Casco is a small town that borders part of Sebago Lake. It has pretty trails, a winery and a great place for a day of shopping (and lakes, of course). Autumn is a great time to take the 50-minute drive if only for the panoramic view from Hacker’s Hill. The foliage is beautiful, sure, but add in the view of the mountains and lakes and you’re guaranteed to cultivate Instagram envy. Heck, the drive to the hill is going to give you some great lakeside leaf peeping before you get to the sweeping views. Even better: No hiking required to get to the top of this little mountain.
This is a relaxing weekend trip you’ve got to do before the leaves fall off. Take my word for it.
DESTINATION: Casco, a town 50 minutes from Portland (this adventure takes place in a 2-mile radius)
HOW MUCH: $4 if you want to sample a few wines, $18 if you want to try all 12.
WHO: Photographers, hipsters and your grandma. Anyone who likes foliage, wine and sifting through other people’s stuff. Anyone on their way to/from Sebago Lake.
WHY: It’s close by, but feels far away. It’s also pretty and not many people go there in the fall (quiet).
WHEN: Autumn will get you the best view (before Oct. 31). Spring and summer are good too.
If you go, here are some places to check out:
Hawthorne’s Attic | 27 Roosevelt Trail (Rt. 302), Casco | 838-8340 | hawthornesattic.biz
There are two things that make Hawthorne’s Attic worth the stop: 1. It’s a massive barn 2. The variety. This place is huge. It’s one of those booth consignment antique stores (but an open floor plan doesn’t make it feel suffocating like some similar stores), which means there are a lot of different collections. Cookware gets a couple booths, comics (including naughty ones) are in a dusty box next to an old stamp collection, there’s an entire wedding dress booth, a vintage clothing booth and booths for old tools. There are also some crafts booths and a small cafe, which is nice because you could spend hours in here. The variety also comes in pricing: a brand new set of sheets was $3, the stamp collection was $250.
Antiquing tip: Always look all the way to the floor and all the way to the top of every wall/ceiling. And haggle.
Hackers Hill | Off Quaker’s Hill Road | Free | Open until the weather turns (Oct. 31, let’s say) hours are 8:30 a.m.-just after sunset, closed Tuesdays and Thursdays
Four minutes up the road from the antique store is Hacker’s Hill, which offers a no-effort (no hiking required) view of Sebago Lake and tons of Maine hills and mountains and, on a clear day, Mount Washington. Right now it’s one of the best spots to see foliage. Rainbows of oranges, greens, yellows and reds blend below while Sebago shines like a diamond in the sun.
You can bring your dogs up this hill. And because there’s no great place to eat in Casco (although I heard Bob’s Seafood in Windham is pretty good), you might want to pack a picnic. Once you get there, there’s plenty of parking, picnic tables and an easy, grassy loop along the tree line if you’d like to take a walk. Bonus: There’s an outhouse.
From Hawthorne’s Attic, you take a right onto Quaker Ridge Road until you hit a hill and see an iron gate on the right (you might miss it, I did, it’s 2 miles up the road. If you pass the funeral home, you’ve gone too far). The drive up to the viewpoint is steep. My old Saturn with its lawnmower engine needed to take it nice and slow up it; an old pickup truck with unsure brakes headed down the hill equally slowly.
Blacksmiths Winery | 967 Quaker Ridge Rd. | 655-3292 | blacksmithswinery.com | Open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays
Never had I tasted a wine that smelled like whiskey. Blacksmith’s 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon is fermented in oak barrels for 10 years, which is why it smells like liquor and has a 17.5% alcohol content.
“This is what I bring home when I need to get the job done,” the woman who poured the wine told me.
Blacksmiths is a tasting room and wine shop down the road from Hacker’s Hill. They’ll charge you 50 cents to $1.50 for most samples, although the ice cider will run you $3 an ounce and the ice wine is $5 for an once.
Aside form the super strong stuff, Blacksmiths has a sparkling blueberry (or cranberry or raspberry) wine, hard ciders and a light red blend called Commissure. When I got home my friend told me her favorite is the Roughshod, a port-style wine made with blueberries and brandy (which I’m now kicking myself for not trying). In all, the shop has about a dozen wines to taste.
Get there: When you’re done on Hacker’s Hill, take the same road back down. It’s at the very end of Quaker Ridge Road (where it meets 302). By the bottle, ciders are $7 and many of the wines are $15-18.
This spot is only going to get prettier in the next couple weeks. It’s Babb’s Bridge on the Gorham-Windham town line. In the summer you can play on the rope swings and swim in the river, but right now the maple trees nearby and bursting with color and are pretty much begging you to photograph them.
Get out of dodge (at least for a little while) with a mini adventure. These excursions can be done in a day – sometimes an afternoon – and will hopefully lead you to places you’ve never been. This is Maine, after all, and we all need some adventuring.