One reason I love living in Maine is access to public land. I am reminded of the importance of the Natural Resource Council of Maine’s goal of protecting Maine’s environment whenever I spend time outdoors. When my husband and I find ourselves in a different area of the state, we often seek out a new trail or waterway to explore and always find it rewarding. NRCM’s Explore Maine map is a great resource for finding new places in Maine to explore. Since March, we have been doing much less exploring as we have been staying closer to home. We live in Hope, and there are many great hikes right here on the Midcoast, but they are familiar, so it can take a bit more motivation to put on those hiking boots.
When it became clear the pandemic was sticking around for a while, I knew these local trails would help give me a feeling of normalcy. The cynic in me thought that hiking the same trails so often would be repetitious and might quickly become monotonous. However, while I was revisiting these same trails week after week, something changed in me. There was something special about going back again and again and watching small changes happen. June brought lady-slippers and bunchberry. July brought bluebead lilies. After a rain you could count on colorful mushrooms making an appearance. This revisiting allowed me to really to get to know these places intimately instead of passing through and checking it off a list.
I have been fortunate to be able to take my hikes first thing on weekday mornings when the trails are less busy. One Tuesday morning my hike up Bald Mountain in Camden was particularly foggy. Everyone who embarked on the hike that morning knew the beautiful view from the top of Bald Mountain would be far from visible. While these conditions did not seem ideal, it was another opportunity for discovery. The fog made me see each bit of trail as it was. There was no looking ahead at what was to come or looking out at the view. There was just the trail and my immediate surroundings. It felt almost magical hiking through this foggy mist, like there could be a surprise around any corner. While I was hiking up, someone else was hiking down and said, “What a beautiful morning for a hike.” I could not have agreed more. There were no complaints about the fog, we were both simply happy to be out enjoying another beautiful day in Maine.
While I certainly love to summit a new peak and seeing a beautiful view for the first time, there is something to be said for revisiting and reexamining. We see things that were overlooked the first time. We notice small changes in the environment and gain a deeper understanding. We internalize why these natural spaces are so important and when the time comes, these moments will give us the fuel we need to take action to protect Maine’s environment however we can.
—NRCM Rising Leadership Team member Sarah Cotton