The Raymond Community Forest is a network of four trails over 356 acres between Crescent Lake and Pismire Mountain (833 ft), protected by the Loon Echo Land Trust (LELT). I decided to combine all four into a modified loop (approximately 4 miles/1.5 hrs) to try and see as much of the Forest as possible. The lower trails (Spiller Homestead and Grape Expectations) are open to pedestrians and mountain bikes, while the trails to the east of Conesca Road (Pismire Bluff and Highlands Loop) are pedestrian-only. Leashed dogs are welcome.
The clearly marked trailhead, with parking, is located off Conesca Road in Raymond, and has a large kiosk with a map of the Forest and Raymond Community Forest trail maps available. On the warm July morning I visited, the field by the kiosk was bright with wildflowers.
I started by moving left, onto from the central Spiller Homestead Loop to the Grape Expectations Trail, marked with a yellow diamond with a black dot in the center. This pleasant narrow and winding trail was lined with more wildflowers and sweet fern, and has plank bridges to traverse the small streams that criss-cross the Forest. Open areas have patches of wild raspberry and strawberry. I saw a large swallowtail butterfly in the center of the trail, and a juvenile chickadee flew onto a nearby branch to check me out.
After about a mile, the trail connected back with the Spiller Homestead Loop, marked with pink diamonds, and I continued left on the loop towards Crescent Lake. This trail contains interpretive signs, which identify tree species, geologic facts (look for “glacial erratics”) and natural history, and winds through old stone walls. The sounds of powerboats on Crescent Lake could be faintly heard, but the predominant noise was birdsong and the chattering of chipmunks and squirrels.
I continued back across Conesca Road on the Pismire Bluff trail (blue diamond with white dot in the center), stopping to eat wild raspberries in the clearing before being swallowed by the woods. The trail climbs steeply and turns sharply, and a large open rockslide area can be seen through the trees to the east. A short (.1 mi) spur leads to a viewpoint on Pismire Bluff, overlooking Crescent Lake and Rattlesnake Mountain to the west.
Co-located with this spur is the .7 mile Highlands Loop trail (red diamond with white dot in the center), which descends through new forest, ascending again to return to Pismire Bluff. A short downhill walk down the Pismire Bluff Trail and a left turn (after crossing Conesca Road) leads back to the Spiller Homestead Loop and the parking area.
Raymond Community Forest is a well-maintained wild oasis with great views of the Lakes Region, and its four varied trails allow for hikers of all abilities to enjoy it in different ways. In Raymond, the best place to stop for a pre- or post-hike lunch or a snack is The Good Life Market, at the corner of ME-85 and 302.