The Pineland Public Reserved Lands trailhead is located in New Gloucester, Maine, just south of the Pineland Farms complex on Depot Road, with year-round trails on either side of the road making a figure-eight loop, with Depot Road as the fulcrum at the center. The Lands themselves consist of over 600 acres of undeveloped forest in New Gloucester, Gray, and North Yarmouth. The best maps and descriptions can be found on Maine Trail Finder or Maine By Foot. The southern end of the trails connects to a much longer network of Pineland Corridor mixed use trails leading to Bradbury Mountain State Park, used primarily in the summer by mountain bikers.
We completed this leisurely 3.2-mile loop in about an hour and twenty minutes in early October’s peak foliage, taking the northern (1.7 mi) and then southern (1.5 mi) loops each in a clockwise direction before returning to the trailhead. The trailhead is marked by a prominent brown sign on Depot Road with a pine tree on it, with a wide dirt/gravel parking area. A picnic area is adjacent to the trailhead. Plank walkways cover low or wet areas in the North Loop path, as the trail winds mostly downhill through mixed forest, with abundant ferns. Crows, black-capped chickadees, and blue jays called loudly through the widely-spaced trees.
The blue-blazed North Loop crosses a couple pleasant brooks before reaching their outlet, with a 350-foot spur trail leading to the Royal River. Here, a rail bridge spanned the quiet flow, and the conically chewed signs of beaver activity were evident. A slight uphill grade led back toward Depot Road, which we carefully crossed to access the South Loop.
This trail opened up substantially around a large area that looked like a former gravel pit or quarry, then became more narrow upon crossing an old logging road, leading back towards Depot Road, with Town Farm Road bounding the Lands to the west. Maine Trail Finder lists this as a fairly busy trail, particularly on weekend days, and there was plenty of foot traffic (both two- and four-footed), particularly on the North Loop. Upon return to the trailhead, we headed towards the Pineland Farms complex, where we had lunch at The Market at Pineland Farms, a great place for fresh soups, sandwiches, and baked goods.
The Orono Bog Boardwalk, adjacent to the Bangor City Forest, is located off Stillwater Avenue just north of the Bangor Mall area. The easy, flat 1-mile Boardwalk, celebrating its 20th year in 2022, is a joint venture of the University of Maine, the City of Bangor, and the Orono Land Trust. Updates on conditions and opening hours are available through the Boardwalk’s Facebook page. The Boardwalk is closed during the winter, and from the designated opening day in the spring through Labor Day, open from 7 am to 6:30 pm, with hours gradually getting shorter in September and October until closing for winter the Sunday after Thanksgiving, when it is 8 am to 3:30 pm. We had visited the Boardwalk before as a stopover to stretch our legs on the way back south from Katahdin.
On a rainy late September morning, I parked at the Bangor City Forest parking lot on Tripp Road and turned immediately right onto the wide flat East-West Loop Trail through the trees. It was quiet, except for red squirrels, and a little over a quarter mile to the Boardwalk, the entrance situated behind an information kiosk, a picnic table, and a bike rack. There are restroom facilities available, close by and clearly marked. The Boardwalk elevates over the bog, which is filled with large, lush ferns, wide leaves of skunk cabbage, and ash and maple trees perched on hummocks, with periodic benches to sit and watch the plants and wildlife. I heard but didn’t see a white-breasted nuthatch and a hairy woodpecker.
After moving through the trees, the Boardwalk opens wide onto the 616-acre Orono Bog itself, with blueberries, cranberries, exotic-looking pitcher plants of all colors, and red peat moss, an almost impossible variety and density of life that looks like a Hollywood CGI version of another planet. I saw many low-lying bog rosemary plants, named only for their resemblance to the herb, as they are poisonous members of the Andromeda family.
In this wider area, I heard the frequent sound of jays and smaller birds. A small brown bird disappeared into a hummock right in front of me, and I puzzled over its disappearance, until it zoomed out on the other side, circling in watching me: a small, bobbing palm warbler. A series of educational placards dotted the Boardwalk, with relevant plants and wildlife. On the return I took a slightly different route after leaving the Boardwalk loop back to the parking area for the end of this short hike.
