July 12, 2013

John Christie: Women can walk the walk and soak in the scenery

Let me begin by dispelling the myth that there are such things as "Women's Hikes."

Some of my most challenging hikes have been keeping up with my wife on the trails on the Cutler Bold Coast, and Megan Roberts on Bigelow, and Deirdre Fleming on Connor's Nubble in Acadia and Bald Mountain in Oquossoc, and Judy Weston and Bee Harvey on Caribou and Blueberry mountains over in Evans Notch.

Don't tell me that women need easier trails than men!

That said, there are many hikes in Maine that are especially appealing, I'd suggest, to female hikers.

These hikes distinguish themselves because female hikers, in my experience, appreciate the journey as much as the destination.

That separates them from me and my male hiking buddies who are satisfied just to bag a peak.

So with that in mind, let me suggest three hikes you women ought to plan and invite us guys to accompany you so we can be taught how to really appreciate why we really get out there in the woods in the first place.

VAUGHAN WOODS

On a trail that spans the Hallowell-Farmingdale line just south of Augusta, you'll be treated to a couple of miles of quiet forest, a picturesque babbling brook, stone bridges and waterfalls. Photo ops abound on this short and easy hike.

To get there, head up Winthrop Street in downtown Hallowell, take your third left on Middle Street and drive south for 0.7 mile. You'll spy a small parking area from which you'll pass through a stone fence, emerge into a field and then back into the woods.

Your entire loop hike will be only a couple of miles, with an additional one-third of a mile to the dam. All in all, a delightful and restful stroll through a cool forest on a carriage path with a wood chip surface. Old oaks and verdant ferns add to the atmosphere, not to mention the granite slab, arched culverts and an impressive curved footbridge. And, of course, the ever-present music from the flowing brook, which can turn into an impressive torrent after a rain.

BERNARD MOUNTAIN

Your hiking options in Acadia National Park are virtually boundless, so picking one in our ascending order of degree of difficulty is no easy task.

My modest aversion to crowds motivates me to spend more time on the western "Quiet Side" trails on Mount Desert Island, although I count The Bubbles and other eastern trails as among my favorites.

But there's something about the 6.2-mile loop hike that starts on the Great Pond Trail leading to the 1,071-foot summit of Bernard Mountain that combines all that is best about coastal Maine hiking.

Heading south toward Southwest Harbor on Route 102, you'll turn right on the Seal Cove Road shortly before reaching the village. After a little more than half a mile, turn right onto Long Pond Road and proceed another mile to the end of the road at the pumping station on the end of Long Lake, where you'll park.

Your hike begins with a leisurely two-mile stroll along the west shore of Long Pond before a left turn away from the water marks the beginning of a moderate climb up a boulder-lined trail for nearly a mile to the intersection with the Great Notch Trail. Turning left, you'll reach the Great Notch in about half a mile. The trail is root-covered and requires caution.

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