Cultivating Culture: Supporting Maine's Farmers Through Agritourism

Cultivating Culture: Supporting Maine’s Farmers Through Agritourism

It’s no secret that Maine provides ample opportunities for both tourists and locals to explore and embrace its resources. The state’s craft beer industry has exploded into near worldwide acclaim over the last decade. The foodie movement has transformed the restaurant and social scene, especially in places like Portland. And, of course, we have the beautiful natural environment to make any city-slicker pause in awe. Another particular natural environment has been trending lately for both tourists and locals alike, and it is not the mountains or the rocky coast. Instead, it’s a space that makes great beer and food possible to fuel such an industry—farms. 

Agritourism at Wolfe's Neck Center

Photo: Wolfe’s Neck Center

Farms are such a huge part of what makes Maine unique. More and more folks seem to want more than just a lobster roll and a lighthouse. On the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association’s (MOFGA) website, Jo Anne Bander wrote in 2008, “For tourists and Maine urbanites alike, agritourism is a way to get back to the land, learn how food is grown, and support local farms.” In the last five to 10 years, agritourism in Maine has really begun to blossom.

Farmers can participate in agritourism in a variety of ways such as having a pick-your-own field, hosting farming workshops, renting an Airbnb, or offering kid-friendly options such as petting zoos or wagon rides. 

“I encourage farmers to consider some piece of agritourism,” said MOFGA’s Organic Marketing and Business Specialist Nicolas Lindolm. “It’s another way for a farmer to make money that’s not always dependent on the weather or a good crop yield. Agritourism requires a definite desire to be with people, which is a huge aspect.” 

Lindolm has been an organic wild blueberry farmer (Blue Hill Berry Co.) for 25 years and recently took part in the first Wild Blueberry Weekend this August, along with 19 other farms. “Nearly 50 people came to the event to pick their own berries,” said Lindolm. “It was really great because we’re the only state in the nation that has a wild blueberry industry. We’ve never had a tourist-based farm event for wild blueberries before.” 

The Department of Agriculture and the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine hosted the events in places such as Portland, Wiscasset, and Penobscot, and several restaurants, breweries, and wineries showcased food and beverages made from wild blueberries. 

Brodis Blueberries from Hope, Maine, also took part in the Wild Blueberry Weekend and had guest speakers and book readings. They also share a space with Blue Barren Distillery, which makes a blueberry brandy called the Eau de Vie.

Wolfe’s Neck in Freeport embraces several aspects of agritourism year-round. People can go camping on the oceanfront in their award-winning campground, which is also located near the farm operations. They also offer several educational opportunities for both adults and children, including a summer camp for ages five to 15. For a small fee, families can take their kids on a wagon ride around the grounds to see the animal barns and the milk plant. 

“Our mission is to connect people with food and farming for a healthier planet,” said Andrew Lombardi, the Events and Public Programs Manager. “We believe that giving people a chance to connect with their food creates a more engaged consumer when it comes to buying farm produce and meat.” 

So, long term, will this trending agritourism eventually hatch a new generation of farmers? Lindolm is optimistic. 

“Agritourism adds to the robust effort that is going on in the state,” he said. “It has a good future if we can maintain the natural and human resources.” He also noted that there has been a heightened interest in farming curriculum programs from elementary school to the college level. “There are so many things that schools can learn from farming such as the economic influence, public health, and environmental factors like climate change,” he said.

Lombardi claims that he is already seeing such a renewed interest in farming with kids. “Wolfe’s Neck is truly a part of our local community,” he noted. “Kids grow up petting sheep and picking up chickens, and then they turn into our future farm camp counselors.” 

Our breweries also support local farms. Maine Beer Company partners with Wolfe’s Neck for events and includes the farm in their altruistic efforts. 

Clearly, Maine’s farms go way beyond cultivating crops. If you are interested in seeing what our local farms have to offer, the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry has compiled a Maine agritourism map. For more information, visit Maine Agritourism.

 


John Breerwood has been magazine writing for more than ten years and enjoying the outdoors since childhood. He currently resides in Topsham, Maine. He teaches English at Lewiston High School, and just recently published his first novel, Sinking Dixie, last year.


Skiing in Maine Backcountry

Back to the Backcountry

Backcountry skiing has surged in popularity over the last few years. The pandemic likely had something to do with firing up this trend, as well as general crowding and the increasing expense of alpine skiing resorts. Whatever drives people into the backcountry, more skiers are sampling the thrill of skiing raw, ungroomed terrain.

Ann Marie Rintz checking conditions before making her ascent.

Ann Marie Rintz checking conditions before making her ascent.

When most think of backcountry skiing, they think of New Hampshire’s Mount Washington, especially Tuckerman Ravine. This is undoubtedly the epicenter of ski touring in New England. There are many other storied ski tours and descents throughout the White Mountains, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only place for solid backcountry skiing. Maine holds its own when it comes to earning your turns. 

Skiing Along the Coast

Sargent Mountain, the second-highest peak within Acadia National Park, behind the immensely popular Cadillac Mountain, will reward you with a nice solid ski tour, as well as views of the surrounding Atlantic. There are a couple of routes to the top, ranging from about a three-mile more direct route to a longer, but gentler, six-mile tour. You can begin this tour from the Parkman Mountain parking lot, just north of Upper Hadlock Pond.

Watch the snow conditions, as there are no recorded snow reports for backcountry skiing. There’s no snowmaking in the backcountry, so right after a storm is when you’re likely to find the best snow.  And it can be even harder on a mountain like Sargent perched right along the coast. From the top of the mountain, you’ll find several snowfields (when there has been sufficient snowfall) dropping off the northeast side of the mountain. Make your way down to the carriage trails through the snowfields and the trees. 

Check with local outfitters such as Acadia Mountain Guides to learn more about the possibility of guided trips up and around Sargent Mountain. They’re not on the regular menu, but they might be able to make some arrangements. Acadia Mountain Guides also provide avalanche-training courses. Avalanches may not be something you think of in New England, but if you’re going to be out in the backcountry during winter, it’s best to be prepared. Also, check with Cadillac Mountain Sports for good local intel and any gear you might need. 

View from atop Ragged Mountain in the Camden Hills.

View from atop Ragged Mountain in the Camden Hills.

The Great Mountain

And of course, the mighty Katahdin looms as a distant and formidable backcountry skiing destination. For newbies, this might not be your first choice for a backcountry tour as getting that deep into Baxter during winter is already a marathon. And you will likely be carrying your own sled filled with food, water, and camping gear. Though, if adventure and earning your turns appeals to you, put Katahdin on your list as a worthy goal. 

You can get to most of the skiable chutes on Katahdin from the Roaring Brook and Chimney Pond campgrounds. Plan on spending at least the night before and the night after at one of those spots. From Roaring Brook, you can get to the formidable Cathedral Trail. Be ready for this exceptionally steep ascent and descent. From Chimney Pond, you could try the Saddle Trail. This one is less steep than the daunting Cathedral Trail, but takes you on a longer excursion. 

Hiking across peaks in search of skiable terrain in Western Maine.

Hiking across peaks in search of skiable terrain in Western Maine.

Ski the Sidecountry

Sidecountry is the new backcountry. That’s a relatively new term for ski area backcountry skiing, where the access is a bit easier and less remote. For several years now, Sugarloaf has offered skiing on Burnt Mountain and Brackett Basin. These areas include more than 650 acres of raw, ungroomed terrain, and an excellent introduction to backcountry skiing. You’ll still have to take all the necessary precautions, but the trip will require less logistical effort. You will still be treated to fresh snow (on a perfect day), big backcountry bumps, glades, steeps, and streambeds. 

You could also get there by booking a cat trip with Burnt Mountain Cat Skiing. These cats take you out 1.5 miles to the top of Burnt Mountain. Then you’ll have about 100 acres of terrain to explore. It’s not true backcountry skiing, but will certainly give you a taste. Be mindful of the ski area boundaries and don’t start any excursion out to Burnt Mountain or Brackett Basin alone or late in the day. Both Sugarloaf and Sunday River also have uphill skiing policies, so you can earn your turns even when the lifts are running. Contact the mountains for the latest routes and rates.

Be Prepared

Backcountry skiing encompasses everything about hiking, everything about skiing, and everything about being out in the woods and mountains in the winter. You need to be prepared in terms of skiing ability, physical conditioning, and having the right gear. 

There are many “Essential Gear” lists out there, but the list compiled by HikeSafe certainly covers the basics: map, compass, warm clothing, extra food and water, flashlight or headlamp, matches, or other fire starter, whistle, weatherproof layers, and a pocket knife. 

For other resources, check with Mahoosuc Mountain Sports, Maine Sport, or Cadillac Mountain Sports for more details on gear. And do yourself a favor and check out David Goodman’s definitive guide Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast. 


Lafe Low is a veteran writer, editor, and webcast moderator. He has spent more than 30 years in technology and business journalism. He is also the founding editor of Explore New England magazine and former editor of Outdoor Adventure. He is the author of Best Tent Camping: New England, Best Hikes on the Appalachian Trail: New England, and 60 Hikes within 60 Miles of Boston, 2nd ed.


Plan an excape to the Moosehead Region

Escape to Moosehead!

Majestic Moosehead Lake, with its 400 miles of undeveloped shoreline, surrounding mountain peaks and expansive views, provides an inspiring backdrop to escape from the everyday fast pace of life. The winter months and the abundant snowfall open up a spectacular opportunity to explore back country trails and frozen water bodies. Wildlife abounds on our trails and it is common to see moose, deer, wild turkeys and many woodland animals up close and personal.

The surrounding townships of Greenville, Rockwood, Pittston Farm, Northeast Carry and Kokadjo and their clubs work in unison to maintain a world-class network of groomed snowmobile trails. Start your trip from any of these locations and loop through the wooded forests and enjoy convenient services and warm up stops along the way.

Visit the Moosehead Lake Region

Big Squaw Mountain Ski Area. Photo courtesy of Serendipity Photography.

If manpower fun is your thing, Nordic and Cross Country trails are offered throughout the region. Groomed and marked ski and snowshoe trails can be found at Greenville’s Natural Resource Education Center (NREC), Big Squaw Mountain Ski Area, Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) near Kokadjo and The Birches Resort in Rockwood. Each location offers a different type of terrain whether it be wooded, rolling streams, mountain or lake views.

