L/A Walking Trails

Seasonal Escapes May 2005

Trails take turn for the better
Not only are Lewiston and Auburn adding walking areas, plans are under way for some extensions and improvements.

Now that spring is finally here, aren’t you anxious to get outside to enjoy a little fresh air? There is a walking trail near you. Whether for fun or fitness, greenspace opportunities can be found all over the Twin Cities, as well as in other area towns.

I had a wonderful time discovering old and new trails while researching this article. I was amazed at how many hidden spots or lesser-known walks we found.

In Lewiston, my favorite find is the Riverside Trail, which begins in Sunnyside Park, a little south of the Veterans Bridge. This wide and well-traveled path follows the Androscoggin River; you don’t have to peek between the trees to see the water. It’s closer to the water than the trail along the Androscoggin in Brunswick. This trail isn’t as wide and isn’t paved. It’s about 6 miles for a round trip.

The trail head is just inside Sunnyside Park, looping to the left, then toward the river. Here you can climb a side trail to a lookout for your first view of the river and Veterans Bridge. Back on the trail, follow the short path to a stone path uphill to the cemetery. Follow River Drive/Riverside Street or Place? along the water. When you see the birches in the bend, note the orphan gravestones to the right and then look for the side trail behind a row of rocks.

We followed the sound of rushing water. This leads to a short walk to a small falls and the Bartlett Brook crossing, a bit tricky with all the rain we had. If you have on sport sandals, you can wade right through. Or jump the rocks as we did. The trail beyond the crossing is simply spectacular. You will have a hard time remembering that this trail is in a city. Can you spot the split glacier rock? Check out all the outcroppings for close-up river views and perhaps a rock to sit a spell. The trail continues to the apartment area. If you choose not to jump the rocks of the crossing, you can take the trail back from the apartment area. The only part of the trail that appears littered is directly behind the buildings, so please do not let the trash deter you from taking the trail. The rest really is worth the trip.

According to L/A Trails President Mike Lecompte, the Maine Department of Transportation has provided matching funds for securing the right of way and easements, and for preliminary design. I, for one, would love to eventually see a little bridge over that brook crossing to make the path more accessible.

Getting there: Sunnyside Park is in Lewiston. Take Main Street north; turn left on Whipple Street. Drive to the end, then park along the road.

An Auburn discovery

My favorite Auburn discovery has been the Pettengill Woods Trail behind Ingersoll Arena in Pettengill Park. This is listed as a 1K walking and biking trail marked with light blue blazes. You can park in front of the ice arena, the trail head is to the right and behind the building. Do not be deterred by the condition of the first bridge, which is slanted due to erosion, but is stable.

This immediate area also could use some cleaning, but the rest of the trail is clean, albeit a moderate trail with several steep uphill climbs without handholds. Wonderful wooden bridges take you through varied forestland with hardwoods, conifers, wetlands and streams.

The trail forms a loop; when you get to the crossroad, we took the right turn since it looks like the road more traveled. As it turns out, a left turn here just takes you on the loop in the opposite direction. The trail curves to the left, then takes a steep downhill, the first of many up and downs. Ferns are everywhere, still neatly curled, but they will soon be lush and green. We spotted red trillium blooming.

The blazes are easy to follow. There are a few lesser trails that cross the path. When you reach an unmarked trail that goes straight, and the blaze is to the left, turn left. We did follow the straight trail also, but it leads to private property. Some of the downhills we found to be slippery, because of recent rainy weather. It’s a very pleasant walk. This trail measured 1.16 miles on my pedometer.

Notes: I used my pedometer to measure trails when I couldn’t find a distance listed, but this is not scientifically correct, so please use these as an approximation.

Weather conditions have left many trails still boggy, mucky and wet; wear proper footgear and try to minimize erosion by staying as much on the trail as possible. And after a walk, do check for ticks carefully.

Maps: The L/A Trails’ Web site (www.latrails.org.) provides overall city maps. The group plans to do work on trail maps and on recording distances for area trails over the summer. There is a printed map of the Mount Apatite Area available at the Auburn Parks and Recreation, which is located at Pettengill Park. Thorncrag Bird Sanctuary has maps available at the information kiosks at both of its entrances off Montello Street and East Avenue in Lewiston.

Edith Churchill is a freelance writer living in Auburn who frequently takes day trips with her family.

L-A walking trails to try

Some of these trails are incomplete or being worked on. All of the trails are at least partially available to go walking. Enjoy. And if you have the time to help maintain or improve your favorite, volunteers are always welcome; simply contact L/A Trails President Mike Lecompte at (207) 777-3724. There are many unofficial trails in the area as well, so if you have a path near you, get out and take a walk!

Auburn Land Lab Trails and Holly Cooney Wellness Circuit, in Auburn. Walking, running and snowshoeing are allowed. There is a kiosk at the trail head with a map showing the trails. These trails extend out to the basin for a walk through woods and along the lakeside. For more information, contact the Auburn Land Lab at (207) 783-4593. Getting there: The Auburn Land Lab is on Holbrook Road, which is the first right turn on North Auburn Road after the intersection with Lake Shore Drive. Total distance is approximately 1 mile.

Barker Mill Loop, in Auburn. This is a rough trail that isn’t easy to find, but its future potential is wonderful. This trail is listed on the Healthy Maine Walks’ Web site. The trail runs right along the Little Androscoggin between the lower and the upper dams. On our recent visit, we could not take the trail in its entirety, due to standing water in the middle. We tried both sides and really enjoyed the views. Getting there: From South Main Street in Auburn, turn on Mill Street toward Barker Mill Arms. Park in the lot at the senior housing area, then walk to the sidewalk, up Mill Street to the service road for the dam. Take an immediate left, you will be walking parallel to Mill Street but downhill from the road. The gravel road will take you past the lower dam, continue along the trail, which becomes grassy. The trail will follow the Little Androscoggin for about a mile, you can turn and come back along the trail or loop back on Mill Street, as there is a path that will lead you up to an old parking area. You can see the upper dam from the trail, but we were not able to find the trail until we found the old parking area along Mill Street. Total distance is 2 miles.

Central Maine Community College, in Auburn. The trail is grassy, then tree-lined along Lake Auburn, with nice breezes in the summertime. It has one wooden bridge. Note the split rock. Loop back to the parking lot. Getting there: follow the college drive to the right, parking is to the rear. Total distance is half a mile.

Elf Woods Trail, in Auburn. This is also known as the Snake Trail, due to the curving trail. This partly paved trail connects the Edward Little High School to the downtown area at the intersection of Minot Avenue and Elm Street.

Four Seasons Trail, in Auburn. This trail was the idea of students and coaches for the Edward Little High School cross-county running and ski teams. It is hoped that it will connect to the Taylor Pond and Lake Auburn watersheds at some time. See Middle School Trails. Distance is 15 miles on paper.

Franklin Pastures, in Lewiston. Located at Lewiston High School. There should be a groundbreaking on the trail work at any time. Improvements are expected to be complete by the end of the summer. This trail will connect from the trail head in Marcotte Park behind the Colisee, wind behind the high school, continue to Longley Elementary School and then go down through a field to end on Bartlett Street.

Lake Auburn Loop, in Auburn. This roadside trail follows a loop beginning at the Home Depot, turning right onto Mount Auburn Avenue. It then goes to Summer Street, West Auburn Road, Spring Road, Lake Shore Drive to Route 4, then to Turner Street and back to Mount Auburn Avenue. Distance is approximately 13 miles.

Lost Valley Trails, in Auburn. Follow cross-country ski and snowshoe trails to the area behind the apple orchards on Apple Ridge Road. Fees are charged.

Middle School Trails, Auburn. There is a network of trails behind the Auburn Middle School. The trails extend onto several properties along Taylor Brook. These trails are expected to be extended to become the Four Seasons Trail, inspired by the cross-country running and ski teams at Edward Little High School, who use these trails for their conditioning. The current trail end is on Sunset Avenue off Lake Street.

