Ron Chase: Rehabilitation on the Down East Hiking Trails
Most of us older people have some kind of prolonged health problem. The scourge of my twilight years has fought an ongoing battle with arthritis. My knees, hips, and hands are all being treated for this chronic disorder. A few years ago the affliction resulted in knee replacement surgery and I recently received an artificial hip.
One of the benefits of a new hip is that recovery is much less painful than knee replacement surgery. However, it is still not a fun process. Each day consists of a monotonous regimen of physiotherapy, icing, and short boring walks. After exhausting the neighborhood roads and local walking trails, I decided to broaden my horizons. Specifically, my wife, Nancy, suggested a collection of relatively easy hiking trails in lower eastern Maine as a possible antidote to my lingering bad mood.
Accommodation was scarce in Washington County due to a cycling event. However, we were able to reserve the last room in a motel in Milbridge for the weekend. Our research indicated that there were two attractive trails near Steuben: Pigeon Hill and Hollingsworth.
Walking very gradually, especially on the steep ledges which required a precise footing, Pigeon Hill became the first peak conquered with my new fake hip. The 313-foot open summit provided exceptional views of Pigeon Hill and Dyer Bays and the surrounding islands and peninsulas.
The Hollingsworth Trail was a gentle 1.5 mile loop hike through Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge. Mostly easy walk, we traveled over ledges and along slightly more difficult rocky beaches. The highlight of the outing was our arrival on the rugged shore of Petit Manan Point where a comfortable bench allowed me to rest my tired hip.
The lighthouse and Petit Manan Island were visible in the distance. While relaxing, I attempted to dazzle Nancy by recounting some exciting details of my sea kayaking trip through the traitorous Petit Manan Bar a few years ago. In fact, it probably wasn’t the first time she’s heard me recite the same thread, but it gets better with each story.
Since our recent experience cycling the stunning Penobscot River Trails in Grindstone, we have been intrigued by the prospect of visiting the Cobscook Shores Park System which was built by the same philanthropist, Gilbert Butler. Located on the rocky shores of spectacular Cobscook Bay in Lubec, we were not disappointed. This creation is another triumph for Mr. Butler. Comprised of several amusement parks located around the jagged shore which has a spectacular range of tides sometimes exceeding 26 feet, they provide great opportunities for hiking, biking and kayaking.
Limited to hiking on this trip, we started with trails in the Red Point Preserve. They were exceptional. An easy walk on the Salt Bay Trail led to a wire mesh picnic lodge on Red Point where there was an exceptional view of Salt Bay. On our return, a route to the left gave us access to picturesque Red Point Island. The hike on the island trail was more difficult. The narrow winding passage began with a springboard up the atoll. As this area is flooded at high tide, we chose low tide for our crossing.
I found the hilly Red Point Island trail to be a great rehab hike. Using two hiking poles and cautiously crawling, I smoothly negotiated the network of two loop hikes. A attenuated causeway connected to an appendage of the island where the second loop bypassed Little Point. The panoramic view from the cliffs of the headland was phenomenal. During our hike, we encountered two lodges, several picnic tables, and several viewpoints scattered across the island.
The trails in Huckins Island Park were our final destination. Our first pick was Young’s Beach Trail, a narrow, hilly path that led us to a lovely secluded pebble beach. We ended the day with an easy walk along the South Bay shore on the Bay to Bay Trail.
We left Cobscook Shores realizing there was a lot more to explore. A return for more hiking is certain. Kayaking and biking will also be part of our future efforts at Cobscook Shores.
My experience on the Down East trails was a success. The harder walks increased the strength and flexibility of my hip and thigh. And, I’m back to my old gregarious self. Ask Nancy.
The author of “The Great Mars Hill Bank Robbery” and “Mountains for Mortals – New England”, Ron Chase resides in Topsham. His latest book, “The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine” will soon be published by North Country Press. Visit his website at www.ronchaseoutdoors.com or you can reach him at [email protected]