More than a century ago, a young woman with bright red hair hiked to the top of Mount Battie in Camden. She took in the view of the ocean and surrounding hills, and she wrote a poem.
“All I could see from where I stood, was three long mountains and a wood,” it begins. “I turned and looked the other way, and saw three islands in a bay.”
Published in 1912, the poem was called “Renascence.” The poet, Edna St. Vincent Millay, was just 19 years old when she wrote it, and it instantly launched her to fame.
Millay went on to craft many wonderful poems. I have a book filled with them. But “Renascence” remains her most well-known piece of work. In 214 lines, she explored major themes such as death, the beauty of the natural world and rebirth (hence the name).
I’m no poetry scholar, so I’m sure there’s much I miss about the genius of the poem. But I do find myself connecting with the words, especially when Millay describes her intense desire, almost homesickness, for nature — the feel of rain upon her face, the clear, blue sky, the gold of autumn and the fresh scent of the wind.
Today, Millay (1892-1950) is memorialized atop Battie with a bronze plaque that includes an excerpt from the poem and a short explanation of her connection to the location.
I hiked up to the plaque with my dog, Juno, earlier this winter. And that’s not all that lies atop Mount Battie. Much more noticeable is a stone tower that looks to be straight out of the Middle Ages. Built in 1921, the 26-foot structure was designed by one of Camden’s summer residents, Parker Morse Hooper. It serves as a memorial to the men and women of Camden who served in World War I.
All year round, visitors can climb a short, winding staircase to the top of the tower to enjoy an unobstructed 360-degree view of the area.
Rising only 780 feet above sea level, Mount Battie is one of several peaks located in Camden Hills State Park. A 1.5-mile paved auto road, which was built in the 1960s, leads to the top of the mountain. In addition, a few different hiking trails explore its slopes. I’ve explored some of them.
During my most recent visit, I hiked up the unplowed Mt. Battie Road to a hiking trail called Nature Trail. I followed that for about 0.8 miles, stopping along the way to read interpretive signs about different tree species.
I then crossed the auto road to jump onto the Tablelands Trail, which I followed for a half-mile to the summit. It was a fairly gradual climb, so I’d call it a moderately challenging hike, one great for families. Juno says it’s good for dogs, too, but they need to be leashed, per park rules.
While Juno enjoyed hiking up the mountain, she wasn’t so sure about the tower at the top. She eyed the staircase skeptically before following me up, then she sat patiently as I took photos of the snowy hills and the quiet town of Camden below.
As Millay described in her poem, the top of Mount Battie offers views of neighboring mountains such as Megunticook Mountain in one direction, and the ocean with its many islands in the other direction. Even if the mountain didn’t have a unique historic tower and plaque at its top, the views alone would be worth the climb.
Another way to climb Mount Battie is on the steep, rocky, half-mile Mount Battie Trail, which scales the mountain’s southern side, starting at the end of Megunticook Street. I hiked up and down that trail in 2020 with my friend Sam, and it was so steep in a few places that we had to scoot along the rock on our rear ends. But it sure was fun.
Also within the park, Carriage Trail and Bubba’s Trail explore parts of the mountain. I’ve yet to hike those trails, but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time.
While Mount Battie is the most popular destination within Camden Hills State Park, there’s much more to explore. Covering more than 5,700 acres, the park is home to more than 30 miles of trails, plus a campground. Some other mountains to hike in the park include Megunticook, Bald Rock, Frohock and Cameron.
The park even has a slice of oceanfront, with an easy 0.3-mile Shoreline Trail and picnic areas.
It’s no surprise that a young poet found inspiration in the beauty of the location. My favorite part of Millay’s poem “Renascence” isn’t the well-known first lines, but it’s further on, when she describes the small wonders of nature that she would miss if she were dead (She could be quite morbid).
“For rain it hath a friendly sound,” she wrote, “to one who’s six feet underground.”
If you’ve never read the full poem, I highly suggest it — preferably while sitting atop Mount Battie, in the shadow of a stone tower.