We emerged into a little bit of glorious alpine terrain near the top of Cranberry peak. There are excellent 360-degree views in all directions from the summit, including a big sweep of western Flagstaff Lake, of the Bigelow range stretching away to the east (and especially the prominent twin summits of 'the Horns'), and south to Sugarloaf and peaks beyond. It was cold and with a stiff north breeze, we were grateful for the fact that the little hollow on the south side of the summit was both calm and in direct reception of the sun's rays. An excellent place for a lunch stop. And so we did just that.
Open terrain on Cranberry
After a good snack and a bit of chat, it was time to move on. We were getting a little too cooled off up here, anyway. So, off we went eastwards, down towards the long, narrow body of water known as Cranberry Pond. The pond was at 2500 feet, so we had to give up a good chunk of our recently gained elevation, but on the other hand, it would be less icy and warmer down there.
A better view of the range
Hiking down to Cranberry Pond
Jenn had let her hands get a little too cold, and she suffered a bad case of the 'warm-up ache' that one can get when your hands warm up, afterwards. So was the case as we warmed up on our descent down to Cranberry Pond. It almost brought her to tears, it was so bad.
The trail down to Cranberry Pond was distinctive in its own way, winding down through short cliffs and around interesting towering boulders and such. Once at the low point, the trail carefully crosses a beaver dam, then starts a somewhat rough traverse along the north shore of Cranberry Pond. Even down at 2500 feet, a good crust of ice had formed on the pond. Again, we were glad for the south-facing aspect of the trail, and took the opportunity part way along this section to have a break in the warmth of the sun.
The Bigelow Range trail follows along the length of Cranberry Pond, and then shortly thereafter ends at a junction with the Appalachian trail, which comes up from the Carabassett valley. It was now time to head up into more continuous high country (read: colder and snowier). Based on what we saw back on Cranberry peak, It looked like our camp location was going to be cold and white!
The Appalachian trail heads up steeply to gain the crest of the Bigelow Range, then follows along it at a relatively gentle grade. We found some lost sandals along this section, and I've placed those sandals at the Bigelow Range trailhead, in case anyone recognizes them and wants them back (see picture at end of presentation).