An adventure does not need to be complicated. With the call of Maine’s natural beauty, summer is the perfect time for an adventure, and a family hike is a great Maine adventure.
Thorncrag Nature Sanctuary is 372 acres of walking trails and wilderness that is free and open to the public daily from dawn to dusk. Trail maps and brochures detailing the rich history of Thorncrag can be found at the kiosks located at the trailheads. Information is also available at www.stantonbirdclub.org.
According to Susan Hayward, chairperson of The Education Committee for the Stanton Bird Club, Thorncrag began as a 45-acre donation in 1921 and through additional donations and the careful stewardship of the SBC it has grown to include a trail system that meanders past antique stone fireplaces, ponds and stone walls, and a gazebo where volunteers interact with families one Sunday each month, providing educational opportunities. The subject on June 3 will be “Birds of Thorncrag.”
Ray Frechette, of Lewiston, visits Thorncrag every day, often with his wife, Lisa, but also with friends. During his hikes, he sees families, groups, individuals and, he said, “Sometimes, we don’t see anyone.” Frechette’s favorite spots include the Trafton Pinacle marking the highest point in Lewiston and the Landry Memorial Bench with its view of Mount Washington.
Bruce Damon, who serves on the board of directors for the SBC, recommends a walk in the Woodbury Sanctuary in Monmouth, referring to it as the hidden gem of central Maine. He said, "It is a very different sanctuary, with lowlands and wet areas, as well as views.”
On May 25, Hayward will join Margi Huber, outreach coordinator for the Androscoggin Land Trust, for a walk on the Garcelon Bog Boardwalk, near Farwell School. Families are welcome to join Huber and Hayward on this educational adventure.
According to its website, the ALT presently conserves “approximately 4,850 acres of land, including over ten miles of riverfront along the Androscoggin River.”
In addition to Thorncrag and the popular “Riverwalk,” Huber suggests a visit to the 28-acre Sherwood Forest near Sherwood Heights School. “It has a great system of walking trails that are all well marked.”
Information and trail maps can found at www.androscogginlandtrust.org and www.LATrails.org, and can be purchased for a small fee at the ALT office, 86 Main Street in Auburn and at The Chamber, 415 Lisbon Street in Lewiston.
One half hour south of Lewiston, Bradbury Mountain is the perfect destination for a gentle day hike that will bring you to a magnificent summit affording an easterly view toward the ocean. With a variety of trails leading to the summit, none of which are longer than 1.5 miles and range in difficulty from gradual to steep, there is something for every family.
Although there is a small fee for admission to Bradbury Mountain State Park, there are other amenities that make this a great place for families including restrooms, drinking water, and picnic areas. Dogs are welcome, according to the website, but must be kept “on a leash, under restraint, and cleaned up after.” Visit www.bradburymountain.com for more information.
To the northwest of Lewiston, near the South Paris-Buckfield town line, is the trailhead for Streaked Mountain. Although the trail to the summit is relatively short (less than a mile) the elevation gain is steady, making this hike a comfortable challenge for the whole family, including the kids and dogs. As you approach the summit you cross rock faces offering lovely views of the countryside. Upon reaching the summit, you are rewarded with mountain views, including Shawnee Peak and Mount Washington.
Finding the trailhead for Streaked Mountain is perhaps the most challenging part of this hike. Take Route 117 out of South Paris for about 4.5 miles. Turn right onto Streaked Mountain Road and look for the place where a small stream crosses underneath the road. The trail leaves from the left side of the road, to the right of the stream.
For those interested in a longer day hike, Pleasant Mountain takes a little more time but is well worth the trip. Traveling west out of Bridgton, turn left onto the access road for Shawnee Peak ski area. Continue past the ski area until you see an unpaved parking lot on your left. The trailhead is just across the street from the parking area.
The trail leaves the road and ascends gently through forests and over streams. Although the hiking is relatively easy, after about a mile there are some steep spots and switchbacks that eventually bring you to a series of open ledges with dramatic views of several ponds. Though you may be temped to lunch on the ledges, don’t! Once you arrive at the summit, you will be glad that you waited. About 2.4 miles after leaving the parking lot, you arrive at a somewhat open, but protected, summit with stellar views of the White Mountains. Be sure to pack enough water for the whole family because, as with Streaked Mountain, there is no drinkable water on Pleasant Mountain.
There are a few things to remember before you embark on your next family adventure in the Maine woods: Stay on marked trails, take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints, and enjoy making family memories that will last a lifetime.