Thursday, April 24, 2014
In the years that my father and I have been writing "Worth the Trip" columns for the Maine Sunday Telegram, we've largely focused on a handful of outdoor activities. John and I are both avid hikers and bikers -- and he an accomplished kayaker -- and we've written about these sports in most of our pieces.
While this extensive coverage isn't a bad thing (in truth, we could each write a column a week about hiking, biking and paddling in the state and never run out of fodder), it is a disservice to Maine's myriad other outdoor activities.
The odds say you haven't yet seen every inch of Maine trail on foot, bike or boat. But let's say you have. Or let's say you're looking for something else to do outside during Maine's beautiful summer weekends. Friend, I have you covered.
SURFING. Though many think this as a Pacific sport, Maine has an active (and growing) surfing scene. Most of the activity is based on the southern coast from Ogunquit to Cape Elizabeth where the state's rocky shores give way to sandy beaches. Thick wetsuits and all-weather gear even make year-round surfing a possibility here.
Maine's weather and frigid water can be punishing to new surfers and it's not an easy sport to pick up on your own. Luckily, local shops like Liquid Dreams and Aquaholics offer lessons and rentals as well as equipment to buy. Another great resource is MaineWaves.com. Along with free maps, forecasts and other tips, the site sells a comprehensive Maine Surfer's Guidebook, the "definitive guide for surfing the Maine coast."
(Also worth mentioning is stand-up paddleboarding. A cousin to surfing, stand-up paddleboarding is basically what it sounds like: standing on a board with a paddle and paddling. It's a full-body workout, great cross-training, and allows for boarding on lakes and streams as well as ocean waters.)
Suggested trip: Liquid Dreams. 171 Long Beach Ave., York. 351-2545.
DISC GOLF. Replace the balls and holes of old-school golf with plastic discs and metal baskets, and you've got a whole new sport -- disc golf. As in traditional golf, the aim of disc golf is to get from a tee to a hole in as few strokes (club swings there, disc tosses here) as possible, avoiding obstacles like water and trees. Also, like regular golf, disc golf is a great excuse to spend a few (sometime frustrating) hours in the great outdoors. Or as William Wordsworth put it, golf is "a day spent in a round of strenuous idleness."
Maine is home to more than two dozen disc golf courses, ranging from small 18-hole community courses to Randolph's massive 54-hole, 61-acre LaVallee Links. The PDGA -- disc golf's version of the PGA -- maintains a list of Maine's 32 courses at PDGA.com. Most of these courses have pro shops, where you can either buy or rent gear for the day. It's an easy sport to pick up without professional lessons, though it's difficult to master.
Suggested trip: Sabattus Disc Golf. 605 Bowdoinham Road, Sabattus. 375-4990.
ZIP LINES AND ROPES COURSES. First popularized as a tourist attraction in South America and New Zealand, zip lines are systems of cables and pulleys that propel visitors along high cables by force of gravity. Step off a high platform while holding onto a pulley or wearing a harness, and zip along a line to a lower point.
A number of zip line parks have opened here in recent years, spanning from huge fabricated courses in southern Maine to lines that take riders over the rivers and through the woods of Maine's western mountains.
Courses in Windham, Saco and Wiscasset mix zip lines with swinging beams, cargo nets, ladders and other aerial obstacles. The courses run between $35 and $50 for a few hours of entertainment.
Suggested trip: Monkey C Monkey Do, 698 Bath Road, Wiscasset. 882-6861.
BIRDING. Given Maine's location (we're precisely halfway between the North Pole and the equator) and the diverse ecology of its coast and interior, it is no surprise that the state is home to more than 330 bird species, from temporary migrants to year-round residents. It's always a delight to randomly spot a bird on the trail, but there's more fun to be had in dedicated birding.
The best point of ingress is the Maine Office of Tourism's "Maine Birding Trail" pamphlet. The guide (available for free at visitmaine.com) lists the best places around the state to spot birds, along with travel tips, the "Code of Birding Ethics" and a Maine birds checklist. With locations from Fort Foster to Aroostook State Park, the guide offers a great excuse to explore the entirety of Maine.
If you're particularly eagle eyed, you can even spot a few species while surfing, disc golfing or riding a zip line!
Suggested trip: Gilsland Farm Audubon Center. 20 Gilsland Farm Road, Falmouth. 781-2330.
Josh Christie is a freelance writer and lifetime outdoors enthusiast. He shares column space in Outdoors with his father, John Christie. Josh can be reached at: