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Carey Kish

Carey Kish of Mount Desert Island has been adventuring in the woods and mountains of Maine for, well, a long time. If there’s a trail—be it on dirt, rock, snow, water or pavement—he will find it, explore it, and write about it. Carey is a two-time Appalachian Trail thru-hiker, Registered Maine Guide, author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast, editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide (10th ed.), and has written a hiking & camping column for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram since 2003. Follow his outdoor travels and musings here, and on Facebook/CareyKish. Let Carey know what you think at MaineOutdoors@aol.com.

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Posted: January 14, 2019

HIKING: Combine Shopping at Renys with Fun Hikes Nearby for a Real “Maine Adventure”

Written by: Carey Kish

The family-owned Renys department store chain is a Maine institution that has been attracting loyal customers and curious visitors alike to its eclectic mix of brand names and bargain goods for nearly 70 years.

With 17 stores scattered around the state, it’s a good bet there’s not only a Renys near you, but a fun hike close by as well. Renys is cleverly branded as a “A Maine Adventure,” so what could be better than combining some shopping and hiking for an adventurous day both indoors and out.

The closest Renys to my house is a half hour north in Ellsworth. I was in there just last week to sort through the chamois shirts, fleece vests, gloves, winter boots and such. As so often happens, what figured to be a 15-minute in-and-out turned into an hour of happy shuffling through the aisles.

I finally settled on nothing that was on my list, but rather some spices and canned goods and a few holiday stocking stuffers (enticing as it was, I passed on the 10-pound vacuum pack of beef jerky for $29), then headed for a hike.

Happy shoppers with bags in tow exit the Ellsworth Renys. Carey Kish photo.

A little over 6 miles north of Renys via US 1A is the Branch Lake Public Forest, a lovely 239-acre parcel owned by the City of Ellsworth. Some 4 miles of trails wend through the mature pines and spruce and along the scenic and mostly undeveloped lower shoreline of Branch Lake, the city’s public water supply.

On this cold, clear day I combined the Pine and Lake Loop trails for a nice 2.7-mile walk. The highlight is always the section along big, beautiful Branch Lake, which affords sweeping views northwest to Oak Hill, Flag Hill and Flying Moose Mountain in the Great Pond Mountain Wildlands, as well as to Dedham Bald Mountain. The Brookside Trail leads to another point on the lake, but that was for another day.

In the Branch Lake Public Forest, a hiker on the Lake Loop Trail enjoys the expansive mountain views. Carey Kish photo.

R.H. Reny opened his first store in Damariscotta in 1949 with a simple philosophy: “make great buys of quality merchandise and pass these incredible values along at the lowest possible price to our customers.” Given the remarkable success of Renys down through the years, it’s hard to argue with a business formula like that.

“We’re an old school department store,” said Mary Kate Reny, the chain’s marketing and communications manager. “From staple items to closeouts, we’ve got things you need and lots of things you didn’t know you needed.”

The advertising jingle, “Renys: A Maine Adventure,” is one of the catchiest on radio and television, and is pretty darn effective in print, too, in my opinion. Ironically, the tag line was the brainchild of none other than Mary Kate Reny some 15 years ago.

As with many great ideas in modern times, Reny told me she scribbled the words that would end up completely rebranding the venerable chain on a cocktail napkin.

“We’d become more than just a department store to our customers,” Reny recounted. “A shopping adventure more aptly framed the experience.”

An eclectic mix of brand names and bargain goods is what you’ll find at any of the 17 Renys stores around Maine. Carey Kish photo.

MORE HIKES AND RENYS COMBOS AROUND MAINE

There’s a plethora of hikes in the vicinity of the Damariscotta Renys, thanks to the Damariscotta River Association and the Pemaquid Watershed Association. At Crooked Farm Preserve, try the 2.5-mile loop that follows the Pemaquid River to Boyd Pond.

Loon Echo Land Trust’s 486-acre Bald Pate Mountain Preserve in Bridgton is home to 7 miles of trails. Combine the Bob Chase Scenic Loop and South Face Loop trails for a 2.7-mile tour of the mountain, including the namesake 1,150-foot summit.

In Saco, the 1,218-acre Saco Heath Preserve, a property of The Nature Conservancy, protects the most southerly example of a raised coalesced bog. A wonderful 1.2-mile (one-way) boardwalk extends into the beautiful heath.

Mt. Battie is a great hike right out of Camden village. The Mt. Battie Trail leads a steep 0.6 miles to the stone tower on top and fabulous views of Camden’s harbor and Penobscot Bay. Another 1.8 miles of tramping gains you Ocean Lookout and the peak of Mt. Megunticook.

There are 12 other Renys stores around Maine, and with a bit of sleuthing I know you can find a good hike in the vicinity of each. Have fun!

The old stone tower on Mt. Battie in Camden Hills State Park offers a grandstand view over Camden Harbor to Penobscot Bay. Carey Kish photo.

A boardwalk at Saco Heath Preserve leads hikers through a beautiful raised coalesced bog. Carey Kish photo.

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