Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Along the Eastern Trail (Day 4: Wells to Portland)

Posted by Jeff, 10/28/14

Miles: 38

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Shorter, but with longer trails...

...than the previous three days, is a good way to describe Day 4's route. We had eased through Boston on the Charles River Greenway. We had entered Topsfield and Salem and Newburyport on shared use paths. But those off-road experiences were the exception to the rule. It gives you perspective on how far ECGA has to go to reach its grand vision and replace those interim on-road segments, respectable as they are, with a 2,900-mile green travel corridor.

This day, however, felt like biking to the future, as almost half of our 38 miles were on trails. Most rewarding, however, was what was waiting at the end: the streets of Portland, a home-cooked dinner, and connecting with old friends. And ice cream!

First, breakfast at Brewed Awakenings. That is clearly in the upper echelon of coffee-pun names, and their coffee and food was equally high-quality.

We sauntered up US 1 for 5 miles to downtown Kennebunk, hitting a cute, mini-traffic jam. From Portland Rd., we maneuvered through residential streets, aiming for the southernmost of the three completed major Eastern Trail segments.

This local street zigzagging was one of the many stretches where I used the trusty navigational method of awkwardly squinting at Google Maps on my phone while riding. Not exactly recommended, but the result of not having planned the entire route to every last cue, not owning a bike computer, and, at the moment, being east of the route mapped on the Eastern Trail Guide.

Just north of where it crosses over I-95, we met up with the Eastern Trail itself (PDF map of this section). Its surface at this point is crushed gravel.

The Eastern Trail currently stops just outside Biddeford. In the future, it is planned to reach all the way to the Saco River and cross it. We took the on-road jughandle to downtown, letting the Amtrak Downeaster pass on its trip between Boston and Brunswick.

From Saco, the trail picks up again, going another 8 miles or so to Scarborough.

Source: Eastern Trail Alliance. PDF map

This segment, the middle of the three completed ET segments, is beautiful. The first part runs behind a school and is dedicated to a prominent Saco resident, Mary Kerry Libby, who died of cancer in 1997. It includes a bridge over US 1 dedicated to the Eastern Trail's founder, John Andrews.

ET north of Saco

And it includes the lovely Scarborough Marsh.

As described by the Maine Audubon Society,

Owned and managed by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the 3,100 acre estuary known as Scarborough Marsh is the largest salt marsh in the state, comprising tidal marsh, salt creeks, freshwater marsh and uplands. The marsh is particularly important for wildlife as a resting, breeding and feeding ground.
I have some video that I hope to post soon.

The trail through Scarborough Marsh was the first section of the Eastern Trail, completed in 2004, and key to building public support for subsequent segments.

Scarborough Marsh was full of walkers on this Wednesday afternoon. Also situated for stopping and contemplating, it would have been a welcome place for Thoreau or Hawthorne. Eve and I relaxed on a bench for a short spell.

In Scarborough, the trail ends at Black Point Rd., where we took the ET on-road route via Highland Ave. to the Wainwright Athletic Complex. From reading the ET website, it looks like there is some movement on this trail section, but funding still needs to be identified (PDF slideshow with more information).

We rehydrated at the athletic complex, then made our way north on the 6-mile, northernmost completed ET segment, the South Portland Greenbelt.

Source: Eastern Trail Alliance

Link to larger map here

After winding through neighborhoods and along the Fore River, we turned onto the Casco Bay Bridge, with the Portland skyline across the water.

As can be seen in the first photo, the bridge has both wide bike lanes and a sidewalk that can be used for riding.

Arriving in the late afternoon, we found our way to the Munjoy Hill apartment of our friends, D and E, via the Eastern Prom Trail that courses the perimeter of the peninsula on which downtown sits.

Plenty to catch up on over a delicious homemade dinner...

...followed by a walk along the bay at dusk.

It reminded me of the imagery of Wallace Stevens at Key West.

Ramon Fernandez, tell me, if you know,
Why, when the singing ended and we turned
Toward the town, tell why the glassy lights,
The lights in the fishing boats at anchor there,
As night descended, tilting in the air,
Mastered the night and portioned out the sea,
Fixing emblazoned zones and fiery poles,
Arranging, deepening, enchanting night.


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