Taking off on the Trail

by Susan Olcott

Phoebe and Liliana Olcott and Hunter Dubel

If you’ve ever hiked with kiddos, you have probably experienced two very opposite challenges. One – keeping them moving along the trail to reach your destination, and two – once they are moving, preventing them from taking off out of sight. Pacing is a learned art! I’ve gotten pretty good at meeting challenge number one – trail snacks, scavenger hunts and nature journaling or photography are all big hits. And, don’t forget the importance of picking a manageable trail for your leg length and one that, ideally, has something neat at its apex. Taking all that into consideration in selecting a trail to hike with some friends on a recent Saturday after a morning at the Farmer’s Market, we decided to try out the newly opened Chase Reserve off Bunganuc Road – a flat 1-mile trail ending at a vernal pool. There was an added incentive in that the Chase Reserve Trail is on the Midcoast Summer Trail Challenge, so we were able to pick up a trail card to mark this one off and enter to win a raffle at the end of the summer.

This was a new trail to all of us, so we didn’t know exactly what lay ahead. But, we did remember challenge number two and took a good look at the map before leaving the parking area to see that there were a few choices along the way. Noticing the high energy level of our lead pack, we discussed the importance of stopping at every intersection and waiting for the whole group to re-gather. We also talked about making sure you don’t get so far ahead of the adults that they can’t still see you. And, finally, we reminded them that if you get lost on the trail, you should always stay put and periodically call out your name or the name of someone in your group. Then  . . . they took off.

Trusting that we had reviewed the necessary trail rules, we now got to enjoy this beautiful new property. As described in the trail brochure I’d picked up at the Farmer’s Market, the forest in this 194-acre easement property is a neat mix of white pines and hemlocks that is part of the largest unfragmented forest block along the coast in Cumberland County. The day was slightly cloudy, but light filtered down through the tall trees as we walked and a gentle breeze blew through newly emerged leaves. Quickly, though, we found we’d been lured by the natural beauty and couldn’t see our crew. But, we found them waiting for us at this trail sign. Hooray for listening to our instructions! When we praised them for this, we reviewed our three rules 1) stay within site, 2) stop at intersections, and 3) stay put if you’re lost. Here’s the crew counting the rules on their fingers.

From there, we were able to finish the walk together to reach a lovely vernal pool just at the edge of the adjacent land managed by the Freeport Conservation Trust trails (for those interested in venturing further). We saw newly emerged frogs along the edge of the pool as well as a delicate dragonflies perched atop some reeds. Our destination delivered the promised reward we had sought. We reversed our course and took the other part of the loop back, pushing the crew along as signs of hunger were emerging and we hadn’t properly provisioned snacks. All told, this was a terrific experience for everyone, a great place for young kids, and an opportunity to teach a bit of trail safety, all in a beautiful place.