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 Hiking Around Harpswell Maine - 2/25/16 
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 Hiking Around Harpswell Maine - 2/25/16
Trail #1 - Giant Stairs

The flooding and general lousy conditions up north yesterday made me look elsewhere for a hike. A pocket of sunshine from Boston to Portland was the target area. Plan A was for the Blue Hills but that didn't work out, so plan B it was, which was to return to Harpswell Maine and check out some of the other trails I had seen there this past weekend. An easy cruise up the coast and I was at the first trail, which was actually a repeat of the Giant Stairs Trail on Baileys island that we walked last weekend, only this time the tide was high and the surf that was kicked up the night before in the storms was pounding the rocks. Splashing right up over the trail in places and driven by the wind it made for a short but interesting walk to the Thunder Hole. Everything was thundering actually so it was hard to tell how much of the noise was from there specifically, but a few minutes of waves crashing up and over the rocks was enough for me and I returned to my car and headed for the next trail.

The coast always has waterfalls 8)
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Giant Stairs and nearby shore getting splashed
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Thundering all around Thunderhole
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Not many trails where you could legit get swept out to sea but this was one at high tide after a storm
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Trail #2 - The Devils Back

The Devils Back Trail sits on a narrow point of land at the north end of Orr's Island. There is a mile and a half loop trail (Byles Loop Trail) with trisecting connector trails to make access to the best spots on the hike easier. I took the loop around the entire perimeter since I had no idea where the best scenery was. By dumb luck I went clockwise on the south Loop and wound up at the more scenic shoreline section just as the sun decided to finally show. The south part of the loop simply winds around through the woods and along a small creek, which I assume from the name of one of the trails is Otter Creek but cannot say for sure. It's a very gradual way down the 100 feet or so from the trail to the shoreline, as opposed to the rockier north section of the loop, and I met the other end of the Otter Creek Trail at the waters edge. The creek emptied out into Long Cove near some rock you can step out on for a look around. Since it was high tide there was only so far I could go, but it will be interesting to go back sometime at lower tide and see what it looks like then.

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The south part of the loop was pretty ho-hum
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Following Otter Creek (??) down to the ocean
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It empties into this little corner of Long Cove
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Ancient cedars surround the area
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After that I took the north branch of the loop trail. It is the best of this hike I think, hugging the shoreline as it passes through a cedar, pine and spruce forest with Long Cove and the undeveloped shoreline on one side and the steep, rocky embankment of the Devil's Back on your other. Multiple viewpoints and views through the trees made for an enjoyable stroll as the sun finally came out in full force. The shallow water of the cove looked almost tropical and the 50 degree sunshine made it feel nothing like winter. I passed the bottom of the Cutoff Trail and finished the north part of the loop, climbing gradually back up the 100 foot high Devils Back ridge to the start of the loop and exited back to the car under springlike sunshine.

The north branch was more rugged and scenic
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Fog clearing out of the cove
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Turning into a nice afternoon!
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Following the base of the Devils Back ridge
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Looking out as you finish the loop
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Trail #3 - The Cliff Trail

The third trail of the day sounded like it was going to be the best so with the sun out I drove a few miles away to the Cliff Trail. There is an eagles nest out on a small island in the bay nearby, and I saw a couple eagles on the short ride there circling over Gun Point Cove. The trail starts behind the town offices with views of the salt marsh along the tidal Strawberry Creek as you meander through the nice spruce woods. At the end of the creek a stream cascades down a 10 foot high ledge and makes a really nice little cascade. I have no idea if it is always flowing, but with the heavy rains overnight and melting snow it was running well for me. A viewpoint from the other side of the creek gave a nice look at it.

Gun Point Cove
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The tide going out in a hurrry
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Bald visitor overhead
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A juvenile (and apparently unwelcome) visitor getting chased off by a seagull
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The best kept secret on the Maine coast??
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You are encouraged to build fairy houses, just don't violate the building codes!
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Strawberry Creek Cascade
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From there the trail passed through more coastal spruce woods before climbing 150 feet up and over Long Reach Mountain. The far side of the mountain drops almost straight down to the water in Long Reach, and the trail side-hill's its way along the edge of the drop for about half a mile with views of the water through the trees. Nice, but if you want to shorten up this 2.5 mile long trail you can shave off this section with a cut-off trail from near the cascade and not miss a whole lot. After a gradual drop it re-climbs 100 feet to the cliffs near the summit and hugs the edge of them while it gains the final mostly open ledges with dramatic cliff-top views of Long Reach. Clouds of course began to fill the skies right as I neared the top, but views remained of the water directly below and a nicely placed island near the southern end, as well as up the reach to the north. Probably the highlight of the day, and it had an Acadia-like feel to the scenery. As far as I know it's the only place like this on Maine's Mid-Coast and a pretty darn well kept secret. I spend my share of time exploring the Maine coast and I had no clue it was there until last week. Just 20 minutes from LL Bean in Freeport, so if you are ever in the area I'd highly recommend this great little hike.

