March 16, 2010

plunge

DEIRDRE FLEMING

— By

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Staff Photo By Shawn Patrick Ouellette: Damen Jose 7, of Buxton swings from a rope swing over the Saco River as his mother Donna Jose relaxes in a float at Pleasant Point Park in Buxton Thursday July 26, 2007.

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STAFF PHOTO BY DOUG JONES -- Tuesday, June 18, 1996 -- Honeoye Strawberries provide a high yeild crop.

Additional Photos Below

Staff Writer

Exactly two months ago in these pages (and on www.pressherald.com), we suggested activities to help cooped-up Mainers embrace the glorious, dry spring after a long winter and called the list ''Get Out.''

And this sunny season has been phenomenal -- weather-wise, bike-wise, kayak-, fishing-, even spring

swimming-wise.

Yet, while a number of readers said the tips were useful, since then, we've seen few people out enjoying these activities.

Sure, there is always a Mainer doing something active outdoors somewhere. But we want armies of them.

So one of two things happened: Either outdoors folks decided to bypass the amazingly warm spring, or we didn't inspire enough of them with got-to-do-it, get-out, get-it-done stuff.

We love a challenge. So, we're trying again with Get Out II: Summer Edition.

From rope swings to a boardwalk trail, there is so much to do that there really is no excuse for staying indoors. So enjoy the warm weather while it lasts, and take the hint, already: Get out!

ROPE SWINGS AND WATERFALLS

While tourists flock to Maine's rare rocky coastline, locals and longtime summer residents know where to find swinging spots.

Find these natural water parks busy with only birds, and they will be refreshing, both physically and mentally. Oh yeah, and FREE.

Try Buxton's Pleasant Point Park to find a series of river rocks perfect for leaping, as well as at least one rope swing.

In Kingfield, just north of Farmington, there's a rocky swimming hole on the other side of the falls. Swimmers can park behind Longfellow's Restaurant. In July, the town hosts the ''Whatever Floats Race,'' which is just an excuse to lounge on the river.

Also in western Maine lies Coos Canyon, Byron's happy gorge conveniently set off the road to Rangeley (Route 17). There are three natural swimming holes in front of the park, and waterfalls above and below that. Cliff jumping is common, and snorkeling a favorite.

For locals, this is where reunions take place.

''There is a rock bottom. It's crystal clear,'' said Rosey Susbury, who owns Coos Canyon Rock and Gift Shop across the street. ''It's one of those places families have come, and now people are bringing their kids back. The canyon hasn't changed much.''

BERRY PICKING 'N PICNICKING

Working farms in Maine are more than places to pick your own berries. Young children can spend days exploring hiking trails, visiting with farm animals and fishing.

''We have a pond where kids can fish. It has bass in it. We don't have that on the sign out front, but we should,'' said Bill Spiller, owner of the 140-acre Spiller Farm, which is open for strawberry and raspberry picking.

About 30 acres of the Spiller Farm has been in the family since 1894, and like many working farms, it's a perfect place for families to gather.

The same is true at Libby & Son U-Picks in Limerick.

''We are very family-oriented. We're family-run and owned,'' said Aaron Libby. ''We see the generations in families from out of state as well.''

Penny Crabtree of Crabtree's Blueberries in Sebago said many families take advantage of the 28-acre farm's tranquil location, where picnic tables and shady lunch spots encourage a slow pace.

Many berry farms tend to be quieter now, before most berry crops are ripe.

''Families come in more later in the season. People come in and take hayrides around the farm. They don't do that in the spring. I think kids want to go the beach,'' Spiller said.

ISLAND HOPPING

On Maine's 15 islands where folks live year-round, inconveniences are traded for natural beauty, and townspeople are close.

Experience what life is like on the islands that are home to almost 4,500 Mainers. According to the Island Institute in Portland, many of these islands have preserved lands and parks to make the experience inviting to all.

More than half the land on Monhegan, for example, is open to the public, said Syrus Moulton, the institute's project coordinator. Other parks, such as Isle au Haut, offer national parkland. Then there are the Casco Bay islands, which are more built-up but still uniquely removed.

Some offer vibrant arts events and coastal walks; others have sandy beaches or rocky shores.

Moulton said all are different, and recommends that visitors conduct research to find what they want. For example, some islands can easily be hiked by visitors, while others require a bike or even a car.

''You get off the ferry in Islesboro, and there is no town. It is a long, skinny island. The only village area is way on the other side of the island, and you probably need a bike to go there,'' Moulton said.

UNUSUAL NATURAL PLACES

At some of Maine's unusual natural areas, hikers can see landscapes they won't find in many places.

Research and conservation work is ongoing in some of these lands, including Laudholm Farm in Wells and Mount Agamenticus in York.

But that doesn't mean folks are not invited -- even encouraged -- to hike around the marked trails.

And there are other trails in protected areas that are chock-full of history, rare ecosystems and timeless landscapes.

Saco Trail's boardwalk trail over the Heath is one, although this unusual walkway is under construction right now.

The not-often-seen bogland is managed by the Nature Conservancy. Saco Trails President Patti Brodeur said more than half the club's 100 members rate the Heath as their favorite trail.

About an hour up the coast lies another natural area that is wildly popular among locals: Salt Bay Farm in Damariscotta.

The 100-acre farm offers 15 miles of trails on land that has been farmed for 200 years. Physically, the farm is only a mile from downtown Damariscotta, but mentally, it's far from busy Route 1.

Curious critters such as horseshoe crabs, osprey, American bittern and bald eagles are frequently seen. And there is no cost to enjoy the farm, where restrooms, picnic tables and a heritage center offer everything you need for an easy, cost-free summer outing.

''On the weekends, it gets busy, but it's large enough (so) there is always a place to find solitude,'' said Mark DesMeules, executive director of the Damariscotta River Association.

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

dfleming@pressherald.com

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Additional Photos

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Staff Photo by Gordon Chibroski, Tuesday, June 7, 2005: Joe and Anna Marie Krocheski of Tolland, Conn., enjoy a walking trail at the Mount Agamenticus park area near the recently completed lookout facility. A new acquisition of land was announced at a press conference that also invigorated the Mt. A to the Sea Conservation Campaign. joe krocheski

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Staff Photo By Shawn Patrick Ouellette: Wednesday, June 14, 2006: Mike Goins of up state New York takes in the views overlooking Pulpit Rock on Monhegan Island during a recent visit to the island.

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Staff Photo by John Patriquin,Fri., August 4, 2006: Daredevil Nelson Girard from Jamestown, R.I. does a backflip off a 30 plus foot cliff at Coos Canyon in Byron, Maine as others gather to watch and jump from more safe heights.

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Staff Photo by Herb Swanson, Friday, September 19, 2003: A Flicker sits in a tree on Monhegan Island.

  


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