Oat Nuts Park Trail is in a rather unlikely place - in the midst of a bustling neighborhood off Summit Street in Portland surrounded by hundreds of homes.
The first time we walked it, all the way to the Presumpscot River, we marveled at how we had no idea such an oasis in the woods existed just up the road from our house.
The trail is part of the Portland Trails organization (www.trails.org).
Oat Nuts Park Trail begins at 189 Summit Street between Olde Birch Lane and Juniper Street and connects to the Presumpscot River Preserve which comprises 48 acres. You can park right on Summit Street while you walk. It's about a half mile to the river, a little tricky as you get close to the water, but mostly an easy hike on a footpath and gravel trail.
Snowshoers, cross country skiers, mountain bikers, and folks walking with babies, toddlers and dogs use the trail regularly, all seasons.
There’s a group of mountain bikers – sometimes upwards of twenty-five folks even on the coldest nights – who speed up our street wearing headlamps to get out into the woods after their days likely spent in cubicles. They are dressed for winter, masks over their faces. Their bikes have fat tire treads for winter, about double the size on mountain bikes during other seasons. They breeze over the sprinkled snow or patches of ice clinging to our neighborhood streets in the early evening darkness to get their workout in.
I always think how hearty and committed these folks are to be out in the evening’s cold getting their exercise; however, I’ve exercised enough myself to know that when you do it often, it’s worse not to get out than to get out, no matter our Maine weather.
Hopefully, they go home to warm baths, hearty stews, and hot cups of coffee.
And sleep like babies.
The land for Oat Nuts was originally an old subdivision of very small lots, the deeds to which could be found in boxes of Oat Nuts cereal, hence the name.
On a winter's day, for those less hearty than the bikers, it's an easy and beautiful wooded hike that meanders to the river which you can then follow for a ways either south toward Allen Avenue or north toward Westbook and Route 100.
Walking the entire trail and the additional loops can yield about a 4-mile walk.
When a fresh snow has fallen, this hidden trail can be absolutely magical as you walk over small wooden bridges with running water, up and down the hills in snow packed down by others, observing the deep woods on either side of the trail.
The silence, in this real-life Narnia, is rejuvenating.