Nice hike through the coastal spruce woods
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Making the easy climb up Long Reach Mountain
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VTTT
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Island in the Reach
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Almost there
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Views from the clifftops of Long Reach
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This pine must be distantly related to the bonsai trees
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The sun made a brief and final appearance for the afternoon
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More clifftop views, but I read the rock is unstable so stayed back a bit
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Ice hanging around a gully
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Been a tough winter in Maine for the fairies! :D
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Trail #4 - Long Reach Preserve Loop Trail

Anyhow, after that the trail hugs the crumbling cliffs for a short ways, passing a gully and then making its way back down the other side of the mountain to the parking area. Clouds had rolled in by that point but there was one more preserve I wanted to see, so I made another 5 minute drive to the Long Reach Preserve, which sits directly across the water from the Cliff Trail. A 1.5 mile loop trail winds around two steep ridges, with another trail cutting through a bog in between them. I only had time before dark for the main loop, and had to hustle at that, but made my way around the ridges and down where the trail dropped 100 feet to the waters edge and access to the shoreline, when the tide is out, where you can get a great view of the cliffs where the previous hike went and the small island that sits in the water directly between the two trails. After that the trail hugs the shore for maybe 1/4 mile before climbing up and over the 100 foot high ridges and past the Bog Trail. A couple deer bounded off but otherwise nothing of note between there and the car.

Eagles nest on the island near the parking area
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There's a little bald head poking up just right of the big stick in the middle
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Long Reach Preserve is directly across from the Cliff Trail so I went for a quick 1.5 mile trip before dark
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From the shore there's a good view of the cliffs from the previous hike
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The cliffs and island. Has to be one of Maine's best kept secrets
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From my research these are probably the 4 best trails on the islands, but as I said before I just discovered them a week ago myself so maybe there's more out there. There certainly are more preserves in the Harpswell area, a lot more actually. You can find them all on this site with maps, directions, info etc if interested...http://hhltmaine.org/ I enjoyed these little hikes a lot even though it was only about 6 miles total of well marked, relatively easy hiking/walking, but great bang for the buck as far as scenery goes with many Acadia-like qualites as a bonus! Didn't see a soul on the trails all day but they'd all be great with kids too, and none would monopolize an entire day, leaving plenty of time in season to go enjoy the nearby beaches, lighthouses and other stuff, or even just break up the drive to/from Acadia with a little stretch of the legs since they are only about 15 minutes off of I-295. Definitely places I'll be back to many times I'm sure.


Fri Feb 26, 2016 10:51 pm
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Sovereign Woodsman

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 Re: Hiking Around Harpswell Maine - 2/25/16
Looks like a good place to take my granddaughters. Thanks!


Fri Feb 26, 2016 11:11 pm
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Peak Bagger
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 Re: Hiking Around Harpswell Maine - 2/25/16
I'll be sure to hit up those trails. Another great find. Thanks for sharing.

Terry


Sat Feb 27, 2016 10:43 pm
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Mountain Maestro
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 Re: Hiking Around Harpswell Maine - 2/25/16
cue the Twilight Zone music- This past weekend I checked out a couple of the places you had posted reports about recently, Forts Foster, McClary, and Constitution along with Odiorne SP. While I'm doing that, you are in Harpswell recreating a day I had just before Christmas. :D

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Mon Feb 29, 2016 6:08 pm
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 Re: Hiking Around Harpswell Maine - 2/25/16
kpmmbm wrote:
cue the Twilight Zone music- This past weekend I checked out a couple of the places you had posted reports about recently, Forts Foster, McClary, and Constitution along with Odiorne SP. While I'm doing that, you are in Harpswell recreating a day I had just before Christmas. :D


That is a strange coincidence for sure, but holding out on us huh? What other little gems are you keeping a secret?! :D


Mon Feb 29, 2016 8:18 pm
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Mountain Maestro
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 Re: Hiking Around Harpswell Maine - 2/25/16
ok, a few local (to me) gems for you- Fort Baldwin & Fort Popham (within walking distance of each other). Nearby Wilbur Cox's Head preserve and Morse Mountain. Google any of those for directions, maps etc Bring a picnic lunch and make a day of it!

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Mon Feb 29, 2016 9:28 pm
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 Re: Hiking Around Harpswell Maine - 2/25/16
Morse was almost my finale the other day. Never heard of the Wilbur Cox preserve or fort Baldwin but will look them up and definitely visit. Thanks for the tips!


Wed Mar 02, 2016 9:21 pm
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 Re: Hiking Around Harpswell Maine - 2/25/16
Wow, that area looks like Acadia in a pinch! Might have to go there sometime and cap off those hikes with some food and drink in Portland 8) .

You said it was around 6 miles of hiking? I wonder if there are other trail systems nearby. Harpswell looks like a really neat place.

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Sat Mar 05, 2016 11:15 pm
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