In South Berwick, 250-acre Vaughan Woods State Park has a three-
mile loop trail that runs along Salmon Falls River. The loop is also broken up to make it possible to take a shorter
route, without backtracking.
And while ambling woodland trekkers may be wary of coming away
bitten, heading to the coast can help with the bugs. Pick the right day at one of Maine's many coastal parks, and the
ocean breeze takes care of the flies.
An hour north of Portland, Wolfe's Neck Woods State Park in
Freeport offers a series of short, interwoven trails. And next door, the protected land around the nonprofit Wolfe's
Neck Farm has a recently upgraded trail system that winds through
its rolling fields.
Wolfe's Neck Farm's trails are ideal for beginner hikers, said
farm program director, M.D. Mitchell.
Mitchell said few use them, but all are welcome.
"These trails are flat, pretty easy, and it's hard to get lost
here. They have very good natural boundaries," Mitchell said.
With the Little River flanking the trail system on one side and
Casco Bay on the other, there is moving water all around.
These are only a few suggestions, but southern Maine is rich with
parks and protected lands. Find another state park trail at www.maine.gov/doc/parks/
programs/db_search/index.html. Some are well known, others practically anonymous, but there are
dozens in every part of the state.
As for those elevated climbs, the natural next step for the
beginner hiker: Go west.
Maine's western region is full of amazing mountains with
difficult inclines and unparalleled views that, on a clear day, show
clusters of mountain peaks, including far-off Mount Washington.
That said, try a few smaller hills first. The idea here is to get the muscles used to climbing and
descending--and the mind thinking like a mountaineer!
Charlie Jacobi, the director at Acadia National Park, is amazed
by the lack of preparation he notices in hiking parties.
On his side of the state, Jacobi sees it all summer long on the
mole hills of Mount Desert Island.
"What we see is people out there without water, without foot
gear. Street shoes really don't work except on some of the most
basic, gravel kind of trails," Jacobi said. "You could easily get
yourself into trouble stepping down if you don't have sturdy shoes,
or went without a map, or water. Those are the three things we see
Even on the looping, populated short trails in Acadia National
Park, new hikers get turned around all the time. Often when a hiker lacks experience, Jacobi said, they miss cues
that identify a trail: the blazes, the worn path or the lack of
lichen on stones.
"Most tend to look toward their feet," Jacobi said. "I've seen a
lot of places people go straight when the trail turns right because
they are not paying attention."
That's why it's good to build up to an ambitious climb by
starting with a shorter one.
Within an hour of Portland there is 200-foot Jockey Cap in
Fryeburg and 300-foot Douglas Mountain in Sebago. These are much like the rolling, short uphill climbs found on
Mount Desert Island.
But both are near towns. So if the hike starts without the basic
gear--a compass and water--it is convenient to turn around at the
trail head and get it. That may seem unnecessary for a hike of less than a mile, but
Jacobi said he sees folks get in trouble during much shorter climbs.
When the longtime park director teaches hiking seminars to
beginners, he tells hikers to follow the same preparation and the
same rules on every hike, regardless of distance. And the most important of these rules, he said, is the
willingness to turn back.