Cross-country skiing is my favorite winter activity and I was happy to check out a new trail. Credit: Courtesy of Sarah Sindo

One point that I strive to achieve in my columns is to put a new place to explore on the readers’ radar. I have to admit, though, I can be a creature of habit and like to stick to my tried and true paths.

Yet, being back in the Kingfield area for the winter has made me think outside my typical box and see what other new offerings there are.

I love the western Maine region because there are many trails that allow public access to residents and visitors, and the community-focused work only seems to be increasing.

I stumbled upon High Peaks Alliance on Instagram last month and saw a post about the Foothills Land Conservancy.

The advocacy and conservation-based nonprofit organization aims to “ensure and enhance public access and opportunities for recreation in Maine’s High Peaks.”

A bridge connects the two fields that span the 1 1/2 mile trail network at the Foothills Land Conservancy trails in Wilton.  Credit: Courtesy of Sarah Sindo

People who come together to bring outdoor opportunities to others motivate me and it’s easy to support those organizations.

So, off to Wilton I went.

I head to Farmington about once a week to do my grocery shopping and other miscellaneous errands, so it was a perfect time to continue my drive west on Route 2 and check out the trail network.

I turned off Route 2 onto Pond Road and drove about 1.5 miles until I came to the parking lot for the Foothills Land Conservancy. It was easy to spot, thanks to the wooden kiosk.

I switched my Muck boots for ski boots and walked over to the kiosk with my cross-country skis in tow, looking to see where the trail started. After referencing the map, I realized it started across the road.

Once there, I clipped into my skis and took off.

I admit that, initially, I was not thrilled to be on my skis. The trail was crunchy, thanks to the layer of sleet the area had recently received, and I forgot how different it is to ski on a snowshoe-packed trail compared to a set track.

I thought about going back to the car to switch back to my boots but I decided to stick it out on my skis.

I skied around a large field, noting the birds fluttering from one tree to the next, depending on my movements. There were a couple of bird feeders and I wondered if they see more traffic in the summertime.

The trailhead of the trail network at the Foothills Land Conservancy trails in Wilton.  Credit: Courtesy of Sarah Sindo

I reached the north end of the field and heard moving water nearby. There’s something about running water in the winter time that makes me gravitate toward it but the snowshoe packed trail did not head in that direction.

Though I did spot animal tracks. I followed them, gliding on top of the hard-packed snow and stopping to listen to the babbling sounds of Wilson Stream for a few mindful minutes.

When everything else seems to have frozen or grown quiet for the winter, streams and rivers remain alive with their running water. Life continues to flow.

I noticed on the map there were two bridges that led to a separate, slightly smaller field, yet I could not locate either of them as I had now closed my lap around the field.

I got frustrated with myself, thinking, “this trail network is 1.5 miles, how could I have missed it?”

Feeling slightly defeated, yet happy to explore a new trail, I started back toward my vehicle. I paused to watch the birds again and it was then that I noticed a narrow trail to my left. The things you notice when you slow down!

No one had wandered the path since the recent snow, but I carved through the snow on my skis and quickly came to the bridge that led to the other field.

The large, open fields of the Foothills Land Conservancy trails offer views of the neighboring wetlands and mountains. Credit: Courtesy of Sarah Sindo

Back at my vehicle, I felt fulfilled and content about checking out the local trail.  

Foothills Land Conservancy strives to promote its local land and wildlife and water resources for the benefit of the general public, and the parcel of land is a wonderful example of a simple walk in nature. It feels as though you’re taking a stroll in your own backyard.

I hope to return in the spring, before I head north, to observe the nearby wetlands and witness the wildlife emerge from their quiet winter and join in on the aliveness again, just like the flowing stream that never stops.

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Sarah Sindo, Outdoors contributor

Sarah Sindo was locally grown in Millinocket. Her love and appreciation for the outdoors took off after college when she hiked numerous mountains with her brother, Nick, including her first ascent of Katahdin....