Editor’s note: This story was originally published in January 2020.
Covered with moss and lichen, a stone throne sits in the middle of the woods. Surrounded by tall evergreens, this man-made structure seems out of place. It’s mysterious yet welcoming. Take a seat, it says. Stay a while.
Built in 1912 by Ernest Thompson Stetson, one of the founders of the Boy Scouts of America, the stone throne is one of the many rock monuments found in the woods of the Good Will-Hinckley campus in Fairfield. It’s a prime example of the many historic stone structures that are visited by trails in Maine.
Stone walls, foundations, towers, bridges — even thrones — are littered throughout the forest. Each has a story. Some are accompanied by plaques or literature that will tell you when and why they were built. But most of these rock monuments are up for interpretation, their origins long forgotten as they slowly crumble.
These rock monuments are highlights of many public trail networks throughout the state. Here are just a few.
Good Will-Hinckley Trails in Fairfield
Easy to moderate
The construction of the Good Will-Hinckley Trails were started in the early 1900s by George Walter Hinckley, founder of Good Will-Hinckley Homes for Boys and Girls. Weaving through the forest and fields of Fairfield, the trails were for the children living on the property, as well as visitors.
Today, the trails in the network total more than 3 miles and visit several historical stone monuments, which are marked on a trail map and described in a brochure. These monuments include Stetson’s stone throne, and a stone monument built in 1921 in honor of Theodore Roosevelt that includes a stone from the Roosevelt estate on Long Island, New York.
The trail network also features the Granite House, a stone and log cabin constructed by Charles D. Hubbard for the exhibition of Maine granites, and the Sunrise Fireplace, a stone fireplace built in 1933 in the middle of the forest.
The trails are open to walkers and leashed dogs. Access is free. For more information, visit gwh.org/lcbates or call 207-238-4350.
Directions: The trail network is located on the Good Will-Hinckley campus, off Route 201 in Fairfield. Starting at the intersection of routes 23 and 201 near the Hinckley Boat Launch in Fairfield, drive south on Route 201 for about 1.6 mile, then turn right onto Easler Road, right after the big sign for the L.C.Bates Museum. Drive less than 0.1 mile and park in the small parking lot for the museum, which will be on your right. The trail network starts on the other side of Easler Road and is marked by a large trailhead kiosk displaying a map.
Mount Battie in Camden
Easy to Moderate
Located in Camden Hills State Park, Mount Battie offers one of the most beautiful views of the Maine coast, and it stands just 800 feet above sea level. At its summit stands a round, stone tower that was dedicated in 1921 to the men and women of Camden who served in World War I. Visitors are welcome to sit on a stone bench inside the tower and climb a short staircase to its top, which is open to the sky and surrounded by parapet.
Also at the top of Mount Battie is a plaque displaying “Renascence,” a poem by Pulitzer Prize-winner Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950). Millay was born in Rockland and often wrote while sitting on the mountain’s summit.
Camden Hills State Park is one of Maine’s busiest parks in the winter, with many trails open to snowshoers and skiers. The park is open daily from 9 a.m. to sunset, unless otherwise signed at the gate. From Nov. 1 to May 1, the 0.9-mile Mount Battie Road, which leads to the top of Mount Battie, may be closed due to weather and staffing. This is a great time to hike up the road rather than use the more challenging hiking trails to climb the mountain.
The 0.5-mile Mount Battie trail travels up the south side of the mountain and is steep and rocky in several areas. You can also hike Mount Battie from its north side using the more gradual Megunticook, Nature and Tablelands trails, which together total 2.7 miles.
Dogs are permitted but must be leashed at all times. Park admission is $4 for Maine residents and $6 for non-residents, with discounts for seniors (free for Maine residents who are 65 and older, and $2 for non-residents who are 65 and older) and children ($1 for children 5 to 11 years old, and free for children under 5). For more information, call 207-236-3109 (in season) or 207-236-0849 (off season) or visit maine.gov/camdenhills.
Directions: To hike Mount Battie Road or the trails on the north side of the mountain, start at the intersection of routes 1 and 52 in Camden. Drive north on Route 1 for about 1.5 mile, then turn left at the entrance to Camden Hills State Park. Park in the day-use parking area. To hike Mount Battie Trail on the south side of the mountain, start at the intersection of routes 1 and 52 in downtown Camden, then drive on Route 52 about 300 feet. Turn right and drive 0.3 mile to Spring Street. Cross the street to Megunticook Street Extension and drive about 0.1 mile to the trailhead-parking area at the end of the street.
Vaughan Woods in Hallowell
Easy to moderate
Covering 197 acres in the town of Hallowell, Vaughan Woods has long been known for its natural beauty and fascinating history. Owned and maintained by the Vaughan Woods & Historic Homestead, with an easement held by the Kennebec Land Trust, the property is home to a network of more than 2 miles of trails that visit small waterfalls and historic stone bridges.
On the National Register of Historic Places, the property was once owned by the Plymouth Colony, which patented the property to facilitate trade with local Abenaki Indians. As trade decreased, the land was sold in 1661 to Benjamin Hallowell, a prominent Boston investor, and the land was later settled by his grandson Charles Vaughan in 1791. Charles’ older brother, Benjamin Vaughan (who was acquainted with Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson), transformed the property into an agricultural showplace, drawing many famous visitors to the homestead, including John James Audubon and Daniel Webster.
The trails are open to the public from dawn until dusk, year round. Access is free. Dogs are permitted but must be leashed at all times. For more information, call 207-622-9831 or visit vaughanhomestead.org.
Directions: The woods has two parking areas. The largest parking area is behind Hall-Dale High School at 97 Maple St. in Farmingdale, but this parking lot is only open to trail users when school is not in session. From the school parking lot, the trailhead is on the west side of the tennis courts. The other parking area is available at the corner of Litchfield Road and Middle Street. Park only in the designated parking area, not along the road. The trailhead is to the left of the informational kiosk.
This story was originally published in Bangor Metro’s December 2019 issue.