Mount Apatite Park, Auburn. Blue blazes mark the multipurpose trail that loops the park. Hiking, biking, snowshoeing and skiing are allowed on the trails, but no motorized vehicles. Getting there: From Minot Avenue in Auburn, heading west, turn tight on Garfield Road. The park is behind the Maine Army National Guard gate, with parking is available on the road. Try not to be intimidated by the signage, which is meant to deter motorized use of the trails. Trail work with the Maine Conservation Corps is planned in August; contact Doug Beck at Auburn Parks and Recreation or Mike Lecompte to volunteer. Improvements include trail stability and exploring the possibility of reorienting the park. For more information, including a printed map, contact the Auburn Recreation and Parks Department at 784-0191. Distance is 5K or 3.1 miles.

Pettengill Park, Auburn. The trail begins directly behind the parking area at Ingersoll arena. This trail follows along the Barron Brook, then crosses behind the ball field and up the stairs to the Union Street Gully.

Railroad Park, Lewiston. A fitness trail follows the edge of the park, then crosses the pedestrian bridge, the former railroad bridge, into Auburn. The Auburn side is Bonney Park where the paved trail continues on Auburn’s Riverwalk. Perimeter is about 1 mile.

Riverwalk Trail, or the Great Falls Loop, Auburn and Lewiston. The paved trails begin in downtown Auburn, including West Pitch Park, Railroad Park and the trails along and across the Androscoggin River in Auburn and Lewiston.

Sherwood Heights Nature Area Trails, Auburn. The main trail head is located behind the school to the left rear, beside the ball field. A sign at that entrance shows a map of trails. The second, recent entrance is located off 19th Street. Three blazed trails take you through forest, field and over wetlands. There are three bridges and a boardwalk. Watch for the apple trees soon to be in bloom. The blue trail is currently unmeasured. The red and white trails total 1.3 miles.

Spring Road Nature Trails, Auburn. This is a discontinued road that does not allow any motorized vehicles. The trail follows the northwest side of Lake Auburn. There is limited parking at the trail head, but more parking is available across the street at the Auburn Land Lab. Located off North Auburn Road. About 2.5 miles one way or 5 miles total.

Thorncrag Bird Sanctuary, Lewiston. The Stanton Bird Club owns and manages three sanctuaries. In addition to Thorncrag, the club also has Woodbury in Monmouth and Applesass Hill in Lewiston. All have trails, which are open to the public. Thorncrag is undergoing construction for a nature center and parking lot at the main gate on Montello Street. The club is requesting that visitors use the white blaze trails on either side of the main gate or use the East Avenue entrance. Trail maps of Thorncrag are available at the gate kiosks. For more information, call Susan Hayward at (207) 782-5238 or check www.stantonbirdclub.org. The total distance of the trails is 5 miles.

West Pitch Park, Auburn. This partially paved path curves north of the Memorial Bridge to the Great Falls. You will see the historic Knight House. There are several benches along the way. The trail is paved to the lookout point where you can see a view of about 175 degrees and five waterfalls. A gravel path continues to the railroad track and a path continues on the other side. We turned here to loop back to the parking area. Total distance is half a mile.

Thanks to Peter Bushway, director of Auburn Parks and Recreation, and to Mike Lecompte, L/A Trails president, who provided information for this article.

Upcoming walking-trail events

June 4-5: Third annual L/A Wellness Weekend. Saturday events involve biking and start at the Auburn Land Lab. Sunday events take place in downtown Auburn, from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. This includes a Get Fit and Win Walk sponsored by Healthy Androscoggin, www.healthyandroscoggin.org; L/A Trails, www.latrails.org; and the YMCA, www.ALYMCA.com

June 18: Trail Day, the local celebration of National Trail Day will include working on the Four Seasons Trail. Volunteers are needed. To register, people can call Mike Lecompte, L/A Trails president at (207) 777-3734.

Aug. 20: Trail Day to work at Pettengill Park in Auburn.

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