On the last day of a mid-September weekend hiking trip to Baxter State Park, I snuck in a morning hike before I packed up my South Branch Pond campsite, heading to Barrell Ridge (2085 ft) via Middle Fowler Pond Trail. I got the route for this moderate six mile out-and-back hike from Hiking Maine’s Baxter State Park and the suggestion of the South Branch Pond ranger. You can navigate using the South Branch Pond printable map from Baxter State Park. The trailhead is shared with the Ledges Trail and South Branch Nature Trail, a short walk north from South Branch Pond Campground, and branches off toward Middle Fowler Pond after about a third of a mile.
The fall morning was quiet and wet with dew, and the only forest sounds were jays and red squirrels hopping about their business. The sun was up but had not yet climbed over the Traveler Mountain massif, the blazing orange outline of which was visible through the deciduous trees to the right of the path. The thick trees briefly opened up above a creek bed with more expansive views of the North Ridge and North Traveler Mountain facing me to the south. The trail climbed steadily uphill, changing to ledges and scrub pine, with more views of the Traveler, then popped back into the fern and maple-filled forest, before emerging back onto a ledge on the side of Little Peaked Mountain with a panorama to the north and west.
Coming off another ledge into the forest, I observed large moose prints in the mud that appeared to be recent and later, fresh dark moose poop. As the trail winds along the side of a ridge in the woods, it briefly becomes more of a goat path, periodically opening up to more ledges. Shortly after a couple stream crossings of Dry Brook, including a waterfall view, the trail bears left and up, getting steep as it climbs the last ridge before the trail intersection, with great views, then a quick descent.
After the intersection with the Barrell Ridge Trail, it’s a short steep climb of about a third of a mile to the top of the ridge, sometimes clamoring hand over hand. The hard, striated rhyolite rock made me glad I was wearing boots, rather than trailrunners. Here at the summit, marked by a sign propped up by a rock cairn, were sweeping views and a cool breeze. After a snack, I picked my way back down to the trail and turned right to head back on the Middle Fowler Pond Trail to pack up, a total hike of about 6.3 miles, completed in about two hours and 45 minutes.
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We recently tested a Venustas Heated Vest, which has become a Fall staple. In the Maine mornings and evenings beginning in September, there is a chill in the air (even in my house!). Because I tend to be a cold person, any extra heat I can get, I will take it. The Venustas Heated Vest has six heating elements to generate warmth in the left & right shoulders, mid-back, left & right pockets, and collar. There are three settings indicated by an illuminated LED around a button on the chest– high (red), white (medium) and blue (low). Generally, when I go for heat, I go all-in, which means I usually have it on the hottest setting. The battery lasts about three hours in this mode. I can turn it down to medium or low if I am wearing it to rake leaves or hike or do something which gets my body heat up. Venustas advertises five to six hours of use on medium level, eight to ten hours on low setting. If I’m just going for my slow morning walk, I keep it at high.
My favorite part about this vest is the heat on my neck – it reminds me of when I get a shirt out of the dryer and put it on – so cozy. I think as the winter sets in here in Maine, I will be pairing this with a parka on top of it because I will need extra warmth in my arms. However, for September, October and November I will be wearing this with a long-sleeve shirt and maybe a thin fleece. You will never get the sense that this vest will burn you. Even at the highest setting, it is not too hot. It is very easy to use – push the button for three seconds, it turns on. Push it again, it turns the temperature down. Push and hold for three seconds and it will turn off. When the light goes off on your vest, the battery will need to be recharged, which takes 6-7 hours.
I’m happy with the Venustas vest and my only critique besides the long recharge time is that I don’t care for the company name written on it so prominently (because I don’t like writing on clothes). Overall, though, I’m loving this heat!! The 100% nylon vest water and wind-resistant exterior is machine-washable (minus the battery, obviously), and comes with a one-year warranty on the battery and two years on the heating elements.
