Sunday, December 8, 2013
By Wendy Almeida firstname.lastname@example.org
Assistant News Editor/Features
The kids and I were planning a trip to visit friends north of Lewiston and wanted to find a hiking trail in that area. That's how I ran across a listing for Androscoggin Riverlands State Park. It's only been an official state park since 2009, but the kids and I wished we had found it sooner. Well-marked trails, beautiful river vistas and some nice picnic table amenities had us giving the park a thumbs-up.
The trail marker might have been missed by the family, but we did take a moment to sit and enjoy the footbridge on the Fox Run Trail at Androscoggin Riverlands State Park.
Photos by Wendy Almeida
The trails at Androscoggin Riverlands State Park are well-marked and offer an easy family-friendly hiking experience. The trails offer beautiful river vistas and some nice picnic table amenities along the way.
ANDROSCOGGIN RIVERLANDS STATE PARK
LENGTH: 10 miles of hiking trails (6.6 miles shared with mountain bikes)
ELEVATION GAIN: Minimal for most trails
BATHROOM: Outhouse at trailhead, another about 1 mile into trail system
TERRAIN: Packed gravel or dirt
DIFFICULTY: Easy to moderate, depending on what trail you choose
TRAILHEAD: From Lewiston take Route 4 north to Route 117. Then take Center Bridge Road to the park entrance.
14-YEAR-OLD'S REVIEW: "It was an easy hike and had nice scenery. It was kind of weird that a bird would have a nest next to the toilet in the bathroom but it was pretty cool to see the baby chicks. The water was really nice to look at while eating lunch."
16-YEAR-OLD'S REVIEW: "I liked the easy trails. Walking along the river was really pretty and there were a lot of spots to sit down on picnic tables to eat lunch and that was really nice. We saw a lot of birds there. It was just a really nice, easy hike."
According to Maine.gov, Androscoggin Riverlands includes 2,675 acres, with 12 miles of multiuse trails and 10 miles of hiking trails along the river. The Old River Road Trail is the main trail through the park and it's multiuse. I assumed it would be busy with ATVs. The hiking trails off the main trail offered a great alternative for foot traffic to avoid the motorized folks, and we thought those trails were prettier, too.
We took the trail marked Old Farmstead Trail near the trailhead. I had a trail map from the state's website and I tried to match the sign to the map. It's a minor thing, but while the Homestead Trail is listed on the map, there's no notation for the Old Farmstead Trail. The trail itself was well-marked with trail blazes, and it was clear it headed toward the river, so the name confusion wasn't an issue.
We found a pleasant surprise about a mile into the trail -- a nicely maintained outhouse and picnic area. It's a little thing, but there just aren't many places that have an outhouse that far into the trail system.
We found another surprise upon opening the door to the outhouse. A bird's nest sat on a metal bar next to the toilet. It was brimming (the nest, not the toilet) with new chicks. I have seen bird nests in the eaves of an outhouse, but not at hip level and right next to a toilet. We took care not to disturb the little ones, which was a bit tricky when using the facilities.
A few yards away from the outhouse were some picnic tables. The trail map indicated this was an "overlook" and it was a lovely shaded spot with a wonderful river view.
We continued along the Old Farmstead Trail for another mile before deciding to loop back to the trailhead via the Fox Run Trail. On the map there was a notation that this trail was a little more challenging. Or at least that's how I interpreted the "... please allow ample time to hike or bike this section." Up to that point the trail system had been easy, so I was optimistic it wasn't all that hard.
This trail was narrower, overgrown and hilly, but overall it required only a bit more effort than the other trails.
In order to make our way back to the trailhead we had to find a sharp right turn to loop back to the Old River Road Trail from Fox Run. We missed the turn the first time because we were too busy admiring the footbridge. That's how trail intersections go sometimes. I've missed many of them in favor of admiring a special feature rather than paying attention to the markers. We didn't walk far before I realized our mistake and backtracked to make the correction, which was obvious had we been looking for it at the bridge.
The Fox Run Trail had a lot of signs of wildlife, from droppings and prints to singing birds and plenty of fast moving frogs. And although more challenging than the other trails, this one was the kids' favorite. Our trek through the park only took us on a fraction of the trails, about 5 miles according to my GPS.
The kids and I left the park feeling like another visit would be in our near future. We wanted to hike the Ledges and Ridge trails, which offer a bit of an elevation gain, to see the river from a higher vantage point. The map also indicated more "outlook" spots with picnic tables in the middle of the park. On our next visit we'll be sure to budget more time to hike further into the trail system.
Initially we weren't sure what to expect from Riverlands because of the ATV activity at the trailhead. But what we found was a wonderful hiking trail system with plenty of natural beauty not far from Lewiston.
Wendy Almeida can be contacted at 791-6334 or at: