For Hannah and me cabin fever can be real during Maine winters. The winter of 2014 has been a doozy. Windows are sealed so that no precious heat escapes. Country roads are bound by snow banks so that walking them means dodging passing cars. Cold viruses are just hanging around wanting a piece of you. Working out at our local gym is a godsend for Hannah and me, but the fresh air draws us outdoors today. Come April in Maine, it’s a time for something more than four walls.
The forecast for this April first is sunny, albeit mid-40s; we drive 60 miles north on the Maine Turnpike to Freeport to hike at Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park and to shop at the LL Bean outlet. With over four and a half miles of trails, Wolfe’s Neck Woods is 200 plus acres of coastal trails and woodlands.
With six inches of snowpack still on our front yard, we wonder if snow-covered will be the operative word for the trails through the woods today. Coming from the town center of Freeport on Flying Point Road, we turn right on Wolfe’s Neck Road past fallow farm fields and stands of oak and pine. We pass the experiential, residential Coastal Studies for Girls, a semester-long science and leadership school for tenth grade girls in Maine. Who knew?
Five miles from town, the country road winds its way towards Casco Bay as we slowly negotiate the spring’s frost heaves. Passing three cars parked on the side of the road, we come to the park gate 100 yards later which blocks vehicular access to the park. Though we can see that the park road beyond is clear, the woods are snow covered. Fearlessly we forge ahead.
Walking around the locked gate and down the dirt road, we see that the trails are indeed snow-covered. Icy trail hiking is a deal breaker for us. Hannah’s left leg protests such hiking for it is still reasonably pissed off at what she did to it while water skiing nearly two years ago. It wants no more funny business. As you can imagine, when Hannah’s tibia talks, she listens.
Thanks to a full sun, the snow is mushy, allowing us to sink in for reasonably stable hiking. We head through the pines to the waters of Casco Bay. Down to the water’s edge, gingerly we take the wooden steps.
The trail hugs Casco Bay for two tenths of a mile with shore access points along the way. Turning inland through the forest, we find the trail, thanks to the footsteps of previous hikers. The Harraseeket Trail takes us back towards the Wolfe’s Neck Road, up and over the snow-packed forest floor.
Then we meet an athletic thirty-something couple, appealing in a crunchy granola sort of way, who seem to love hiking in the mushy snow as much as we do. We stop and connect over conversation; they tell us about falls on the other side of the road at Freeport Bay. Changing course we head for the bay.
As they leave, I think how important it is for dating couples to hike together. Or, to do something challenging under difficult circumstances to see how they each react under stress. Is he a good sport when she likes hiking more than he does? How does she react when he loses the trail? A prince? A princess? A sweetheart?
The slushy snow makes for easy hiking on a day in the mid-40s with sun that makes it feel fifty. Near the water, the wind is up and we duck for cover into the forest, glad myself to be wearing two sweatshirts. We never do see the falls as we hike 25 feet above the Freeport Bay with a view to town.
As we hike on, I wonder about Freeport. Where did it get its name? Was it a stop on the Underground Railroad for slaves wanting to be free? Unromantically, Wikipedia guesses that it has to do with the openness of its harbor (free of ice). In 1912, Leon Leonwood Bean opened a shop in the basement of his brother’s clothing store here in Freeport, selling his signature Maine Hunting Shoe. LL Bean’s now has its own indoor trout pond and remains open 24 hours a day.
Our 90 minutes hiking on the level, snow-covered terrain is just what the doctor ordered to bust open the doors and windows of our cabin fever. Off to the LL Bean outlet just down the hill from the flagship store up on Route One, we look for bargains. Striking hiking boot gold, Hannah finds $149 hiking boots for $42!
Nancy Sinatra would be so proud.