Monday, October 22, 2018

Lebanon: Gully Oven

Gully Oven Natural Area is a deep glacial ravine in the hills of northern Lebanon, Maine; and fun to explore. Immense rock formations show curved wear from moving water during glacial times. The highlight is a large shell-shaped rock enclosure, similar to The Basin in Franconia Notch, NH; but significantly less known and developed. You won't find tourists here - we had the place all to ourselves.

The marker is easy to miss.

The area consists of a roadside pulloff space with parking for several cars, remains of an old access road with a concrete cottage (?) foundation, an informational kiosk, and a stairway down to the ravine. There is a stream running through the ravine, so this area may be too wet to explore in spring.

Stairway to the ravine

Unlike The Basin, there are no off-limits or fenced areas. Explore to your heart's content. This would be a fun place for kids to do lots of climbing around. The entire area is quite steep, walking sticks are highly recommended. At the base of the stairs, it isn't obvious where to go. We turned right and found the entrance to the ravine.

Entering the ravine

The oven. Note Kathy beside it.

Lots of climbing opportunities.

Many old carvings in the rock.

Rocks show curved wear from moving water.

Getting there: 
  • From downtown Milton NH, cross the bridge into Lebanon ME. Left onto Champion St, Right onto Gully Oven Rd, approx. 1.2 miles on your right.
  • The location is not obvious. We drove by it twice before finding it. For a landmark, find the house/mailbox at 91 Gully Oven Rd. From the mailbox, the pulloff is within sight, on the opposite (west) side of the road. 
Cost: Free
Hours: No posted hours
Pets: No posted restrictions
Picnic potential: no tables
Rest rooms: none
Accessibility: none, stairs and steep trails

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Biddeford: Timber Point

Timber Point and Timber Island are located on a peninsula of Biddeford, owned and managed by Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. A 1.4 mile walking trail takes you to Timber Point, where there is the preserved Ewing estate to explore. Timber Island may be accessed by crossing at low tide. This area is very popular with birdwatchers.

See Getting There below for directions. There is parking for six cars - only. Plan your visit at off-peak times! It is a 1.4 mile walk from the parking area.

The entrance. No vehicles past this point.

Trail map (click to enlarge)

Walk along the shore for a ways. 

Birdwatching overlook. 

A bee habitat.

An overgrown boathouse and cottage.

The never-to-be-completed lifeboat. See story below.

Timber Island

Tide clock and chart allow you to plan a visit to the island.

The jewel of Timber Point is the frozen-in-time Ewing estate. This makes the walk worthwhile even if the tides are not correct for a crossing to the island. You can read the history here. Charles and Louise Ewing built this home in 1930. It has all the appointments of an estate of that era: boathouse, tennis court, potting shed, swimming pool. They raised three sons. One son was building a lifeboat when he was called up for service in World War II. He was killed in action, and the half-built lifeboat can still be seen at the boathouse.

Access to the Ewing estate. Not the winged lion sculpture on the rock wall (click photo to enlarge).

Front of the main house, built 1930.

View from the front of the house.

Some outbuildings have not stood the test of time well.

The swimming pool overlooks the ocean.

The Potting Shed

The condition of the tennis court was a surprise. Although mostly covered by leaves during our visit, the surface was hard, smooth, and unbroken, making it appear that sweeping and adding a net would put it right back in service.

The Tennis Court

Plan to visit Timber Point and take a walk back in time to a pre-war estate where the good life was to be had.

Caution: Stay on marked trails! Poison Ivy is abundant.

Getting there: f
rom US Route 9 (Mills Rd.), follow Granite Point Road to the end.
Parking: limited to 6 marked spaces
Cost: Free
Hours: Open year round, dawn to dusk
Picnic potential: no tables, but access path along beach has many large, flat rocks which could serve well.
Rest rooms: none
No pets allowed
Bicycles not allowed
More info: (207) 646-9226

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Kennebunk: Bridle Path (West end)

The Kennebunk Bridle Path provides a choice of two flat, straight walks; since the best access point is in the middle. From the Route 9 access point (see Getting There below), the longer western portion runs to the former train station in downtown Kennebunk, and the short eastern portion runs to the golf course on Sea Road.

This post describes the longer (2.5 mile) western portion. (The trailhead to the eastern portion is on the opposite side of Route 9). The trailheads are not signed, other than signs stating "Motor Driven Vehicles Prohibited". Chances are you will only find locals here.

A historical marker notes: "This path was created on the abandoned railroad bed of the Kennebunk and Kennebunkport Railroad Company. The rail line was built in 1883 to bring tourists and residents to the inns and homes which were springing up near the beaches. The rail line was purchased by the Boston and Maine Railroad in 1919 and discontinued service in 1926."

Starting from the utility building, you first cross an open meadow which uses remnants of the old railroad culvert to cross the estuary. Water overflows the path at high tide, which may require wading if you come back at the wrong time! Consult your tide chart!

Several inches of water overflow path at high tide.

The path continues 2.5 miles to Kennebunk through forest, with lots of water views of the Mousam River; and lots of birds. 

Bridle Path follows the Mousam River

Scene along the Bridle Path

The path provides some peeks at some lovely homes in the area, and crosses several yards, small residential side streets, and the driveway to Sea Road School. At times the trail becomes a rather narrow single-file path.

Along the way there is a cemetery to explore, as well as a substantial monument to early settlers which is hidden away in the woods. When you pass the historical marker describing it, look for a side trail (same side as the marker) about 100 feet beyond.

Kathy at the hidden marker.

A wide bench is provided near the trail end, a good spot for a picnic. The path comes to a vague end at the railroad tracks. WARNING: These are live tracks used by the Amtrak Downeaster and freight trains, do not cross them or go on them! Turn right and walk up Trackside Drive past several businesses, including the fascinating Old House Parts. Note the remnants of rails sticking up through the gravel, these are the rails that connected to the former rail line you have been following. You can use the Summer Street bridge to cross over the tracks if you wish to continue to downtown Kennebunk.

Getting there: 

  • Best access: From Route 1 in Wells, turn onto Route 9 towards Kennebunkport (Port Road) at the intersection by Riverside Campground. At approx. 2.2 miles cross the Mousam River. Immediately after the river, look for a small blue-grey utility building on the left. You can park along the road (observing signs), or there is space for a couple of cars behind the utility building. Do not block the gate to the utility building! 

This is the place.

  • You can also access the trail from Trackside Drive in Kennebunk. Drive down to the very end of the unpaved street, past Old House Parts. The trail departs on the left from the very end of the street. Several active businesses are here, so be careful when parking to stay of the way.

Cost: Free
Hours: Open year round
Picnic potential: no tables, but there is a wide bench at the western end.
Rest rooms: none
Dogs: allowed