Machias River Preserve, located on the banks of its namesake, is a 917-acre area protected by the Downeast Coastal Conservancy (DCC), part of the Two Rivers Conservation Area (see description and map here). On a late September day, I used the parking area on 1A in Whitneyville to walk a lollipop-type loop using the Money Island, Homestead, and Hemlock Trails of about 3.3 miles, taking about an hour and twenty minutes. The Machias River Preserve can also be accessed from a small parking lot off 1A in the town of Machias. According to DCC’s site, “Machias” comes from a Passamaquoddy word meaning “bad little falls,” and I had taken this loop on before as part of the Bad Little Trail run sponsored by DCC and Bold Coast Runners.
Shortly after the entrance from the small parking area to the blue-blazed Money Island Trail, I saw the telltale signs of bushwhacking and circles in the grass indicating deer had slept here last night. I was almost immediately hit with the pleasant scent of wet pine and sweet fern. The trail narrowed, leading into a root-covered path along a healthy rust colored stream. At about a third of a mile in, just after the hulk of an old, abandoned car, a small side trail leads to the left to a series of pleasant moss-covered cascades where black-capped chickadees serenaded from the surrounding trees. Shortly after returning to the main trail, a small wooden bridge leads back over the stream, and a small spur trail can be taken to the right, for views of the Machias, flowing around Money Island in the middle of the river. The familiar clicking call of a belted kingfisher filled the cool river air.
The trail intersection here with the Homestead Trail leads inland, and the Hemlock Trail along the river. I opted to go inland and save the reward of the river views for the return loop. The Homestead Trail quickly opened on a field and a marsh populated by songbirds, including common yellowthroat. The trail, covered in roots, rolled over the forest terrain at the edge of the large marshy field, before turning back into the forest. This trail crossed gurgling brooks lined with moss and led to a piney single-track path watched over by rows of trees dripping Old Man’s Beard and lichen.
The path widened then, passing over the old bed of a woods road, running past and through a former apple orchard, with some gnarled old trees still retaining fruit. The trail opened on an area with more apple trees that was clearly popular with deer. I turned right at the sign for the yellow-blazed Meadow Farm loop to continue my smaller loop on the Homestead Trail. According to DCC, the property was owned by William Albee, a Revolutionary War veteran who established the farm after the war. From here, the trail wound its way downhill to the Downeast Sunrise Trail, where I turned left to use the multi-use path briefly until turning right to pick up the Hemlock Trail.
About midway along this half-moon loop, I scared a large hawk out of a tree along the trail, and it broke several branches as it become a brown mass of feathers shooting skyward and away, leaving the grisly remains of a small songbird in the trail. This portion of the trail was full of the musty scent of elderberries and opened on a large marsh. Here I saw withe rod viburnum and wrinkle-leaf goldenrod, as well as rugosa roses lining the path as glimpses of the Machias River appeared through the thick brush to my left. A small handmade sign warned of poison ivy, and it turns out they weren’t kidding. I wound up with a good-sized poison ivy rash on my arm that hung on for about a week, despite no memory of brushing against anything.
I followed the Machias around the bend, where large hemlocks stood as a natural gateway on the trail, which curved back towards the railroad trestle bridge and the Downeast Sunrise Trail. At this intersection, an open area with picnic tables sits next to a shaded grove, and a small path down to the shoreline. Crossing the Sunrise Trail, it was a short walk along the riverbank to rejoin the Money Island Trail, and back to the parking area.
Having explored other difficult but rewarding long hikes in Baxter State Park, I decided to finally try a challenging early fall hike of Mount Coe (3,760 ft), South Brother (3,963 ft), and North Brother (4,052 ft), a 10.1 mi loop (extendable to about 12.5 mi if you include Fort Mountain in the spur hike from North Brother). This exhilarating trek begins with its most difficult ascent first, and hits peaks (including a 4,000 footer) that allow for views on a clear day in all directions of Baxter State Park and its surroundings. I started this hike based upon a route recommended by the book Hiking Maine’s Baxter State Park, a relatively new volume which I have dog-eared, bookmarked, and annotated in pen/pencil. As recommended in that book, every other guidebook, and the Baxter State Park ranger I consulted, I took the loop counterclockwise, in order to tackle the Mount Coe slides uphill, rather than trying to descend (more on that later). To navigate, you can use the free downloadable Kidney-Daicey map from Baxter State Park, or the more durable (my choice) Map Adventures’ Katahdin Baxter State Park Waterproof Trail Map.