When it comes to downhill skiing and boarding, views from Big Squaw Mountain Ski Area are some of the finest in the Eastern US! Located on the west shore of Moosehead Lake, this family ski area is only 5 miles from downtown Greenville and 13 miles from Rockwood. Lift ticket pricing remains affordable for young and old, thanks to the fundraising efforts of the non-profit 501c(3) Friends of Squaw Mountain. The base lodge is open to guests Friday-Sunday, 9am – 4pm, vacations and holidays. Here you will find a full service rental shop, ski/board school and snack bar with hot and cold food items. For more information visit  skibigsquaw.com

More winter fun can be found in the Village of Greenville at the southern end of Moosehead Lake. Home to the quaintest shops, replenishing pubs and recreational services like the ice skating rink, Greenville is for snow lovers! Pick up the perfect souvenir and plan your next adventure.  How about trying something new? Guided dog sled adventures and moose tours to find a fresh antler shed are offered daily.

Sportsmen favor the big lake and its many protected ponds near Moosehead for fishing action on the ice. Heated and equipped ice fishing shacks and gear are available to rent by the day. Enter one of our annual ice fishing derbies to add a friendly competition to your sport. You may win the big prize and help raise money to support the local causes of NREC and the Friends of Moosehead Lake.

Longstanding organizations like the Friends of Moosehead Lake have been established for nearly 60 years to help connect area businesses, non-profits, residents and visitors with the unique, natural landscape that makes Moosehead so unique. The tradition of sportsmen and vacationers to the Moosehead Lake Region is strong and our doors are open to offer hospitality to those seeking an inspiring destination to rejuvenate the soul. Check out rockwoodonmoosehead.org for area maps, activities and helpful links to help plan your Moosehead escape.

 


University of Maine at Farmington: Dominating the Slopes

Thanks to its perfect location at the gateway to the best alpine skiing, snowboarding, and Nordic skiing in Maine, it’s not surprising the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) boasts several successful intercollegiate Snow Sports programs: Alpine Skiing (Giant Slalom and Slalom), Freeskiing (Rail, Slopestyle, Skiercross), Nordic Skiing, and Snowboarding (Rail, Slopestyle, Snowboardcross). 

During the summer and fall months, UMF Snow Sports team members were putting in their dry-land training and are now out on the snow across the Northeast doing what they love.

UMaine Farmington Snow Sports teams are members of the United States Collegiate Ski & Snowboard Association (USCSA), U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association (USSA), Fédération Internationale de Ski (FIS), New England Nordic Ski Association (NENSA), U.S. Snowboard and Freeski Association (USASA) and compete against colleges in Maine and across the Northeast. 

With 1,600 students, UMF is a small college, but it has long been a powerhouse in the collegiate ski and snowboard scene, providing its student-athletes the opportunity to compete on a local, regional, and national level. Indeed, Farmington has seen its share of success throughout its proud history including podium finishes and trips to national events.

Farmington’s Alpine, Nordic and Snowboard teams consider Sugarloaf, Sunday River and Titcomb Mountain its homes. 

“In my opinion, we have the best venues in the Northeast, with Sugarloaf and Sunday River resorts close by, along with Titcomb Mountain—literally seven minutes from campus, as well as Saddleback, which has reopened,” said UMF Interim Director of Snow Sports Andrew Willihan. “Our access to the best terrain, just a short drive from campus, is unmatched.” 

Willihan, a Farmington graduate himself, oversees the University’s Snow Sports programs and coaches Alpine skiing. Soon after coming on board at Farmington, he helped UMF secure a prized location in the beautiful new Bill and Joan Alfond Competition Center at Sugarloaf – which the UMF teams use as their base camp while training and competing at Sugarloaf. 

Sam Scheff, a recent UMF graduate, had the opportunity to compete in regional and national competitions through the University’s snowboarding team. In his sophomore year, Scheff joined a select few at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where he competed in his first national competitions. 

“Being on the UMF snowboarding team was about representing the University, and the best part was forming relationships with like-minded people, with on-hill and academic support from my coaches,” said Scheff.

Those who want to compete at a collegiate level really ought to consider Farmington, said Willihan. 

“The best college choice for a ski- and snowboard-minded student should be based on getting a nationally recognized college education at an unbeatable price while training and racing at the best resorts in the Northeast,” said Willihan. “At Farmington, we’ve got all that covered,” 

“And for any skier or rider who wants to be treated with the respect that matches their dedication to the sport, you absolutely cannot find a better program than the University of Maine at Farmington,” he added. 


Mt. Abram - Embracing Winter Trends

Mt. Abram: Embracing Winter Trends

Mt. Abram: Embracing Winter TrendsMt. Abram is geared up for the season!

New expansions, operational upgrades and more winter recreational opportunities for adventure seeking guests this Winter!  Mt. Abram lifts run weekly from Thursday through Sunday.

Lift Ticket Pricing: 

•$55 Saturdays

•$35 Thursday & Friday

•$35 Sundays – Made possible through a partnership with L.L.Bean 

On-Mountain Improvements for 2021-22

New drive installed on main lift: Enhanced lift running operation, reliability, and safety.

Upgraded snowmaking system: New pipes and equipment will make an immense improvement in snowmaking quality and efficiency.

Additional community terrain park: Outfitted with a rails, jibs, and jumps.

Mini-T-Bar is Back: With substantial upgrades to system.

Uphill Expansion: Ski touring and split-boarding are a rapidly growing sector in the winter outdoor recreation industry and Mt. Abram is committed to embracing trends that will grow and evolve with the uphill community. (See Inclusive Ski Touring below).

Off-Mountain Amenities & Upgrades

New Skating Rink: Added experience gives more winter recreation options for downhillers and the community.

Expanding Parking: Provides extra room for customers to have their own space on arrival and departure.

 

Inclusive Ski Touring

Inclusive Ski Touring is offering 45 separate, open-to-all group ski tours, including a “Future Generations” program and a Women’s Touring group. Visit Mt. Abram and learn the joys of ski touring and split-boarding at little-to-no cost to individuals. Uphill ticket included with the tour package. 

For more information visit www.inclusiveskitouring.com


Discover Bethel

Bethel: Maine’s Winter Playground

Welcome to Bethel, Maine’s most beautiful mountain village.

There’s plenty of winter fun to be discovered here. The centerpiece of winter sports is Sunday River, featuring eight mountain peaks connected by 135+ trails and glades that are accessed by 15 lifts. It’s a family-friendly place, where kids love the slope-side entertainment and snow tubing at South Ridge and teens appreciate the six terrain parks. Cross-country skiers find trails and equipment right in town at Bethel Inn Resort, where Inland Woods & Trails maintains  30km of classic and skate tracks, through forests and across fields with views of the Mahoosuc Mountains. Miles of snowshoe and fatbike trails and a skating rink make this a one-stop winter recreation center. Plenty of scenic trails are available, too, for those who prefer to explore the woods and fields on a snowmobile.

Carter’s XC Ski Center provides an authentic winter experience with varied levels of ski, snowshoe, fat bike and backcountry trails, a ski shop filled with all your touring, racing and backcountry needs, and eco-cabins available for rent.

For rooms, dining, and an après-ski scene all in one place, The Sudbury Inn is a family-friendly inn with a lively Suds Pub, featuring more than 29 beers on tap.

For more information, visit the Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce online or stop by the office at Station Place in the center of town. Telephone: (207) 824-2282. 


Maine Fisheries and Wildife

Maine Animal Tracks

MDIFW Pocket Guide to Animal TracksAs the winter months continue, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife wants to remind and encourage Mainers to step out their back door and get outside! There’s so much this beautiful state has to offer even in the colder months, and you don’t have to go far to find something to do. While downhill skiing and snowmobiling are two of the more popular extra-curricular activities in our state, there are quite a few winter activities you can try out to get the whole family involved locally. 

Identifying Animal Tracks

If you like scavenger hunts, identifying animal tracks might be the perfect winter activity for you! The snow is inevitable in Maine in the winter, so let’s embrace it. A fresh snow fall can provide a blank canvas for animal tracks, turning your backyard into a paw-print treasure hunt. Recognizing animal tracks is a creative way to get kids (and adults!) to be excited about spending time outdoors in the winter. You can even combine your animal tracking with winter walking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing for an exciting adventure!

Whatever activity you choose, always remember to dress accordingly, let others know where you’re headed, and have fun! Maine is a beautiful state year-round, so don’t let the cold weather deter you from enjoying all it has to offer! To download your own Maine Animal Tracks Pocket Guide, go to mefishwildlife.com/tracks.


Portland: photo by Michael Leonard

Winter Fun in Portland

Pull on your longjohns and embrace the invigorating fresh air.

Cross-country skiers and snowshoers should check out the trails at Baxter Woods, Capisic Pond Park, Riverton Trolley Park, and Evergreen Cemetery Woods. Follow the trails from Oat Nuts Park to the Presumpscot River Preserve and you’ll be rewarded with a view of the Presumpscot Falls.

For groomed cross-country classic and skate skiing trails, check out the Riverside Snow Park at Riverside Golf Course.

Riverside Snow Park also has hills for snowboarding, sledding, and tubing. The same is true near the Back Cove at Payson Terrain Park. And Eastern Prom Hill is a great place to sled, tube, telemark ski, cross-country ski, and snowshoe.

Sharpen your blades, lace up your skates, and take a spin on the ice at Deering Oaks Park, Nason’s Corner/Breakwater School Pond, Payson Park and Riverside Snow Park. More information on where to skate is available here.


Snowmobiling for First-Timers: What to Know Before You Go

Another glorious Maine winter is upon us. Snow-covered fields and trails offer all the inspiration you need to get outside. Perhaps you’re looking forward to trying something new this year. One of the most exhilarating winter sports in Maine is snowmobiling. And the best part is that you don’t have to invest tens of thousands of dollars on a sled and equipment. There are more than a dozen Maine guides and businesses across the state that make it their mission to get newbies out on the trails all over the state. Whether you want to try snowmobiling with friends, with the kids, or as part of a guided excursion, there’s the perfect sled or snowmobile package for you. 

The best sledding in Maine takes place in the northern and western parts of the state, where some of the best snowpack can be found. Maine has the largest snowmobile trail network in New England with an Interconnected Trail System (ITS) of more than 4,000 miles of snowmobile trails to explore. Volunteers at 280 local snowmobile clubs work night and day to keep these trails groomed for riders. 

There are a few safety concerns to consider before hitting the trail. While snowmobiles aren’t difficult to drive, you’ll definitely want to take it slow while you’re getting the hang of it. We asked some outfitters for their suggestions on what new riders need to know before hitting the trails, and here’s what they had to say:

Operate Your Sled Safely

Just like driving a car, snowmobilers must always ride to the right of the trail at all times. And while your snowmobile might have a ton of power, you don’t have to test the limits.  In other words, drive responsibly. 

