By Louise Jensen
It felt like a late summer day when four early morning risers and one spunky black lab named Shyla arrived at our meeting place in New Portland. From there we consolidated cars and drove another 30 minutes to the Appalachian Trail trailhead located on East Flagstaff Road. We had a beautiful day ahead of us to hike Little Bigelow Mountain.
Little Bigelow is part of the Bigelow Range in Maine’s Bigelow Preserve. The Preserve is made up of over 36,000 acres of publicly-managed land near Stratton in Western Maine. This beautiful mountain range encompasses 7 summits including the 3,040 foot peak of Little Bigelow. The first section of the hike rises gradually through a dense forest of hardwood alongside a brook that, under normal conditions, would be gushing along but in near-drought conditions showed many sections of the brook to be dry or at a trickle. This was not welcome for some very late-season northbound through-hikers in search of a decent water supply whom we met later in the day.
We continued along the trail in a shimmering canopy of gold leaves overhead and then across some beautiful ledges where we had gorgeous views of Flagstaff Lake, eventually arriving at the East peak. From the East Peak we had amazing views of Sugarloaf and the rest of the Bigelow range. The warm temps, blue bird skies and the autumn fall colors all contributed to an idyllic setting for a long lazy lunch break on the ledges.
Before venturing out to the “true” and viewless summit, 2 southbound hikers stopped and chatted with us for a few minutes telling us that they did not start in Baxter park but just outside it which was rather curious. We soon learned why: a cat was traveling with them in a backpack! Pets are not allowed in Baxter State Park, hence the outside-the-park start. The A.T. is filled with all sorts of wonders.
The hike along the trail to the summit was still quite lush and green for this time of year. We ventured a little further in search of another view of the Lake but instead found another ledge with yet another fabulous view of the range. As this supposed lake view was nowhere in sight, we opted to turn back before this hike turned into a 10 mile affair instead of a 6 or 7 mile one!
Tired but happy we headed back to the trailhead. Everyone agreed that we had one of the most perfect days to be in the Maine mountains.