Updated: Oct 23, 2022
This tranquil forest with cascading waterfalls is an ideal spot for soul filling walks, running your dog, or providing kids with a magical play space. Last weekend, I came here with two friends, our kids and our dogs. The kids created an imaginative game near the waterfall and we tired the dogs out with a long walk. The 15 minute drive to this free adventure sent our entire crew home tired and happy. Our mama mission had been accomplished.
Photo Credit: Becca Wertheimer
If you haven't spent a lot of time in the woods with your kids, you may be wondering if they would even know how to play in a natural setting without toys or guidance from adults. I'm here to tell you that they would. After spending some years leading outdoor programs for all kinds of kids, here is one thing I've come to know:
If given natural spaces to explore and friends to be with, kids will not only create their own play, they will actually thrive. All on their own, with no adult intervention.
I've watched this happen over and over again. I'm here to tell you that kids are as brilliant, creative, and adventurous as they've always been - even in this age of digital overload, environmental stress and a pandemic that increased our isolation. Kids have not lost their ability to play. Set them free with a group of other kids in the woods and watch what happens. I guarantee you will be pleasantly surprised.
In my experience, the thing that has been more powerful than providing interesting curriculum or structured games, is leading a group of kids to beautiful outdoor spaces and letting them have at it. Letting them lead the way. I've learned that kids crave unstructured, unplugged time and when given the opportunity for this, they become engaged and enthusiastic...and happy. Whether building forts, playing tag, floating sticks down a river, or floating themselves down a river, their inner creativity and joy for life surfaces. The added bonus is that they inevitably form strong connections with each other through the shared experience of adventuring in the wild. And we all know that social connections form the basis of a happy life.
I'll move on to Rine's Forest, but I wanted to share that first. If you're struggling with how to provide balance for your kids in this age of technology (believe me, I'm struggling too...we all are), the natural world offers a solution. Watching these kids outdoors gives me hope. All is not lost.
This 268-acre woodland, located in the heart of Cumberland, contains 5.4 miles of trails varying in degree of difficulty. It is filled with diverse wildlife, waterfalls, and streams that flow to the Piscataqua River.
In 2003, the Town of Cumberland purchased 216 acres of the property from the Rines family. In 2005 they signed a conservation easement with the Chebeague Cumberland Land Trust to ensure that the forest would remain a natural area managed for wildlife habitat and public enjoyment forever. If you are new to the term "easement", here is a definition from the Land Trust Alliance, "A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. Landowners retain many of their rights, including the right to own and use the land, sell it and pass it on to their heirs."
In 2009, the Rines family sold an additional lot to the Town, which CCLT protected with another conservation easement, bringing the total area up to 268 acres.
This 2.5 mile trail network is rated as moderate and allows dogs. Recreational use includes hiking, horseback riding, x-country skiing, and snowshoeing. There are two trailheads on Range Road in Cumberland: a 10-car parking lot at 363 Range Road and an additional trailhead with parking along the road at 131 Range Road. For a printable scavenger hunt and trail map, visit the CCLT website. There are also trail maps available at the trailhead kiosks.
To find our Seek'em, you will need to find the waterfall trail, which you wouldn't want to miss. It's the 0.1 mile purple trail on the map and there are several routes leading to it, ranging in length from 0.7 to 0.9 miles.
Once you've found the waterfall trail, follow the path until the terrain becomes flat at the end of the cascading falls. There is a mossy tree stump near the water's edge where my friend Mae hid our Seek'em. If looking back at the falls, this will be your view. I've circled the stump for you.
This may take your kids a while to find, since Mae did her best to locate a hiding spot that was not easily visible. The good news is, they will enjoy the hunt and you will have some time to relax and replenish your energy in these healing woods.