“Only go as fast as you feel comfortable,” said Lori Lemont from Flagstaff Rentals Inc. in Stratton.

“Speed is typically one of the main factors in snowmobile accidents,” added Scott Lee from the New England Outdoor Center (NEOC) in Millinocket. 

Lee suggested that first-timers hit the trails in a group with multiple sleds and learn hand signals to communicate. According to Lee, the leader of the group should know the following hand signals:

• Oncoming sleds: Left arm overhead bent at the elbow, moving back and forth pointing to the right. This means there are sleds up ahead and to be sure you are riding to the right so there’s room to pass.

• Stop: Left or right arm up in the air with the palm flat. This means stop. There may be a deer in the path up ahead, a scenic overlook, or time for a snack break.

• Right Turn: Left arm bent at the elbow.

• Left Turn: Left arm held out straight. 

Above all, the biggest tip is to always ride sober. In the last decade, there has been an average of six fatal crashes involving snowmobiles per winter in Maine, according to Cpl. John MacDonald of the Maine Warden Service, with speeding and alcohol being the most common factors.

In addition, the standard for Operating Under the Influence (OUI) in Maine is the same on a snowmobile as it is in a car. If found guilty of operating under the influence, your license could be suspended and you could incur hefty fines. 

Pack the Right Gear

The weather in Maine can change on a dime, so it’s important to check the weather report before any trip to make sure you have dressed appropriately and have the right gear packed. 

Having the right gear and clothing for the conditions Lee explained can make or break a snowmobile trip. For adults and children, wear underlayers (not cotton), top layers, a face mask, an insulated bib overall or snowsuit, gloves, heavy socks, boots, a helmet, and goggles.

Lee also suggests packing a first aid kit, fire starting gear, a flashlight, water, and snacks in case you get stuck or break down. Cell phone service may not work in western or northern Maine, so pack a durable map and always inform someone of your trip plan and return times. With so many miles of trails in some of the most remote parts of Maine, you don’t want to get stuck outside unprepared. 

Get the Kids Involved

Snowmobiling doesn’t have to be an adults-only activity. Kids can join in the fun, too. “Short trips during good weather are the best way to get young children interested in the adventure,” Lee said. He suggested stopping for a trailside cookout and letting the kids help gather wood and be part of the fun. 

Lemont said that Flagstaff Rentals offer safety belts for children that tether the child to the adult driver. Where they go, you go. If your child falls off the sled, you’re both connected. If you have older children or teenagers, they may be able to drive their own, smaller sled. If your children are inexperienced, they can saddle up with you on a double sled.

Whether you are looking for an afternoon excursion or an overnight adventure, consider a snowmobile trip in Maine this winter for a truly immersive experience.  


Story by Melanie Brooks, a content creator and lover of Maine. She lives in Orono and works at the University of Maine.


Birding 101 by Joyce Love

Birding 101

Cedar Waxwing. Photo by Joyce Love.

Cedar Waxwing. Photo: Joyce Love.

Bird watching is a four-season event in Maine.

In the spring, look for the colorful Warblers that come through at ponds and small lakes around Maine. Summer is a good time to look for Osprey and Eagles that grace much of the shoreline and inland lakes. In the fall, some migratory birds make a return as they fly south and in the winter you might be lucky enough to see a Snowy Owl. There are some birds that can be seen all year long such as Cardinals, Blue Jays, Sparrows, various gulls, and of course, the Maine State bird, the Blacked-capped Chickadee.

Bird watching, or birding, can provide some wonderful, incidental benefits to be appreciated when outdoors. Taking in the fresh air, getting some light exercise, and improving your mood are the reasons most people take up this hobby. Plus it’s a wonderful activity for all ages, especially for children who may otherwise be indoors and too plugged in or less inclined to go outside to enjoy the wonderful gift of nature. In fact, a good place to start might be right in your own backyard.

Prothonotary Warbler. Photo by Joyce Love.

Prothonotary Warbler. Photo: Joyce Love.

For some people a birding “Life List” acts like a journal that consists of notes of different birds seen along with the dates and location. You can find these Life List books for sale at your local bird supply store, bookstore, or online. It is also helpful to have an illustrated birding field guide that will help to identify each species of bird you see.

Bluebird. Photo by Joyce Love.

Bluebird. Photo: Joyce Love.

Some birders become familiar with the sounds of birds and this is called “Birding by Ear.” Some birds can be rather chatty, while others may only offer a conservative quiet peep. A free app worth installing in your smart phone is BirdNET that will record, analyze and then show you what bird made the call.  Another free app to checkout is called Merlin, hosted by the Cornell Lab. This app has downloadable data for different regions of the country and you are able to look up and view images of birds and play actual sounds of more than 6,000 species.

Photography is a perfect companion to Birding and many people share a serious combined interest. Capturing the images of birds you have seen allows you to share them with others on social media pages dedicated to birding. So, grab your binoculars, pick up a field guide, download a free app, take your camera and go out and enjoy the wonders of nature.  

Blue Winged Warbler. Photo by Joyce Love.

Blue Winged Warbler. Photo: Joyce Love.

Here are some key resources to help you get started with becoming a birder. 

Ebird.org is a site where you can explore current birding hot spots and species to help you know where to find the birds you’re interested in seeing.

• Your local Audubon Society is a great resource. You can join in on bird walks with an Audubon guide where you can meet people that enjoy birding as well.

