Hiking doesn’t always have to include the top of a mountain

Due to the seasonality of my work, I always have free time during the second half of April. Usually I have something penciled in my calendar for the welcome time off. However, this holiday, my calendar remained empty.

During the month of March, I thought of all the places I would like to visit and the people I would like to see. I haven’t hopped on a plane since before the pandemic, so I thought maybe it was time to finally visit my brother in Oregon. Or maybe I’d take a solo trip and soak up some southwestern Utah sunshine. My grandfather lives in upstate New York, I could visit him. So many options! I couldn’t make up my mind.

In the end, I decided to save some money and stay home. The short and boring answer is that I saved the money from the trip to spend on real estate projects. I thought, “That’s OK. I’m going to hang out, do yard work, and explore new hikes and mountains.

Returning home from a short two night stay with family in Boothbay, I savored the slow paced days at home with my dog, cooked many home cooked meals and sat outside on the patio . It felt like my body and mind could finally feel at ease and relax after a busy winter season. I had no idea how much I needed that time to do nothing and rest.

After feeling like I finally got somewhere with the yard sweep, I decided to take advantage of a beautiful sunny morning and explore two local hiking trails: West Mountain Falls near Sugarloaf Mountain and Reed Brook located near Kingfield.

Caption: From left to right, West Mountain Falls near Sugarloaf Mountain raged after recent rains and spring melt. Reed Brook Falls near Kingfield is a spring must-see. Credit: Courtesy of Sarah Sindo.

Leaving Kingfield, I headed north on Highway 27 towards Sugarloaf Mountain in search of West Mountain Falls. Just before arriving at the golf course, I parked in a small lot on the right side of the road. I crossed the road and found the trailhead. It was a short distance from the falls, about half a mile. It is therefore a practical option if you only have time for a short walk.

There was still some snow on the shaded trail but it was easy to navigate. Due to recent rains and spring melt, I could hear the raging river long before it was visible. I imagined access to the river would be easier in the summer when the flow is calmer and the rock jumping isn’t as slippery. Still, I managed to get to the contour of the river to take a few photos and watch the rushing waters of the South Fork Carrabassett River.

I got back to my car and started back south on Hwy 27. I stopped in Carrabassett Veterinary Services and on the left found the parking lot for the Reed Brook hike. It was now late morning and the sun was high in the sky. The first 100 yards or so the trail meandered through a clear cut area which allowed the sun to warm my face.

Soon I was in thicker woods and next to Reed Brook. My favorite time to walk in the woods is in the morning or late afternoon. This particular late morning, the sun poured through the forest in such a mystical way. The light shone on a tree while the nearby tree remained shadowed in darkness. Each moss-covered rock glowed the brightest green from the sun’s rays and each one caught my eye.

Caption: From left to right, boulders carpeted in brilliant green moss were around every corner on a hike to Reed Brook Falls near Kingfield. These are the signs that will greet visitors at the trailhead for the hike to Reed Brook near Kingfield. Credit: Courtesy of Sarah Sindo

The swollen creek was so full of life that I, too, quickly felt the same. The rush of water over each section of rocks turned into a mini waterfall that pulled me slightly off the trail and to the water’s edge. I became so mesmerized watching and listening to the stream. But I remembered the waterfall that I hadn’t seen yet. Back to the track!

I saw the falls in front of me and the sound of rushing water became intense. Again, due to recent rains and melting snow, the waterfall was impressive. A torrent of water came cascading over the wide rock ledge and plunged many feet into a pool before flowing down into the stream. The mist from the water spray hit my face and was quite refreshing.

I enjoyed a snack, took a few photos, and backtracked along the creek to the parking lot.

The hikes I did that morning called me back. Hiking doesn’t always mean climbing mountainsides and hitting summit signs. As that holiday season approaches, that’s what my mind was telling me to do. But my physical self led me to something more discreet.

To be honest, I felt as satisfied as if I was on a summit that morning.

Exploration and hiking can take many forms. You can take a dirt road to a trailhead or you can walk out your front door and walk around your neighborhood. Look for a book on local hiking trails in your library or strike up a conversation with a local. You might be surprised at what awaits you just around the corner.