After a summer of paddling adventures, my family was ready to hit the hiking trails again in September. Camden Hills State Park has been on our list of hiking destinations to explore, so we made plans with a friend to visit.
We loved the trails, especially the views from the tops of Mount Megunticook and Mount Battie. The only problem we encountered on the day we visited was beyond the park’s control — the 90-plus-degree heat.
It takes a lot of extra water to hike in the summer heat, which is why we tend to avoid it. No one likes carrying the water bottles needed for comfortable temperatures during a 1,000-foot elevation-gain trek, let alone an extra one or two for really hot days.
But we were committed to making the date with our friend (coordinating work and school schedules was no easy feat) so the night before, I took some extra time to prepare. I filled multiple water bottles for each hiker with water and Kool-Aid. Then I put them all in the freezer with the hope that they would keep our sandwiches and snacks cool while also keeping us hydrated during our early morning adventure.
We parked in the lot designated for hikers just past the entrance gate. We opted for the Megunticook Trail to Ocean Lookout on Mount Megunticook. The park trail map has a mileage chart and difficulty rating for each trail. The Megunticook Trail is rated 2 (on a scale of 1 to 3) because of the steep climb in a few places and its total elevation gain of about 1,000 feet.
Needless to say, we drank a lot of water and Kool-Aid on our trek. The sweetened drink was a nice slush consistency about halfway up the mountain, so the kids thought that was a great treat during our hot climb.
We made it to Ocean Lookout and even though the hazy heat didn’t allow for a crystal clear view, the panorama of ocean and surrounding mountains was gorgeous nonetheless. The adults thought it was well worth the effort to get there. The kids agreed.
Ocean Lookout, at 1,300 feet, is not actually the summit of Mount Megunticook — it’s 85 feet higher — but it is noted as the best view from the mountain.
My oldest loves photography and took a bunch of photos before the camera was turned over to my youngest for the quintessential hiker’s photograph — feet framed by the mountaintop view. For her this meant a shoeless shot, since she’s known for kicking off her hiking boots at the top of mountains before settling in for a snack break.
We noted some geological aspects at this spot for a project the girls are working on about glacial striations. The grooves in the bedrock at Ocean Lookout are indicators of how glaciers moved over the land during the last ice age, about 20,000 years ago.
The geological history of the Camden Hills area is quite interesting. If you want to learn more about this area, as well as others around Maine, check out EarthCache.org. The site, managed by the Geological Society of America and Geocaching.com, is a great novice-friendly way to introduce your family to geology.
After lunch and lots of water, we were feeling refreshed and decided to hike to Mount Battie. We took the Ridge Trail back to the Tablelands Trail, which led us to the Mount Battie Trail. When we found ourselves at a paved road, we were initially confused about how to proceed until we saw the trail blazed on the pavement. The trail headed back into the woods and we made our climb, a much easier elevation gain of only about 200 feet, to Mount Battie.
The tower at the summit of Mount Battie reminded the girls of the one on Douglas Mountain in Sebago. And the panorama display at the base of the tower identifying the islands in Penobscot Bay was helpful, since we had wondered while at the top of Mount Megunticook about the various islands we could see from there.
By the time we got back to the car via the Mount Battie and Nature trails, we were pretty darn tired and in need of more water. Luckily I had packed a cooler of ice and water bottles and was especially grateful for that forethought after checking out the stats on my GPS unit. We had hiked 4.5 miles in just under five hours.
I think the fact that we hiked as long as we did on one of the hottest days of the year was a testament to how nice the park’s trails were and the beauty of this area. Trail blazes were also in abundance on this trail system and very easy to follow, which was also a big plus.
But the kids will likely tell you the best stop we made that morning was just outside the park.
My 14-year-old summed up the sentiment of everyone in the car as I turned on to Route 1 to head home. “Thank God there’s an ice cream place here!”
Staff Writer Wendy Almeida can be reached at 791-6334 or at: