October 7, 2012

Canoeing: In Wilton lies a perfect paddle spot

By MICHAEL PERRY

For magnificent mountain scenery and prolific wildlife viewing, consider a visit to Wilson Pond in Wilton this autumn. Wilson Pond has many camps along its shoreline, but this time of year things are quiet. A 6-mile circumnavigation of the pond will take about four hours, given lots of stops along the way. The large public boat launch site just off Route 2 is easy to find, adjacent to the faded red factory building that was built in 1904 for the G.H. Bass Co. Consult the Delorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (map #19) for help in getting there.

click image to enlarge

Looking north from the western shoreline of Wilson Pond, a canoeist can see the conical profile of Mount Blue. The pond teems with wildlife, especially birds, including kingfishers, mergansers and ducks.

Photos by Michael Perry

click image to enlarge

This marsh is on the north end of Wilson Pond in Wilton. A leisurely canoe trip around Wilson Pond takes about four hours and offers a variety of scenic views.

As we headed up the pond, following the shoreline in a clockwise direction, we stopped many times to scan the northern horizon with our binoculars. A wall of mountains and ridgelines rose from the water dominated by the conical profile of Mount Blue. The open ledges of Bald Mountain and Saddleback Wind filled in the scene to the northwest.

A purple swatch of Blueberry Mountain, 18 miles distant, filled in the void between Bald and the ridges east of Highway 156. Three loons bobbed in the sun-splashed waters on our right.

We paddled past two tiny islets and a large pine-forested island before easing into the shallow waters of the undeveloped northern end of the pond, nosing our canoe into acres of pickerelweed and marsh grasses. Mergansers, black ducks and mallards erupted into the air at every turn, all hidden in the protective vegetation. The powerful whir of wings mixed with the rattling calls of kingfishers hovering over the water, blue jay calls echoing out from the red-dappled maple swamp and the indignant squawking of a blue heron lifting off and resettling many times just ahead of our slow meander through the marsh.

After following a couple of dead-end channels in an effort to explore up Wilson Stream to the north, we finally found the stream mouth on our third try, and wound our way up the channel a half-mile into the cozy cover of the maple forest before being turned around by a beaver dam. A huge, very active paper wasp nest hung over the dam from a nearby tree branch. 

As we explored down along the eastern shoreline in a freshening northerly breeze, we turned back to gaze at the mountains yet again. Building cumulus clouds were cresting up over the northern ridges giving us a feeling that winter was lurking out there somewhere in the beyond.

We passed by a classic old lakeside cottage, bright yellow with green trim all boarded up for the season. A simple sign hung over the porch door -- Spruce Point Cottage. We imagined all the bacon that had sizzled in a fry pan in that cottage over the years, pancakes with fresh-picked blueberries rising, endless crackling fires in the fireplace, Red Sox games endured over the radio.

As you paddle down along the eastern shoreline, you will come to a wide sandy beach a half-mile north of the boat launch. This is a great spot to get out and explore, and go for a swim in the surprisingly warm waters of early October.

Kineowatha Park was a former summer camp for girls that closed in the 1970s. The 63-acre park has a hiking trail along the shoreline through massive white pines, and a large grassy area dotted with many of the rustic summer camp buildings still standing.

After your outing, be sure to stroll down Main Street. The Goodspeed Library, built in 1915 as a Carnegie Library, is absolutely beautiful.

In addition to the Bass Weejun, another of Wilton's claims to fame, is that it was the birthplace and home to the "Maine Giantess." At an inch short of 8 feet tall and weighing 400 pounds, Sylvia Hardy was a popular attraction at P.T. Barnum's American Museum in New York City in the 1860s, and was a good friend of 25-inch-tall Tom Thumb. Many of her possessions and clothes are on display at the Wilton Farm and Home Museum on Main Street (open by appointment 645-2091). 

Michael Perry is the former director of the L.L.Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools, and founder of Dreams Unlimited, specializing in inspiring outdoor slide programs for civic groups, businesses and schools. Contact:

michaelj_perry@comcast.net

 

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