Saturday, August 8, 2020

Kayak Camping, Spectacle Island Preserve (Jefferson)

The Spectacle Island Preserve consists of two small islands in Damariscotta Lake that are owned by the Midcoast Conservancy.  The Conservancy maintains a campsite on each island and for a mere $20/night ($12 for members) both islands can be rented overnight.  The islands offer opportunities for swimming, blueberry picking, exploration and relaxation.  

My younger son and I camped Friday night at the islands.  We arrived late morning and parked at Boat Launch Lane in Jefferson, then kayaked 1/2 mile out to the islands.  

When we first arrived, there were people on the further island so we set up camp on the north island.   The north island has a rope swing and as such appears to get more visitation.  The next time we visit we will camp on the south island instead.  

The island and lake are very scenic and quiet and we noticed very few bugs during our stay.  Swimming was the highlight of the trip.  

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Baxter State Park Camping Trip

My older son and I spent three nights camping in Baxter State Park this weekend.  Here is a map of our hikes.


We arrived at Baxter shortly after 11am and as to be expected for a summer Saturday it was very crowded.  Parking for many day use areas was full.

Our first hike was Sandy Stream Pond and the Roaring Brook Nature Trail.  The  Sandy Stream Pond trail has amazing views of several nearby mountains.  On the way back we decided to do a side trip onto the nature trail.  We were surprised to find large amounts of fresh moose scat on the trail, and while we didn't see any moose, the possibility of spotting one added to our excitement.

For our next hike we did the Daicey Pond Nature Trail and the Little and Big Niagara Falls Trail.  The trails share the same parking lot near the Daicey Pond Campground.  The nature trail circles the perimeter of Daicey Pond and like most lakes in the park has great views of nearby mountains.  The trail to Little and Big Niagara Falls follows the Appalachian Trail to two very beautiful waterfalls.  There were three other groups of people visiting Little Niagara - two families swimming under the falls and a solo fly fisherman fishing nearby.  A short distance further down the trail was Big Niagara Falls, which we had all to ourselves.  The trail led us near the top of the falls.  We hiked a little further and after a little work were able to get out onto some rocks near the base of the falls for better views.  On our way to the falls we briefly spotted a mink running adjacent to the trail.

We finished the day at Nesowadnehunk Field Campground.  The campground is located in a grass field, which allows for excellent views of the mountains. 


We woke early and drove to Daicey Pond to watch the sunrise.   We then headed to Kidney Pond to hike the Sentinel Mountain Trail. To access the trail we hiked along Kidney Pond for 0.7 miles, during which we spotted a pair of pileated woodpeckers and enjoyed views of Katahdin and Mount OJI from across the pond.   The Sentinel Mountain trail then splits off and heads away from the pond.  The first section of trail travels up and down through woods.  The trail then begins a relatively steep climb, although no rock scrambling is required.   The trail then emerges at the summit, offering incredible views of the major mountains of Baxter State Park, including Katahdin, The Owl, Mount OJI and Doubletop Mountain.  A moderately challenging loop trail around the summit provides nearly 360 degree views of the surrounding countryside.  This hike was more challenging than we had expected but it was well worth the effort.  

We made our way to South Branch Pond Campground, which would be our home for the next two nights.  The campground sits right on beautiful South Branch Pond in the north section of the park and is surrounded by mountains.  We spent the afternoon relaxing on the lake and recovering from our morning hike.

After dinner we hiked the short (one mile round trip) trail to South Branch Falls.  The stream has worn away a sluice in the rocks producing a small but beautiful waterfall. 

After watching the sunrise on South Branch Pond, we hiked the Pogy Notch Trail to Upper South Branch Pond.  The trail was relatively flat and easy.  After a brief stop and the.pond, we headed back and stopped by Lower Howe Falls.   These are a series of beautiful falls a short distance off Pogy Notch Trail. 

That afternoon, we rented a canoe and paddled to Upper South Branch Pond.  This required us to drag the canoe through a shallow connecting stream.
We took a drive that evening after dinner and spotted a bull moose walking along the side of the road.  


We left Tuesday morning out the north gate of Baxter and on the way home explored the north end of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Downeast Camping Trip, Part 2 (Cobscook Bay Area - Cobscook Bay SP, Klondike Mountain, Reversing Falls Preserve, Matthew's Island Preserve)

My older son and I went on a three night camping trip in Washington County this past weekend, visiting a large number of parks, preserves and other points of interest.  This post will cover the section of our trip around Cobscook Bay.

Here is a map of the four preserves that we visited.

Cobscook Bay State Park

We camped all three nights at Cobscook Bay State Park.  The beautiful thing about the park is that due to its unique coastline, it offers a large number of waterfront campsites.  Although primarily a camping park, there are a few trails within the park.  We explored the short (4/10 mile round-trip) but rewarding overlook trail, which leads to the summit of 150' tall Cunningham Mountain.  