The parking area for Mount Coe and the Brothers is on the Park Tote Road just south of Slide Dam picnic area, on the east side of the road. I took a long, quiet morning drive south from South Branch Campground, with the windows down to breathe in the foggy morning dew and listen for about an hour. No moose crossed in front of me, but I saw several ruffed grouse scurrying into the undergrowth lining the Tote Road. At the parking lot, across from Nesowadnehunk Stream, a large hiking group was meeting and beginning to pack up breakfast and coffee in preparation for a hike in smaller pairs and trios. The hike started easily enough on a relatively flat grade, with the trail going across a couple low streambeds. The temperature began to increase as I climbed up and out of the valley, ascending a narrow staircase with the pretty runoff of the stream to my left. At about 1.2 miles, I reached the intersection of the Marston and Mount Coe trails and turned right towards Mount Coe. Almost immediately, I started seeing moose droppings. The trail was flat and mossy, almost downhill at the beginning, with quiet, green Eden-like surroundings of mossy hummocks and clear, cascading brooks.
I had arrived at the trailhead about an hour after sunrise, but the sun had still not summited the peaks to the east, so when it did, at around 8 AM, it peered over like a death ray. So, when the trail crisscrossed the cool stream and moved uphill, I missed the air conditioning that the cold running water had provided. Here, I passed a friendly group of three on my way to the final ascent of Mount Coe, then another, even more amiable group of three making their way up the slick, steep slides. It’s difficult to find grumpy people at Baxter State Park. Back to the slides – they were as advertised, difficult, slick with morning dew and runoff, and sharp (I left some blood there on a handhold). I had planned to only use my hiking poles, collapsed and stowed on my pack, on the descent, but thought twice about that plan while navigating the steep, slippery surface. I can’t imagine the difficulty of climbing down this stretch on coltish, tired legs on a clockwise hike. Thankfully, the slide gave way to a thin path through thin spruce with roots and trees for handholds, leading to the Mount Coe summit, with unbelievable views in all directions.
Doubletop Mountain (north peak 3,489 feet, south peak 3,455 ft) guards the western edge of Baxter State Park (BSP), its tufted, twin summit ridge looming like the profile of a slumped, pudgy Dark Knight. The views of this signature BSP mountain are impressive, as its unique profile and steep drops make for a formidable photo over Nesowadnehunk Stream or from the rugged peaks to its east. On a sunny mid-September afternoon, I ascended it for the first time, using a challenging 7 mile out-and-back route from the parking area at Nesowadnehunk Field Campground, which took me about three hours and forty minutes.
The summit is also accessible from the south, sharing the trailhead for Slaughter Pond. I used the route from the north recommended by the book Hiking Maine’s Baxter State Park, which advised that the southern route included a South Peak descent that was among the “steepest trails in the state.” Portions of the trail are visible on the downloadable Kidney-Daicey map from Baxter State Park or the Katahdin Baxter State Park Waterproof Trail Map, but the Nesowadnehunk Field Campground is at the far northern edge of the popular Kidney-Daicey area, so that area is not shown in as much detail.
The parking area to the north is close to the Nesowadnehunk Field ranger station, where some tree work was in progress when I moved through. A bridge crosses the clear flowage of Nesowadnehunk Stream, where a belted kingfisher gave me a look, then moved south, giving a rattling cry. After crossing the bridge, the first quarter mile or so of Doubletop Mountain Trail was flat and straight, passing campsites protected by pines and birch. This mostly shaded trail paralleled the stream through moss and ferns, then began to wind up through the forest over a series of moss-covered brooks, the surface twisted with roots. An amazing variety of flowers and mushrooms lined the path.
At about 1.7 miles the trail became more hemmed in by evergreens, and I began to hear rushing water as the trail headed downhill, crossed Doubletop Stream, and then climbed steeply up the other side of the ravine. At this point, strap in for leg day, as the elevation increases rapidly, with some roots and rocks needed for handholds. Hiking with a compromised left wrist, I was forced to use my forearm as a hook. On this stretch, I saw a multi-generational family descending, looking exhausted in varying degrees, but in good spirits. I found myself periodically exhaling audibly with a chuffing sound like a puzzled bear, which seemed to help psychologically with the climbing effort.
