Hiker along Meadow Brook Lobster Cove Meadow Preserve
Photos by Carey Kish
Hiker at Lobster Cove Meadow Preserve
Hikers at Back River view Porter Preserve
Hikers on Burley Loop Linekin Preserve
Interpretive sign Lobster Cove Meadow Preserve
Sheepscot River view, Porter Preserve
View along Back River Porter Preserve
Gardens Aglow at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens
Any time of year is a good time for hikers to visit the Boothbay Peninsula, which is home to a wealth of conservation lands and miles of foot paths scattered about between Route 1 and the Gulf of Maine, and bookended by the Sheepscot and Damariscotta rivers.
But the holiday season is this hiker’s favorite, when one or more scenic walks can be combined with a whole host of festive events for many hours of outdoor fun and good cheer, with friends and family.
The Boothbay Region Land Trust has been protecting land in the area since 1980, and its inventory today includes 20 preserves and more than 30 miles of hiking trails that range from easy to moderate to challenging.
I’ve been slowly picking away at this list for a number of years, and returned recently to check out three more beautiful spots before venturing over to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay for its Gardens Aglow holiday lights extravaganza. This grand event runs every Thursday through Sunday through Dec. 31.
Gardens Aglow is billed as “the biggest and brightest light display in Maine,” and features an amazing 500,000 energy efficient LED lights that decorate the central gardens, visitor center and education center, a sight to behold if you’ve never been and one certainly worth returning to again and again.
I arrived at dusk and enjoyed multiple strolls around the grounds as the gray of evening gave way to the dark of night. Hot chocolate and fresh popcorn, good company and an appreciative crowd enriched the wondrous scene, and infused us all with the holiday spirit for sure.
As an added bonus, local merchants in and around Boothbay Harbor are sponsoring a number of special events as part of the Boothbay Festival of Lights, including the Holiday Sparkle Fireworks, North Pole Express train and the Gingerbread Spectacular. Regular shuttle buses from downtown Boothbay Harbor to Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens will allow you to enjoy both venues without any of the typical parking headaches.
Before you partake in all the Boothbay holiday season hubbub, do plan to spend some quality time on the trails at one or more of the outstanding preserves nearby. Among the many possibilities, here are three that I highly recommend.
Porter Preserve encompasses 19 acres on the southern tip of Barters Island, off Kimballtown Road a few miles west of the village of Boothbay. The land features a half-mile of shorefront on the Sheepscot and Back rivers, and a one-mile circuit wends through impressive stands of mature red spruce, white pine and red oak. Several loops and spur paths lead to river vistas, including a sheltered cove with a sweet little beach that looks out to Lydia Ann’s Island. Benches at the viewpoints make nice rest stops. Enjoy the mossy stone walls and look for the old cellar hole of the former Hull family home.
Linekin Preserve and the adjacent Burley Loop property protect 138 acres between Ocean Point Road and the Damariscotta River in East Boothbay. A three-mile network of color-coded trails offer a number of loop combinations. Follow the outer loop, as I did for 2.3 miles of pleasant walking that includes mixed woods, several small streams and ponds, rock ledges and a quarter-mile along the steep banks of the Damariscotta River. The Burley Loop portion of the hike meanders through woods that never have been logged. Landowner Linda Burley donated this 43-acre parcel in 2006 because “the people should be able to walk the land.”
Lobster Cove Meadow Preserve is 47 acres of lovely fields, wetlands and wooded uplands off Route 96 in Boothbay Harbor. Make the lollipop loop to the footbridge and earthen dam at the south end of the Meadow Brook marshlands and you’ll have a wonderful 1.7-mile hike. Interpretive displays at the dam tell about the old ice works that operated here from 1880 to 1907.
To help plan your big day of hiking and holiday fun in the Boothbay region, visit these websites for complete information: Boothbay Region Land Trust at bbrlt.org Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens at mainegardens.org, and Boothbay Festival of Lights at boothbaylights.com.