The Great Outdoors: Cross-country skiing in Reid State Park
GEORGETOWN — Fresh snow and Maine coastal scenery just might be the perfect union. Most winters, if lucky, we enjoy a few brief weeks of good skiing at water’s edge. We are in the midst of such a glorious period right now.
One of the most magnificent coastal skiing experiences outside Acadia National Park just might be the trail system and beaches of Reid State Park.
When conditions allow, the park staff groom the 2.2-mile North Boundary Trail, and the access road leading a mile out to Half Mile Beach. The packed trail is 2 feet wide, but not set with tracks. Despite the lack of set tracks we easily glided through a beautiful evergreen forest. A recent foot-deep snowfall had plastered the northeast side of the trees in white. Loads of sugary snow sat precariously perched on bowed evergreen branches. Dapples of early morning sun tried valiantly to infiltrate the forest.
The park gate opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 4 p.m. Fees are posted at an Iron Ranger: $4.50 per adult with adults over 65 free of charge. Just past the fee station the road splits, with the plowed left fork leading out to Griffith Head and Mile Beach. Follow the right fork a hundred yards and park at the entrance gate for the unplowed park road leading a mile out to Todds Point and Half Mile Beach.
The North Boundary Trail begins at the closed gate. A sign is posted for skiers, and the trail is marked with blue blazes. It loops over gentle terrain back to the road a hundred yards south of where you began. The trail initially follows along the Seguinland Road, passing two ponds on the left. The dead trees on the far side of each pond looked like giant white pipe cleaners sticking up out of the snow.
Once back out onto the park road we headed south, thankful for the sun on our faces on a chilly, but windless morning. Passing through an open section with vast marshes on each side of us we gazed east to the impressive reach of sand dunes separating us from the ocean. From the parking lot we carefully negotiated a snowdrift strewn trail down onto Half Mile Beach.
We were delighted to find a wide ribbon of crusty snow above the tide zone perfect for gliding down the beach to the Little River. There were diamonds sparkling everywhere, on the freshly fallen snow, and on the calm ocean water. Small rollers politely tumbled onto the beach. Distant sea smoke and morning clouds hovered to the east over the water, with a brilliant blue sky above us.
The fortress-like mass of Seguin with its flashing lighthouse beacon rose out of the sea four miles to the southwest. Across the mouth of the Little River a steep hillside of summer cottages and glades of birches stood watch over the ebbing waters. The skiing was exceptional. We skied up and down the beach three times, all the while focused on the beauty of the sea.
Back at the parking lot we skied up beyond the closed bathhouse for views out to sea and up the long sandy slope of Mile Beach. Four miles to the east the unique octagonal structure of Cuckolds Light clung fast to the ledges off of Southport Island. Further to the east the long line of Damariscove Island rose out of the sea.
Once back at our car we drove a few hundred yards out to Griffith Head. Before walking the length of Mile Beach we scampered up onto the tall bluffs adjacent to the parking lot for a look up and down the coast. Many species of ducks had gathered in the protected narrows between a series of ledges below us. Bufflehead, goldeneye, black ducks, and a few immature loons floated along the seaweed-clad rocks.
With our binoculars we scanned the western shoreline of Southport Island trying to see if we could pick out Hendricks Head Light at the mouth of the Sheepscot River. There it was, opposite the quaint fishing community of Five Islands. We were also able to identify the rocky northern headlands of Monhegan Island 15 miles out beyond Damariscove.
We were surprised at how steep Mile Beach was, and walked along water’s edge for the flattest route down the beach. Three men were working back and forth with metal detectors looking for World War II ordnance and coins. A flock of 30 sanderlings provided great entertainment, running back and forth with the ebb and flow of waves. It was amazing how fast they moved. It was as if each bird had consumed a six-pack of Red Bull before gathering on the beach for lunch.
Sanderlings breed in the High Arctic during the brief summer season, and winter along the coast from Maine to Florida. We wondered how it came to be that some of these birds would decide to stay in Maine while others would fly much further south to Florida?
Bring your skis the next time a beach walk is in the plans. With the right snow conditions you may create a ski outing that you will treasure forever.
To get to Reid State Park follow Route 127 approximately 12 miles south from Route 1 in Woolwich. A state park sign is posted just before the right turn onto the Seguinland Road.