Reid State Park Loop

East Beach, Reid State Park, Georgetown, ME

Reid State Park in Georgetown, Maine is at the southeast corner of the long coastal peninsula formed by the Kennebec River to the west and the Sheepscot River to the east. In 2015, Reid’s popular beaches were named #1 in New England for surfing by the Boston Globe. The fee for day use of Reid State Park, payable at the entry gate, is $6 for Maine residents, $8 for non-residents, and $2 for non-resident seniors. We visited at the tail-end of the winter season, enjoying the peace and quiet. As the parking lot at Todd’s Point was not yet open, we parked by the East Beach, and began our hike there, moving in an easy 4.8 mile clockwise loop covering Reid State Park’s best features in about two hours. The park does have a map, accessible from a link on the state park website. This map, though no doubt made available by a dedicated public servant, is terrible for hiking. First, know that the official map is upside-down, meaning north is at the bottom. Additionally, no trails are listed. Below is a screenshot of the correctly-oriented All Trails route we took, with helpful labels added by daughter.

The East Beach has a group picnic site overlooking the ocean, with a large shelter from the sun or inclement weather. Paths connect picnic sites, but to start our hike, we walked south along Griffith’s Head Road, crossing a small tidal inlet of the Sheepscot, where a red-breasted merganser rode the current foraging for food. We quickly arrived at Griffith Head, with the buildings shuttered for the winter (note: a pit toilet here was the only open winter bathroom). We walked down a stone staircase to Mile Beach, and the sun, sea air, and the sound of the waves filled the next mile of our walk along the sand.

Mile Beach from Griffith Head, Reid State Park, Georgetown, ME

The rocky promentory of Todd’s Point rises above the water, with a short climb yielding great views in all directions. Here, the bathing facilities were shuttered, as well, with the empty parking lots between Mile Beach and Half Mile Beach roped off until the summer season. We looked briefly at Half Mile Beach, then walked behind the dunes on a spur trail between the beach and the Little River, emerging with a long view towards Popham Beach.

Half Mile Beach, Reid State Park, Georgetown, ME

Returning through birdsong, we found the trailhead for the Little River Trail, unmarked but for a small wooden sign, on the northwest side of the lower (south) parking lot, past a series of picnic tables. This trail wound along the salt marsh alongside the Little River, with long ridges between the trail and water, and small boardwalks over streams. We heard woodpeckers and a bald eagle patrolling the open woods to the east. A large hill with a water tower, crossed by power lines, marked the highest point. A trail labeled as the Loop Trail divides at a woods road, with right taking you east to Todd’s Point Road and the park entrance, and left towards North Boundary Road and Seguinland Road. We turned left to make a longer loop.

Little River Trailhead from Todd’s Point, Reid State Park, Georgetown, ME

This trail skirted the edge of Ice Pond, along Seguinland Road, before turning back into the woods. We explored a spur on this small pond, where a prominent beaver lodge commanded the lagoon. A hermit thrush sang close to the path, and I played a thrush song from my phone, causing the curious bird to walk towards us with its chest puffed out and its mouth open. We continued through the woods until reaching the park entrance again, and then turned onto Griffith’s Head Road to return to the car. What to do post-hike? The center of Georgetown is at the end of Route 127, and in the summer months, Five Islands Lobster, adjacent to an ice cream shack, presides over unrivaled ocean views.

Beaver lodge on Ice Pond, Reid State Park, Georgetown, ME

Whiskeag and Thorne Head Loop (Bath, ME)

Bridge across railroad tracks at Oak Grove Cemetery on Whiskeag Trail, Bath, ME

Thorne Head, the northern portion of Bath extending into the confluence of Whiskeag Creek and the Kennebec River, can be reached by foot from downtown Bath, over a Bath Trails and Kennebec Estuary Land Trust (KELT) network that is surprisingly wild for Midcoast Maine. On the first day of May, I created a 9.4 mile lollipop loop hike incorporating the Whiskeag Trail (see map here), Thorne Head Preserve’s Narrows Trail, Trail Connector, Overlook Trail, Ravine Trail (see map here), and an unmarked, unmaintained path leading back to the Whiskeag Trail, for a little over three hours of forest and water views and birds. All portions of the trails described are open from dawn to dusk, and leashed dogs are allowed. While the word sounds similar to “whiskey,” according to Bath Trails the trail takes its name from an Abenaki word meaning “a creek that runs nearly dry at low tides.” The Whiskeag Trail can be accessed from multiple points, including KELT’s Thorne Head Preserve, Sewall Woods, Oak Grove Cemetery, and McMann Athletic Fields. I chose to depart from the southern terminus, at the Bath YMCA, 305 Centre Street, where there is plenty of parking. The flat, wide pine-covered trail marked with blue blazes starts behind the YMCA and moves over a small ridge, where I heard the welcome morning call of a hermit thrush.

