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Journey through nature

To hike Holly's 'go to' trails, follow the blue blazes

Here are a few of her favorite family-friendly outdoor treks in Knox, Waldo and Lincoln counties
By Holly Vanorse Spicer | May 18, 2020
Photo by: Holly Vanorse Spicer Gibson Preserve in Searsmont.

Maine is the most forested state in the country, totaling 89 percent of coverage. Bearing that statistic, it is no surprise one of the top five outdoor activities in the Pine Tree State is to hike.

Now the fourth most popular outdoor activity in the United States — following running, biking and fishing — hiking has seen a resurgence in many states, including Maine, during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

At the encouragement of Governor Janet Mills, Mainers have looked for ways to get outside, and stay active. Everyone from new hikers, families looking to get outdoors, and moving, to experienced hikers, who have extra time to do what they enjoy most, are taking to the trails across the state.

The Midcoast, especially Waldo, Knox and Lincoln counties, certainly is not without an abundance of trails of varying difficulties, elevation gains, and views.

From sweeping mountainscapes, to brilliant blue ocean views, the tri-county area has plenty to offer.

Most trails are connected to the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, land conservancy groups, land trusts, and trusts. However, some towns within the state do own, and maintain properties with trails.

Trusts and conservancies that span multiple counties are Coastal Mountain Land Trust, and the Georges River Land Trust in Knox and Waldo counties. The Maine Coast Heritage Trust in Knox and Lincoln counties, and Midcoast Conservancy in Lincoln and Waldo counties.

The Belfast Bay Watershed, and Waldo County Trails Coalition, are exclusively Waldo County trails. The Medomak Valley Land Trust is mostly in Lincoln County, but does maintain some preserves and trails in Knox County.

Know before you go

What one should make sure to pack, depends on how far one plans to trek. The shorter treks of under two miles, most hikers will want to carry a bottle of water, especially as the weather warms.

Longer hikes, one should bring a pack with water, small snacks, such as granola bars, cereal bars, or energy chews, sunblock, and bug spray.

It always is a good idea, regardless of how long one plans to be on the trail, to have a first-aid kit easily accessible.

Wear comfortable footwear, with a good shoe or boot tread. Make sure to tuck pant legs into boots, or socks to help protect against ticks. Spray footwear, socks, pants, and clothing openings with a bug spray that is made to protect not just against mosquitoes, black flies, etc, but ticks as well.

After the hike is finished, it is a good idea to check thoroughly for ticks, as well as brown-tail moth caterpillars. Some of the trails have nests in them, so exercise caution.

Before one goes, make sure to know the route. Most hiking trail maps can be accessed through websites of the land trusts, or trusts that tend to them, or the state park if it is one of its trail. Kiosks at trail heads typically display the trail options as well.

Ask around about the trail. When is the best time frame to head for a hike? The shorter trails, when they get busy, congest in places, especially when there is a spot from the trail with a view. The longer trails, people are more able to spread out, and sometimes, despite a lot of cars in the lot, a hiker, or group of hikers, may not see others during their trek.

Check the weather. Make sure to carry weather gear you may need in the instance of a possible rain shower, or if one plans to start the hike on an overcast day, and the sun is expected to shine.

The trails

While there are many trails in the area, most well known, here is a quick snapshot of some of the more lesser traveled. The list includes trails in Lincoln, Knox, and Waldo counties:

The Waldoboro Town Forest. Located at the intersection of Atlantic Highway/U.S. Route 1, and West Main Street in Waldoboro, the Town Forest trail has only been open for use three years. The trail offers hikers wide, well-groomed trails. Wet areas are passable via plank bridges. The Town Forest is a family-friendly hike, with the tread being minimal, so that even the young ones can easily make the trek.

Parking for the trail is located at the commuter parking lot at the intersection. The trail head is well-marked with a sign, and trail kiosk.

Erickson Fields Preserve. Located in Rockport, off of West Street/Route 90. It was not that long ago that one could see Belted Galloway cattle roam these fields as a person zipped by on their way to work, or school. Now preserved, thanks to Midcoast Heritage Trust and Maine Farmland Trust, the land has trails that can lead a hiker from Route 90 to Beech Hill Road.

Erickson Fields trails offer two distances, a shorter, 1.3-mile loop, or the longer loop that takes one towards Beech Hill Road. The trails are wide, well-groomed with crushed stone and gravel, which make it a wonderful trail for the family, little ones, and to take a pet on an easy walk. There also are hand-painted plaques of various bird types found on the preserve, paired with its common, and scientific names.

Ash Point Preserve. Located in Owls Head, offers a straight-to-water path, or two looping paths that total just under 1.5 miles of hiking. The path is a little tricky for children in areas, with roots, and large rocks. However, for adults, and older children, the trails are moderately easy. Views of the harbor can be seen from parts of the trails.

The main trail offers a quick hike to the rocky coast of Owls Head. A little bit of a climb, and the large, flat top rocks are a perfect spot for a lunch on the water.

