by Colin Brown
As an avid hiker, there are numerous hikes, walks, and strolls in the Downeast Lakes Community Forest (DLCF) that offer a wide range of distances and difficulties to suit all ages. But, it seems that certain locations naturally amplify the seasonal changes, inviting people to take a moment and become an intricate part of the landscape. Here are some of my favorites….
Spring – Wabassus Mountain Trail
Spring is a special time of rejuvenation. A celebration of the survival of another long, arduous winter. If there is a hiking trail in the DLCF that directly connects visitors to nature’s rebirth, it is Wabassus Mountain Trail. Located along Wabassus Mountain Road, the trailhead begins at a small hemlock-shaded ravine and steadily climbs more than 500 feet to the summit of the highest point in the community forest. The first section of the trek is damp and dark, the ground soft with dense needle duff and decaying fungi of seasons past. However, after 200 feet in elevation change, the hemlocks and pine quickly give way to beech, yellow birch, and massive sugar maples, which allow dappled sunlight to reach the forest floor. This is where the show begins. In spring, before the heat of summer and the broadening foliage, early-season wildflowers called “ephemerals” burst through the substrate, stretching and spreading to take advantage of a temporarily open canopy. Hikers will pass through large swathes of Red Trillium, Spring Beauties, Trout Lilies, and if lucky, Bloodroot. Nearing the summit, the forest is composed of ash and hornbeam, while the understory is a blanketing carpet of purple and white violets. Complete the short loop at the top for partial views of Third and Fourth Machias Lakes, and Wabassus Lake. The descent allows for a slower pace to enjoy the scenery – be sure to soak it in, as these blooms are short-lived from mid-May to early June. Few hikes in Washington County are as colorful as Wabassus Mountain during a usually drab time of year.
Summer – Pocumcus Lake Trail
In July and August, summer in Grand Lake Stream is in full swing – the dog days. The woods roads are dry and dusty, and you might be looking for a quiet escape to beat the heat. My personal favorite remedy for this time of year is the Pocumcus Lake Trail. Located 7.5 miles from town along the Fourth Lake Road, the trail begins at an old log landing that is likely filled with fireweed, black-eyed susans, and meadowsweet. The early section of the trail winds through mixed woodlands, and bends through low-lying cedar stands. Crossing bog bridges, keep your eyes peeled for mushrooms. Pocumcus Lake Trail has numerous species of fungi, and after a wet spring and (hopefully) a warm summer, 2019’s bloom is likely to spoil even the pickiest of mycophiles. The trail is structured with two “lollipop loops” – each one bringing hikers along the shores of Pocumcus Lake. Strapped for time? Just complete the first 1.5-mile loop with a lake lookout, and head back to the car. However, the real treat is along the shore of Deer Brook Cove, at the western end of the trail. A shallow inlet, shaded in late afternoon by Dark Cove Mountain to the south, the views of the lake here are unbeatable. Time to spare? Bring a bathing suit, and take a quick dip to really cool off. Head back to the trailhead, and explore the overgrown log landing for Maine’s summer candy – raspberries.
What about Autumn and Winter, you ask? You’ll have to check back in September….