Hikers find paradise in state parks now. Depending on latitude, foliage has turned to intense shades of red, yellow, orange, purple and more, and just as important, most leaves have fallen by November, allowing hikers more visibility. In dense, foliated forests, typical 25-yard views turn into distances the length of one to four football fields – or more.

Hunters in the woods during October and November discourage folks from hiking, but many state parks prohibit hunting. Also, a few places may allow shooting sports but when I hike in these spots, I see few to no hunters. Just the same, I wear a blaze orange vest and hat.

When my oldest daughter was a toddler and a little older, we lived in a wooded area on West Road in Belgrade – deer country. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so we dressed her in bright orange for playing in our yard. When we moved to an Augusta suburb isolated from forests and added a second daughter, they played in the yard without the precaution.

Camden Hills State Park ranks as one of my favorite state parks for fall hiking in the bottom quarter of Maine. It covers 5,700 acres and provides 30 miles of trails. These trails offer all the walking that most of us desire, even folks in good condition. Steep inclines in the Camden Hills can test fortitude.

On top of the trails and acreage, Mount Battie rises to 700 feet and Mount Megunticook to 1,385 feet. These heights may not pop eyes open until folks realize these summits rise straight up from sea level right beside the ocean – impressive, towering monuments.

I taught high school English for years, including American literature, so naturally lectured on Edna St. Vincent Millay. The first stanza of her long 1912 poem “Renascence” describes the scene from Mount Battie, including three wooded mountains, Penobscot Bay islands and the Atlantic Ocean beyond the Bay. If you plan to visit this spot, make sure to find a copy of the poem to see Millay’s mastery of the landscape and ocean description viewed from Mount Battie.

Songbirds are fewer now than in June and wild mammals behave more furtively after leaves fall, so wildlife sightings are fewer. But the longer views allow us to study trees, shrubs and topography better.

I strongly suggest serious woodland wanderers buy the National Audubon Society Field Guide to New England and turn to pages 93-95, which show silhouettes of deciduous tree species minus leaves, as well as conifers, a great learning aid for identifying native trees in the distance. This guidebook looks too big to fit into most shirt pockets, but it does slip into such pockets on outdoor apparel.

The National Park Service and Civilian Conservation Corps turned the area into a park in the 1930s and named it Camden Hills Recreational Development Area. In 1947 it became the Camden Hills State Park. This CCC info impressed me because my late grandfather, George Allen, worked in the government program that went by that acronym – CCC. It was the brainchild of President Franklin Roosevelt and the Democrats to put Americans to work in the Depression. My grandfather didn’t work in the Camden Hills but did similar projects, and the programs gave steady work in the Depression.

Popham Beach attracts hikers to poke around in the slower fall months. I love to walk this long beach now when few people are there to interrupt my reveries. I’ve said this here before, too. Popham Beach from Fort Popham south to the sandbar that goes to Woods Island ranks as one of the more beautiful places I’ve seen – a stunning scene.

Maine covers 33,215 square miles, an area that almost duplicates the combined area of the other five New England states. Hikers can find plenty of state parks for exploring. Few of us live very far from a park where we can enjoy nature.

A quick laundry list would include Back Cove in Portland, a 3 1/2-mile trail that I walked nearly daily in 1996, Grafton Notch State Park in Newry, Mount Blue State Park in Weld, Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park in Freeport, Gilsland Farm in Falmouth and the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, a favorite destination for the late Bill Silliker, a superb Maine wildlife photographer.

Buy the Audubon New England field guide and check out all the park suggestions. Now is the time to explore, when biting bugs are few to nonexistent, tourists have left and temperatures stay cool for walking, even in the middle of the day. A grand picnic can make the day a lifetime memory.

Combine the Popham hiking experience with a visit to downtown Bath, a quintessential Maine setting with restaurants and shops to peruse.

Visitors heading to Popham must pass this small, intimate Maine city.

Ken Allen of Belgrade Lakes, a writer, editor and photographer, may be reached at:

KAl[email protected]

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