took the short spur trail to a rocky clearing, where, you guessed it, some excellent views were waiting for me. Jackrabbit was lying down on the rocks and greeted me with a “dude, about time, these views are sick!”. And sick they were. The massive Flagstaff Lake was in clear sight, along with tons of other smaller lakes and mountain ridges far off in the distance. I also caught a great view of the Bigelow peaks I had just finished traversing. Maine is one of the few states on trail with no sign of civilization in most vista views; just expansive, beautiful wilderness. Maine certainly feels like the most wild, remote portion of the Appalachian Trail, which is one of the reasons why Maine is my favorite state on the trail.
The remainder of the descent seemed to last forever, and I finally arrived at Safford Notch at 2,200 feet, legs feeling slighly fatigued but not totally shot. From there, a long but very mellow ascent leads to the rocky summit of Little Bigelow Mountain at 3,000 feet. More excellent views can be seen from this summit, and I looked back at the sharp Bigelow Peaks in awe. One of my favorite things about thru-hiking is having the ability to look back at the mountains you traversed and the ground you have covered, while looking forward to the mountains and woods that lie ahead. It’s moments like this were I am reminded that everything is within walking distance, if you have the time and motivation.
It was around 5:00 when I arrived to the Little Bigelow Lean-to, a large camping area set in an open pine forest. I pitched my tent on a bed of pine needles, adding extra comfort under my sleeping pad. Before retiring to my tent for the night, me, Jackrabbit and the other hikers at the campsite reflected on a great day in the mountains. 15 miles and 5,000+ feet of total elevation is a solid day in my book. The Bigelow Range features the last 4,000 footers that Northbound hikers climb until Mt Katahdin. I love the mountains, but I’d be lying if I were to say that I wasn’t looking forward to some flatter, crusier terrain coming up. The Bigelows essentially mark the end of the rugged Southern Maine section of trail; the light at the end of the tunnel was shining bright, but it wasn’t time to let the foot off the gas just yet. The hard work isn’t done until I am standing on the summit of Katahdin, as an official thru-hiker of the Appalachian Trail.
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