Bigelow Preserve, Stratton ME
November 11-13, 2016
This was our first time in the Bigelow Preserve area. Coming from Nova Scotia, we were looking for more weekend options (outside our go-to Baxter State Park) that didn’t involve driving all the way to New Hampshire. The Bigelows reach 4,000 feet and the campsites do not require reservations. Though the Appalachian Trail passes through, we figured there wouldn’t be much traffic this time of year. There is also free trailhead parking.
Trail map and guide are available for download from the Bigelow Preserve website. We also printed National Geographic USGS topographical maps of the area for additional detail.
We arrived Thursday evening and set up camp at Stratton Brook campground, just a short walk in from where we left the car. The trail was was clearly marked, but we did a bit of circling around before setting up the tents because we didn’t see a campsite sign or pit privy. I think we were in the right place.
The next morning we started hiking in time to catch the end of a beautiful sunrise.
The day started off feeling like fall, though we were anticipating wintery conditions up on top.
The morning was brisk, but we warmed up as we climbed the Fire Warden’s trail.
Suddenly we could see “winter” on the peak above us.
Soon after, we reached the top of the Fire Warden’s trail at the Avery Col campsite and turned right to make the .4mi trek out to Bigelow Avery peak. (For the rest of this day we’d be following the AT). The sun was shining brightly but the wind was whistling above us as we emerged from shelter.
The shape of the range means that you can see the other peaks in front and behind you.
We stopped to add the last few layers just below the summit.
Here is Mark on Avery Col.
Taking a moment to read the commemorative plaque.
Whenever we popped out of the trees, the views were spectacular.
Up on Bigelow West peak and still very windy.
More expansive views as we continued across.
We skipped the north horn view on this trip, but we’ve since been back. It’s definitely worth the very short detour.
We stopped for a hot lunch (dehydrated split pea soup is one of our winter favourites) at the Horns pond Lean-to.
From here there are great views across to Sugarloaf.
From there it was all downhill. We weren’t entirely sure how long this stretch would be, because the distances were inconsistent between the two maps we had with us, but we were happy to come across this marker as the sun was setting.
Shortly after, with an amazing sky glowing in the distance, we reached Cranberry Stream where we had planned to camp for the night.
In the morning it was just a short walk back to the car. We had done some researching on the drive down, and headed over for a great breakfast at the Looney Moose cafe before starting the drive back to Nova Scotia.
Well done Bigelows! We were already making plans to return.