Bigelow Backpacking over Father's Day Weekend 2022

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Rhody Seth

Active member
Dec 18, 2015
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Charlestown, RI
Father's Day weekend I ventured north into Maine for a backpacking trip of the Bigelow range. I had never been here as it is a haul from Rhode Island but there are quite a few 4000 footers in this area and I wanted to continue to chip away at the New England 67. I drove up on Saturday in lovely weather - of course just as I reached the area it began to rain. I still went out that first afternoon to hike the Crockers as well as Mt. Redington which is accessed by a herd path. In truth, the herd path is basically a full-fledged trail at this point. However the rain was steady throughout this hike and the temp continued to drop - after Redington I opted not to continue to North Crocker as I had concerns about the weather and my body temp.

Afterwards I drove to where my friends were camped on the eastern shore of Flagstaff Lake (Round Barn - a free, first come first served campsite. Fantastic). This would be where we would finish our overnight trip. However the main backcountry road (Carriage Rd) that leads here was closed due to a dispute with the landowner and as such it made for a long detour south, then north to reach my destination. Despite this minor aggravation, the area is beautiful and very remote and much of the drive is past sporadic houses and then not much at all.

On Father's Day the five of us met up, left two cars at the eastern trailhead and piled in one truck for the long drive to the western side of the range. Much of the Bigelow Range Trail is also the Appalachian Trail though we would begin and end our hike on sections not part of the AT. As we ascended the first peak of the day, Cranberry, the sky was overcast and conditions cool. Perfectly nice. As we climbed the wind began to pick up and just after exploring a cool alcove know as the Cave, it began to rain with bits of sleet at times. We didn't linger on the summit of Cranberry Peak as the wind was buffeting us with some powerful gusts.

The next few miles were a slog up and down wet rock slabs with the woods providing some respite from the wind, though not the sporadic rain. Our original plan was to hike ten miles to the col between the two 4000 Bigelow peaks - there is a campsite with tent platforms located there. While my rain gear was proved quite effective others in our party were not as successful at staying dry. We reached the Horns Pond Shelter at 1:00 PM which featured two lean-tos where we rested and assessed. A southbound AT hiker there described the exposed Bigelow West summit as "crazy" with vicious winds and snow. Several members of our group were pretty wet at this point and after reviewing the weather/options we decided to stay where we were. Otherwise we would have four more miles of bad weather hiking only to get to a campsite with no shelter.

So we ended up spending the afternoon in the lean-to. My friend Rob, ever industrious, figured how to hang hammocks in the shelter and soon we were cozy wearing dry clothes enjoying warm drinks. Over the afternoon the other lean-to filled up with southbound AT hikers and we all crashed very early - I think around 6 PM. Crazy winds throughout the night. I woke up before sunset and was heating water - Derek woke up, saw my shape and thought I was a bear. Then later his powerful snores woke me up - I thought he was a bear! Between the snores of my compatriots and the big wind gusts I didn't sleep all that great...but I was dry.

Day 2 was a completely different story with more wind but sunny and gorgeous views throughout. We were very glad of our decision to stop early and enjoyed the climbs of Bigelow Horn, West and Avery peaks. The AT continues along the Little Bigelow Mountain ridge but our group was tired by that point and we opted to leave the AT and take a trail down to the Round Barn camp we had stayed at along the shore. Unfortunately we had moved our cars four miles down the road to the AT intersection so we had a road walk to end the trip. After a mile, Rob flagged down the only car we encountered and got a ride to his truck then came and picked us up. A true hero.

All in all, a great trip to a beautiful area and my first real foray into Maine backpacking. The trails and shelters maintained by the Maine Appalachian Mountain Club were top notch and highly recommended. Tough conditions on Day 1 but having a large group helped as we all kept tabs on each other to watch for signs of hypothermia. Very thankful for Day 2 which provided beautiful views and none of that cold rain!

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My guess is the road in question is the Carriage Road that runs from Carrabasset to Long Falls dam road. The Carraige Road comes out fairly close by where the AT comes out of the woods on the Flagstaff side. It goes through land owned by one of the Maine's native tribes purchased with proceeds from the settlement of the Indian Land Claims Act of 1980. It was formerly owned by the Dead River Company. It was closed to thru traffic for many years until Maine Huts and Trails came into existence. I believe the Flagstaff Lodge and possibly one or two others of the huts are built on long term leases from the tribe. Not sure if and how MHT pays for use of the road or the hut land but MHT has been in deep financial issues for a couple of years so I wonder if the road closure is linked. Note the tribes who signed the settlment agree to restrictions on tribal operations by the state and as the years have gone on since the settlement, the tribes have been actively trying to regain rights that other federally recognized tribes have in the rest of the country.

Its a long run south to New Portland to cross the river and then a long drive north to drive by state roads. The alternative is very long drive on private logging roads around the north side of Flagstaff.
Thanks for mentioning it, many folks just assume its open and I have been chastised in the past when I mentioned that it may or may not be open.
Thanks for mentioning it, many folks just assume its open and I have been chastised in the past when I mentioned that it may or may not be open.

Thanks. I just edited the original post as I meant to add it to begin with. To your point - Waze certainly thought it was open. We only found out when one of our party reached the gate.