On a crisp fall day in Southern Maine, we wheel up to the bulletin board of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. Tacked to it is a ruled notepad and a pencil on a string. Here, guests are invited to write down what wildlife they’ve seen on their visit. It makes for some fascinating reading and whets the appetite for what’s to come...
“a hawk, 3 chipmunks, 4 sparrows...”
“3 squirrels and two dead mosquitos...”
We had been in Maine for the past week, in the midst of the peak fall color. So far, the crowds have been very sparse...we had been expecting that the area would be swamped with leaf-peepers. On a brilliantly cool and sunny day, fortified with some delicious local lobster and chowder, we head over to the visitor’s center...just south of Kennebunkport.
Packing up some water and our binoculars, we head out onto the 1 mile trail that leads off into the forest. The trail is hard packed dirt with wooden borders. Today, it is covered with a thin layer of fallen leaves, muffling our sounds so that only those of the surrounding forest are heard. The trail is relatively flat and easily negotiable for any wheelchair. Interpretive stations are sprinkled throughout along with pullouts where the weary can rest.
The first third of the trail winds through shady forest where there are squirrel habitats, creeks, stations interpreting the local plant life. Chipmunks and squirrels abound. Curiously, birds are almost absent as we made our way quietly towards the sea.
The trail opens up onto a coastal marsh with a breathtaking display of color with bright red sugar maples highlighting the yellows of the birch trees with the evergreen pines outlining their brilliance with their contrasting green. The designers of the trail thoughtfully have installed a pullout with a bench, knowing you will want to spend time here absorbing the view.
Shore birds flit around the saw grass at the edge of the marsh. We stop to sip some water, searching the horizon with our binoculars. Surely there must be some wildlife in the refuge today but the biggest mammals we see are the ever-present squirrels.
About 3/4 of a mile out, the trail turns back in, following the line of the tide back into the shady deciduous forest. Soon, we meet up with the original trail and are back in the parking lot adding our entries into the log...
“Many squirrels, 6 chipmunks, 2 blue jays...”
The Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge flows through several seaside towns in Southern Maine. The visitor’s center and the mile long wheelchair accessible trail is between Wells and the Kennebunks on Route 9 near Deer Run Road just north of the junction with Highway 1. Signage is very limited, watch carefully for the entrance.
Beside the trail, other accessible features include portable toilets, parking, and a small visitor’s center accessible via a ramp.
Copyright 2000 - Darryl Musick
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