Location: Hancock County
Distance: 1 mile
Ages: All ages, but probably of most interest to those under 10
While visiting family earlier this summer, my son missed a preschool field trip to Lamoine State Park. Since then, he’s been pestering us relentlessly to visit this nearby park. We’ve put it off because it’s only 20 minutes from our house and just didn’t seem that exciting. It’s mostly a campground, with a quiet beach and picnic area and a small playground. But there weren’t any hiking or other activities advertised and we weren’t camping, so what was the point? However, he was relentless about getting another stamp in the State Parks passport, so one sunny Saturday we finally gave up on the yardwork and headed over. After walking along the beach for a bit and checking out the views of Mount Desert Island and the fishing dock (at which point my husband bemoaned forgetting the poles), we started to head up to the playground. “Look,” my husband pointed out. “A trail.”
To get to Lamoine State Park, take Route 1 towards Machias/Calais from Ellsworth, then turn right onto Route 184. Lamoine State Park is about 8 miles and several twists and turns down the road. Signage to the park is good. The Loop Trail can be picked up either from the large sculpture near the ranger station or closer down by the beach. Both ends have a brochure available with interpretive information that corresponds to number posts along the way. I recommend grabbing one, as it’s part of what makes the trail fun. Interestingly, this trail is not on the Lamoine State Park map or any other map I consulted. But it does exist. I promise.
“Hi, I’m the Loop Trail. I exist.”
First, there isn’t anything particularly glamorous about this trail. No great vistas, no rocks to scale, no intense wilderness experience. It’s a wide, level path covered with a layer of mulch that cuts close to houses at one point and looks, to my untrained eye, to be handicapped accessible. But one of the things I noticed about this park is that they really work to make the very best of what they have, and this trail is no exception. Instead of just banging out a sign saying “Nature Trail” and moving on, the staff have carefully put together a brochure that goes into depth about why the forest looks how it does (regrowth after being cleared), the different types of plant life–including the giant ferns that cover one section and what makes tamarack trees special–and what the land was used for in the past. Did anyone else know it used to be owned by both the Navy and the University of Maine? I didn’t know that.
Besides the learning opportunities, the trail holds lots of other surprises. We snacked on omnipresent tart apples, blackberries, and raspberries as we walked. We examined the giant stone pillars that are part of the fence alongside the road. We looked at the sculpture at the trailhead–part of the Schoodic International Sculpture Symposium’s collection that spreads from Orono to Calais–and talked about what we saw in the shapes. We played in the treehouse and made many futile attempts to get up the climbing rope.
Did I mention there’s a treehouse? There’s a treehouse.
We also found a funny little lobster toy that confused us until we found a ranger who helpfully identified it as Larry the Lobster. If you grab a green tag out from under Larry and turn it in at the ranger station, and they’ll give you a prize. Naturally, we then had to trek back to Larry’s location (which changes weekly) to retrieve our tags.
A walk through the woods, some history and nature lessons, a treehouse, and a scavenger hunt? This was a pretty fun way to spend an afternoon. We’ll be back. Even though we already have our stamp.
Kid rating: Two thumbs up out of two.
Kid review: “I really liked climbing the treehouse.” “I liked the blackberries and Larry the Lobster!”