Some of my favorite childhood memories are accompanied by the smell of dirt, it seems. Taking a walk on a newly thawed Spring day takes me back many places;
Watching my grandfather unearth his prize-worthy potatoes, his big hands wiping away chunks of clay.
The "treasure" my 8 year old self dug up on the banks of the St. John River.
The feeling of my bare feet sinking into freshly tilled garden rows, the soil comforting my cold toes as it slowly released the heat of the day.
Any time I move to a new place (and I've lived in a few), I am compelled to find the dirt walking paths and wooded ways. They can tell you a lot about a place and the people that have been there. Every once in a while you can catch a memory.
These are some of my favorite local walking paths and why I love them. If you haven't had a chance to enjoy a few, I recommend being an adventurer for an hour or so and go have a stroll!
1) Clifford Park (135 Pool St., Biddeford): Oh Clifford Park, how I love thee. This is my lunch-break go-to for a quick shot of Vitamin N. The trails are windy and there are places where the footing is a little unsettled, so I recommend sticking to the Black Trail if you are unsure. I wouldn't describe the trails here as wheelchair accessible, except perhaps the first leg of the black trail, leading you to a pretty granite bench dedicated to a local historian. If you choose to get "lost" in the wilds of Clifford Park, you'll encounter large granite boulders, creating vernal pools in the Springtime and after a hard rain. The acidic soil creates a ripe space for a carpet of wintergreen, partridgeberry, and blueberries. The Red trail takes you to a waterfall that slopes down from soft mossy banks, perfect for squishing your toes into. For those interested in history, the park was once a site of world-renowned granite quarries, and at the end of the Black Trail loop there is a graveyard for one of Biddeford's most prominent founding families.
2) Horton Woods (461 Buxton Rd, Saco): This trail has a youthful feel to it as you start your walk through a stand of young hemlock and pine. The terrain still seems to be making a rebound from some rigorous cutting, but here and there you encounter these really ancient white pines that remind you of what came before. There are lovely rest spots with sturdy benches looking over both marsh and a season-steady stream at different ends of the main loop. It is not wheelchair accessible and the trail markings need to be cleared up a bit, but if you're looking for a soothing balsam fir walk, this is a great trail to find that.
3) Wells Reserve at Laudholm (342 Laudholm Farm Rd, Wells): *Every* once in a while, the Wells reserve will let you in for a moonlight walk or stroll with the owls. It's like stepping into a magical mirror to the daytime landscape, but equally as rich. You get to walk along a diverse array of terrain: the beach, expansive marshy land, grassy fields, wooded trails lined with pitcher plants and lady slippers, pines and hawthorne. You could go there every day and never be bored. Watch out for those wild turkeys, though! :) Parts of the reserve are level and accessible, but much of that would be determined by weather and season. They also have a number of events and talks, so I recommend checking out their website HERE.
4) The Scarborough Marsh portion of the Eastern Trail: This walk, more than some of the others, has greater accessibility for wheelchairs, and is a leisurely, even walk in either Eastern or Western direction from the trailhead parking lot just past the kayak rental on Pine Point Road. I recommend taking the Eastern direction for the best views and vibe. Particularly during the summer, you'll be able to watch rich sunsets and inspiring sunrises, but I love grabbing a snowshoe there as well. The birding is out of this world, so bring binocs if that calls to you. The trailside is ripe with varying seasonal waves of flowers, and I love watching the salty, grassy portion of the trail progress into a wooded stretch, the trail sides brushed with mallows, thistles and burdock, and stunning contrasts of buttercups and chickory, depending on the time of the season. I recommend bug spray, as some sweatier nights bring the some pretty earnest mosquitos and horseflies.
There are so many more trails that I love, both near and far. Some of you are reading from time zones away, but hopefully my descriptions have inspired you to look around your own neighborhood for your sanctuary of choice!
© 2018 Aline Potvin. All Rights Reserved.