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You will find just about every Maine landscape nestled in the Wells Reserve. An easy 2-mile hike will reward you with sand beaches, marsh lands, massive pines, old-growth forests, fields — both trimmed and wild, estuaries, brooks and rivers. After your walk, treat yourself to the best doughnut of your life.
You arrive at this farm. It is all yellow and has several carriage houses and out buildings. Very cool, very historic. You can go into the building to get information and see some exhibits.
Here are some more of the historic buildings on the campus. You have to walk by them to get to the trail system.
This is Wells Reserve's free trail map. You can pick one up near the farmhouse. Wells Reserve has a network of short trails. We took a long loop: Cart Path to Laird-Norton Trail (to the overlook) to the Pilger Traill to the Muskie Trail, which brings you back to the farmhouse. In all, it was about 2 miles. We saw a shocking diversity of habitats in that 2 miles.
Here is the trailhead.
We took a long loop, starting with the cart path, which led us here to the Laird-Norton Trail, which brings you through bushes and forest.
This time of year all the ferns are popping up.
As the forest gives way to a wet, marshy ground, the skunk cabbages started cropping up.
Skunk cabbage. When I was a kid I thought they must be smelly, so I plugged my nose whenever I saw one. Turns out they're only smelly if you touch them.
A whole landscape of skunk cabbage and ferns.
At the end of the skunk cabbage patch, we found this overlook on the Laird-Norton Trail (signified on the map with an O). The display explained how the ocean, sand bars and marshes work together and what lives and grows in each environment. Neat.
Marsh and open ocean meet.
We followed the Laudholm Beach Trail, which brought us past cattails to a sand beach.
No dogs. Or cats. Or bikes.
Too cute. Older couple looks at the ocean.
I read a sign that said farmers used to harvest this "salt hay" for cattle feed. Must have been some thirsty cows/horses.
Half of the beach was BEAUTIFUL and felt like a nature preserve.
The other half had a lot of expensive homes.
Which led to an intensely uncomfortable feeling that we were in somebody's yard.
Sometimes you can walk out to a sandbar. We got caught by the tide.
So we skipped rocks.
Kelsey smells the ocean before we headed back to the trail.
The path to Narnia? The Pilger Trail was a magical surprise. It has fields, forest, ponds. Beautifully diverse.
Low, marshy shrubs under a bridge-path.
A whole field of milkweed.
This pond is full of frogs and salamanders.
The Muskie Trail is set between old farm land and forest.
It dumps you out at this road, near the farmhouse.
And we came full circle. Took an hour (maybe a bit more).
When I visited the Wells Reserve on a weekday, I saw no other hikers. I’m sure this won’t be the case as July approaches and the tourists come out of their suburban hibernation.
Drive (or bike) to 342 Laudholm Farm Rd. in Wells (just off Route 1).
Pay the suggested donation ($4 adults, $1 children) at the little outhouse of a building as you drive up.
Park right near the historic Laudholm Farm with its big, yellow farmhouse (and a dozen other adorable, old yellow carriage houses, barns and other outbuildings).
Visit the info booth near the parking lot and grab a free trail map (it was a huge help – very easy).
Walk past the farmhouse and you’ll find a big sign with all the trails.
This 2-mile hike will get you to all the sights in a loop:
From the farm, take the Cart Path (buzzing with massive bumble bees) toward the Laird-Norton Trail, which has a deck path through high, green bushes. The trail winds through the estuary, where open ocean splashes against sand bars, which protect marsh lands. If you go in the morning, I’m sure you’ll find a lot of wildlife. There are plenty of beeches along the way, so pack a picnic.
Connect to the Laudholm Beach Trail for a stroll along a sandy beach. If you stay to the right, you’ll avoid the huge beach mansions. When you’re done at the beach, take the same path back, but stay left to the Pilger Trail, which winds through shady forests. You’ll soon be dumped near an open field abutting the forest. You can follow the Pilger trail to another estuary overlook. Connect to the Muskie Trail, which will offer views of milkweed fields and wildflower fields before it dumps you out near the farm again.
Once you’ve taken in all the sights and salty air you can handle, head back to Route 1 for the best doughnut of your life. I opted for the apple fritter at Congdon‘s (1090 Post Rd.). It was perfectly crispy and moist. The sugar glaze gave it this melt-in-your-mouth texture that I’ve never experience in a doughnut. There’s not much worth seeing in Wells, to be honest, but the doughnuts ($1.29 each) are almost worth the drive on their own. The honey dip was pillowy and tooth-hurting sweet.
Best apple fritter of my life. I didn't know a doughnut could be so melt-in-your-mouth sugary.
On your way out of town you’ll see a ton of antique stores. Give Bomar Hall a shot for the quirky and old.