Mainly Birds is an active group on Facebook that I help administrate, where anything from the outdoors is welcome. This is where you will find friendly people to help you with bird identification and more. I have met many photographers in different states and love seeing their photographs.

Maine.gov/ifw is where you can find the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. This is also a great resource where there are links to learn about different species of birds and where to find them throughout the state.


Story & Photos by Joyce Love. Joyce has been a wildlife and landscape photographer for over 30 years. In addition, she has become an avid birder.  Her love for photography and birds create a perfect combination for this hobby.  She currently resides in North Yarmouth and is self-employed. 


Majestic Mount Kineo

Listen. Mount Kineo is calling.

Mt. Kineo offers more than six miles of hiking trails with spectacular views overlooking Moosehead Lake. The golf course is simply the gateway to outdoor adventure.

The Indian Trail is the most direct and most strenuous way to reach the Mt. Kineo summit.

The Indian Trail is the most direct and most strenuous way to reach the Mt. Kineo summit. The Bridle Trail offers another option, as this sign shows. Hikers can also walk along the shore by taking the Carriage Road. Photo by Sean Billings.

Mt. Kineo is situated on a 1,150-acre peninsula, which, though connected to the mainland by a narrow strip of land, has no road access. The only way to get there is by boat and that’s part of the fun. The golf course runs the Kineo Shuttle, a ferry, across Moosehead Lake from Rockwood from May to October. Golfers and hikers take a 10-minute ride over and the trip features a direct view of the mountain.

Plan your trip carefully and watch the time while you’re there. Shuttle hours vary by month. You want to be sure you’ll be done with your hike and ready to catch the boat back in time. If you miss the last shuttle, there is no other way back. You’re stuck!

If you go in June when the shuttle runs every two hours, this limits how long you can spend on the trails without the risk of missing the boat. The nice thing about being there in June, though, is you get a more serene experience because there are fewer people out on the trails.

The peninsula, part of Mt. Kineo State Park, offers four hiking trails, each geared to a different hiking experience, which can be combined for longer excursions.

While the Indian Trail offers the best views, those taking the Bridle Trail still get the chance to see their surroundings from above.

While the Indian Trail offers the best views, those taking the Bridle Trail still get the chance to see their surroundings from above. This photo was taken where the two trails meet right before the summit. Photo by Sean Billings.

The most difficult and most direct one to the summit is the Indian Trail, which takes hikers .9 miles along the open ledge and offers the best views. Those who want a somewhat easier climb can follow the 1.1-mile Bridle Trail. The hike follows the original fire warden trail, winding through the woods and offering more shade than the more strenuous Indian Trail.

Regardless of which trail you take, you can catch some astounding views at the point where the two trails meet on the way to the summit. Both trails will bring you to an old fire tower, which you can climb to enjoy a fantastic 360-degree view. Bring your camera but be prepared for the fact that no camera can capture the experience of looking around from the top of the tower.

Mt. Kineo Golf Course and Clubhouse

The Mt. Kineo Golf Course and Clubhouse look like a combination of a miniature diorama and a painting as seen from the summit. Photo by Johanna S. Billings.

Those who prefer not to climb can enjoy the easy 2.2-mile Carriage Trail, which takes hikers along the Moosehead Lake shore to Hardscrabble Point. If you enjoy a shoreline hike, but still want to see the summit, this trail connects to the 1.9-mile North Trail, which also brings you to the summit and the fire tower.

Even if you don’t golf, make sure to check out the view of the golf course from the summit. The view from so high above the course makes it look like a combination of a painting and a miniature diorama.

Depending on the boat schedule and how far you choose to hike, you may have time for lunch at the golf course clubhouse. Order food and beverages at a walk-up window and enjoy your lunch on the breezy porch.

This is a great day trip for anyone visiting the Moosehead Lake region and who wants to see Mt. Kineo up close rather than from a distance.  

 

The Kineo Shuttle

The shuttle operates May 28 – October 11 and departs from the public boat launch in Rockwood. It runs every two hours in May and June, with the first departure at 9 a.m. and the final return trip leaving Kineo at 4:45 p.m. In July and August, it runs every hour with the first departure at 8 a.m. and the final return trip at 6:45 p.m. In September and October, it runs every hour from the first 8 a.m. departure to the final return trip at 4:45 p.m. The round-trip fee is $13 per person, cash only. Masks are required. For more information, call 207-534-9012 or find the full schedule at tinyurl.com/px84tka


Johanna S. Billings is a freelance writer/photographer based in Greenville. She and her husband, Sean, run The Lily Cat Antiques in Monson.


Lesser Known Land Trusts in Maine Have Much to Offer

When I moved to Maine in 2017, it didn’t take me long to realize that this state has an abundance of natural wonders but, more than that, how much the public access to this natural majesty is uncanny. Clearly, more people have realized that since the pandemic shut out their usual activities. The outdoors this past year, proved to be more than just a breath of fresh air for folks who didn’t normally hit the trails. Last summer, Maine’s state parks were overcrowded, forcing some places to actually close to the public. Chances are though, if you live in Maine, a public forest or land trust hosts a trail system within a short drive from home.

