July 16, 2013 / Comments (1)

Bigelow Range (Avery and West Peak)

The ridges of the Bigelow range are what many alpine plants consider home.The alpine habitat is approximately 171 acres!

In the 1960’s and 70’s developers had grand plans of turning these peaks into a ski resort. Fortunately the people of Maine voted to have the state own the land and create a 33,000-acre wilderness preserve.The Bigelows are some of the most amazing peaks in Maine.

Our morning started on the Fire Warden’s Trail. This is considered the “traditional non-Appalachian” route. For us, it was a more convenient trailhead to get to from the Maine Roadhouse. We parked at the Irving station in Kingfield and all squeezed into one car to head down another rough dirt road. We became accustomed to these in Maine.

The hike began with a hike across a water crossing to make our way to the trailhead. The bridges had been washed out so you have to park a half mile from the actual start of the trail.

The trail was four miles from the sign to the summit. It is very gradual from the start to the site of the old fire warden’s cabin. The cabin had burned down (oh, the irony!) and it has been converted to a backcountry site. Once you pass this are (water source here) the trail begins to steepen.

Still below treeline the trail steepens a considerable amount. In 85 degree weather, it was even more difficult. The air was completely still and my face like it was on fire. My small pack seemed to weigh twice as much. We took small breaks to recuperate, but pushed on to the col.

We had to decide which peak to do first. Avery peak bears to the right and West peak jets off to the left. We could see the rocky outcrop of Avery so we decided to head there first. The views are great on both peaks, but next time I would save Avery for last.


Avery Peak (4088′)

The summit of Avery has really unique views with Flagstaff Lake and Rangeley Lake in view from one side and the mass of West Peak from the other. We decided to take a long break to really soak in these views.

Both summits are absolutely stunning and a great choice to finish the New England 67 list on for those working on that! Karen (one of the gals on this hike) had just hiked Katahdin and said she liked the views from Avery even better than Katahdin! We thought the view of West peak and beyond reminded us of the best views of NH peaks, whereas looking to the North made us think of Maine. The views were just so varied!

On the way down from West Peak we were approached by the caretaker about this “project” he was working on. He said that at one point a fire tower was going to be built, but only the materials were brought up. No fire tower was ever built. He claimed that this was almost 100 years ago and that once it does reach the 100 year mark, the materials would become historical artifacts and they would be allowed to be removed from the land. He said he asked all hikers on weekend to help bring the materials down before the 100 year mark.

I understood the importance of doing so, but not the way the caretaker went about it. He convinced two hikers who were planning on going to the Horns to carry twelve pounds each and they were contemplating whether or not they could now go to that peak. He also had a father who had been carrying the weight of his kid’s gear, carry an additional 25 pounds of shingles. One of the women in my group said she would carry a pound or two and was stuck carrying a huge bag of light, but very awkwardly fitting wire in her pack. We had to adjust it multiple times. The whole situation really put a damper on a lot of people’s hike. I called the Maine chapter of the AMC after that weekend and they were surprised this was happening and very concerned for the safety and well being of hikers being asked to carry additional weight down a very steep mountain, especially in the heat we have. I was told the caretaker would be spoken to and hopefully no one else gets talked into doing this!

Last modified: November 28, 2014

One Response to :
Bigelow Range (Avery and West Peak)

  1. Ann West says:

    Nice writeup, Allison. And thanks for taking the time to call the AMC.

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