Pineland Farms in New Gloucester is a lovely sprawling, compound with so many activities, events, and offerings that it’s sometimes hard to keep up, but that’s what makes it such a great destination. There’s always something fun to do. When my brother mentioned that he was playing a disc golf tournament there over the weekend, it triggered a desire to check out some of their hiking trails for ourselves. It’s an amazing destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
We’d been to the Pineland Farms Market before to pick up some of their delicious local offerings, and I diligently read their event newsletter when it arrives in my in-box, but we had never actually explored the hiking trails.
We made a quick stop into the outdoor center located below the market, to pick up a trail map, and then headed out across the field to find the Muskrat Hollow snowshoe trail. We were not on snowshoes, but it looked like a nice distance with a gentle loop through fields and forest. It seemed like it would be a good hike for the day.
We got off to a rocky start. My husband was navigating for us using a combination of the paper trail map we had picked up, and a hiking app on his cell phone. But, as always inevitably happens, his cell phone was low on battery power and, in this case, the two tracking methods being used began to contradict one another. A third thing also began happening. We’d get further along the trail, and realize after a half a mile or so of walking, that we had to backtrack and try again as we were deviating from the intended path. It happened a lot on this particular hike.
After picking up what we thought was the start of the trail, we came out the back side of a wooded area and into an expansive field. Knowing the trail was a combination of forest and fields, we trekked along the outside of the field circling around looking for the opening in the forest that buffered the edge of the field, and that would lead us back to the rest of the trail. After circling most of the field, we reached a white fence that separated the field from the road. We still hadn’t seen anything resembling an entrance to a trail path so we trekked back through the field again to where we had originally entered so we could regroup.
The trails are entwined with the disc golf course, so we headed to the next golf hole to see if there would be more trail signage. This particular disc golf hole was a straight shot to the basket, and we did spy a lone hiker towards the far side but couldn’t make out any clear trails. We moved on towards the next hole to again try to get our bearings, when I saw a herd of cows making their way through yet another field as the meandered towards the gate that marked the boundary to their grazing space.
While my husband toggled between his cell phone and the paper trail map, I headed to the fence to get a closer look at the cows. I love cows. They are adorable. This leisurely herd was made up of a large group of black cows, both adults and calves, with one random, and extremely large, brown cow mixed into the bunch.
My husband eventually figured out that from a macro level the dairy barn needed to be on our right so we wandered through another field and around the dairy barn until we picked up what looked like a tractor cleared path through the field. Or, at least a spot where the grass was only about a foot high so maneuverable on foot although I regretted my choice of capri hiking pants that left my ankles exposed. This made wandering through the fields more challenging with prickly plants and other undergrowth all too happy to grab at my skin. Fortunately, the dairy barn landmark, did bring us in the right direction.
As we crossed a road and entered another field, we saw two clear paths around another giant field. One looped right and one looped left. We headed right. We should have known not to trust our instincts which hadn’t been too helpful thus far. More trekking through fields, more scratches and slow going through the grass. When we reached the far side we knew we had to cross to the left and find the wooded part of the trail again. We walked along one inner loop carefully trying to identify any opening before my husband realized we needed to go up around to the next field to get to the entrance.
More backtracking and then wandering along the next section of forest edge, but finally, and somewhat shockingly, we had success and found something that slightly resembled a path. A short distance into the path my husband determined we’d need to scale a rather large embankment to get to the next section. I felt we should head to the pair of wooden bridges to our right that seemed a more likely path. We still had to scale an embankment after crossing them, but one that was a little less intimidating.
We had better success on this last part of the trail as we started to see more and more red circular markers identifying the trail. They were facing the other way which is how we realized we should have gone left when we started the loop. We had to do quite a bit of backward glancing as we started on new sections of the trail, to be sure we were still on the right path. But even with the continual looking back, we finally hit a part of the trail that we could get through more quickly. I’d say it was a more moderate trail as the path was narrow and full of debris with sections that required climbing or careful maneuvering but it was a trail.
As we emerged from the wooded trail, it was back to crossing fields. The temperature had warmed up since we started, and as we walked through the field you could hear the low hum of the crickets in a metronome like rhythm.
We made it back to the beginning and realized that we had walked about 7 miles on what was only a 3-4 mile trail. We really did get off the trail quite a bit! Fortunately, the entire area is beautiful and each misstep took us to a new and equally picturesque spot.
We arrived back at our car feeling a sense of both accomplishment and relief. We were also finally able to drink from our water bottles that were in our “go” bag of hiking supplies which had been left in the back of our vehicle. But, that’s another story.
|things to know|
|Address||15 Farm View Rd, New Gloucester, ME 04260|