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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 29, 2018

Hiking in Maine: Plenty of options available for an outing in Poland area

Written by: Carey Kish

A couple weeks before Christmas, my wife and I were headed for a weekend stay with friends who live in woodsy comfort on a hilltop in Raymond right close to the Poland town line.

There would be hanging out to do, and various and sundry holiday festivities to fill the time, but I also was hoping to get outside for some local hiking.

At one time or another we had all done the loop on Pismire Mountain in Raymond Community Forest, romped over the paths at Poland Spring Preservation Park and enjoyed the Sebago Lake vistas from Rattlesnake Mountain in Casco. A new hiking venue was in order, perhaps, if we could find anything. Given Maine’s robust conservation movement, I was optimistic.

A Google search for Poland quickly yielded results, a couple of interesting short hikes, one for each day. Perfect. I loaded the information and maps onto my smartphone and we were good to go. Then it was on to time well spent with Santa hats, cold beers, good company and lots of belly laughs. Nothing finer.

HEART OF POLAND CONSERVATION AREA

This rolling forestland preserve is situated in the village or “heart” of Poland. A 2.5-mile network of five colored-coded trails crisscross the property. The preserve was cobbled together from five lots acquired by the town over time. The last lot purchased in 2014 finally enabled the Poland Trail Committee to complete the trail network.

There’s a trailhead with parking and a kiosk on Tripp Lake Road (0.75 miles west of Route 26), while the main trailhead is on Route 26 (1211 Maine St.) behind the Ricker Memorial Library.

On Saturday morning we began from the library and hiked all five trails in a figure-eight loop. Huntress Trail, the main trail connecting the two trailheads, passes a vernal pool site en route. A short spur off Huntress Trail leads to a former stone quarry dating to the early 1900s. Cave Trail led to a hillside cave and dike formation, while White Oak Trail brought us to a stand of white oaks, an uncommon find in these parts. Ricker Trail slabbed through the woods above the highway before reaching the finish.

Interesting note: On White Oak Trail just east of where it crosses a small brook, we think we found an Indian marker tree, a hardwood with an obvious elbow or bend in the trunk a short distance above the ground. I’d noticed such deformed trees before but hadn’t heard the term until my friend, Janet Thurston, pointed it out to me.

An Indian marker tree was purposely bent over as a sapling and held in a bent position during its young life by a strap of animal hide. Such trees were used by Native Americans as important guideposts through the forest, much like we use road signs today. In my excitement I forgot to take a photo of our special tree “discovery” but you can bet I’m going back for another look.

BRAGDON HILL CONSERVATION AREA

We woke Sunday morning to five fluffy inches of snow, the first real accumulation of the winter season. Bragdon Hill Conservation Area in Poland was the morning’s objective, and we were delighted to find that the trailhead lot on North Raymond Road was plowed.

The 455-acre conservation area is pieced together from three distinct land parcels, the 229-acre Poland Town Forest, owned by the town since it was a poor farm in 1857, and two lots totaling 226 acres owned by the New England Forestry Foundation. A color-coded 3.5-mile system of trails wend over the land that is dominated by hemlock and beech woods.

At a meandering pace, we explored portions of Hemlock Trail, White Pine Trail and Beech Trail. We managed to find the big erratic named T-Rex Rock, but missed a turn and never saw the largest hemlock tree in town. Time was short, so the highlights along Maple Trail and across North Raymond Road in the town forest would have to wait for another visit.

Enter “Heart of Poland Conservation Area” and “Bragdon Hill Conservation Area” into your internet browser to find more information and trail maps.

 

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