Beaver dam, Whiskeag Creek, on Whiskeag Trail, Bath, ME

Shortly after a marshy area, the Whiskeag Trail emerges at Congress Street at a pedestrian crosswalk by the Edward J McMann outdoor recreation area. The trail skirts the east side of the baseball diamond, then passes back into the woods. Across Old Brunswick Road, the trail curves left through Oak Grove Cemetery, crossing the railroad tracks over an attractive bridge dedicated to John C. “Jack” Hart, Jr. A short distance after the bridge, follow a small blue sign on the left marking the Whiskeag Trail, which winds down to Whiskeag Creek through a series of switchbacks. Bikes are allowed on this trail, and their frequent use can be seen through tracks in the spring mud. Here, the quiet creek was regulated by a sturdy beaver dam, and wider portions gave way to a marsh, where red-winged blackbirds called, and Canada geese sailed lazily away from my footfalls on shore.

Whiskeag Creek, Bath, ME

A mossy cliff and rock face marked the crossing of power lines, and in this gap sat a bench overlooking the creek. The spring return of birds made the Whiskeag marsh an improbably tableau, reminiscent of a children’s picture book, where geese, cormorants, herons, and ducks assembled in groups for identification. As the Whiskeag Creek got closer to mixing with the Kennebec, it grew flatter and wider. By overhanging rocks I noticed a safety feature of the trail, brightly marked alphanumeric emergency cards spaced out along the trail to tell someone in a medical emergency where they are, and how to communicate that quickly to emergency services.

Whiskeag Creek, Bath, ME

The trail then moves back inland through a pine and oak forest, winding across small plank bridges and over and around streams and vernal pools. A brief climb up and across a ridge by power lines takes the trail behind the Bath Public Works, then down and across Oak Grove Avenue. The Whiskeag Trail narrows and moves through a right-of-way next to residential properties, and then along the edge of a large horse farm, before crossing and briefly joining Whiskeag Road. On Whiskeag Road, walk east (right), until reaching the trail again on the left. Here, a large, boisterous pileated woodpecker was at the top of the telephone pole marking the re-entry to the Whiskeag Trail. Shortly after this point is a turn-off to the Sewall Woods parking lot, which you could use to break up this hike into chunks or start from a spot farther north.

Spring flowers on Whiskeag Trail near Sewall Woods, Bath, ME

A series of KELT digital scan signs marked Sewall Woods (see map here), each with facts about the natural surroundings from the Digital Trail Project and natural forestry methods. As I climbed through the more open forest, I saw purple spring flowers, and started hearing the sounds of gulls, signaling the approach to the Kennebec River area. The trail finds Whiskeag Creek again, skirting the water’s edge and muddy flats until a narrow point where you can see the confluence with the Kennebec. I began to hear people and dogs again, as well, as I approached the more-trafficked Thorne Head Preserve.

Whiskeag Creek and Kennebec River confluence from Whiskeag Trail, Bath, ME

When the Whiskeag Trail moved east and inland I continued north on the white-blazed Narrows Trail, past the Stone Steps Trail, where it becomes a little more rugged and passes the Mushroom Cap Trail. The tip of the peninsula, along a wide portion of the Kennebec River, is about 5 miles from the starting point at the YMCA, and there are plenty of wide, sun-warmed rock outcroppings to watch the water, look at eagles and ospreys, and enjoy a snack or a picnic lunch.

Kennebec River from Narrows Trail, Thorne Head Preserve, Bath, ME

From this scenic spot, I veered left from the Narrows Trail onto the Trail Connector, then another left onto the Overlook Trail, after stopping to identify a winter wren singing by the small pond there. At the parking lot and trailhead at the end of High Street, I took a right to continue south. Here, the loop was not as obvious, so if you are not great with directions, I would stick to the Whiskeag Trail, which crosses back across the peninsula to re-trace your steps. I was using the AllTrails app, and turned left onto the Ravine Trail. Here, a sign denotes the end of the KELT property, admonishing users to respect landowners. The trail here was unmaintained and unmarked, but easily followed, and I moved south past the Bath Transfer Center, on the opposite (east) side from the Whiskeag Trail.

Rocky outcropping hosting eastern phoebe nesting pair, Whiskeag Trail, Bath, ME

A turkey vulture wheeled overhead as I began to see KELT markings on trees again, and rejoined the Whiskeag Trail at Sewall Woods, about 6.5 miles from my starting point. A sign at Sewall Woods listed the mileage back to the YMCA lot as 2.8 miles. I enjoyed retracing my steps, and even got a second chance at seeing wildlife, including a noisy pair of eastern phoebes, who had nested in the overhang of the rock outcrop I’ve seen earlier.

