Living the High Life
Funny thing about Maine is the elevations don't really sound impressive: 4,000 feet, occasionally 5,000 feet, that's all. "I'd have to dig a well to get to that elevation," snorts a friend of mine, who lives in Colorado.
But numbers can be deceiving as you'll find when you follow the ridgeline route of the Appalachian Trail in western Maine from Long Falls Dam Road up and over Bigelow, Crocker, Spauling, and Saddleback Mountains. The climbs are every bit as tough and the views every bit as big as an alpine addict could ask for. And although the elevations don't sound high compared to western ranges, they tower over the surrounding landscape of low foothills and shimmering ponds.
Plan low mileage on this 50-mile stretch of the AT, because this is tough going on steep-sided mountains. The profile map jumps up and down like the EEG of someone on real drugs: The north side of Bigelow Mountain gains (or loses, depending on your direction of travel) nearly 2,000 feet in just over a mile! To get from one peak to the next involves lots of heavy lifting of you and your pack. The chief challenge here is the footway, which is rough and steep, so don't be surprised if your pace drops to one mile an hour, or even less, on some of the tricky climbs, which often require using your arms as well as your legs.
Why do it? Along the crests, you'll travel above the timber through fields of mountain blueberries that taste all the sweeter because you worked so hard to get to them. The 100-mile views rare in the East sometimes extend south to the White Mountains, and north all the way to Katahdin. Between the summits, you'll pass a series of Maine's legendary north-country ponds (that's what they call anything smaller than an ocean around here). During the day look for moose to be ambling about; at night, listen for the loons.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication