By Louise Jensen
Our most recent community hike was to Cranberry Peak, part of the Bigelow Range located in the Bigelow Preserve in western Maine, just east of the village of Stratton. The 36,000-acre Preserve was established in 1976 by public referendum, and is managed by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Recreation. The Bigelow Mountain Range with its six high peaks is found entirely within the Preserve. Cranberry Peak is the Westernmost of those peaks, topping out at around 3,194 feet.
We had ideal weather for hiking: warm late-summer temperatures and beautiful, blue-bird skies. The summits were in the clouds as we traveled to the trailhead but weather forecasts predicted blue skies on the high peaks and that is exactly what we got. Four hikers came out this day, all the singing praises of the weather gods. We made an up-and-back trek on the blue-blazed Bigelow Range Trail totaling about 6.4 miles.
The trail starts out fairly flat but soon makes a steep climb to an area called Arnold’s Well. There is a side trail to take you to the ”Well” but we skipped that opportunity to continue on to the summit. Soon we came to another short side trail leading to “the Cave”, but we saved that for our trip back down. The trail continues steeply, much of it over open ledges and finally reaches the summit. 360 views of Flagstaff Lake and the major peaks awaited us there. It was cool and breezy but not cold, and soon we sat down for lunch along with a family with 2 young kids and 2 Norwegian Elk Hounds. The 5 year old just made her first “big peak” hiking debut and was clearly on her way to becoming a lifelong hiker along with her older brother. We initially met this family in the parking lot and then encountered them on our way up as they were turning back thinking they either missed a trail or the summit was just too far ahead. We assured them they did not have far to go and that they would
be rewarded with magnificent views when they got there. Just like us, they were not disappointed by the vistas from Cranberry and were grateful we encouraged them to continue on.
After about 45 minutes or so we headed back down, with 3 of us making the 200-foot side trip to “the Cave”. The Cave is a large overhanging slab of rock that you can easily climb up into. After a few goofy photos, we rejoined our other hiking companions and completed our trek down. Another day well spent in Maine’s High Peaks!