CAMDEN – I feel especially blessed that my backyard, my playground during my earliest years, was only a few steps away from my home at the top end of Megunticook Street in Camden, next to the head of the trail leading up Mount Battie.

On the side of that small mountain, with its commanding view of Penobscot Bay over the then-quiet coastal community of the 1940s, my good friend, Paul Davis, and I kept faithful watch over the town with our fabricated gun emplacement (a long log poking out of a cave) lest the dreaded Huns mount an attack. We knew there was a war going on because of all the uniformed Navy officers in town overseeing the building of wooden landing craft at the Camden Shipyard. Two of them rented rooms from my mother in our house.

One reason we felt that an attack might be imminent was because our view of the ocean ended at Vinalhaven, North Haven and Islesboro on the horizon. To us, that was Europe, so we knew Germany was very close, and the threat very real.

Every day after school we’d head to our station and our important duties, and we were always especially proud on Wednesdays, as that was the day they burned the dump on Vinalhaven (remember, this was the ’40s), so Paul and I assumed from all the smoke that we and our cannon had scored a direct hit.

Ah, youth!

To this day, the Camden Hills remain as one of my favorite playgrounds. And the network of trails that Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps cut in the 1930s that course through Camden Hills State Park, and the new 40-mile trail system comprising the Georges Highland Path, give access to some of the best hiking, and certainly some of the most spectacular vistas, in all of Maine. In fact, I’d argue, in the whole country.

On the entire East Coast, only in Maine, and only in the Camden Hills and on Mount Desert Island, can you climb nearly 1,000 feet above sea level within a couple of miles of the ocean, and view the kind of panorama made famous in the poetry of Maine’s own Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Having trod every inch of every trail in both the state park and on the Georges Highland Path, I’m happy to share my favorite recommendations, although you won’t go wrong heading in any direction, on any trail, and I can promise you a day you’ll remember.

Bald Rock, in the northerly quadrant of the state park, is an especially rewarding hike, and the open summit, as the name suggests, is the perfect place for a picnic, a quiet hour or two soaking in the view, or even a nap. Now, thanks to some good work done by park manager Bill Elliot and his crew, there’s a nice little circuit you can take incorporating a relatively recently-cut section of trail.

Starting at the clearly-marked parking area on Route 173 between Lincolnville Center and Lincolnville Beach, you’ll proceed for less than half a mile up the multi-use trail to the intersection with the Frohock Mountain Trail on your left. Follow that trail for another half mile on a gradual uphill climb to another sign indicating a left turn to Frohock. Proceed straight ahead from that point, climb a little more sharply after another quarter mile, and shortly you’ll emerge on the rocky summit and be greeted by a view of Blue Hill and Cadillac to the northeast, south to Isle Au Haut, all the way to Owl’s Head and beyond. Matinicus and Monhegan are both visible on a clear day. You’ll then take the Bald Rock trail down to the Multi-use Trail, then back to the parking lot. A couple of hours total, including some time at the summit.

Another Bald, Bald Mountain, lies to the west, and it’s part of the Georges Highland Path network. Access is gained at a parking area on the Barnestown Road just past the Camden Snow Bowl, only about 3 miles from town. I especially enjoy this hike, not only for its special views of the ocean, and looking directly south its perspective of the ski trails at the town-owned ski area, but because from this summit you have an unobstructed view west and northwest that’ll allow you to see, on a clear day, Mount Washington and all of the Longfellow Mountains, including Sugarloaf and Bigelow.

A visit to the state park isn’t complete without taking the mile-long, and relatively steep, but worth every ounce of exertion, hike from the campground on Route One north of Camden up the Megunticook Trail to Ocean Lookout. It’s nearly the highest point in the park, with its view down on Mount Battie and, of course, all of Penobscot Bay. Your return options include heading down the Tablelands Trail, then back down the Nature Trail to the campground or, as I prefer, proceeding a short distance to the wooded summit of Megunticook, then down the Slope Trail (a now wooded trail that we used to climb and ski in my youth) to its intersection with the multi-use trail. There, a perfect replica of the original CCC-built Ski Lodge now stands, thanks to Elliot’s leadership and the handiwork of longtime park ranger Pete Carpenter. You can even stay overnight there, by prior arrangement with the folks at park headquarters. Just bring your own sleeping bag.

Camden’s hills are just one of the treasures right here in our backyard that await you this summer. You’ll learn about a lot more of them in this space in the weeks to come.

John Christie is an author, and an avid, lifelong, year-round explorer of the Maine outdoors. He and his son, Josh, will share this space this summer to highlight some of state’s lesser-known places to go and enjoy the beauty only Maine has to offer. He can be contacted at:

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