Around 2.4 miles the trail leveled out a bit, becoming greener and a bit more manageable, a quiet ridge hike through an enchanted forest. The climb became steady again, but at about 3.2 miles, the trees thinned out and I could begin to see the views to the east of the valley bisected by the Park Tote Road. Here I saw the last people on my hike, a descending couple who seemed surprised to see another hiker this late in the afternoon. Iron rungs and one last rocky scramble completed the climb to the taller North Peak, opening on truly dizzying views of O-J-I, Katahdin, and the rest of the park, with a sheer drop from the summit. Just below the North Peak, a plaque commemorates the memory of Keppele Hall, whose ashes were “given to the winds at this place August 20, 1926, at sunset by his wife,” which would have predated Baxter State Park.
A short rolling scramble of about a quarter mile separated the north and south peaks and sweeping views of the Allagash were available from the south terminus over neighboring Moose Mountain to the west, as well as the 100 Mile Wilderness to the south. Unfortunately, each peak was patrolled by its own swarming cloud of biting flies, all undaunted by the stiff breeze, so I didn’t stick around long. I picked my way downward in the fading light, thinking of a campfire and roasting meat later at the South Branch Campground. By the time I reached my car, the memory of the effort and struggle of the climb was already forgotten, replaced by the calm of the expansive views and soothing sounds of nature.
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Some trails at Baxter State Park are quieter than others, and Blueberry Ledges, on the south side of the park, approximately midway between Katahdin Stream Campground and Abol Beach, is a beautiful spot you just might have all to yourself. Appalachian Trail (AT) thru-hikers this close to Katahdin are unlikely to take side trails, and day-hikers are often focused on the more robust peaks to the north and east. The lollipop loop trail to Blueberry Ledges from the trailhead at the end of Abol Beach Road is a 6.6 mile hike (if you take the side trails like I did), using the Abol Stream Trail to briefly leave the Park, then pick up the Appalachian Trail (AT) northbound on the way out, and Abol Pond Trail on the return. On a bright mid-September morning, I used this route recommended by the book Hiking Maine’s Baxter State Park. The Blueberry Ledges are also accessible from the north by using the AT southbound from the Park Tote Road near Katahdin Stream Campground, an out-and-back hike of about three miles each way. The trails are all on the downloadable Kidney-Daicey map from Baxter State Park, and in my pack, as usual, was the durable Map Adventures’ Katahdin Baxter State Park Waterproof Trail Map.
I began by crossing the small bridge at the outlet of Abol Pond, following the trail along a wide, wooded floor dotted with colorful late-season mushrooms. The path rises on an esker above Abol Stream. A little over a quarter mile in, there’s a short side path along the stream, which dead-ends at a robust beaver dam, and after about .4 miles, a small sign-in kiosk for hikers. At about .7 and 1.1 miles are more turnouts with excellent views of Katahdin’s bulk rising clear and crisp over multi-colored marsh grasses. The trail at this point is an old woods road bounded by sweet fern and pine, and serenaded by the chattering of red squirrels and jays.
As the marsh opened up wide to the right, I reached the junction with the Appalachian Trail and turned right, reaching to another kiosk and the re-entry to Baxter State Park, where a friendly Ranger awaited inbound entries off the Appalachian Trail, which he said had slowed for the season, with clumps of hikers every now and again making their last push to Katahdin. I took my leave and continued north, turning right (left would take you out to Abol Bridge) at an intersection after about 1.5 miles to stay on the AT, moving up through long, thin white birches. A fire danger sign at the intersection with the Abol Pond Trail yields a clue to a likely reason for the thin forest bounding the trail, as a 45-acre wildfire burned its way through here in May 2020.