View from our campsite
View from summit of Cunningham Mountain.

Klondike Mountain

Located in Lubec, Klondike Mountain is the tallest point on the Lubec peninsula and provides excellent views of the surrounding area.  A short 0.4 mile trail leads to the summit.  The trail is relatively easy except for a very short section near the summit. The preserve is managed by the Downeast Coastal Conservancy; for more information visit its website.


Reversing Falls Preserve

Reversing Falls Preserve is a Downeast Coast Conservancy preserve that features reversing falls, caused by 24 foot tides that run over a huge underwater ledge between the preserve and Falls Island.  The round-trip 1.2 mile forested trail led us to a peninsula with a rocky prominence that provided views of the falls.  For more information visit


Matthew's Island Preserve

Matthew's Island Preserve is a 14 acre preserve accessible during low tide.  We walked 1.4 miles round-trip from the parking lot to the far end of the island and back.  The trail was overgrown with grass in several parts.  We did not have any ticks on us but did find a large number of red ants after our hike.  For more information on the preserve visit

Downeast Camping Trip, Part 1 (Coastal Lands from Cutler to Lubec - Quoddy Head State Park, Hamilton Cove Preserve, Boot Head Preserve, Bog Brook Preserve, Cutler Coast Public Reserve Land, Eastern Knubble Preserve)

My older son and I went on a three night camping trip in Washington County this past weekend, visiting a large number of parks, preserves and other points of interest.  This post will cover the coastal part of our trip.

Coastal Preserves

Maine's coastline from Quoddy Head to Cutler is dominated by several publicly accessible preserves that offer dramatic views of sheer rock cliffs, rocky beaches and sweeping views of the Gulf of Maine and the Bay of Fundy.  From north to south, public lands include Quoddy Head State Park, Hamilton Cove Preserve, Boot Head Preserve, Eastern Head, Bog Brook Preserve, Cutler Coast Public Reserve Land, Eastern Knubble Preserve and Western Head Preserve (we didn't visit Eastern and Western Head Preserves).  Each preserve is within 10-20 minutes of the next.

A map containing all six of our hikes is here.

Quoddy Head State Park

Perhaps best known for the iconic West Quoddy Lighthouse, Quoddy Head State Park also has several miles of hiking trails that provide dramatic views of sheer rock cliffs looking out over the Bay of Fundy at Grand Manan Island.

We visited Quoddy Head three times on this trip, for sunset on Friday night and sunrise on Saturday and Sunday mornings.  Our focus each time was capturing the lighthouse during golden hour; however, we did hike 2.6 miles on the coastal trail out to Green Point.  The trail offers excellent views of the park's dramatic sheer cliffs.

Hamilton Cove Preserve

Hamilton Cove Preserve is a 1,225 acre Maine Coast Heritage Trust preserve.  We hiked 3.1 miles on the coastal trail, which starts off through a grass and brush field and then enters a boreal forest until the trail ends at a bench overlooking the ocean.  Along the way, a side trail leads out to an overlook platform.  For additional information see

Boot Head Preserve

Boot Head Preserve is another Maine Coast Heritage Trust preserve.  The trail leads through a bog and then a coastal forest out to amazing views of the rocky shoreline.   We hiked a total of 2.9 miles.  For more information see


Bog Brook Preserve

There are two parking areas for MCHT's Bog Brook Preserve - the main lot off of Route 191 and the Moose Cove parking area.  We visited the Moose Cove lot as it provided quick access to the shoreline.  This section of the park has a rocky beach with a number of large rock formations.  A short 0.9 mile hike provided amazing views.  For more information see


Cutler Coast Public Reserve Land

Cutler Coast Public Reserve Land is a 12,334 acre preserve with miles of rocky shoreline.  We hiked a small portion of the trails, 3.6 miles roundtrip, from the parking lot to a sheer rock cliff.  For more information visit the state's website here.


Eastern Knubble Preserve

Despite being only 30 acres, Eastern Knubble Preserve in Cutler provides dramatic shoreline views and an opportunity to walk through a coastal forest.  For more information visit


Sunday, July 19, 2020

Oak Hill Trail, Great Pond Mountain Wildlands (Orland)

My older son and I hiked the Oak Hill Trail and camped out in the Great Pond Mountain Wildlands this weekend.

The Wildlands has two established backcountry campsites.  Reservations can be made through its website at

Oak Hill's summit is approximately 2.4 miles from the south gate. The summit provides views of the the surrounding area and also features low elevation bald habitat, fragile vegetation found in only a few spots in Maine.  Care should be used when at the summit to avoid disturbing the plants.