Hiking in Maine: Central Maine’s conservation land well worth the exploring

Click Here to view the original article in the Maine Sunday Telegram of the Portland Press Herald

By Carey Kish

The Kennebec Land Trust has been preserving land and shorefront in the forested hills, rolling fields and farmlands, and lake and river country of central Maine since November 1988.

The trust has tallied nearly 5,000 acres of conservation land on more than 60 properties through donations, purchases and easements in its service area that spans 15 towns from Litchfield to Vienna and Fayette to Vassalboro.

Some 36 miles of hiking trails offer myriad opportunities to explore these beautiful preserves, and in celebration of its 25th anniversary last fall, the KLT introduced the “Kennebec Land Trust Hiking Guide.” This attractive new full-color publication features 20 of the trust’s most popular properties and some of its best hiking trails.

“Our growing member base – now over 1,000 individuals – is pretty familiar with our properties, but the public at large is not as aware of what we have here,” said Matt Silverman, conservation assistant with the land trust. “The hiking guide highlights these properties and will help make them more accessible to more people.”

More lands and trails will be included in the guide over time, something the land trust considered when designing the booklet that is bound in one corner by a key ring. Future pages can thereby be easily added, and the sturdy, water-resistant pages for each hike can be taken into the field, a very useful feature. The trust expects to add one or two hikes to the guide each year.

Each of the hike descriptions includes introductory background on the property, an overview of the trails available and their mileage, directions to the trailhead, a handsome photo, a detailed map with legend and notes on items of particular interest specific to the hike.

This hiker has meandered far and wide through the region, enjoying the trails and scenery of a number of Kennebec Land Trust lands over time, like the historic Curtis Homestead in Leeds, which is home to four trails and three miles of hiking. At the Parker Pond Headland Preserve in Fayette, hikers can make their way around a beautiful wooded peninsula. Drink in the far-reaching views from the cab of a 60-foot firetower at the Mount Pisgah Conservation Area spanning Winthrop and Wayne. Enjoy waterfalls and stone bridges along the meandering paths at Vaughan Woods in Hallowell.

Wander through these places and more on your own, or if you’d like some friendly and knowledgeable company, consider hooking up with the land trust’s “Hiking the Hiking Guide” group for a guided walk on the second and fourth Sunday of every month from now through September.

The guide, published last fall, took two years to produce.

“The neatest thing about the project was the incredible team effort,” noted Silverman. “In pulling together the trail descriptions, making the maps and gathering photos from our members we all became real experts on each of the properties.”

The guide was designed by LPK of Cincinnati, which is owned by Maine summer residents and Kennebec Land Trust founding members Mort and Barbara Libby, while Penmore Printers of Lewiston did the printing.

“Every property in the guide also has a local business partner associated with it,” Silverman said, referring to the logo found on the first page of each hike. “Each sponsored at different levels to support the effort. Local businesses really understand the importance of trails.”

Kudos are also due the volunteers who build and maintain the trails, “an amazing group without which the trails would not exist.”

As with every land trust, the work is never done, and in the next 25 years the good folks at Kennebec Land Trust plan to focus on connecting existing lands and trails, and preserving public access and unique wildlife habitat as well as farmland and woodlots.

For more information and to buy your own “Kennebec Land Trust Hiking Guide” ($15 plus tax and postage), go to www.tklt.org or call 377-2848.

Carey Kish of Southwest Harbor is author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes on the Maine Coast (available Spring 2015). Follow Carey’s adventures in his Maineiac Outdoors blog at: