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Old Woods Trail, Freeport

We seem to come to Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park in Freeport in winter, mostly only in winter.

We snow shoe along the Old Woods and Harraseeket Trails that run through the woods and then along the water’s edge of the Harraskeeket River. Maybe this is because we tend to do all our hiking and more strenuous exercising, like snow shoeing or cross country skiing, in fall and winter.

In summer, we’re more about lollygagging – lying around on sand chairs at the beach or on floats on the lake or on lawn chairs in the backyard reading magazines and sipping iced coffee. In summer, we might play an early game of tennis on a weekend before the sun gets too high in the sky, but then follow it with brunch out which likely negates the whole point of the exercise. Summer, to me, is more about relaxing.

But on a rainy, spring day, after a year of pandemic, we headed to Wolfe’s Neck Woods for a wet walk on a weekend afternoon. Our drives and walks this past year have exhausted even our most robust imaginations and whimsical exploration. Basically, we’re getting a little tapped out of ideas, especially because the entire adventure has to be close enough for the entire journey to come between bathroom breaks back home. At this point in this trying year, even the rain doesn’t matter when you just have to get out of the four walls of your house that you’re now in 24/7. You cannot stay inside, looking at your now-work computer and bedroom-home-office, on weekends.

And what we discovered on a rainy weekend – a win – once again! The park looked entirely different in spring than it does in winter. There were stones and stairs and log benches that I’d never seen before while hidden under snow.

The most amazing find was when we first hit the trail, I began to have a kind of ethereal, cinematic experience. I’m not sure if was the wet and light rain, but everything around me was so amazingly vivid! It was like 3-D technicolor. I experienced a little physical feeling of being somewhat out-of-body as I looked all around me at the woods and healthy, bright-green baby pine trees sprouting up everywhere. It was like all the foliage was reaching out to me. Something was happening to me! (Or is that just joy, fresh air, and being in nature?)

I happen to love when weird phenomena like that happen so just laughed and went with it. My husband knit his brows, not following my description of what I was seeing and experiencing. (Guess he hadn’t picked up his 3-D glasses on his way in!)

Another find was that there were so many downed trees, large swaths of earth around them ripped up out of the ground from a storm. We wondered if it was one storm or several that felled so many old, dead and living, trees. We imagined the strength of wind that could do that. We imagined what it sounded like whipping through the woods and then the awesome crashes of the trees as they snapped in half and smashed to the forest floor. I can imagine it sounded like moaning and screaming. I can imagine continued creaking sounds once the storm passed, leaving its destruction behind.

Although there were maybe ten cars in the parking lot at Wolfe’s Neck Woods, we only saw a few families on the trail. We were mostly alone, as we have been for so much of what we’ve explored in Maine this past year. Win:win.

At the water’s edge, there are several wooden stair cases where you can walk down to the sand and rocks. The water was calm and so beautifully clean and clear on that day. It is very green in this sheltered spot between our land and a tiny uninhabited island called Googins. Seaweed undulated just under the water. Periwinkles were in the small pools on the rocks now that the tide had ebbed back out.

I love all the islands we can see from Wolfe’s Neck Woods – Bustins, Moshier, Googins, Goose. They’re part of what’s known as Maine’s Calendar Islands, so named, because myth goes that there are 365 of them. That is now refuted and I’ve heard maybe 200 is more likely.

I love the islands of Casco Bay, and I love seeing them, with “pointy trees” like you see in an Eric Hopkins painting, from a boat as I pass by or from the shore. Photos never capture the islands’ charm from such a distance. Romantically, I imagine living on an island. I’m someone who likely could do it. Living through a pandemic has confirmed that. I like to dream of it.

As we slip back into the car and out of our masks, raindrops lilting on my lashes, we high-five. GOOD IDEA!

And let’s come back again in spring…. or just imagine how beautiful fall would be here!

Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park – 426 Wolfe’s Neck Rd. Take Flying Point Road in Freeport. The road is 2.5 miles on right.

Wolfe’s Neck Center 184 Burnett Rd – hiking trails, barns, animals, gardens.


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