Last Father’s Day, the kids made me breakfast in bed. My wife, two kids, and the family dog all sat and watched me eat my pancakes. Not that that wasn’t fun, but this year I’m dropping a few hints about what I’d like to do. Nothing is better than an outdoor adventure with my family: if you’re a dad — or know one — who agrees, you may want to think about these three outings.
Several years ago, I took the kids to the Great Pond Mountain land Trust’s property in Orland. They were too young to enjoy mountain biking on the gravel roads of the Hothole Valley.
This year it’s time to head back. On weekends in the summer, the south gate on Route 1, just across from Route 176, is open, allowing auto access into the valley. There are several nice rides along Hothole Brook or up the hills along the east side of the preserve. You can also ride through the north gate from the Bald Mountain Road in Orland.
If mountain biking isn’t your thing, all the rides can be walked, and there are several nice hiking trails, including one up Great Pond Mountain. For a handy map of the rides and hiking trails in the preserve, visit the Great Pond Mountain Conservation Trust’s Web site at greatpondtrust.org.
Even before the ice goes out on Pushaw Lake, my daughter starts asking when we are going to go canoeing. Every year I try to get a nice paddle in through Sunkhaze National Wildlife Refuge. You can begin along Route 2 in Milford where Sunkhaze Stream empties into the Penobscot River. There is a parking area and a put-in there.
I prefer to put-in at the top of the refuge where Sunkhaze Stream crosses the Stud Mill Road. There is a place to park just to the west of the stream. By starting at the top, less time is spent paddling through the woods to get to the meadows.
Either way, Sunkhaze Stream meanders through open meadows populated by beaver and other wildlife. This year my goal is to find a painted ibis and scout out a good place to pick wild cranberries when they ripen. Maps and other information are available at the Friends of Sunkhaze Meadows’ Web site at www.sunkhaze.org
My kids love to go for walks in the Bangor City Forest or the Walden Parke Preserve, but sometimes balk at hiking when it’s more strenuous. This year I suggest that we hike Little and Big Chick Hills in Clifton.
The easy way up is to follow the road built to access the tower on Big Chick Hill, but I prefer the longer route that crosses Little Chick Hill. The small, rocky summit offers fine views across the Dedham hills toward the coast without that tower looming at your back. It feels more intimate and wild.
The unmarked trail leaves the road and winds around the mountain, seeming to go back the way you just came on the road, and climbs the exposed summit from the west. The trail between the two summits is a bit rough and can be hard to follow. Even if you lose the trail, the woods are mostly open, and the general route is clear.