|Luna the dog reaches the top of Bald Pate
Mountain during a recent spring hike with
her family. PHOTO BY BRIANA BIZER
With its longer days and warmer temperatures, spring is the perfect time to get
outside and enjoy some of the Lake Region’s hidden treasures. What’s more, a
few of the trails waiting just outside your front door hold seasonal surprises
you can only find during this time of year.
The Pismire Bluff trail is a short and sweet
mile-long, out-and-back trail leading to the top of a rocky cliff face which overlooks
Crescent Lake. There are some steep sections on this clearly marked trail, but
I promise the view is worth the effort!
Pismire Bluff is one of four trails in the Raymond Community Forest. While the Spiller Homestead Loop, Highlands Loop, and Grape Expectations trails don’t offer the same spectacular views, they do showcase another hidden springtime treasure: vernal pools, those small, seasonal wetlands that bring a symphony of frogs to our woods.
The yellow-blazed Grape Expectations trail in the Raymond Community Forest leads past a large wetland that is sure to be humming with amphibian life. It’s also sure to be humming with what those amphibians are eating, mosquitoes and black flies, so you’ll want to add bug spray to your list of what to pack for a spring hike.
If you’re chasing postcard-worthy views before the leaves fill in, you’ll also want to explore Bald Pate Mountain in Bridgton. Also operated by Loon Echo Land Trust, Bald Pate Mountain offers almost seven miles of hiking trails and a dizzying array of mountain views.
The most straightforward route to the 1,150-foot Bald
Pate Mountain summit is the blue-blazed Bob Chase Trail, which begins in the
parking area off of Route 107. This trail is less than a mile, and the full
loop takes hikers from a peaceful grove of birch and beech trees to windswept
stands of pitch pine and exposed granite on the mountain’s summit.
The red-blazed Foster Pond Lookout Trail branches
off from the Bob Chase Trail for another lovely vista, while the orange-blazed
South Face Loop Trail gives hikers the full mountain climbing experience. Loon
Echo Land Trust’s website, lelt.org, offers maps and trail descriptions for
both Raymond Community Forest and Bald Pate Mountain.
Finally, these lovely spring days also give us a chance to catch a glimpse of migrating animals. Yes, many species of birds are back from their summer homes in Florida or the Carolinas, but did you know that fish are also on the move? The annual alewife migration takes place in late May and early June as thousands of fish move from Casco Bay into the freshwater lakes where they will lay their eggs, and the largest alewife migration in the state of Maine is the run of fish into Highland Lake.
Luckily for us, these fish depend on Mill Brook to reach their spawning grounds, and Mill Brook is managed and protected by the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust. The Mill Brook Preserve offers over six miles of hiking trails, and dozens of chances to catch a glimpse of the thousands of alewives making their annual spring migration.
The southern fish-viewing pool can be accessed with a half-mile hike from the Methodist Trailhead off Methodist Road, or with a two-mile loop beginning and ending at Perry Court Trailhead. This loop crosses Mill Brook just above the southern pool and then leads back to the trailhead past a series of fairy and gnome houses that are certain to entertain hikers young and old.
When the alewives move past the southern fish-viewing pool, the northern pool offers another chance to spot them. This pool is accessed via the MAGAN trailhead on Willow Drive, just off Route 302. The trail could be turned into a “lollypop loop” by adding the Seven Bridges Trail on your way to or from your fish-viewing adventures.
Presumpscot Regional Land Trust’s website,
prlt.org, has downloadable maps and detailed descriptions of all the trails in
the Mill Brook Preserve. They also have a scavenger hunt to help motivate
If you are lucky enough to spot the migrating alewives in Mill Brook, please respect their difficult journey. Don’t try to catch or touch the fish and keep your dogs and children out of the river.
Also, wherever you are adventuring this spring,
keep in mind that one of the charms of hiking is encountering the unexpected.
Trails will have soggy, muddy patches; it’s important to stay on the trail
regardless, and get your boots messy, instead of branching off into the woods
and disrupting the wildlife.
Trails will also have wild creatures, including
ticks and other biting insects, so pack bug spray and check yourself and your
companions once you return home. Of course, bringing water, snacks, and a rain
jacket for everyone will also help to ensure that the memories of your spring
hikes are all positive.
Whether you are chasing views or alewives this
spring, stay safe, be prepared, and have fun. <