“When many of the state parks closed last year, local trails and land trusts were overwhelmed,” said Brunswick Topsham Land Trust (BTLT) Executive Director Angela Twitchell. “There were new people who weren’t aware of their local trails, but, on the other hand, we weren’t prepared for it.” About half hour north of Portland, the Brunswick/Topsham area presents ample outdoor opportunities for convenient hikes and outdoor recreation. The BTLT is committed to preserving natural areas as well as providing public access. Overall, the BTLT hosts 25 miles of public trails within the towns of Brunswick, Topsham, and Bowdoin. Of all their 62 properties, not all have hiking opportunities since they also preserve wetlands and lease farmland. 

Tarbox Preserve in Topsham has a lovely trail that loops through a dense forest with excellent views of the Cathance River. Twitchell joined me for a hike on this trail that eventually overlooked the river at high tide and said that this spot is a great place for kids to swim and play in the mud at low tide. Head of Tide Park in Topsham provides opportunities for light hiking, kayaking, and even picnicking along the Cathance River. Maquoit Bay and Woodward Point, both in Brunswick, provide excellent woodsy walks that lead to waterfront points where you can enjoy a dose of salty sea air with a snack or spot birds with your binoculars. Several wooded trails meander through the properties of the Brunswick Landing, the former Navy base. 

 

The Kennebec Land Trust (KLT) hosts an impressive variety of hikes and outdoor experiences that consist of more than 70 properties within 21 communities in Kennebec County relatively near Augusta. 

“We focus on the whole county, not by town, which is unique,” said Jean-Luc Theriault, KLT Stewardship Director. The KLT trails also experienced a large increase in usage last year due to the pandemic, prompting them to encourage the use of lesser-used, family-friendly properties, such as Gott Pasture Preserve, Rosmarin & Saunders Family Forest, and Curtis Homestead Conservation Area.  

If you are looking to paddle to a trailhead, the region has an abundance of lakes, which provide opportunities for scenic hikes, swimming, and canoeing. Lake Cobbosseecontee has three island properties (Hodgdon, Horseshoe, and Perry Island Preserves). Androscoggin Lake has Norris Island and Perkins Woods Preserve has a rocky beach. 

“All of our properties are unique and quaint in their own ways,” said Tyler Keniston, KLT Stewardship Manager. They also publish a hiking guide that is an excellent resource for outdoor enthusiasts. 

Camping is allowed by reservation on a few KLT properties. Wakefield Wildlife Sanctuary in West Gardiner has two cabins for rent and Norris Island in Wayne has campsites and a rustic cabin. Summer reservations tend to book up quickly, so don’t hesitate to contact the KLT if you are interested. “We’re mostly in line with the state parks policies on camping and campfires,” said Theriault.  “We don’t allow fires unless it is in a designated fire ring.” At the moment, BTLT is not offering camping; however, it is actively working on a plan to incorporate a few pilot campsites. “Camping is a great way for families to connect with nature in a different way than just hiking,” said Twitchell. “I am a strong advocate for testing it out.”

Every region in Maine has some kind of unique gem. In western Maine, Kingfield Community Forest offers a variety of outdoor activities such as hiking and paddling around Shiloh Pond in 215 acres of protected, public land. Portland Trails provides residents with a trail network with more than 70 miles for hiking. The Maine Land Trust Network (mltn.org) is an excellent resource to find your local land trust. 

Be sure to follow proper trail etiquette. Don’t litter. Take out what you carry in. These land trusts work tirelessly to provide us with the opportunity. It’s our responsibility to respect it. 


John Breerwood has been magazine writing for over 10 years and enjoying the outdoors since childhood. He currently resides in Topsham, Maine. He teaches English at Lewiston High School and just recently published his first novel, Sinking Dixie, last year.


Moosehead Lake. Photo by Joyce Love.

Moosehead Lake

Located over 1000 feet above the level of the sea lies world-famous Moosehead Lake. Surrounded by majestic mountain peaks, Moosehead Lake is a destination high above the rest. Home to an abundant population of moose, this part of Maine announces its grandeur at first site. Indian Hill at Greenville offers a stunning glimpse of this deep lake and the endless mountain range that lies ahead. A warm community of quaint shops, local eateries and waterfront gardens welcome you in downtown Greenville, Maine.

Guide Outposts are plentiful and can provide you with a northern exposure adventure of a lifetime. Moose safaris are best enjoyed by canoe and NorthEast Guide Service can provide you with the experience, knowledge and perfect setting for an authentic Maine wildlife tour or whitewater rafting trip along the rapids of the Penobscot & Kennebec Rivers. Fly fishermen of all ages and abilities can also take to the water. Wading, drift boat or inflatable raft, Wilson’s On Moosehead Lake can show you what they do best in the cool headwaters of the Kennebec River and Indian Pond. 

Opposite Kokadjo on the west side, lies the town of Rockwood, the heart of Moosehead  Moosehead Lake’s Rockwood location is where you will find Mount Kineo State Park which is accessible only by boat. Shuttle transportation can be purchased for a fee at the Kineo Docks. A beginner hike will lead you the fire tower at the summit of Mount Kineo, giving you a 360-degree panoramic view of the entire lake. Mount Kineo is also home to one of the most historic and scenic nine-hole golf courses in all of New England.

A short walk across the carriage trails leads you to Pebble Beach, the most beautiful beach on Moosehead. Pebble Beach sits under the 750-foot flint cliffs of Mount Kineo. A rope swing and smooth stones that you cannot find anywhere else set this beach apart from them all. Private sailing and lake fishing charters depart daily at Gray Ghost Camps. A sunset sail and an evening spent around the campfire is the perfect way to end any day on Moosehead Lake.

For 100 years, Maynard’s in Maine has provided their guests with outstanding wilderness experiences in addition to excellent bungalow-style cabin accommodations and great dining with wholesome fresh farm foods prepared to perfection. The Moosehead area offers outstanding landlocked salmon, trout, and togue fishing. Recently, Billy Maynard landed a 29.67 lb togue on Moosehead Lake measuring 41” long. His huge catch beats the old Moosehead Lake record set in 1961 of a 28-pound 12-ounce togue. The area’s large, pristine forests provide excellent cover for deer, bear, and small game and make it an outstanding hunting region. Here, guests at Maynard’s will find a real pearl in the North Woods. Maynard’s in Maine can be reached for additional information by phone: 207-534-7703, or on the web at: maynardsinmaine.com 

Indian Hill Trading Post is a unique combination of a large sporting goods store with a complete super market and liquor department. This one-stop location offers a wide range of name brand gear and apparel, hunting and fishing licenses for residents and non-residents, firearms, fishing poles, and extensive outdoor supplies. Check out the vast clothing and shoe departments featuring Dansko, Muck, Merrill, Keen, Carhartt, Marmot, Patagonia and more. From groceries to gear, Indian Hill Trading Post has everything you need, including 24-hour Irving gasoline and diesel as well as propane refilling daily. 


View from Glassface Mountain. Photo by Gabe Perkins

The Mahoosuc Way: Embrace Our Place

Just in time for the busy visitation season this past summer, the Mahoosuc Sustainable Tourism Committee supported the installation of new signs promoting The Mahoosuc Way: Embrace Our Place pledge at busy trailheads and boat launches throughout the Bethel region.

The Mahoosuc Way - Take the PledgeThis initiative is designed to communicate local values to newcomers, visitors, and locals to encourage collective action to protect and sustain the quality of place that makes the area an attractive area to live in and visit. By taking the pledge, visitors and residents express their commitment to behaviors rooted in five core values: Honor this Land, Explore Wisely, Show Respect, Cultivate Community, and Be Climate Conscious.

“We love hosting visitors on the Bethel Community Forest and other properties we manage,” said Gabe Perkins, Executive Director of Inland Woods + Trails. “We also understand that not all visitors are familiar with local traditions and the ways we all need to act to sustain our environment and communities. The Pledge is a great tool for engaging people both as visitors and as caretakers.” 

The Pledge was developed, in part, in response to the challenges of overuse and crowding at popular trailheads. The new signs will be prominently placed to encourage users to be good stewards of the area’s natural, cultural, and community amenities.

Individuals, businesses, and organizations can sign the Embrace Our Place pledge by visiting: mahoosucway.com/our-pledge  

 

 


Greg and Kelsey Glynn after the Trek Across Maine

Four Tips to Teach Your Child How to Ride a Bike

Learning to ride a bike can be nerve-wracking for a child just first starting out and for the parent who is running alongside, trying to keep up the encouragement. The good news is with a little practice and the proper mindset, it can also be fun and rewarding.

Greg and his daughter Kelsey

Last year, I taught my daughter Kelsey how to ride her bike. In less than two months, she went from teetering on her pink Shopkins bike with training wheels to riding in the virtual Trek Across Maine. When she turned nine, she quickly grew out of her first bike and upgraded to her current Pacific Cycle Bubble Pop 20″ Kids’ Bike. If you are looking to get your child on a bike this year, here are four helpful tips.

1. Build confidence first. Purchase a bike helmet that fits and makes your child feel good. Having a “cool” helmet builds his or her pride and self-assurance.

Based on your child’s age and ability, start with a tricycle or training wheels. Even if this seems too easy, it will set your child up for success to take the next step. Let your child tell you when he or she is ready to take off the training wheels. 

Be sure to start in a large, flat parking lot or dead-end circle. Practicing in secluded areas will allow you both to focus and you won’t have to worry about traffic or other distractions.

2. Set the expectations. After the training wheels come off, the first fall is inevitable and part of the process. It is important to tell your child a couple of falls at first are going to be expected and that in itself, is not failure. Setting this expectation lets your child know it is OK to fall. Make sure your child is wearing wear elbow or knee pads to start. With every fall off the bike, your child develops trust in you as a teacher knowing these expectations.

3. Teach the rules of the road. As a parent, educating your son or daughter about the rules of the road before going out riding with friends is a critical part of keeping them all safe.

As your rider learns how to coordinate the handlebars with the pedals, it is important to teach your child the rules of the road. This includes everything from following traffic signs to using hand signals. A great way to practice is in settled neighborhoods, then in more populated areas, and eventually on busier streets and intersections. Every ride is an opportunity to learn increasingly complicated road rules.

4. Have fun! Cycling is a fun and safe activity for all ages. I have really enjoyed getting back on a bike again. Before starting the Trek Across Maine with Kelsey, I can’t remember the last time I rode my bike. The Trek Across Maine has motivated us to get outside, exercise more, and spend time together. I cherish each ride with her. Kids grow up so fast. During our rides we have enjoyed time with friends, seeing animals, and talking about random topics, including why bikes aren’t allowed at drive-thru restaurants, and of course our plans for the summer. I know I will look back years from now and not only remember our rides, but most importantly the trust and bond we built riding together. 

Story & Photos by Greg Glynn


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