None of us could have imagined that this year, 2020, would be so disrupted.
Life, as we knew it, has changed for all of us. We seek the solace that nature can provide—now more than ever—yet it is our civic duty to stay close to home to slow the spread of Covid-19.
For our family, that means that we have traded the view from a high peak atop one of Maine’s western mountains or the crashing of waves on coastal, sandy beaches for hidden gems in local forests and along the lesser known trails in our central Maine community.
Locally, we have headed to a trailhead only to find it full of cars and moved on to another trail within our community. On the rare occasion that we passed someone on a hike, we left a wide girth of six feet or more between us while passing with a wave. And, we have learned to pay attention to what trails have been closed due to overcrowding. Early on in the pandemic, I missed a trail closure due to mud season and urge everyone to visit social media and trail web pages to double-check if there could be any reason why a trail shouldn’t be trodden on at the moment.
In spite of all those precautions, we have still been able to experience the annual awakening that happens in our natural world each spring. Our family of four (including a 13- and 10-year-old) have been able to enjoy the restoration and balance provided in wilderness. And, we have formed a new appreciation of what is close.
Our local gems have included the Bond Brook Trail and the Greenway Trail—both in the middle of Augusta. And, just past the Augusta line in Sidney, we enjoyed Reynolds Forest.
Reynolds Trail is a short walk to a raging waterfall. It invited us to race sticks downstream in the rushing current, the 10-year-old to mix up her “potion” of foaming bubbles, and to relax to the sounds of a smaller stream trickling over rocks to meet up with the fast-moving brook.
The Greenway Trail is located along the east side of the Kennebec River. It passes the eerie yet fascinating and historically significant granite buildings that make up the Kennebec Arsenal. The trail enters into the woods for a nice stretch of birds chattering about in the surrounding trees. The day we were exploring the trail, the water was high as we started off and completely flooded on the return trip. The impassable trail made for an adventure of jumping from roots to rocks through the woods to find our way back.
The Bond Brook Trail is our go-to cross-country ski spot in the winter yet we haven’t spent much time there throughout the rest of the year. Appreciating what our closest forest has to offer in all seasons is a new-found study for us.
This is the aforementioned trail that has been closed due to mud season—please check their Facebook page to check the status of their trails if you’d like to see this beauty. When you are able to visit, one of our favorite spots is a vernal pool surrounded by ledges and mixed coniferous-deciduous forest. When we first discovered this hidden gem, my 13-year-old summed it up by saying, “So, we live in a cool place, after all.”
I couldn’t agree with him more.
My hope for us all is to regain the freedom that we had without fear of the coronavirus. In the meantime, I’m eager to explore the forests and trails in my backyard in yet another season. Summer will bring its own treasures along the waterways and in the deep woods of Maine.
I hope that you find the hidden treasures in your neighborhood. Us hikers and ramblers may not be on the same trail, but we are united by the vast nature of Maine. I will think of you pausing to step over a fallen log, admiring a mushroom colony, or soaking up the energy of rushing water the next time I am out. We are all in this together. We are physically apart yet united by the calm that only nature can provide.
—Stacie Haines, Membership Director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine