May 17 (Sat.) I flew from South Carolina to Portland, ME for a week's outdoor adventure with my son, DougTheYounger. On Sunday afternoon we arrived at the trailhead just outside of Stratton, ME with the plan of hiking up the Bigelow Range Trail to Cranberry Peak, up the ridge (AT) to West Peak, and circle South back to the trailhead. We left the trailhead in t-shirts and shorts, and soon encountered blowing misty rain, so out came the ponchos, etc. Maine trails are steep. The term "switchback", if ever conceived of, has never been put to practical use in that area, at least not that I'm aware of, anyway. The straight-forward, no-nonsense attitude of Mainers is reflected in their trail building. They come to a mountain...they go straight up one side...over the top...and, straight down the other side. It's a straight-forward, no-nonsense way of making one aware of his age and/or physical condition. Having made but a few miles and being anxious to set up camp before dark given the deteriorating weather, we hung our hammocks trailside in a Balsam forest with our backs protected from the wind by the mountainside. This was DougTheYounger's first night in a hammock- a brand new HH HyperLight with a 2Q's Zipper mod, HH SilNyl Hex tarp, JRB RMS,JRB Katahdin, and WeatherShield II. Part of my plan was to show him the light and get him off of the ground. In fact, since we were on the side of the mountain, we would not have been able to set up camp anywhere for miles had we not been in hammocks. I felt sublimely brilliant, if not outright cocky. A good night's sleep was had by all- dry, warm and toasty in spite of the blowing mist and sometimes snow. The next day, it was on to Cranberry Peak and then to Horn's Pond Shelter (AT). As we climbed higher, the snow and ice on the trail became more frequent and the blowing mist turned more to intermittent sleet and snow. It wasn't really much of a problem...some of the patches of ice and snow were hollowed out by melting underneath, and that made for some interesting moments...but, the temperature was cool enough to keep us from stewing in our rain gear. Late that afternoon when we arrived at Horn's Pond Shelter which is located on a pretty exposed ridge between Cranberry Peak and West Peak, the thermometer read 38f, but the wind was really whipping. Fortunately, we were able to hang the hammocks in the shelter since all of the campsites were very exposed. Signs warned of reforestation efforts and prohibited camping anywhere off-trail or outside of the designated campsites. Being greatful guests with a bent for stewardship, we complied. Had we not been able to hang in the shelter, we would have frozen to death and/or blown off of the mountain...that night the winds really increased and became extremely gusty...easily 50 - 60 mph. We met a local at the shelter (Brian Smith, from Stratton--very nice guy) who had tried to hike through where we were intending to go the next day. He had turned back due to deep snow-postholing in places up to his thighs. We elected to shorten our loop and headed back to the trailhead the next day. Weather and trail conditions on that side of the mountain (the south side) were much better, and the slope much more gentle...and down. We drove back to Portland, spent two nights, and then drove to Acadia NP for one night. The weather was glorious...day temp about 60f, night about 40f. The trails were much more benign... and the views defy description...everywhere you look is a postcard view....mountains, shore, ocean, all in one. I thought it odd to view a working lobster boat from the top of a mountain. It occurred to me on my way home that during that week I would have driven about 16 hours and flown over 2000 miles, just to walk about 35 miles. Seems like a reasonable trade, don't ya think? With any luck, you can go to http://photobucket.com/albums/mm301/DougTheElder/ and see some pics of the trip.