Updated: Jan 26
Here are some of the feelings I'm left with after a day of hiking: clarity, grounding, inspiration, energy, renewed excitement for life. But the drive to the mountains is long and I'd recently started wondering if that same post-hike high could be achieved through a longer local hike.
My friend Anna and I were discussing this during a neighborhood dog walk and decided to plan a day to hike the 10 + mile West Side Trail in Yarmouth. The first time I walked this trail was in January of 2022, but I didn't do the whole thing. I'd been exploring trails in southern Maine for over two years and this marked trail 100, which ultimately led to my trail guide...not to mention hours, upon hours of sunlit woods, babbling brooks and new discoveries. This trail holds a special place in my heart.
It also holds a place in Anna's heart, but for more personal reasons. Her grandfather, David Adams, lived on Cousins Island and did a lot of volunteer work on this trail. When he died, they created a memorial for him - a bench at the turning point of this out and back trail. A bench to sit and ponder the fact that you still had miles to go on the return trip...and on a beautiful trail in the woods, that's a good thing. Anna and her family members visit the bench often and leave small stones when they do.
We invited our friend Becca to join us for our 10-mile trek, plus our dogs Romy and Flora. They're sisters, although you'd never know it. Romy is a big, hot, fluffy mess of a thing and Flora is a clean, civilized lady...and about two-thirds Romy's size. We are who we are. And we love them both.
So three friends and two dog sisters had the entire day to walk and talk, uninterrupted by kids, work, phones, etc. - a rare gift to mom's.
Becca interviews people for a living through her business Storied, so she's a wizard when it comes to asking all the best questions and uncovering important details of one's life story. Through our 5 hour walk that day, I learned so many new details about Anna's life that I had never known - and we've been friends for years! All thanks to Becca, and a long walk in the woods.
The West Side Trail is a wonder that goes on for miles. Developed and managed by the Town of Cumberland, this multi-use trail is open to walkers, runners, mountain bikes and dogs (on-leash).
The beauty of this very long trail, is well, the beauty. Plus the fact that it doesn't require a long drive to get to the trailhead. Much of the trail is under a tree canopy that includes ravines, rocky bluffs, the Royal River estuary, and views of Casco Bay as you cross the long, seemingly endless bridge leading to Cousin's Island.
Sections under construction are designed for family-friendly biking and travelers with less mobility, including "The Last Mile" of the West Side Trail. This will complete the Village Section of the West Side Trail, running from the Applewood subdivision to Route One at the I-295 Park & Ride Facility. The best part about The Last Mile is that it will meet Universal Access standards and will be at least 5 feet wide with hardened gravel to accommodate mobility devices, strollers and more.
All Trails suggests 3 hours and 44 minutes to complete this trail. It took us around 5. As it usually goes when I hike with friends, all the talking, and snack eating does slow us down. But really, why rush any time we're granted to walk in the woods with good friends? Here is a map at our halfway point before turning around.
Ample parking is located at the Tyler Technologies parking lot off Tyler Drive in Yarmouth. Parking is also available at Fels-Groves Farm Preserve, located at 211 Gilman Road.
When you pull into the main drive of Tyler Technologies, do not take a right into the visitor's parking lot. Instead, head left up the hill and then take your first left into the large parking lot. At the far right corner you will see the trailhead kiosk.
There were already some stones on David's bench when we finally arrived and Anna carefully placed 4 of her own, pieces of round sea glass. I got emotional watching this. Such a sweet gesture to honor the life of a loved one...and the family members can come visit any time. And nothing against cemeteries, but a beautiful trail in the woods is a much more enjoyable place to return to over and over again.
As the great mystery of life would have it, when we finally returned to the parking lot at the end of our hike, there was a piece of green sea glass on the ground next to Anna's car. She swore she'd only packed 4 pieces of sea glass, so there was no logical explanation for this 5th piece. I believe it was a gift from Anna's grandpa...she did too. He must have been happy we were out there in nature, remembering him and enjoying the trail he'd spent so much time on.
In the end, I decided that nothing really beats the feeling of climbing hard in elevation to reach a gorgeous mountaintop summit. But...hours of time to walk in the woods with friends is invaluable, and well worth every minute of planning and organizing the rest of your life around.