When a New Year begins, things often seem fresh and open in new ways. There is a renewed energy to try new things and explore new places. Last week, I wrote about the increase in outdoor activity in 2020 as a result of the pandemic. More people tried out fishing or found a new picnic spot. In Midcoast Maine, many of places are bordered by water of some sort. And, much of this is salty, at least to some degree. We have over 66 miles of coastline just in Brunswick alone. While that may seem like there are plenty of places to enjoy the water, one of the challenges is how to access those places.

Sometimes you have to think outside the box. Rather than seeking out a drive-up option, if you have the ability and interest to explore a bit further, you can find coastal nooks and crannies that are the true connections between land and water. These places may not have the sparkling clear beauty of the open ocean, but they have their own charm in the quiet way that they are often more gentle at a time of year where more exposed places are whipped by winter winds.

There are several places a bit off the beaten path that I’ve recently explored that have brought new understanding of the degree of venation of a sort that brings the saltwater up into far-reaching woodsy spots. They are often more mud-filled and at first, seem less appealing, but they offer a chance to really see the meandering paths that water takes. It can carve out a wiggly but elegant channel through marsh grasses and, when it gets cold enough, create sculptural ice formations along the way. They are habitat for some of the most coastally diverse assortment of wildlife from juvenile fish to shorebirds to voles and deer.

Places like Maquoit Shores offers a relatively accessible way to view the water stretching up along a forested path. It is managed by the town Department of Parks and Recreation and the parking area is easy to find off Bunganuc Road. The trail is less than a mile long and leads to a tidal area with salt marsh and a rocky shore. Woodward Point is another amazing property with trails that meander through the woods out to tidal area that wraps around the boundary of the property. This is a recently added property to those managed by the Brunswick Topsham Land Trust (BTLT). It’s not far from Thomas Point Beach, though the property is quite different with an old saltwater farm that stretches down to the shore.

Two other favorites are on the former Naval Air Station and are also managed by the Department of Parks and Recreation. Both are named for the botanist and illustrator Kate Furbish, who collected and drew some 4,000 plant specimens, and after which the Brunswick’s new Elementary School is named. The Kate Furbish West Preserve is just off Harpswell Road opposite the Mere Creek Golf course and includes a loop both through the woods as well as along the edge of the fields. The Kate Furbish East Preserve is the lesser-known of the two and is a little tricky to find as you feel like you are driving off into the Netherlands, passing old bunkers and military facilities. But, then you arrive at the head of a trail that parallels Mare Brook and ends up at the head of Harpswell Cove.

All of these places may not be the first places you’d think of if you have a hankering to get out and see water. But, they are all public. And, they’re all complicated and interesting properties that are valuable in their ability to illustrate just how far-reaching and complex our coastline is.

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