Seven things that take a hiking trail from mediocre to amazing.

Summer was a little challenging but we’re finally getting back to our weekly hiking routine at least for the most part. Our favorite thing to do is take a road trip where we spend the day exploring a new area of Maine. We’ll find a fun place to hike that’s in the vicinity of a nearby craft brewery which is not difficult in Maine. We have a lot of them. We also find someplace new and fun to eat and maybe explore a few shops in the area. That last one is probably more me than my husband.

It’s always a great day, but in order to up our hiking frequency we need some trails that are closer to our house for those days where we don’t have the luxury of time.

One such trail that we went to recently was serviceable, but nothing special. It had a bit of a dead forest vibe with lots of downed trees and a random ravine in the middle although my husband did point out that the opening was the perfect size for a flying saucer to have landed so maybe it was a more interesting spot than we thought.

While not exceptionally pretty, it did get me thinking about what type of trails I enjoy most. We’ve been on some beautiful ones but had a few clunkers in there too. They can’t all be perfect.

Below are seven things that make a hiking trail more fun for me.

  1. Variety. I like trails that have different elements to them. A trail that passes through the forest and then opens onto an estuary, changing the landscape, is always a nice change of pace. Or, one that hugs the coastline before turning into the woods where you hike up to the top of a (small) mountain.
  2. Water. I love any trail that passes by water. Ocean trails are especially beautiful, and waterfalls are wonderful too. Honestly, I’ll even take a small stream. It’s not just the views. I find the sound of moving water soothing and it connects me to nature immediately.
  3. Challenging. I love trails that push and challenge us. That said, trails that are too strenuous for our level can take away from the fun. There’s a sweet spot. I’d say we hit it about 80% of the time.
  4. Well Marked. We’ve wandered off a few trails without realizing it which can be frustrating and, depending on where the trail is located, a little scary too. Fortunately, our missteps have been on trails where it was easy enough to recover but it wasn’t fun.
  5. Views. I like to be rewarded for my hard work so am always happiest when there are views some where along the hike. Getting to the top of a mountain always works although sometimes those hikes can push my skill level. Trails that have openings onto the coastline also never disappoint.
  6. Benches. While the strategic placement of benches along a trail generally offer picturesque spots for sitting and enjoying the views, I actually just think they look pretty and rarely use them for their intended purpose. I am especially fond of benches made from granite, rock or other natural elements.  I always have to stop and take a picture.
  7. Location. Especially on those hiking excursions where we are looking to make it a full day experience, having the trail close to other fun things to do is a definitely plus. Although, finding a few close to home with some of these other must have elements will be helpful too.

Do you like to hike? What do you think takes a trail from mediocre to amazing?

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Hiking Maine | Trek along the Bold Coast in Cutler

Sometimes the timing of a hike impacts the end result and even the most beautiful of spots ends up feeling like more of a challenge and a little less fun than expected. After a day spent getting up close with the Puffins of Machias Seal Island, we were more tired than we realized and underestimated the difficulty of the hike we had planned to Cutler to explore the Bold Coast.

It didn’t help that we left our go bag in the car and didn’t have any bug spray to ward off the mosquitoes that were coming out as the day was winding down especially as the first mile of the trail is through the woods without any ocean breezes to keep them at bay.

At least you move quickly when the mosquitoes are out since stopping is just an invitation to have them linger and snack on you. So, we pushed through until we hit the coast. While much of the view is obstructed, there are some well placed openings in the path where you can get closer to the edge to enjoy some especially amazing views. The bold coast is the right name for this part of the Maine coastline where dramatic, steep cliffs border the water’s edge.

The path leading up to the coast was challenging with rocks and tree roots carpeting the floor and slowing our pace. Or, maybe it was just our exhaustion. Without our bug spray, this first part of the trek was not much fun but once we finally hit the coast, we understood why this trail is so highly rated.  The views were even worth the mosquito bites.

The trail itself is actually fairly long, but we didn’t have the energy to hike the full path so we missed much of the coastal section as we turned back and retraced our steps knowing that we would already be a little over three miles by the time we finally got back to our parked car. Three miles was about all we had in us.

I would love to come back to this hike another time when we have the energy to hike the full trail especially the path along the coast which we only tasted a small part of on this trip. I’d plan a little better and not schedule back to back activities next time. I think hiking the Bold Coast is a best done when you’re fresh and rested.

That’s okay. We still got a great peak at what this trail offers and it’s a good excuse to come back to this area again someday and do a little more exploring.

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Hiking Maine | A walk along the ocean at Goose Rocks Beach

Parking in the summer can be challenging at Goose Rocks Beach in Kennebunkport. You need a parking pass and demand generally exceeds supply.  But, in the spring, it is less busy but no less beautiful.

Below are a few pictures from our recent spring hike to Goose Rocks Beach.

Spring inland hikes can be challenging. As I talked about in my earlier post, Hiking Maine | The Hirundo Wildlife Refuge Trail the mosquitoes are fierce and detract from the experience.

The best option during this time of year is to stick to the coast and Goose Rocks Beach was a great option.

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#AtoZChallenge | Y is for Yarmouth and an Island Hike at Littlejohn Island Preserve

There are over 4,600 islands off the Maine coast. Some are more remote than others. In winter, all are a little quieter.

Some islands are actually accessible by road including two off the coast of Yarmouth: Cousins and Littlejohn Islands. Littlejohn Island has a preserve that includes a hiking trail with scenic views of Casco Bay.

We actually hiked the trail a few days into spring so the snow cover was spotty but the wind chill was intense making it feel like we were still in winter. We hiked late on a Sunday afternoon which probably impacted the cooler temperatures. Continue reading

#AtoZChallenge | P is for the Pier at Palace Playland in Old Orchard Beach

Amusement Parks are decidedly not a winter activity in Maine. The rides sit deserted and motionless against the cold, quiet sky. The boardwalk is closed as the seasonal shops are locked up and windows shuttered. Only a handful of people walk the empty beaches.

The hallmark of Palace Playland in Old Orchard Beach is the Pier but it is especially lonely in the winter. With no people strolling its wooden planks, it appears abandoned as it waits for summer to return while braving the winter storms that batter it.

Sitting on its pillars at it juts out into the ocean, it is fully exposed to the elements. Continue reading