Thomaston Town Forest. Part of the Georges Highland Path with the Georges River Land Trust, the Thomaston Town Forest is a moderately-easy hiking path with a few different access points. The first being at the water tower in Thomaston on Main Street/Route 1. The second is located at the end of Booker Street, adjacent to the Thomaston Pollution Control Department building. The third is at the end of the Jack Baker Woods trail, whose trailhead is located off Beechwood Street in Thomaston.

Which means, the town forest can give a hiker a reasonable amount of miles in a trek, depending which loops they wanted to take, and how ambitious they feel.

There is a slight elevation gain, several small water crossings, and the mid-section of the trail can be tricky for smaller children to navigate due to roots, rocks, and minor valleys to traverse. For a family looking to hike, the best option would be to start at Jack Baker Woods.

Also located in the area is the The Oyster River Bog trail. The trail runs just over six miles from Thomaston to Warren. Parking is off Beechwood Street, the same lot as Jack Baker. However, hikers need to cross Beechwood, taking Hannon Road to the end, turning left, and following Dunbar Road to the end. The trail head for the Oyster River Bog trail is located part way down the multi-use, broad path behind the gate.

Gibson Preserve. Located in Searsmont, on Woodmans Mill Road. Easiest access is to take West Appleton Road to the end, and the trail head and parking are almost immediately to the right on Woodmans Mill Road. The preserve and trails are a part of, and maintained by the Georges Valley River Land Trust.

Gibson's trails are tree dense, and the trails are well-groomed, but narrow, making it better for a family hike if the children are more foot sure. Two looping trails take hikers along St. George River, which offers scenic views, and access to the river in some trail locations. The trails total roughly four miles of hiking.

Stover Preserve. Located in Belfast, with the parking lot and trail head just off of Doak Road. Part of the Coastal Mountain Land Trust, Stover’s trail offers views of the Passagassawaskeag River, and a short, relatively easy hike. Just under a mile total, the trail is well-groomed, somewhat densely treed, offers shade and coolness on a warm hiking day. Various spots allow hikers to pop out onto the bank for views of the river.

Head of Tide Preserve. Located in Belfast, its parking lot is across from Stover’s. Also a part of CMLT, Head of Tide is a larger preserve, which offers two looping trails. Separately, each is about a mile long. Together, a hiker can get an easy two-mile trek. As with Stover, Head of Tide offers views of the "Passy." The trails take hikers through forested areas, and across a field.

Stover Preserve, and Head of Tide Preserve, are a part of what is called the Passagassawaskeag Greenway.

For more information on trails, visit Travel Midcoast at travelmidcoast.com/getoutside/ for listings, and direct sits of land trusts, trusts, conservancies, and other area trail maps, and pages.

Following the blue blazes through Jack Baker Wood in Thomaston, part of the Georges Highland Path with Georges River Land Trust. (Photo by: Holly Vanorse Spicer)
Through the Georges Valley River Trust, the Thomaston Town Forest offers moderate hiking, and scenic views. (Photo by: Holly Vanorse Spicer)
Oyster River Bog, spans from Beechwood Street in Thomaston, to Route 90 in Warren. (Photo by: Holly Vanorse Spicer)
The Waldoboro Town Forest opened for use in 2017. (Photo by: Holly Vanorse Spicer)
Waldoboro Town Forest has wide, well-groomed trails, a great hiking exploration for all ages. (Photo by: Holly Vanorse Spicer)
Easy trail hiking, few roots to snag up your way, makes for an easy family adventure in the Waldoboro Town Forest. (Photo by: Holly Vanorse Spicer)
Entering the forest at the Gibson Preserve trail head in Searsmont. (Photo by: Holly Vanorse Spicer)
Gibson Preserve in Searsmont borders private properties, and marked trail signs help keep hikers on the path. (Photo by: Holly Vanorse Spicer)
Lush greens line the more narrow hiking path at the Gibson Preserve in Searsmont. (Photo by: Holly Vanorse Spicer)
The perfect spot for a picnic. The Pool trail at Gibson Preserve in Searsmont. (Photo by: Holly Vanorse Spicer)
Quick and easy is the hiking at Erickson Field Preserve in Rockport. (Photo by: Holly Vanorse Spicer)
Clearly marked with signs, hikers can chose a short loop, or a longer trek to Beech Hill at the Erickson Fields Preserve in Rockport. (Photo by: Holly Vanorse Spicer)
Wide, groomed trails make hiking at Erickson Fields Preserve in Rockport great for all ages. (Photo by: Holly Vanorse Spicer)
A place for pets, the Erickson Fields Preserve in Rockport welcomes leashed dogs. (Photo by: Holly Vanorse Spicer)
The lead hiking trail at Ash Point Preserve in Owls Head. (Photo by: Holly Vanorse Spicer)
A peak of the harbor from the trail at Ash Point Preserve in Owls Head. (Photo by: Holly Vanorse Spicer)
Access to a rocky harbor offers a resting spot with a view from the trails at Ash Point Preserve in Owls Head. (Photo by: Holly Vanorse Spicer)
The trails at Ash Point Preserve in Owls Head offer a quick hike to water views or looping trails for a longer distance. (Photo by: Holly Vanorse Spicer)
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