Winslow Memorial Park Loop

Beach at Winslow Park, Freeport, ME

Winslow Memorial Park and Campground, owned by the town of Freeport, Maine, is a 100-campsite campground, beach, and park on a narrow peninsula between the Harraseeket River and Casco Bay. During 2022, Winslow Park will be open for camping from May 26th through October 1st. A map of the property, including trails, can be found here. According to the Town’s website, the 90-acre park was a 1953 gift from Adelaide Winslow Harb in memory of her mother, Delia B. Powers Winslow with the understanding that the land and its buildings, “… shall be used as a public park and for public recreational purposes…” A day-use fee is charged during the summer months (Freeport Residents: $2.00 per person; Non-Residents: $3.00 per person). Day use hours are from 8 a.m. to 30 minutes after sunset for use of all facilities, including trails.

Reflection bench, Winslow Park, Freeport, ME

The trails at Winslow Park are named in a simple fashion, and we made a loop of the Scenic Trail and Self-Guided Nature Trail, using Winslow Park Way to connect these short loops, for a 2.5 mile hike lasting about an hour. The footing was a bit mucky on the late April day we visited, but it was a small price to pay to avoid crowds and fees and see the stunning coastal views. We started with the Scenic Trail, accessed from the parking lot to the immediate left of the entrance gate. A wide, flat trail encircles the small wooded peninsula jutting out into the Harraseeket River. We continued on Winslow Park Way, then veered left past a picnic area towards a sign marked “Trails” to rejoin the Scenic Trail, which then became the Self-Guided Nature Trail.

View of Harraseeket River and Staples Cove from Winslow Park, Freeport, ME

From May to October, this trail would be noisier and more crowded, as it passes multiple campsites. In the calm before Maine’s summer storm of tourists, we enjoyed the quiet views of the Harraseeket River, including a pair of diving ospreys. The trail viewpoints are punctuated by benches from which hikers can sit and watch the water. The trail leads to a scenic overlook at Stockbridge Point, directly past a cottage available for rental. Next to the cottage is a fishing pier that extends into Casco Bay.

Bowman Island from Winslow Park, Freeport, ME

Using Winslow Park Road to head back and avoid private property, we turned left at the “Trails” sign by the camping area to walk alongside the ocean, where sparrows, cardinals, goldfinches, and pine warblers flew overhead, and into nests in trees and boxes. We walked out on the stones of Mitchell Pier, and across the bay, we could clearly see Moshier and Little Moshier and Cousins Islands. Back towards the entrance of the campground, groups picnicked together while their children played in the large playground in the center. A large sandy beach with a boat ramp lay unused, waiting for summer. This beautiful oceanfront park is a great family destination, with tidepools and a playground to explore, and picnic tables with stunning views.

Winslow Memorial Park, Freeport, ME

Florida Lake Loop

Tree swallows feeding by nesting boxes, Florida Lake, Freeport, Maine

Florida Lake Loop is part of a 167-acre property owned by the Town of Freeport since 2002, with trail maps available from the Freeport Conservation Trust. This 2.9 mile loop, using the orange Lake Loop and blue-blazed North Loop trails, skirts the edge of shallow Florida Lake, passing through wetlands and forest. The trails are accessible from a well-marked turnoff (blue sign for Florida Lake parking) off Route 125/Wardtown Road in north Freeport, leading to a small (six cars or so) parking lot. A map kiosk is located a short walk down the gravel trail towards Florida Lake (this map is faded, so the orange trail appears as yellow). This lake gets its name from the resemblance of its meandering finger-like shape to the familiar southern U.S. state.

Small pond off spur trail, Lake Loop Trail, Florida Lake, Freeport, ME

On the Easter Sunday we visited, mud season was very much in effect, necessitating waterproof boots and a certain agility in negotiating logs over standing water. The turtles sunning themselves on the small outlet of the lake gazed at us with exasperation, then slowly slide into the cold water, no doubt gurgling mild turtle swears as they dove. Nesting boxes line the lake itself, and tree swallows wheeled past our heads in blurs of blue-green and white, feeding and diving inside the small shelters.

Orange-blazed Lake Loop Trail, Florida Lake, Freeport, ME

Heading counter-clockwise around the orange trail, a small spur led to a secluded pond, and we doubled back through the muck to continue around Florida Lake. Princess pine lined the trail, and soon we encountered exotic bright green and reddish Northern Pitcher Plants in the wetlands to each side of the log bridges leading around the south side of the loop.