A massive boulder looking like a giant’s tooth sat to the right of the trail, and erratics that size and smaller peeked through the small trees on either side of the path, remnants of a glacial past. A little before two miles, I started hearing rushing water to the left and followed a small side trail towards the sound, finding some small Katahdin Stream waterfalls in what would be a nice place to dip in on a hot day. I returned to a trail that began to move uphill, then levelled out on a tree-lined ridge, with more side trails at about 2.6 miles and 2.8 miles leading down to waterfalls, with rocks treacherously slick from runoff, morning dew, spray, and algae.
Schiller Coastal Studies Center, a 118 acre preserve on Harpswell’s Orrs Island, is owned by Bowdoin College, with trails made open to the public (foot traffic only, dogs on leash) from dawn to dusk. We discovered this special place using Maine Trailfinder, and did an early September hike of just under 3 miles, seeing most of the peninsula in under an hour-and-a-half through a long loop using the Spruce Fir-Forest Trail, Dipper Cove Path, Pine Needle Path, Brewer Cove Trail, Long Cove Loop, and Stone Wall Walk. We planned and hiked this loop using the excellent printable map available on the Schiller Coastal Studies website, as well as at an information kiosk at the small parking area off Bayview Road (it’s hard to see, due to the map’s colors, but the Long Cove Loop does connect to the Stone Wall Walk to complete the circle).
We started by walking south on Bayview Road, turning right (west) onto the blue-blazed Spruce Fir-Forest Trail. This trail descended quickly through its namesake forest to Dipper Cove on Harpswell Sound, meeting the Dipper Cove Path (green blazes) to head north along the shoreline, with glimpses of the water peeking through the sunlit trees. We enjoyed broader high tide views from the rocky shore of the emerald water and Wyer Island. According to Schiller Coastal Studies’ trail guide, the footpath to access Wyer Island is open at low tide only. The descent to the shore and the return climb along the Dipper Cove Path are the only real elevation along this loop.
We moved through the sunny campus along the road to rejoin the Pine Needle Path to the point of the peninsula, where a rocky promontory guarded the entrance to Brewer Cove. Several students could be seen moving around the quiet campus. This amazing coastal property was deeded to Bowdoin College in 1981 by William (a Bowdoin graduate) and Irma Thalheimer, who continued to reside in the farmhouse there until their respective deaths in 1986 and 1994. The Center is named for Philip Schiller and Kim Gassett-Schiller, who more recently donated $10 million for laboratory and facility construction.
Winnick Woods is a 71 acre parcel of land owned by the Town of Cape Elizabeth, part of the Cape Elizabeth Greenbelt, which has a page with maps and a description. The trailhead is at a small gravel parking area with a map kiosk and space for eight vehicles off Sawyer Road. Be forewarned – the maps, including the ones posted along the trail, are not good ones. I used AllTrails to navigate an easy 3.8-mile Winnick Woods Long Loop that covered most of the preserve, and used the Cross Hill Trails to extend the hike, which took about an hour and forty minutes, with plenty of time to stop and examine the varied flora.
This winds past some adjoining backyards, follows power lines in places, and crosses Cross Hill Road twice, but stays on established trails. Like many trails designed for mountain bikes, there are multiple twists and turns and intersections to maximize mileage and track length, which can be confusing for hikers and bikers alike. We encountered many mountain bikers and stepped briefly off the path to allow them to pass. The trail was also populated by trail runners and dog walkers.
The trail begins with a wooded path (the White Trail), opening on a large meadow, where we saw (and heard) a large red-tailed hawk patrolling the skies above. We then turned left onto the Yellow Trail, which crosses the north side of a small, stagnant pond, and passes behind a neighborhood through a mixed forest. Throughout the early September hike, we saw a wide variety of berries, trees, shrubs, late summer flowers, colorful mushrooms, and birds. Regarding the fern family alone, we identified bracken fern, cinnamon fern, eastern hay-scented fern, Japanese painted fern, and Christmas fern. Nuthatches and brown creepers serenaded the woods and foraged along the tree trunks.
The marshy area to the east of the loop signals a move to higher ground along power lines, and the beginning of the Cross Hill Trails, lined with juniper and wildflowers. Here, a cacophony of catbird sounds greeted us in the lower-lying areas, before turning west and north to return to the Winnick Woods Trails, where the forest opens up to sunlight. A flat, easy walk brought us back to the start of the hike.