Suckfish Brook Conservation Area (Falmouth, ME)

Bench by beaver dam and pond, Suckfish Brook Conservation Area, Falmouth, ME

Suckfish Brook Conservation Area is a two-part preserve in Falmouth and Westbrook to the east of Highland Lake, a total of about 132 acres in size. On a mid-December day, I explored the 94-acre preserve in Falmouth by the Falmouth Land Trust, with a trail system maintained by the Town of Falmouth that begins in the Conservation Area and connects to trails made possible by neighboring landowners. The Conservation Area is named for the white sucker fish, which spawns in the eponymous brook. The small parking area is at the end of Upland Road, off Mast Road close to the Falmouth/Westbrook line. Navigation through Suckfish Brook Conservation Area can be difficult, as the maps are good, but some of the trails, particularly those through the Christmas tree farm owned by Skillins, are unsigned. I typically use the AllTrails application to navigate and track hikes, but in this case, the best way I found to navigate was using the QR code on the trail sign to access the Google Maps version of the trail map, showing my position relative to my anticipated route. In addition, the AllTrails trailhead directions tried to send me towards the wrong side of Falmouth.

Stone wall, Suckfish Brook Conservation Area, Falmouth, ME

I made a loop by taking the Huston Trail clockwise to the Stone Ridge Trail, the Presidential Trail, the Red Tail Trail, and back north on the Presidential Trail to the Huston Trail, with a quick stop at the Beaver Trail. This route along the edges of the Conservation Area was about 2.6 miles, and easily completed in an hour. A sign and map kiosk mark the beginning of the trails, which are open sunrise to sunset. Shortly after the parking lot, a series of plank bridges led to the right, with a view over a small pond, a bench, and a beaver dam at the pond’s outlet. Returning to the main trail, white-blazed Huston Trail splits to the north and south, and I went left/north. Leaves rattled on the trees and crunched underfoot, frozen under a thin carpet of snow. There are periodic placards along the trail with notices and QR codes regarding the history of the area. The Huston Trail is named for William Huston and his family, the historical landowners. Huston was a forester working for the King of England’s mast agent for Maine, and white pines were harvested for Royal Navy masts here, hence the name of Mast Road, as well.

View of White Mountains from Presidential Trail, Suckfish Brook Conservation Area, Falmouth, ME

The Huston Trail turned right along a low stone wall and intersected with the yellow-blazed Stone Ridge Trail near a monument in the memory of William Huston and family next to a No Trespassing sign. This part of the trail was closed at the request of the landowner. A hand-printed sign and yellow diamonds on the trees denoted the “new yellow” section, along with small orange flags on the right margin of the trail. This new section switches back and forth across a low hill, crossing a wide gas pipeline corridor and then a power line corridor. On the east side of the corridor, the trail re-enters the woods, running concurrently downhill with a snowmobile trail through a long, wide tunnel of birches. This rolls across a series of brooks, before skirting the edge of the Christmas tree farm. A sign that is on the other side of the farm advises the property is actively hunted from October 15th to December 1st, and that during that time, visitors should only walk between 10 am and 2 pm.

Beaver Trail, Suckfish Brook Conservation Area, Falmouth, ME

The trail turns into a path through the farm, climbing the hillside with views to the west of the White Mountains, with the snowy cap of Mount Washington clearly visible. Here were the only icy parts of the hike, as rain and melt had frozen in the ruts of the road, creating a slick track. At the top of the hill, there was finally a trail sign denoting the Presidential Trail, and I started downhill on the road. Shortly before the base of the hill, I found a fallen sign for the Red Tail Trail and followed it to the left, curving around the edge of the farm and back to the Presidential Trail. Every now and again, the wind picked up the pleasant scent of the small pines being cultivated. The trail, marked with orange diamonds, eventually pops back into the forest, crossing a small brook, and then moves back across the power lines, through a small tree line, and to the gas line corridor, following this wide gap briefly before turning left through a small break in the stone wall. A sign announced the return to the Suckfish Brook Conservation Area, and I turned left onto the Huston Trail to the small Beaver Trail spur, which is across the marshy pond from the beaver dam and the parking area. From here, it was a short walk around the edge of the pond to my starting point. The trailhead parking, empty when I arrived, was full when I returned.