Pitcher plant, Lake Loop Trail, Florida Lake, Freeport, ME

The trails to the east and north sides of the lake weave in and out with snowmobile trails, and were peppered with the sweet song of brown creepers. Canada geese and mergansers patrolled the lake’s center, and a bald eagle and loud, rowdy crows patrolled the tall trees ringing the shore. We also saw fresh beaver-chewed saplings, and what looked like a lodge on an island nearby.

Florida Lake, Freeport, ME

The blue trail led off to the right, making a longer curve towards Collins Brook. At one point, we reached a “Wrong Way” sign, despite no indicator beforehand of a turn to the blue trail. On trails, as in life, it always makes more sense to mark the correct path well than to put up warnings of wrong turns. The wrong way, however, led shortly to the right one, and followed the banks of the brook back to Florida Lake and the parking area. The short, circular hike took us a little over an hour to complete, and would be relatively easy for small children, with a wealth of birds to listen to and observe.

Florida Lake, Freeport, ME

An Amateur’s Guide to Hiking Maine’s 100 Mile Wilderness

View from Barren Ledges on Barren Mountain, 100 Mile Wilderness
View from Barren Ledges on Barren Mountain, 100 Mile Wilderness.

Overview

With the right preparation, the 100 Mile Wilderness (100MW) can be a challenging but enjoyable eight-day hike (and for thru-hikers and experienced “speedhikers,” who can rip off 20-mile days, substantially less).  Dad (then 41) and daughter (then 12) completed this in two segments in 2017 and 2018.  We definitely allowed ourselves extra time to enjoy places we liked, or to recover from wet gear or injuries, so plan on ten days.  Our 100 Mile Wilderness journey finally complete, we took a look back and came up with a better plan of attack.  So, here is our guide, with a suggested itinerary, and a packing list.

Direction: There are arguments for going south to north (like we did), or alternately, starting at Abol Bridge, and finishing in Monson.  The northern part is substantially flatter (read: faster) terrain, so starting with a heavy pack might be easier north-south, eating up food weight as you move south.  But starting from the south, and climbing over the Barren-Chairback and White Cap ranges might make your tired legs want to finish with the more gently rolling terrain of the north.

Timing: When we started the 100 MW, we did so at the end of June/beginning of July.  Once we got down from the higher elevations, the heat was oppressive, and the bugs were brutal.  We later finished the 100 MW at the end of September, and it was cold at night, but pleasant during the day, and there were no bugs.  I think a happy medium would be the beginning of September (assuming your work/school/life allows this), which would still be warm enough to enjoy dips in the lakes and streams, cool enough at night to sleep well, and at the very tail end of bug season.  One caveat to this plan – AT Lean-To’s and tent sites may be fairly full, as many thru-hikers will be making their last push to Katahdin.  Some water sources may also be dry by this time of summer, depending on the rains.

Resupply: We didn’t do this, but it’s worth considering.  Some purists believe that it’s cheating, but lightening your pack enough to enjoy your walk in the woods might help a great deal, and it’s your hike.  Shaw’s Hiker Hostel (Monson), the Appalachian Trail Lodge (Millinocket), and 100 Mile Wilderness Adventures and Outfitters are reputable providers who can coordinate food drops for you along the 100MW.  They can also provide advice, shuttle service, Baxter/Katahdin permits, help you stage your vehicle at either end, and provide a place to stay before and/or after.

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East Branch, Pleasant River, 100 Mile Wilderness.

Suggested Itinerary


Day 1: ME-15 in Monson to Wilson Valley Lean-To (10.4 mi)

Overview: Day One is a rolling hike, getting used to a heavy pack, and fording several streams.

Highlight: Little Wilson Falls, a sixty-foot waterfall (mile 6.6)


Day 2: Wilson Valley Lean-To to West Chairback Pond (14.1 mi)

Overview: Day Two is a longer day (start early), with a ford of Long Pond Stream, and a a steady, strenuous ascent of Barren Mountain, to an up-and-down traverse of the Barren-Chairback Range, ending with a tent site on West Chairback Pond (.2 mile side trail).

Highlight: Views from Barren Ledges (mile 6) and insectivorous pitcher plants in Fourth Mountain Bog (mile 10.4).


Day 3: West Chairback Pond to Carl A. Newhall Lean-To (11.8 mi)

Overview: Completion of Barren-Chairback traverse, and descent to the fording of the West Branch of the Pleasant River.  The afternoon ascent up Gulf Hagas Mountain along Gulf Hagas Brook will feel long, without many landmarks (note: camping or campfires are prohibited south of the Gulf Hagas Cut-off trail to north of the West Branch of the Pleasant River).

Highlight: Dizzying descent of Chairback Mountain, and a welcome downhill hike through pine forests to Gulf Hagas and the tall old-growth pines of the Hermitage.

Change-up: AMC Gorman Chairback Lodge and Cabins, on Long Pond, accessible via Third Mountain Trail or K-I Road.  This AMC Lodge is a place to rest, get clean, relax, and enjoy the wilderness.


Day 4: Carl A. Newhall Lean-To to East Branch Lean-To (10.8 mi)

Overview: A long ascent of the White Cap range, then a descent to the East Branch of the Pleasant River.

Highlight: Cold, clear spring water from the spring near the Sidney Tappan Campsite (source of Gulf Hagas Brook).  Summit of White Cap (3,654 ft), with great views (on a clear day) that include Katahdin.


Day 5: East Branch Lean-To to Antlers Campsite (16 mi)

Overview: A climb over the saddle between Big and Little Boardman Mountains, over Little Boardman, a long walk past Crawford Pond and Cooper Pond (watch for moose) to Antlers Campsite on Lower Jo-Mary Lake.

Highlight: Swimming in Crawford Pond (5.1 mi)


Day 6: Antlers Campsite to South End, Nahmakanta Lake (11 mi)

Overview: Short climb over Potaywadjo Ridge, pass Pemadumcook Lake, walk along Nahmakanta Stream to south end of Nahmakanta Lake.

Highlight: Swimming at sand beach on Lower Jo-Mary Lake (1.7 mi), and Lake Nahmakanta (11 mi).

Change-up: for a break and a hot meal, try White House Landing Camps on Pemadumcook Lake (look for the sign along the AT), who will pick you up by boat if you call, (207) 745-5116, and meet them at a landing off the old Mahar Tote Road (appx 5.1 mi south of Nahmakanta Lake).  There is a great 2018 podcast episode on how White House Landing Camps came to be: http://www.outtherepodcast.com/episodes/2018/11/24/perfect-strangers


Day 7: South End, Nahmakanta Lake to Rainbow Stream Lean-To (10.7 mi)

Overview: One last mountain to cross, Nesuntabunt, then a long, forested walk to Rainbow Stream Lean-To.

Highlight: Swimming holes near Rainbow Stream Lean-To (10.7 mi).


Day 8:  Rainbow Stream Lean-To to Abol Bridge (15 mi)

Overview: Last day, peaceful walk alongside Rainbow Deadwaters and Rainbow Lake, a short ascent and descent of Rainbow Ledges, and a last push across rolling forest and bog to Abol Bridge.

Highlight: View from Rainbow Ledges (9 mi), and finishing.


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Mountain View Pond, 100 Mile Wilderness.

Packing List

We will assume that, if you are hiking the 100 MW, you have already chosen your pack and boots, know if you want hiking poles (yes, please, especially on wet, rocky descents), and know how you will cook and purify water.  We overpacked, and this list (with links to what we used) cuts out non-essentials like a mini-fishing rod (we didn’t catch anything), and firestarter sticks (we only made two fires – in designated areas, of course, and birch bark worked nicely).  Dad had a 75-liter, sixty lb pack because he didn’t want to come up short on supplies with a kid in the woods, but this can be done with a much lighter pack.  Remember to leave no trace (empty meal pouches make great trash bags to carry with you).  Also, waterproof Stuff Sacks are essential to streamline your packing, keep items dry, and double as bear bags to suspend your food at night.  Would recommend at least two (one each for clothing and food).

Exterior:

Pack raincover (budget alternative is a trash bag) Osprey UltraLight Raincover

Water:

Osprey Hydraulics 3L water reservoir (this can be heavy, but you don’t have to fill it all the way.  You may also prefer 2 smaller liter-size bottles with purification tablets, instead)

MSR Sweetwater Microfilter for water purification (see above)

Camping/hygiene gear:

Headlamp/batteries

Solar lantern (lightweight, collapsible, and lights up interior of tent at night)

Tent and ground cloth (we used Kelty Salida 2 two-person, with ground cloth).  Some try to cut weight by just using a sleeping bag and pad, and using the AT shelters, but we found that they were crowded and noisy, and the tent gave us the option of finding a beautiful spot early, or pushing a little further, and just finding a flat spot at night.

Lightweight sleeping bag (we both used Marmot NanoWave 55, which was perfect)

Sleeping pad (Therm-a-rest ProLite Mattress was compact and comfortable)

Wicking towel (Packtowl UltraLite Towel wrapped around clothing doubled as pillow)

Mosquito headnet (get a long one that you can tuck into your shirt)

Parachute Cord (this is great, with StuffSacks, for hanging food up at night, making repairs, and attaching things to your pack)

Baby wipes

Raingear (your choice, would suggest high-quality lightweight jacket and pants, rather than poncho)

Maps (we used Maps 1 through 3 of the Official Map and Guide to the AT in Maine)

Compass

Ivory soap in Ziploc (99.44% pure, and it floats.  Perfect for cleaning up in lakes/streams)

Gold Bond foot powder

Toothbrush

Toothpaste

Sunblock

Bug spray w/Deet

Toilet paper

First Aid kit: tweezers, bandaids, moleskin, itch cream, ibuprofen

Folding knife

Duct tape (mini-roll)

USB solar charger (this is pretty neat, lightweight, and recharges while you hike, using the sun.  Great way to keep juice in your phone for photos or proof-of-life text messages when cell service is available)

Eating (mesh bag for cookware) :

Clothing (this will vary based on timing- this was our mid-summer list):

3 + pairs wool socks (Smartwool Med. Weight Hiker)

2 pairs Ex Officio underwear (quick-drying, anti-microbial)

2 t-shirts/tank tops

2 pairs convertible pants/shorts

Hat

Clean long-sleeve t-shirt/shorts in Ziploc (to wear at night/in camp)

Lightweight shoes (I can’t wear Crocs, but people love them.  Flip flops are no good for river crossings.  Happy medium may be barefoot trailrunning shoes)

1 jacket or heavy shirt

Food (plan on 1.5 to 2 lbs per person per day, and realize you will be sick of most of it by Day 3, so variety is good.  Get rid of bulky packaging before you hike, and in the morning, take out the food for each day, placing it in more accessible pouches on the outside of your pack):

  • Mountain House freeze-dried meals or packaged (Annie’s) mac and cheese (dinner)
  • Pepperoni
  • Cheese sticks
  • Tortillas/lavash bread (use with pepperoni and cheese sticks to roll up)
  • Oatmeal (breakfast)
  • Peanut butter and/or Nutella
  • Mixed Nuts (mix in with oatmeal, also mixes with dark chocolate are great)
  • Pre-made PB +J sandwiches
  • Granola/Energy bars (rotate flavors)
  • Chocolate
  • Beef jerky
  • Starbucks Via instant coffee and/or hot chocolate packets

Final Thoughts

There will always be better ideas, lighter gear, more efficient plans.  These are simply lessons we learned, and feedback is appreciated.  The itinerary above is intended as a guideline, but there are side trails aplenty, and if you look at our journey, we adjusted to slow down and dry out our gear, avoid lightning and dangerous river fords, and speeded up to push ahead on better days.

If you are taking on the 100 Mile Wilderness, train to do so beforehand, hiking over rough terrain with a heavy pack, and doing multi-day hikes, breaking in all your gear, and finding out where your hot spots/blisters/chafe marks accumulate.  There is no gym replacement or substitute for this.  Our train-up was a fun couple months in the woods of Maine and New Hampshire, increasing distances and pack loads the entire time.

Additionally, have an exit strategy for the 100 Mile Wilderness.  You may sustain an injury or find yourself in a situation beyond your control – that’s why it’s a wilderness, and this is a challenge.  Be realistic, and don’t let pride goad you into bad decisions.  But above all, have fun, and get outside.

(Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, and as an Amazon Associate Hiking in Maine blog earns from qualifying purchases.)

Ledges Trail

Ledges Trail, Baxter State Park, Maine

The Ledges Trail is accessed from the Middle Fowler Trail/Nature Trail trailhead kiosk a short walk north from the parking area of the South Branch Pond campground at Baxter State Park. This hike in the lesser-traveled northern part of the Park is fully described in the Maine Mountain Guide., and BSP’s downloadable South Branch Pond map covers the area. A left (north) turn at the Ledges Trail intersection after a third of a mile will take you up a wooded blue-blazed trail to the ledges facing west.

Ledges Trail, Baxter State Park, Maine

On the way up, I disturbed a pair of large, colorful pileated woodpeckers, who voiced their collective displeasure, and flew off to other trees. The ledges provided a series of views over South Branch Ponds and South Branch Mountain and Black Cat Mountain, with changing September leaves.

Ledges Trail, Baxter State Park, Maine

The Ledges Trail exits the woods about a half mile north of the campground, with a walk along the dirt and gravel road leading back to parking or the campground. This was a short lollipop loop from South Branch Pond campground, maybe a mile and a quarter total. I was moving quickly due to impending thunderstorms on my trip, but this hike will not take more than thirty to forty-five minutes.

Ledges Trail, Baxter State Park, Maine

(Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, and as an Amazon Associate Hiking in Maine blog earns from qualifying purchases.)

