About this time every year, as the kids go back to school, the tourist traffic has diminished, the nights have gotten cooler and some of the maples in wetter areas have started to turn, I put together plans for my fall excursions.

These autumn trips have been fine-tuned over the years to offer the best combination of scenic vistas, flaming foliage and some optional exercise. Here are two of my favorites.

The first is an annual early October trip to Borestone Mountain on the way to Greenville.

Tucked away in Elliotsville Plantation, some 10 miles northeast of Monson, a special treasure awaits nature lovers and hikers.

The Borestone Mountain Audubon Sanctuary, developed, owned and operated by Maine Audubon, comprises more than 1,600 acres of northern hardwood and boreal forest that has been uncut for more than a century, three small ponds and two craggy summits just south of the Appalachian Trail and Maine’s northern forest.

The trailhead is at about 800 feet, so the 3-mile hike to the 2,000-foot East Peak involves an ascent of only about 1,200 feet.

The first 11/3 miles climb about 500 feet to a visitor center perched on the shore of tiny Sunrise Pond.

From the center, you’ll proceed around the southeastern end of the pond, cross the outlet and ascend rather steeply for about a mile to the open rocks of West Peak. There you’ll drink in the vista to the north, including Barren Mountain and pristine Onawa Lake, and Sebec Lake to the south. A short hike down through a saddle will take you to East Peak, another open summit with 360-degree views.

If you’re not into hiking, or if your legs have earned a well-deserved reprieve from a vigorous season out on the trails, my second choice for fall fun is a road trip, either in the car, or on a nice day, the motorcycle.

It’s a circuit of about 250 miles from our midcoast home that takes us west through Augusta and charming little Wayne village, across Route 4 in North Turner and to Route 26 in West Paris. Then it’s on through Bryant Pond and Locke Mills, where we swing over to Mt. Abram to check on any summer upgrades to the ski area, and then on to Bethel.

Turning north on Route 2 for about five miles, we turn left on Route 26 in Newry and head up into Grafton Notch along the Bear River.

Our first welcome rest stop is at Screw Auger Falls, where the water plunges about 30 feet over a granite ledge.

Then it’s off through the notch and Upton village before descending into New Hampshire and the scenic road around the south end of Umbagog Lake. Another elevation gain reveals breathtaking views of both the White Mountains to the south and west, with Mt. Washington prominent on the horizon, and the Longfellows to the east.

A steep descent brings us to Errol, New Hampshire, where we often watch whitewater kayakers plying the short stretch down the rushing Androscoggin from the dam on Umbagog under the bridge on Route 26.

An hour in Errol is time well spent, with shops, restaurants, and the famed L.L. Cote store – northern New Hampshire’s answer to L.L. Bean for hunting, fishing and camping gear, along with snowmobiles, ATVs, lumber, and gasoline.

A sharp turn in Errol points us back toward Maine Route 16 along the winding Magalloway River, then through the Richardson Unit of the Maine Public Lands and around the north end of Cupsuptic Lake.

Along the way are views of Low Aziscohos and West Kennebago mountains, both great climbs for other days. A bonus is the possibility that you’ll spot a moose or two and even a bear on this wilderness stretch.

Finally it’s time for a lunch stop in Oquossoc, where we pick up delicious deli sandwiches at Oquossoc Grocery, and ponder the only real decision we have to make during the trip: Do we go south on Route 17 to Mexico over the spectacular height of land with its scenic turnout and views west over Lake Mooselookmeguntic, or continue on 16 through Rangeley? Either choice is a good one.

All in all, it’s the perfect autumn ride through some of the best scenery and foliage in Maine and New Hampshire.

John Christie is a former ski racer and ski area manager and owner, a ski historian and member of the Maine Ski Hall of Fame. He and his son, Josh, write columns on alternating weeks. He can be reached at:

[email protected]


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