The second verse of the poem, “A Rambling Rhyme,” by “A Park Ranger,” begins like this: “There is a mountain in Pownal town, it has a story of no small renown, how old it is I dare not say, it’s kissed by the sun and the wind each day…” The poem refers to none other than the namesake peak of Bradbury Mountain State Park, the 485-foot dome of granite and pegmatite in the woods of, yes, you guessed it, Pownal.

The poem occupies the last few pages of the booklet, “The Ranger’s History of Bradbury Mt. State Park,” by Benjamin H. Britt, and one can assume that Britt penned those lyrical lines as well. Bradbury Mountain was acquired by the federal government in 1939, and soon after became one of Maine’s five original state parks, along with Sebago Lake, Aroostook, Mt. Blue and Lake St. George. Britt published this short work in 1942 during his tenure as a ranger in the early days of the park.

Humans have been drawn to Bradbury Mountain for centuries, and if you spend some time wandering about you’re sure to discover plenty of historical evidence, made all the more interesting after perusing Britt’s fascinating account, which is easily found online. More than 20 miles of trails crisscross the 800-acre state park, and they are well-used by hikers, runners, mountain bikers and horseback riders. Of those, perhaps the most intriguing is the 6-mile network on the mountain itself in the park’s western section.

Walk the Boundary Trail around much of the perimeter of the property and you’ll follow more than a mile of beautiful old stone walls, some waist high. Apparently, early settlers built fences and stone walls around their cleared land not to keep cattle in but rather to keep them out, just the opposite of farm fencing today.

Old stone walls meant to keep cattle out back in the day line the route of the Boundary Trail. Carey Kish photo

Along the lower section of Northern Loop is a stone-walled cattle pound, which dates to before 1800. Stray cattle found on the loose and wreaking havoc on a farmer’s crops would be caught and impounded until the owner could claim them and make good on the damages.

At the base of the Switchback Trail there’s evidence of an old feldspar mine that operated from 1928 to 1933. The mined product was shipped to New Jersey where it was ground for use in the manufacture of porcelain and china.

The family of William Cotton built a cabin at the eastern base of Bradbury Mountain in the late 1700s. On the slopes nearby, along what is today’s Terrace Trail, they grew grapes in what may have been the first vineyard in Maine. It’s little wonder that the place was quite popular with visitors from near and far come harvest time.

The Cotton Family grew grapes on terraces in the late 1700’s. You can still see these terraces on the Terrace Trail. Carey Kish photo

The mountain is thought to be named for Samuel Bradbury, a youthful explorer and hunter who got lost and died there in the early 1700s. And with this last factoid of Bradbury history in mind, it’s time to climb the peak and enjoy the view, something that many of the 100,000 or so visitors do each year, according to Acadia Tripp, a seasonal ranger at the park. “It’s just a quarter-mile to the top on the Summit Trail, so it’s definitely a very accessible place.”

Outcrops on the upper part of Northern Loop and halfway along the South Ridge Trail feature great views, but the big picture window vista is from the huge ledges on the true summit. You’re not likely to be alone up there, but that’s OK, as there’s room for all to enjoy the glorious expanse of green that extends south to Casco Bay and the Portland skyline.

“It seems to me,” wrote Britt, “that at no other point within easy traveling distance of the average citizen of Cumberland County can one secure a more varied view than here at Bradbury Mountain.”

The campground at Bradbury Mountain SP features well-spaced, wooded campsites. Carey Kish photo

Bradbury Mountain State Park is open year-round, and come winter, there are groomed cross-country ski trails plus snowshoeing, of course. The spacious campground is open into mid-October and accommodates everything from tent campers to RVs (no hook-ups). Two glamping sites feature canvas tents with all the amenities, and two log lean-to shelters welcome groups. Bring your toys, stay awhile and enjoy some good Bradbury fun and games!

Carey Kish of Mount Desert Island is the author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast and editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide. Follow Carey’s adventures on Facebook @CareyKish


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