Book Review: Hiking Waterfalls Maine by Greg Westrich

I’m hard-pressed to think of anything that is as simultaneously calming and awe-inspiring as a waterfall. Maine’s rugged terrain, many wilderness areas, and large rivers make it a prime spot for waterfalls. There are many websites and apps that aggregate and “rate” waterfall hikes in Maine, New England, and beyond. We even added a Category to this blog for waterfall hikes, even though I still believe that the best waterfall views should come as a surprise. But our favorite travels, particular in the north Maine woods, Downeast, and western Maine, exist outside data service, and I have always enjoyed “analog” guidebooks, particularly those with maps and photos. Enter Falcon Guides’ Hiking Waterfalls Maine: A Guide to the State’s Best Waterfall Hikes, by Greg Westrich (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).

We have used this guide for the last six months to enjoy waterfall hikes, from roadside stops to short hikes, to waterfalls embedded in longer multi-day hikes. The book lists sixty-seven distinct hikes with over one hundred waterfalls, with a map at the beginning to show the geographic distribution in Maine, as well as a trail finder listing waterfall themes (solitude, swimming, hikes for kids, etc.). Recently, on a trip to Baxter State Park’s northern half, I used the guide to hit four waterfalls (Howe Brook, Sawtelle Falls, Grand Pitch Seboeis River, and Shin Falls) inside and outside the park. Each hike has its own map, as well as any relevant details about the hike and important info like access to dogs and/or hunting.

Throughout the hike descriptions, Westrich describes the geology of the waterfalls, as well as river terminology – horsetails, pitches, plunges, and cascades are all covered, along with historical notes, primarily around Maine’s logging past. These details and the guide format allow visitors to appreciate, rather than compare, waterfall hikes, making this guidebook a must-have for navigating Maine’s waterfalls.

(Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, and as an Amazon Associate Hiking in Maine blog earns from qualifying purchases.)

Lily Pad Pond

Katahdin shrouded in clouds across Kidney Pond, Baxter State Park, Maine. Colt Point is visible to the right.

The hike to Lily Pad Pond, a short, relatively flat out-and-back from Kidney Pond Campground at Baxter State Park, is an easy walk that skirts Kidney Pond with some big-time views of Katahdin and Mt. O-J-I. I used it as a “last day at Baxter” hike, dehydrated, sore, but wanting to see more of this special place on the way out the Park Tote Road. Baxter State Park’s site has a downloadable map of the Kidney-Daicey Pond trails, but for a real full-day six-mile-plus amphibious adventure, including a canoe exploration of Lily Pad Pond, and a follow-on hike of Little and Big Niagara Falls, check out the hike description in the book Hiking Maine’s Baxter State Park.

Plank bridges toward Lily Pad Pond Trail, Baxter State Park, Maine

From Kidney Pond Campground day-use parking, head towards the Sentinel Link Trail, where you will quickly find views across Kidney Pond. This portion of the trail, hugging the shore of Kidney Pond, is the only part with tricky footing, as it is full of boulders and cedar roots. Shortly after the Celia and Jackson Ponds Trail departs to the right, there are more views of Kidney Pond Campground on the opposite shore, followed by the Sentinel Mountain Trail intersection, where you continue straight towards Lily Pad Pond. The .2 mile Colt’s Point spur trail leads to a Kidney Pond peninsula, accessible when I visited via a flooded area crossed by a ramshackle log bridge. This tenuous span was ultimately unsuccessful in keeping me above water, but the views from Colt’s Point were worth the wet socks.

View from Colt’s Point of Mt. O-J-I and Barren Mountain across Kidney Pond, Baxter State Park, Maine

Shortly after returning from Colt’s Point, turn off to the right onto Lily Pad Pond Trail, about .4 miles long, a moss-lined pathway with a slight downhill grade. A long section of plank bridging through a bog takes you to Beaver Brook, where there are three rental canoes ($1/hr or $8/day) available to take you to Lily Pad Pond, and keys can be secured from a ranger at Kidney Pond or Daicey Pond Campgrounds, as well as the Togue Pond Gate. Across Lily Pad Pond, at the east end, you can take the Windy Pitch Pond Trail to the Falls, walking parallel to the Appalachian Trail, on the opposite side of Nesowadnehunk Stream. I will definitely be using this trail-canoe-trail option on my next visit. The Lily Pad Pond out-and-back itself (including the Colt’s Point spur) was about 2.8 miles, which took me a little over an hour.

Canoe put-in on Beaver Brook towards Lily Pad Pond, Lily Pad Pond Trail, Baxter State Park, Maine

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Dwelley Pond

Dwelley Pond Trail, Baxter State Park, ME

A rainy final day in Baxter State Park, tired legs, and a desire to see wildlife led me to a morning exploring remote Dwelley Pond. For me, this was a 7.6 mile out-and-back, taking a little under two and a half hours in full rain gear. In good weather, allow more time to relax and enjoy the solitude, and rent the canoe at Dwelley Pond for a quiet exploration. It is also possible to spot a bike or a car at either end of the trail, turning this into a 4.6 mile point-to-point hike between the northern and southern Dwelley Pond parking areas. A description and map are available in the book Hiking Maine’s Baxter State Park.

