POWNAL — The newly frozen mud crunches under our feet and we try not to slip on a slick bed of oak leaves that line the trail up Tryon Mountain on Sunday morning.
Feldspar and quartz-flecked rocks catch the light as we hike up the sometimes steep, sometimes gradual trails along the new connector between the popular Pineland trails and Bradbury Mountain State Park.
My guide, Kent Simmons, has been exploring the area for many years. He’s seen moose, deer and even owls hunting at dusk.
“To see those huge birds swooping down – they don’t make a sound,” he says. “It’s incredible.”
Simmons, who lives in Freeport, about a mile from the new trail, volunteers his time every spring and summer to help maintain the Bradbury Mountain trails, something he’s looking forward to doing on Tryon Mountain, too.
However, for Simmons and his friend and fellow trail volunteer Brian Stearns, the state’s plan to install and maintain only one trail through the area does not make sense.
“We’ve asked them for more trails,” Stearns said. “That will spread people out so they’re not all walking in the same place.”
In many places along the main trail, which is marked with pink ribbons, unmarked meandering side trails already exist. Stearns and Simmons want to see those trails added to the system to create longer loops, rather than just a straight corridor back and forth. The side trails could also be more limited in their use, depending on what users recommend and what the state decides.
Currently, the sections of the main trail are limited to non-motorized uses, while others allow motorized vehicles. Hunting is allowed in some areas and restricted in others. Mountain biking is also allowed along the trail.
The corridor has been a long time in the making — nearly 10 years, to be precise. Mick Rogers, who was the manager of Bradbury Mountain State Park during the easement acquisition process, said the process began in the late 1990s. The last easement was finalized in 2008 and the exact path the trail will take is still not official.
“This (process) was not typical,” Rogers said. “It took so long because there were so many land owners.”
He said the Pownal Land Trust, which merged with the Royal River Conservation Trust, did most of the footwork, contacting landowners and convincing them to sell easements to the state.
One by one, the owners signed on, establishing a corridor between the two recreation centers. This year, the state cut a trail through some of area. However, the draft plan includes only one trail through the corridor, and does not include the various trails Simmons and Stearns are familiar with and want people to be able to use.
The Bureau of Parks and Lands will take comments in writing and at a public meeting on Dec. 8 at 6 p.m. at the Memorial Elementary School in New Gloucester. Afterwards, a 15-year management plan for the area will be finalized. Currently, a draft of the plan is available on the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands website.
Back along the trail, Simmons points out a deer wintering area and an old feldspar quarry. In a gully, there’s a gurgling brook which will soon have a bridge spanning above the high water mark.
As we pass the enormous oak tree and come to the parking lot on Lawrence Road where a boulder and plaque give tribute to the Tryon family’s donation of this land, Simmons thanks me for coming out and points out along the hill to the north.
“You should really go up there and see the stream,” he said. “It’s really beautiful right now.”
Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or firstname.lastname@example.org