The Bigelows: Reminding Me Why I Don't Hike for the Views
Let's be honest, a lot of people hike for the view at the top of the mountain. We see hikes like Franconia Ridge and the Presidentials mobbed on a nice day. Why? Because the views are amazing. I won't deny that sometimes I hike for the views too, and boy have I been lucky this summer! But it's not these hikes that fuel my passion for hiking. It's the hikes with no views at all that often remind me why I’m so in love with the mountains.
Despite the lack of views, hiking the Bigelows Saturday was one of the best hikes I've done in a while (yes, I know I say this for every hike but it's true they've all be awesome lately). The day started with a less than pleasant 4:00am wake up to check with bated breath. With rain predicted from 5am-10am, I exhaled and fell quickly back asleep to wait for the skies to clear. At 6:30 I left Nashua, ready to embark on the four and a half hour drive to Carrabassett Valley.
I’ve always liked driving, but the monotonous, rainy journey to central Maine was quite boring. I had run out of new podcasts, so after listening to all of my playlists I was so done with driving. By the time I got to the Stratton Brook parking lot I was so sick of sitting in the car I hit the trail right away. It started off with a half a mile road walk. A high clearance vehicle could have probably handled the deep puddles and giant potholes, but with the tedious drive I had just endured I was glad to walk. At the beginning of Esker Tr I crossed a small tributary of Stratton Brook looking out over the pond to my right. The clouds were hanging very low, no doubt leftover from the recently passed rain. I was hoping things would clear up there by the time I summited.
The first few miles of Fire Warden's trail were really gentle and beautiful. The trail was composed of soft dirt with a layer of cushy pine needles on top. It was really easy going with not too much mud. I realized it had been months since my last solo hike, and I was enjoying myself immensely. Don't get me wrong I love hiking with company, but sometimes I need a nice silent day in the forest to reset. All I could hear was the quiet pitter patter of leftover raindrops falling between the leaves and the occasional bird chirping in the distance. These moments of serenity are my favorite part about solo hiking, and this was the perfect trail to take it all in.
As I started to gain elevation the terrain stayed relatively tame. It was a gradual incline with some rocks here and there, but still very pleasant. When I got to the steep section just before Avery Col the real work began. The steep part consisted of perfectly placed granite stones creating a beautiful but relentless staircase embedded in the side of the mountain. I was quickly out of breath, but it was nice to feel like I was getting a workout in rather than just a tame nature walk.
At Avery Col I ran into quite a few backpackers and chatted with a few people on the way up to West Peak. The trail had turned into pretty typical White Mountain terrain, but I was only above treeline for a about 100 yards before reaching the socked in summit. After standing there for a minute, the strong breeze and misty dew that had lodged itself in my eyelashes bringing about my descent.
After scurrying back to the col, I continued on the AT up to Avery Peak. This involved a bit more rock hopping, but before I knew it I had summited my 58th 4,000 footer and was ready to head back down. This peak had about 200 yards of above treeline terrain and was also socked in. Other friends had raved about the views on the Bigelows, so I’ll have to come back at some point to see them.
I had considered making this hike a loop with Horn's Pond Trail going over the Horns, but I had liked Fire Warden Trail so much that I decided to descend back the way I came. I popped in my headphones and made my way back down the stairs. I usually don't listen to music while hiking, but it makes solo descents much more enjoyable to have some quiet tunes to take my mind off my aching ankles. When the trail flattened out I took up a light jog back to the car to finish of my beautiful hike in Maine.
Although the weather wasn't ideal (this seems to be a trend as of late), I loved hiking in the Bigelows. I didn't realize it, but I had been in desperate need of a solo hike to remind me why I love being in the mountains. I could focus completely on myself, without any pressure to accommodate the pace of my hiking buddies. I know I put this pressure on myself and while having others that are faster than me is a good motivator it can sometimes be frustrating. I find that when I'm solo I tend to push myself more than when I hike with others just because I’m the only one that notices how fast I’m going and the only person out there with expectations that I have to live up to is myself. I loved being out on my own in the wilderness especially with it being such a quiet day. Totally worth the long drive!
Mt. Bigelow, West Peak and Avery Peak via. Esker Tr, Fire Warden's Tr, and the Appalachian Trail [9.63 mi, 3350 ft, 4:55].