|The rugged and frigid Bigelow Range, Maine|
This is a wonderful and wild part of Maine. Its similar to the White Mountains of New Hampshire with rocky, treeless peaks. Sugarloaf Peak is the second highest mountain in Maine and supports a large ski resort. The adjacent Bigelow Range is a tough, knife-edge ridge of summits that can be downright frigid throughout the year. Even in early November, there were layers upon layers of rime ice which allude to the sheer ferocity of the range's weather.
|The frigid summit of Sugarloaf Mountain, Maine|
|Rime Ice on the Summit Marker|
The ski resort isn't open yet so I thought that I would take advantage of this by climbing the routes. Unfortunately there was barely any snow at the lower elevations and just a light dusting up high! So instead of getting any mountaineering practice, I was simply climbing a steep hill. Oh well! It wasn't exactly a real wilderness experience but the views made the trip worth the trouble. Sugarloaf doesn't mind hikers, even during the ski season so if you'd like the repeat this, its completely okay.
Once I finally summitted, I was able to appreciate a view of nearly every 4,000 footer in Maine! Directly North was the Bigelow Range in all of its glory. Just a few miles West was the Crocker Range and Reddington. Saddleback and the Horn were to the Southwest and Abraham was to the South. The Appalachian Trail summits most of these mountains too! It made me wonder how difficult it must be to have traveled some 1,800 miles only to realize that the most difficult parts were still to come!
|Winter on the Appalachian Trail|
|The Bigelow Range from the town of Eustis|
Of course I haven't the slightest resentment of hunters! I'm actually developing a particular fondness for this part of Maine. I love Portland for the more unique, cultural, artistic and cosmopolitan side of Maine- I've already been wine tasting at a few of the downtown restaurants, frequented a few of my new favorite microbreweries and clubs in the Old Port and I'm a regular at the Portland Art Museum. Yet in the mountains and forests of Western Maine I've discovered the independent, self-reliant and very wild side of my adoptive state. Out here people hunt more as a way of living than for sport. One can bag enough meat to support a sizable family for the winter and a good-sized pair of antlers can sell for quite a bit of money. People hunt for the same reason they farm; its a source of income and a way to support a family.
|West Peak (Right) and Avery Peak (left), Bigelow Range|
At the lower elevations I was walking through the now leafless forests. There was hardly any snow on the trail except near the summits. As I was hiking I heard the almost constant thunder of distant hunters. It was actually a pleasant sound- five miles away perhaps there was a tired, weather-worn hunter who finally got a kill. It's just a natural way of life out here. I really do hope to learn how to hunt someday.
|Ain't no switchbacks out here!|
|Almost getting blown off the summit of Avery!|
I hiked down and finally got back to my car an hour after nightfall. It had been a successful trip! I bagged two peaks of New England's 50 Finest and one more on Maine's 4,000 Footers. Of the two hikes, I preferred the Bigelow hike due to its views of Flagstaff lake and surrounding areas. However both hikes reminded me of how blessed I am to live in this rugged state. I'm looking forward to the winter and can't wait to start busting out my ice axe and crampons!
Read. Plan. Get Out There!