McCarty Field, Dwelley Pond Trail, Baxter State Park, ME

I began from the north trailhead, which is about a mile south from the Burnt Mountain Picnic area on the Park Tote Road. The trail, skirting Morse and McCarty Mountains in a half-circle, starts from here as a flat walk in the ruts of a former woods road, with juvenile maple saplings sprouting in the middle. A disturbingly large pile of bear scat lay in the path like a warning sign. After a stream crossing, the trail median, along with the vegetation on the periphery, changed abruptly to evergreens, hemming in the trail. At a larger stream crossing I disturbed a moose or a deer, which galloped off loudly, through woods too thick to see through. The meadow at McCarty Field, reached after less than a mile and a half, was busy with black-capped chickadees, white-throated sparrows, and golden-crowned kinglets. This unexpectedly flat, cleared area is the site of a former farm and logging depot called McCarty.

Dwelley Pond Trail, Baxter State Park, ME

After McCarty Field, the slight downhill of the previous trail switched to a light but steady uphill. The trail overlooks the south branch of Trout Brook to the east down a steep embankment, with the pleasant sound of rushing water. Closer to Dwelley Pond, a series of bogs brackets the trail, and then earthen breastworks retain shallow ponds, the logs and sticks bearing the trademark conical cut of beavers.

Dwelley Pond, Baxter State Park, ME

At Dwelley Pond, there’s a canoe, a toilet, and a picnic structure. Keys to the canoe are available for rental at either BSP gate and South Branch Pond and Nesowadnehunk Field Campgrounds ($1/hr or $8/day). Views of the pond, criss-crossed with ducks on my visit, are available via the short northward spur leading to the canoe launch. The return journey didn’t yield any moose, deer, or bear sightings, but the lighter rain and easy hike made for a relatively quick and pleasurable walk back to the north parking area.

Dwelley Pond from canoe launch, Baxter State Park, ME

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Book Review: When You Find My Body: The Disappearance of Geraldine Largay on the Appalachian Trail, by D. Dauphinee

A whodunit where the “who” turns out to be nature and decisions could be anti-climactic. The title and an Author’s Note at the beginning of the book foretell the tragic ending in When You Find My Body: The Disappearance of Geraldine Largay on the Appalachian Trail, by D. Dauphinee (DownEast Books 2019), but the story in between remains taut and meaningful. Geraldine Largay, a sixty-six year old Appalachian Trail (AT) hiker, trail name “Inchworm,” disappeared in July 2013 on a section of the AT in western Maine, and despite a wide search, her remains were found inside a sleeping bag by surveyors in October 2015, less than eight hundred yards from the AT.

As Largay cannot bear witness anymore (besides e-mails, text messages, and notes from the hike), Dauphinee largely focuses on the searchers from the Maine Warden Service and other agencies, the friends, and the fellow hikers to tell Largay’s story. The misinformation, inaccurate tips, and rumors are seen in split-screen with the actual timeline created from digital and physical artifacts of Largay. As Dauphinee concludes at the end of a chapter, “The behavior of lost people is a challenging study.”

Woven throughout the narrative on Largay’s disappearance is a broader examination of the AT’s history, its lore, terminology, and culture, and the reasons each hiker has for tackling all or part of the trail. Dauphinee also devotes a fair amount of time to the concepts of Search And Rescue and the mindset of the lost person. The irony that Largay became disoriented and eventually died on lands used for training by the U.S. Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) school could have been played up for effect, and indeed, Dauphinee references sensational Bollard news articles which insinuated that this Navy “torture school” was responsible for Largay’s disappearance, and other theories about prescription drugs. But this conspiracy-type thinking is quickly neutralized by Dauphinee’s interviews and interactions, including with a retired SERE instructor who participated in the search, and who was emotionally affected by the failed effort. Dauphinee eventually returns with the SERE instructor for a somber visit to the site at which Largay’s remains were found. Dauphinee’s book ends with an epilogue in which he discusses the practical lessons that may be learned from Largay’s tragedy.

It is the mark of good writing that, even when the end is never in doubt, the reader still feels compelled to turn each page, to explore the broader story. In this case, human nature and years of evolution make it a story that sticks with us beyond the closing of the book, a survival lesson learned. And the care taken by Daupinee to be respectful, to make the kind, gregarious Largay more than a statistic, builds a character that the reader roots for, even knowing the outcome.

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