West Peak from South Horn
This was my first backpacking trip in 20 months. Maybe the hiatus is not such a big deal. Apart from a six-week trek the length of Scotland five years ago, I have been just an occasional backpacker. Recently, I’ve heaved on the big pack just once or twice a year, mostly for 2-3 night outings in New Hampshire’s White Mountains (see In and Out of the Wild River Wilderness and – four posts starting 9/30/13 – The Pemi).
I would backpack more if I had the time. Going out for several days requires greater preparation than a day-hike, and getting to backpackable places takes longer. But it wasn’t time that stopped me last year; it was a bad left knee. This Maine trip was intended to discover if my knee was up to supporting a 35-40 pound pack again. I chose a route that I hoped would be a good test but not knee-suicide. Thus the climb over rough terrain, but only for the one night.
Ten days after returning home, my knee is just fine. Next up, a 2-night backpack!
DATES: June 1st and 2nd.
START & FINISH: East Flagstaff Road at Round Barn Campsite, Bigelow Preserve (just east of Stratton, Maine).
ROUTE & MAP: Safford Brook Trail to Appalachian Trail. AT west to Horns Pond. Back by same route. I used the map that came with the AMC Maine Mountain Guide.
DISTANCE: 16 miles total, plus short side-trails to lookouts.
TIME: A little over one mile per hour including breaks (somewhat faster on the return leg).
TERRAIN: On the “out” leg, a cumulative elevation gain of about 3,750 feet. AT very steep in sections, and awkward underfoot (e.g. angled boulders). Limited scrambles. Safford Trail easy to moderate.
WEATHER: Mostly sunny and warm; but cool, even cold, summit winds.
MEALS: Trail food; Alpineaire Mesquite BBQ Seasoned Chicken with Beans & Rice (dinner); oatmeal and coffee below West Peak (Day 2 breakfast).
HIGHLIGHT: The views along the Bigelow Range from the various peaks.
LOWLIGHT: If I must think of something, campsite mosquito activity.
WILDLIFE: A red squirrel; trout splashing in Horns Pond; something large, but unseen, moving in the lower-elevation forest on the second morning (maybe a moose).
WORRIES: That I’d kill my left knee again.
BEST BIT OF KIT: Well, my stove gave me the most happiness, but I’d probably have missed my boots more.
MEMORABLE PEOPLE: Alain from Quebec, who was excellent company at the end of Day 1; Erin, the friendly and diligent Horns Pond Campsite caretaker; the four AT thru-hikers who had set out from Georgia in January!
PEOPLE BEST FORGOTTEN: None.
Mist below Avery Peak