Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Mackworth Island State Park

Fort Gorges with Portland Head
Fort Gorges with Portland Head Light in the background
Another road trip on a beautiful sunny day! We love to just pick a spot we've never been to, point the car in the right direction and go!

Today's choice? Mackworth Island. Why? Fairy houses! (See the fairy house blog for the photos.) Plus, it's a great walk through dappled sunshine and off shore breezes.

Fairy house on Mackworth
One of the hundreds of fairy houses on the island

We were loaned a small pamphlet at the gatehouse to use on our tour around the island. In it you learn the island is the home of the Baxter School for the Deaf which shares the island with the Mackworth Island State Park and the pet cemetery for Gov Baxter's dogs and one horse. I'm not going to delve into the darker side of the former problems at the school, this is just a story of a walk in the woods.

The Falmouth Town website has a good overview map of the island (see below).
Mackworth Island trail guide from Falmouth Town website

The parking lot is pretty small so don't expect to find a spot on a sunny summer day. This is a great hike in the quieter months. Admission to the park is $3 and is pretty much on the honor system (but you'll note the camera watching you so pay up!)

I was just walking over to check the admission fee when this caught my eye. I totally caught its eye as well but we watched each other on the sly. Believe me, if that fox moved toward me I was so out of there!

fox on Mackworth
The welcoming committee

The trail is very easy to follow, well packed down and it looked to be mostly wheelchair accessible other than the beach access which was pretty rough. Other beach areas have stairs.

Great views of Portland Harbor, Falmouth Foreside and some of the 'Calendar' Islands all the way around the trail.

There were random benches and this one great seat along the trail. Although, seriously, from this angle it looks too much like Moby Dick!

Mackworth Island trail
Huge downed tree

Lots of wild flowers, birds and assorted trees. (The island was completely deforested for fire wood during the Civil War and replanted with non-native species in the 1920's.)

spring flowers
Gorgeous woodland flowers abound
The remains of an old Civil War pier are along the trail. From the end of the pier you can watch sailboats and harbor traffic from Portland. Bring along binoculars as the low lying rocky islands are seasonally packed with seals, cormorants and gulls and other sea birds. (Zooming in with my photo software I can see one lone seal on one of the rocky outcrops just off the shore. It's a tiny speck on the photo just where the V is on the left of the island.)

Portland Harbor
Harbor traffic

 And we can't forget the 'pet sematary' that's about halfway around on the trail. Gov Baxter's 17 pet Irish Setters and one horse named Jerry are buried here. It's set apart from the trail so look for the turnoff.

pet sematary
Pet cemetery

The whole trail is 1.5 miles, easy grade. You could take 30 minutes or spend the day with a picnic lunch sitting on the beach. Pets are allowed but must be leashed and you must clean up after them. Remember, there is a school on the grounds and you saw that fox earlier. Lots of wildlife here, you don't want your dog running off after something (or the reverse!)

On the way out we saw clammers in the Presumpscot River. So strange. There they are in the shadow of Portland.

clammers Presumpscot River

How to get there:
From the inn, go south on Rt 1 to Falmouth approx 15 miles. You'll pass the Gilsland Farm Audubon Center on the right. A little ways after that there is a turning lane in the middle of Rt 1. Just before the turning lane ends is the left turn onto Andrews Ave that takes you across the causeway to the island. There is a large green sign directing you to The Baxter School for the Deaf, this is where you turn left off Rt 1 onto Andrews Ave. (If you reach the Martin's Point Bridge you've gone too far.)

Stop at the gatehouse for directions to the parking area. The parking lot is VERY small, so visitors are limited. Entry fee is $3 for out of state over 12 years old and $2 for in state residents.

White Cedar Inn Bed and Breakfast 178 Main St Freeport, Maine 04032

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting, this sounds like a great hike!