Bigelows: Avery and West Peak

West Peak.
Flagstaff Lake.
Avery Peak.

By Louise Jensen

It was a perfect late summer day for a hike. Our destination: Avery and West Avery Peaks, the two highest on the Bigelow range, via the Firewarden’s trail.  Although, the shortest route to the col (lowest point between two peaks), it is probably the steepest way to go, but that did not deter us. The three of us arrived before 9am to find the parking area overflowing but we found a nice little pull off where we tucked the car in and geared up and headed out. We passed the Stratton Brook Pond, the Moose Falls Campsite and then began our steep ascent to the col. Several sections of stone “steps” are there to make climbing a bit easier and if you turn around for a moment, you will get some great views of Sugarloaf. Finally, reaching the col, we took a quick break to layer up, have a snack and, of course, take a few pics of the trail signs and the AT blazes.

We headed east to Avery peak first where we met a few other hikers (but no through hikers yet), and settled down below the stone remnant of the fire tower for a lunch break. Cool, breezy and sunny, we enjoyed the much needed rest and nourishment as we took in the spectacular views of Flagstaff Lake and West Avery peak. Another feature on this peak is the plaque honoring Myron H. Avery, a Maine native, who was instrumental in extending the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail from Mt. Washington to Katahdin and he also founded the Maine Appalachian Trail club in 1935. A nice reminder of the history of the AT in Maine.

After chatting with another hiker who was working on his NE 100 highest, and the usual picture posing, we headed back down to the col to head over to West (Avery) Peak, the higher of the two peaks.  We met two through-hikers in the col, one from North Yarmouth, ME and one from Pittsburgh, PA, but they were moving along rather quickly and did not pause long to chat. When we reached the summit, we found it pretty crowded with mostly boy scouts and other groups so we continued past the packed peak to sit and relax while taking in more of those amazing views. After about 20 minutes or so, we reluctantly gathered up our packs and headed back to the col to make the steep descent down the Firewarden’s trail. The whole hike took just over eight hours and we all agreed that it was yet another glorious day on the trails in Maine.