Suckfish Brook Conservation Area, Falmouth, ME

Cooley Preserve at Center Pond (Phippsburg, ME)

Tree overlooking Center Pond, Cooley Preserve at Center Pond, Phippsburg, ME

Cooley Preserve at Center Pond, also known as Center Pond Preserve, is located in Phippsburg and maintained by the Phippsburg Land Trust. Cooley Preserve, known for its bird habitat and wildflowers, contains 253 acres of woods, ledges, a beaver pond turned into a marsh, and the shoreline of Center Pond. A friend and I explored the trails on a cold but sunny late November day. The trailhead off Parker House Road is just south of a narrow neck between Center Pond and the Kennebec River, directly across the river from Squirrel Point light. The parking area has a sign-in notebook, with space for trail brochures (none when we visited), and a sign lists access to McKay Farm Preserve via the South Perimeter Trail. Online, the brochure notes that the Preserve is named for Mrs. Eleanor Cooley, from whom Phippsburg Land Trust acquired this, its first property, in 1995.

Trail map at Cooley Center Pond Preserve, Phippsburg, ME

Atop the trail guide box was a laminated version of the only map of the Preserve’s trails that I’ve seen, which is incomplete (no link to McKay Farm can be found off the South Perimeter Trail, and other new trails are not listed), and not aligned with north at the top like a traditional map. A sign encouraged hikers to wear blaze orange, which we took to heart on this late November day, the last day of deer hunting season. We navigated using the guide box map, as well as the AllTrails application and dead reckoning. Combining the Drummond Loop, Andy’s Way (signed, but not on the map), Schoolhouse Trail, Elbow Hill Trail, Perimeter Trail South, and Perimeter Trail North, we cobbled together a loop around the perimeter of the Preserve totaling about 5.5 miles.

AllTrails map of route taken through Center Pond Preserve, Phippsburg, ME

This easy hike took us a little over two hours, with plenty of time to stop and enjoy the various viewpoints. Near the trailhead, there are petroglyphs, or rock carvings, which you can find for yourself by following purple blazes or read about on Phippsburg Land Trust’s site (we are more aligned with a Leave No Trace philosophy, and these definitely aren’t our thing). The Drummond Loop led uphill from the parking area, then downhill to a left turn to pick up the loop. Shortly thereafter, we encountered a new sign for Andy’s Way, a blazed trail leading southeast, and followed this path over mixed forest, past tall ledges, until it reached the Schoolhouse Trail. There were vestiges of the farmland this used to be, with stone walls, and old barbed wire growing slowly back into the landscape.

View from Elbow Hill, Cooley Center Pond Preserve, Phippsburg, ME

We turned left again on the Schoolhouse Trail, and eventually crossed Elbow Hill Road, up to the small loop overlooking Mill Pond and the Kennebec, a height of land which was anonymously donated to Phippsburg Land Trust in 2009. We then doubled back down the Schoolhouse Trail, a wide, mossy former woods road, until reaching the Perimeter Trail South, where we turned left, headed toward the southern end of the Preserve. The link to the McKay Farm Preserve trails are at this southern end, but we bypassed this trail, not having any map or sense of their direction. A map on the Phippsburg Land Trust site lists the distance of the McKay Farm Preserve Trail as 4.8 miles round-trip from the Cooley parking lot, and currently only accessible through Cooley Center Pond Preserve.

Center Pond, Cooley Center Pond Preserve, Phippsburg, ME

The Perimeter Trail South continues north through a low-lying swampy area, coalescing into a wider stream bounding the west side of the Preserve, as it leads toward Center Pond. Along this stretch, the forest was surprisingly green for late November, with many ferns and other flora maintaining their verdant colors. On the broad, shallow pond, we saw common eider ducks making slow black-and-white turns on the icy water, with the wave movements making tinkling sounds of the ice collecting near the shoreline.

Beaver Pond, Cooley Center Pond Preserve, Phippsburg, ME

We briefly picked up the Drummond Trail, which encircles the beaver pond, then doubled back onto the Perimeter Trail North, which led to a small point of land facing south onto Center Pond. As the trail followed the shoreline, it began to climb the ledges at the northern end of the pond, with some steep climbing. Then we moved inland, through a series of high ledges, back to the Drummond Trail, and the parking area. We did not encounter anyone else on the trails, and while visible houses and road noise sometimes punctuated the hike, there were long stretches in which one would have no idea that they were that close to civilization.

Ledges, Cooley Center Pond Preserve, Phippsburg, ME

Pineland Public Reserved Lands

North Loop, Pineland Public Reserved Lands, New Gloucester, ME

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.

Fall colors on North Loop, Pineland Public Reserved Lands, New Gloucester, ME

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.

Royal River rail bridge, North Loop, Pineland Public Reserved Lands, New Gloucester, ME

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.

North Loop, Pineland Public Reserved Lands, New Gloucester, ME

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.

Fall colors on South Loop, Pineland Public Reserved Lands, New Gloucester, ME

Orono Bog Boardwalk

Orono Bog Boardwalk, Orono, ME

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.

Orono Bog Boardwalk, Orono, ME

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.

Pitcher plants, Orono Bog Boardwalk, Orono, ME

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.

Fall colors at Orono Bog Boardwalk, Orono, ME

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.

Orono Bog Boardwalk, Orono, ME

Barrell Ridge

View of North Traveler from Barrell Ridge Trail, Baxter State Park, ME

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.

View northwest from ledges on Middle Fowler Pond Trail, Baxter State Park, ME

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.

Barrell Ridge rock face from Middle Fowler Pond Trail, Baxter State Park, ME

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.

Sharp, rugged rhyolite on Barrell Ridge Trail, Baxter State Park, ME

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.

Views from Barrell Ridge, Baxter State Park, ME

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Machias River Preserve

Railroad Trestle Bridge, Machias River Preserve, ME

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.

Abandoned car on Money Island Trail, Machias River Preserve, Whitneyville, ME

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.

Waterfall on Money Island Trail, Machias River Preserve, ME

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.

Homestead Trail, Machias River Preserve, ME

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.

Marsh along Hemlock Trail, Machias River Preserve, ME

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.

Natural gateway along Hemlock Trail, Machias River Preserve, ME

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.

Money Island on Machias River, Machias River Preserve, ME

Blueberry Ledges

Morning light, Abol Stream Trail, Baxter State Park, ME

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.

Mount Katahdin from Abol Stream Trail, Baxter State Park, ME

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.

Appalachian Trail northbound near Abol Pond Trail, Baxter State Park, ME

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.

Waterfall on Katahdin Stream south of Blueberry Ledges, Baxter State Park, ME

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.

Ledges off Appalachian Trail south of Blueberry Ledges, Baxter State Park, ME
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Schiller Coastal Studies Center Trails (Harpswell)

Spruce Fir-Forest Trail, Bowdoin’s Schiller Coastal Studies Center, Harpswell, ME

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).

Harpswell Sound by Dipper Path, Bowdoin’s Schiller Coastal Studies Center, Harpswell, ME

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.

Terminus of Pine Needle Path, Bowdoin’s Schiller Coastal Studies Center, Harpswell, ME

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.

Late afternoon light, Brewer Cove Trail, Bowdoin’s Schiller Coastal Studies Center, Harpswell, ME
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Winnick Woods Long Loop

Winnick Woods, Cape Elizabeth, ME

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.

Stagnant pond, Winnick Woods, Cape Elizabeth, ME

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.

Single-track through junipers on Winnick Woods Long Loop, Cape Elizabeth, ME

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.

Winnick Woods Long Loop, Cape Elizabeth, ME

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.

Winnick Woods Long Loop, Cape Elizabeth, ME

Stroudwater Trail

Stroudwater River, Stroudwater Trail, Portland, ME

Stroudwater Trail, part of Portland Trails’ extensive network, is a 3.3 mile one-way (6.6 mile out-and-back) path beginning at Rivers’ Edge Drive, off outer Congress Street, that primarily follows the slow, muddy, meandering Stroudwater River where Portland meets Westbrook, crosses Spring Street, and ends at Smiling Hill Farm. This trail is popular with trail runners and dog walkers. The full trail (see Portland Trails’ page) is unavailable from November 1 to April 1, as the area west from Portland’s Blueberry Road to Westbrook’s Cardinal Street is closed in the winter as a deeryard to provide a winter habitat for these animals.

Stroudwater Trail, Portland, ME

Stroudwater Trail is an island of green in a fairly developed area of Maine, and the sounds and smells of industry and transit permeate much of the walk. The trail crosses underneath I-95, and is flown over by Jetport air traffic, but still maintains intervals of peace and quiet. On a late June day, we saw a U.S. Marine Corps Osprey vertical takeoff/landing plane doing test flights overhead.

USMC Osprey flying over Stroudwater Trail, Portland, ME

The Rivers’ Edge Drive lot is very small, and parking in the surrounding neighborhood is unauthorized. Parking abounds on Hutchins Drive, but so do shifty characters waiting in idling cars, as this remote Portland spot is apparently a place frequented by men seeking brief, anonymous interludes with other men. Thankfully, this pursuit is likely harmless to other hikers and walkers. The trail itself is relatively easy and shaded, with switchbacks, stairs, and hills in spots, traveling through varied forest terrain, boardwalk bridges, and the grassy open areas created by power lines.

Stroudwater Trail, Portland, ME

A sign along the river marks the future location of a pedestrian bridge across the Stroudwater. Birds and seasonal wildflowers abound, particularly by the banks of the river. Unfortunately, insects also flourish in the late spring, so wear appropriate clothing or repellent. While Stroudwater Trail is not sufficiently remote to separate oneself from the bustle of modern life, for those working nearby or stranded at the Jetport, this easy trail presents a good way to get outside for a lunch break or a flight delay.

Stroudwater Trail, Portland, ME