There is nothing quite like a peaceful walk in a beautiful setting to strengthen family ties over the holidays and help control expanding waistlines. For an easy-to-get-to two-mile walk, check out the Great Pond Trail adjacent to Route 77 and the Kettle Cove Road in Cape Elizabeth.
The trail leads out through a red oak forest to a scenic outlook jutting out into 131-acre Great Pond, the largest fresh-water body in Cape Elizabeth. The pond is an important resting area for migrating waterfowl, and although the fall migration season is over, the pond sees it share of wintering local ducks, geese and seabirds. Bring your binoculars.
The trail is one of many outstanding land conservation projects of the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust. It is superbly maintained, and easy to follow by paying attention to the green-lettered “G” metal signs affixed to trees along the way. You will see what we mean by the word “outstanding” when you descend down a set of rock steps beyond the scenic outlook and follow along the edge of the wetland grasses and rushes. The trail turns into a magical corridor of man-made trail bridges spanning many hundreds of yards along the eastern shoreline, leading to Alewife Brook. You will feel that you are following “The Yellow Brick Road.” And like us you will be wondering how in the world they got the materials here, and how much did the project cost. If there is another section of trail like this anywhere in southern Maine, we don’t know about it.
There are two benches along the walkway, the first one oriented to take advantage of the afternoon sun, the second one a prime sunning spot for late morning. We spent a half hour at the latter, 25 of those minutes caressed by the low November sun into a restful slumber. Eat your leftover turkey sandwiches here, and then you will have a true recipe for holiday lethargy. It was hard to believe on this sunny, upper 40s day that winter might be lurking out there somewhere.
Continue beyond the outlet brook to the end of the man-made walkway, and veer right up into the forest of hardwoods, mixing now with balsam fir and hemlock. You will come out into a small sandy open area. Turn left and follow a canoe-lined lane a few yards down to the water for outstanding views south out over the lake. If there is any kind of sea breeze stirring at the ocean, only 1.5 miles away at Crescent Beach, you will feel its remnants here. What a great combination; warmth of sun on face, and invigorating sea air stirring the blood.
As you head back out the lane, cross straight through the sandy opening. The trail leads past a tiny pond on the left and through a scenic meadow to a peaceful neighborhood at the intersection of Vernon Road and Glady’s Road. You can also follow the trail leading off to the left from the lane out to the northern trail head on the Fenway Road.
The meadow provides a nice spot for black-and-white photography. The curled brown leaves of goldenrod, matched with isolated dried pods of milkweed and dainty shuttlecock-like skeletons of Queen Anne’s Lace flowers will bring out the artist in you as you compose the perfect Ansel Adams shot. The songs of blue jays, crows, chickadees, nuthatches and sparrows called us back into the forest.
We stopped to listen to the tumble of water down Alewife Brook and marveled that this water would enter the Atlantic only 1.2 miles north of us, and at the same time we were enjoying the gentle caress of wind from the ocean the same distance south of us. The sound of a distant train whistle and the passing of an airplane descending into Portland Jetport jolted us into the realization that there was a civilization out there beyond the beauty we had surrounded ourselves with this fine late autumn morning.
As we retraced our route back to the scenic outlook beyond the trail bridges we stopped to admire the striking contrast of deep blue water with the ragged edge of bleached blond reeds and marsh grasses reaching out into the pond. It was if a giant jigsaw puzzle piece of blue had been airlifted to Cape Elizabeth and placed down into a swatch of forest and fen. Perched up on the steep slope above the shoreline we had the perfect angle to capture with telephoto lens the artistic designs and twists and turns of blue meeting blond.
When we got home that lonely wedge of apple pie sitting in the fridge didn’t make us feel guilty at all as we braced our forks for the task at hand. Perhaps tonight we will check out on the web some other of the Cape Elizabeth trails for another family foray tomorrow.
For help in getting to Great Pond consult the Delorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (Map No. 3). Park at the ice cream stand adjacent to the Kettle Cove Road. The trail head is directly across Route 77. For more information on other Cape Elizabeth Land Trust projects, check out their Web site at capelandtrust.org.