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The leaves have fallen. The songbirds have flown south. Days are short. And the tourists have fled.
With skeletal trees and a biting wind, November, at first glance, is a bleak month in Maine. But if you take a moment to embrace the quiet, you might be surprised at the subtle beauty that this time of year holds.
On a woodland trail, ice is forming, its crystals knitting intricate patterns over puddles and ponds. A red squirrel sits on a fallen tree and munches on a pine cone. Vibrant green moss coats the forest floor. A woodpecker drills into bark for bugs.
After a busy fall foliage season, the number of hikers quickly dwindle as the temperatures cool during November. And in that lull of activity, a special peace can be found on the trails.
So if you’re longing for some fresh air and solitude, bundle up in a fleece and some blaze orange — to be visible to hunters who might be sharing the woods with you — and hit the trails.
Carter Meadow Road Trail
Sunkhaze Meadow National Wildlife Sanctuary in Milford
Easy to moderate
The Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge protects the second-largest peatland in Maine and contains several raised bogs or domes, separated by streamside meadows. Sunkhaze Stream bisects the refuge with its six tributaries, creating a diversity of wetland communities. The unit in Milford covers 11,485 acres.
Carter Meadow Road Trail is one of five short hiking trails scattered throughout the refuge. Hiking the entire thing is about 2.2 miles, including the short span of woods road that leads to the loop trail. At the far end of the loop, the trail leads to an observation platform on the edge of Sunkhaze Meadows Bog.
Access is free. Dogs are permitted but must be kept under control and picked up after. Hunting is permitted. For more information, call 207-454-7161 or visit fws.gov/refuge/sunkhaze_meadows/.
Directions: From Route 2 in Milford, turn onto County Road, which starts out paved and quickly transitions into a well-groomed dirt road. You will pass several gated drives. At about 6.4 miles, park in a small parking area on the left. There a kiosk contains refuge trail maps. To find the trail, walk southwest on the road (back the way you came) for a few hundred feet. The gated Carter Meadow Road is just after Little Birch Stream on the same side of the road as the parking area. Walk past the gate and down the road 0.3 mile, passing a few private camps. At the end of the road is a small red building. You can start the hike of the loop trail from the right or left of the building.
Northern Headwaters Trail in Montville
The Northern Headwaters Trail is one of the many trails that are owned and maintained by the Midcoast Conservancy. Forming a loop that’s about 3.5 miles long, the trail travels along the ridge of Whitten Hill, the edge of a field and along the banks of the Sheepscot River. Along the way, the trail passes a large stone wall, a cellar hole and fruit trees — all evidence that a homestead once stood on the property.
A part of the Sheepscot Headwaters Trail Network, the Northern Headwaters Trail is connected to the 5.3-mile Goose Ridge Trail, the 1.4-mile Hemlock Hollow Trail, the 0.5-mile Whitten Fields Trail and the 0.5-mile Whitten Hill Trail. These trails branch out to connect with other trails for a total of 19.2 miles of intersecting trails that span three preserves.
Access is free. Dogs are allowed, but they must be kept under control at all times. Hunting is permitted, though special permission from the land trust is required in some areas. For more information, call Midcoast Conservancy at 207-389-5150 or visit midcoastconservancy.org.
Directions: There are two parking areas from this trail. From the intersection of North Mountain Valley Highway (Route 220), Halldale Road and Freedom Pond Road in Montville, drive about 1.6 miles south on Halldale Road. The first parking area that you can use will be on your left marked with a sign that reads “Whitten Hill Trailhead.” The second parking lot is another 0.9 mile south on Halldale Road, also on your left. A short dirt road leads to this parking area, which is for the Northern Headwaters Trailhead.
Parkman Mountain and Bald Peak
Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island
Both rising over 900 feet above sea level, Parkman Mountain and Bald Peak stand side by side on Mount Desert Island, east of Somes Sound, and their summits are so close together that hikers usually visit both in one outing. Located in Acadia National Park, the mountains both provide panoramic views of the stunning landscape of MDI and the nearby ocean, dotted with smaller islands.
Well-maintained park trails climb both mountains and span between their peaks, allowing for a loop hike that is a little less than 3 miles long. Carry a park map with you on your hike so you can confidently navigate any trail intersections.
All visitors to Acadia are required to pay an entrance fee upon entry May through October. Dogs are permitted on this hike if kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet at all times and their owners pick up after them. Hunting is not permitted. For more information, call 207-288-3338 or visit nps.gov/acad/.
Directions: Drive onto Mount Desert Island on Route 3. At the intersection after the causeway, veer right onto Route 198 and drive 4.3 miles. Veer left onto Route 198-Route 3 and drive 4.1 miles and park in the small Norumbega Mountain parking area on your left, which is about 0.1 mile past the larger Parkman Mountain parking area, on the right. The trailhead is located across the road.
This story was originally published in Bangor Metro’s November 2019 issue. To subscribe to the magazine, click here.