It is back to Freeport this month for exploration of another exceptional Freeport Conservation Trust project: the Calderwood Tree Farm loop trails. This winter we have been trying to be a little greener and have been seeking out recreational opportunities nearer home. Our town happens to be Freeport, but whether you live in South Portland, Cumberland or Bath, your area land trust has been doing outstanding work to preserve green spaces near your home. With a little investigative work via the Internet or at your local library, you will uncover gems that few people are aware of, and are begging for exploring.
We put our tax preparation headaches aside one beautiful cobalt-blue sky Saturday afternoon, loaded the snowshoes in the car and headed down the Flying Point Road in search of the Calderwood trails, 5.3 miles from L.L. Bean and a quarter mile south of the Brunswick-Freeport town line. Consult the Delorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (Map No. 6) for help getting there.
The small white signposts on each side of the road are hard to see behind the snow banks, so slow down as you pass the five-mile mark from L.L. Bean. Telephone pole No. 164 marks the spot on the eastern side of the road. There is no off-road parking area, but the road is straight enough at the trailhead that you can nudge your vehicle up against the crusty snow bank, and clearly be seen and avoided by passing motorists.
There is a half-mile loop trail on the eastern side of the road, and a one-mile loop trail on the western side of the road. Each loop provides different experiences. We spent two hours poking about first on the Maquoit Bay side, then on the evergreen forest side. Both loops are flat and suitable for snowshoers of all ages and abilities. Given good snow conditions these loops are a joy to ski as well, with no hair-raising downhills or radical turns.
The eastern loop leads through an open hardwood forest dominated by maple and oak, with a scattering of beech and ash. A stream bed on the right, draped with a thick blanket of snow, leads down to a steep embankment tumbling down to Maquoit Bay. Soon you will begin to notice good-sized white and yellow birch as the bay comes into view ahead of you. Depending on wind and weather conditions over the next few weeks, the bay ice may or may not still be in. There are some nice views through the oak trees of Mere Point and the islands marching south toward Whaleboat.
We meandered off the white-blazed trail and dropped down into the gully, delighting in the few small open pockets of water that had managed to cut through the snow. It was rapturous listening to the spring sound of gurgling water on its way down into the winter landscape of sea ice.
The early afternoon sun, easily penetrating the hardwood plateau, slowed our pace to a crawl as we constantly stopped and soaked up the sun on our faces. We spied on our left a large red pine with its telltale reddish flaking bark. These trees always make us think of hiking along a northern wilderness lake on the Appalachian Trail or pulling a canoe up onto a windswept point in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters. Red pines are the sentinels of wild and watery places. And this tree was a big one: 7 feet in circumference at shoulder level.
A few yards away we found a massive red oak 12 feet in circumference. At the base of the oak a small headstone-shaped black slab of rock stood sticking up out of the snow. Was it an act of nature or a crude headstone in memory of man or beast long deceased? Land use does radically change over the years. Yesterday’s colonial-era pasture is today’s protected forest, or condo development, or maybe another open space carved out of a working woodlot.
The loop trail on the opposite side of the Flying Point Road features a thick evergreen forest for the first portion of the loop, followed by open woodlands, culminating in a trek up onto a slight knoll of tall, red and white pine. It is as if you had been magically transported into the splendor of the Bowdoin Pines in Brunswick.
A few yards in from the road note the gnarled apple tree on the right. Behind it sits a small cellar hole made of granite blocks. A large, rusted, spoked wheel of an old hay harvester protruded out from the snow, model P 500 inscribed on the axle hub. Where was this fine piece of equipment made, and when? We’ll have to come back in the spring and poke around some more. (Maybe we will find that dreamed-of stash of silver dollars hidden in a tin in the foundation cracks.)
A hundred yards into the woods, beyond a large conical spruce tree, we came upon a fireplace hearth and chimney, all that was left from a life here long ago, all except a bronze circular marker protruding out of the snow inscribed with “American Legion.” Our two hours of exploring had raised many questions. Perhaps the next rainy day will find us making the trip up to the Freeport Historical Society on Main Street to get those questions answered.
Make this March a memorable one, exploring on snowshoes or skis until the ground is bare. There is much more to your town that you have yet to discover. That certainly is the case in Freeport.
Michael Perry is the former director of the L.L. Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools, and founder of Dreams Unlimited, specializing in inspiring outdoor slide programs for civic groups, businesses and schools. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.