July 17, 2011

Hiking: Fernald's Neck just one of many coastal gems

There's a pretty spot on Fernald's Neck in the middle of Megunticook Lake in Lincolnville known simply as Mountain View. Reached by a short hike over quiet, forested trails, this spot certainly lives up to its name. Across the lake the southwestern escarpment of Mount Megunticook, including Maiden's Cliff, fills your view. Pretty darn nice for a place just minutes from busy Route 1 and the village of Camden.

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The view from Bald Mountain includes the ocean and Camden village.

Carey Kish photo

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Fernald’s Neck Preserve includes 326 acres and four miles of shoreline.

Carey Kish photo

Fernald's Neck Preserve and its 326 acres and four miles of shoreline is just one of the many unique places conserved by the Coastal Mountains Land Trust over its 25-year history. In fact, the organization has managed to protect nearly 9,000 acres through outright purchases and conservation easements.

"We started out working in Camden and Rockport," said Scott Dickerson, executive director of the trust. "But now our efforts are more regional, taking in the upper western watershed of Penobscot Bay, an area of 250 square miles."

Of special interest to hikers are the 25 miles of trails on trust lands.

"We build trails on the properties we own, taking particular care to properly locate and construct them to be durable, Dickerson said. "We call them sustainable trails."

The trust produces a Take-A-Hike brochure, available online or by mail, which features three of their preserves and miles of good day hiking.

Fernald's Neck, of course, is one of them. The Nature Conservancy originally owned the land but transferred it to the trust several years ago. Five color-coded trails connect to circumnavigate the peninsula, offering hikers four miles of ambling with numerous lakeside views and plenty of peaceful woods.

Beech Hill rises up a little over a mile from the coast in Rockport and provides amazing views from its open summit, including Penobscot Bay, the Camden Hills and the St. George peninsula. On top is a restored sod-roofed stone hut called Beech Nut. Built in 1913-15, it served as a teahouse for the enjoyment of the property owner. The 295-acre preserve protects the only bald hilltop in the area.

The Summit Road Trail, an old carriage road, winds up the hill from the north, crossing commercial organic blueberry fields en route. From the south, the Woods Loop Trail cuts through an active sugar maple grove, passes by some impressive old stone walls, and climbs gently through a pleasant mix of forest to reach the open fields and vistas above.

Hike the Bald Mountain Trail to the 1,280-foot summit of Bald Mountain in Camden and you're in for yet another scenic treat.

"It's got one the more spectacular overlooks in the area," said Dickerson. "You can see all the way to the White Mountains."

The one-mile trail is rigorous for such a small mountain, climbing steeply over ledges and rocks. On the ascent, Ragged Mountain and Buzzard's Ledge just across the valley come into full view. A little higher and Hosmer Pond, Camden village and the ocean are revealed. And from the huge rock cairn on top and various summit viewpoints, well, on a clear day you almost can see forever.

Bald Mountain Preserve is currently 624 acres, but the trust is actively pursuing additional parcels of land abutting its holdings in an effort to conserve more of the environs around this rugged peak.

At Ragged Mountain Preserve, the trust has just opened the first four-mile segment of the multi-use Round-the-Mountain Trail at Camden Snow Bowl. When complete, the trail will be 10 miles in length and will circumnavigate the mountain. This cooperative project also includes the town of Camden and Camden Snow Bowl.

To the north in Belfast, the trust has been working for 10 years to piece together a multi-purpose greenway along the Passagassawakeag River corridor into downtown Belfast. To date, four parcels have been secured, including the recently purchased Head of Tide Preserve. Hikers can enjoy short walks ranging from three-quarters of a mile to 1½ miles.

"We've still got some connection work to do, working with landowners, raising funds," said Dickerson.

The trust, like all land trusts across Maine, is making great strides protecting lands for both recreation and conservation. But it takes people like you and me to support these efforts. Please consider volunteering or making a donation to help your local land trust continue to turn these visions into reality.

For more information on the trails of the Coastal Mountains Land Trust, go to www.coastalmountains.org or call 236-7091. 

Carey Kish of Bowdoin is a freelance writer and avid hiker. Send comments and hike suggestions to MaineOutdoors@aol.com

 

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