While the bulk of my trail books focus on Massachusetts, we like to get to Maine spring and fall, and Maine used to be part of Massachusetts, so it’s not too far off topic. It’s along drive to Mt. Desert Island, so we took a lunch break at the shoreline in Belfast, Maine, and noticed what looked like a bridge that crossed the harbor.
Using one of the tools I write about in Finding Easy Walks Werever You Are, we pulled out our google maps tool on our phone, and quickly discovered a great rail trail footpath that takes visitors out over the water. Not only a bridge, the path is connected to the Belfast Harbor Walk, as well as the Belfast Rail Trail next to the harbor, all handicapped accessible. We did not have time to explore the entire length of the walkway, but enjoyed a trip across the water and back before headed on our way to where we planned to spend a week near the ocean on Mt. Desert Island.
Acadia National Park is the draw for many, including our family, but on our visit last October we found the carriage roads and Easy Walks in the park to be so crowded we began using another tool we write about in our book, “Be willing to explore.” One of the things we always keep our eyes open for in our explores is trail kiosks. Recently we learned of several land conservation organizations in the area, including the Maine Coast Heritage Trust and the Frenchman Bay Conservancy, on and near Mt. Desert that work to preserve open space.
We found a small town-owned path that circuited a capped landfill, now covered with solar panels. The trail took us to a tidal river with pretty views. These are much less well known and less publicized than the national park paths, and thus had many fewer people when we visited last fall.
Visiting Acadia in early May, we enountered hardly anyone on the trails. Yes, it was pretty chilly, mostly too cold for us to enjoy biking, but we did manage one chilly bike ride to the top of Day Mountain, by way of the carriage road that goes all the way to the top of the small mountain. The views at the top of the mountain are spectacular, looking over other parts of the park, as well as out to the Cranberry Islands.
Staying right at the shore, we became very attuned to the tides. I spent hours at our rental cottage watching the tides come in and go back out, at least eight-foot changes in water level, which dramatically altered the landscape right in front of us.
We were in walking distance from Bass Harbor, and enjoyed watching the ferry boats come and go, lobstermen heading out to gather their catch, and saw diving birds up close near shore as the tides shifted.
We spent time on the mainland as well, exploring more of the Schoodic Peninsula and adjacent towns, as well as town and state park areas. In this off-season, we had to ourselves places that otherwise might require seasonal parking permits. We drove the one-way circuit along the shoreline at the Schoodic portion of Acadia National Park, and came to a shoreline area where the tides offer some dynamic changes.
A large pond of seawater is mostly behind a wall of rock created by strong tides, but as the tide runs out, this pool of water begins to pour out, down a slope of rock. We had seen the turbulence on another visit, but were losing daylight, so had not been able to investigate more closely what was happening.
This trip, we timed the tides better, and had time to get out and walk out on top of the cobble wall of rock (not an Easy Walks, but I was pretty motivated). The energy of the tides, far beyond simple wave action, is so apparent when spending any extended time along the shoreline. I made it out to the edge of this transient river of water pouring from the pond of seawater that rapidly empied back into the ocean as the tide went out.
We stayed in the little neighborhood of Bernard, part of Tremont, with the ocean in front of us, a salt marsh right next to us. As we returned home near sunset one day, we spotted a fox hunting in the salt marsh, performing almost a grid search as he combed through the grasses next to the water. The marsh teemed with life–king fishers diving for food, mallards hanging out, mergansers skimming the water’s surface for food, before diving for other sources of a meal. Eider ducks arrived every day about mid-tide, eager to comb through the sea grasses newly suspended in sea water. We suspected crabs and snails and other critters had hidden in the seaweed draped across the rocky outcrop when the tide was low. Once the tide turned and covered the rocks again, the plants were no longer the safe refuge, and the eider ducks did their best to make sure they grabbed a meal while they could.
We usually visit later in May, so trails that have offered spring flowers on other visits were still loooking pretty winterish on this visit.
We still saw lots of promise of spring, just a little earlier, and not in full bloom. By the end of our week, trees that had looked bare upon our arrival were leafing out in their lacy finery.
As we left, we passed by the Somesville LIbrary where we have often spotted eagles and ospreys soaring overhead, or perched in nearby pine trees. We spotted an osprey resting atop the Somesville Library and laughed. Isn’t the library the first place you should go when looking for birds? At least on Mt. Desert Island, in the spring, it’s a really good bet!
While many trails in the area are NOT Easy Walks, we managed once again to find plenty of places I could enjoy being outside, moving easily, taking in the wonders of nature and the tides. Yes, Easy Walks are out there. And for that, I am very grateful. Happy trails.
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a writer who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, and editor of Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed, and Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. Her memoir, the backstory of Easy Walks, is My liturgy of Easy Walks: Finding the Sacred in everyday (and some very strange) Places.
She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 20+ years, has helped numerous families to save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress.