2015 began at the southernmost tip of Maine in Kittery, the state’s oldest incorporated town. Located at the mouth of the Piscataqua River, Kittery was settled in the early 1600s by fishermen, hunters, trappers and loggers. During the American Revolution, the first ships of the U.S. Navy were built in Kittery, including the 1777 USS Ranger commanded by John Paul Jones, The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, established by the federal government in 1800 on Fernald’s Island is linked to Kittery by two bridges. The first ship produced was the 74 gun warship, USS Washington, in 1814. The Shipyard continues its tradition of excellence and service to the nation by supplying the U.S Navy’s submarine fleet with overhaul, refueling and modernization work.
Kittery has some fine early architecture, including the Sir William Pepperrell House, built in 1733, and the Lady Pepperrell House, built in 1760. The John Bray House, built in 1662, is believed to be the oldest surviving house in Maine. Today downtown Kittery is home to artists, specialty shops and restaurants. A large collection of retail outlets located along Route 1, makes Kittery a popular shopping destination for tourists.
Fort Foster, located at the end of Pocahontas Road, was a fortress used during World War II and is now a public recreation and beach facility. BikeMaine riders will congregate here on September 12th to camp on the shore of scenic Portsmouth Harbor and feast on Maine’s internationally renowned lobster.
Day 1 – Kittery to Old Orchard Beach – September 13, 2015
“Let’s start at the very beginning . . .”
We leave Fort Foster in Maine’s oldest and southernmost town, Kittery, and follow the Piscataqua River west, past Fort McClary,
through Kittery Point and along the southern border of the state. The route winds through Eliot and the Berwicks, past the home of poet Sarah Orne Jewett, and inland through West Kennebunk and Arundel, where locally born Kenneth Roberts based his novel of the same name. After heading east, we ride through the former mill towns of Biddeford and Saco, to the coast and our day’s destination in Maine’s summer play land, Old Orchard Beach.
Mileage: 61 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,389 feet
Old Orchard Beach
Old Orchard Beach (OOB), famous for its seven miles of magnificent beach, is a community of 10,000 year-round residents that swells to 100,000 on busy summer days. First officially settled in 1657, the town’s name came from an early settler’s abandoned apple orchard. OOB was actually first promoted as a tourist destination in 1636 and called “The Garden by the Sea.” With the start of railway service from Boston and Portland in 1842, the town quickly grew into a major summer resort.
At the center of the town, the historic Old Orchard Pier, first built in 1898, is still bursting with activity. Palace Playland, a four-acre amusement park built on the beach, was originally constructed in 1902.
Day 2 – Old Orchard Beach to Bridgton
“From Beach to Bridgton”
After leaving Old Orchard Beach, we head northwest and inland along back roads to Buxton and Hollis. There the ride begins to crisscross the Saco River, a favorite for boating and fishing, and then on to Steep Falls. We are introduced to Maine’s famous rolling hills, as we climb to the shores of Hancock and Perley Ponds. In East Denmark, we turn onto Route 117, ride past Woods Pond and into Bridgton, our stop for the night.
Mileage: 54 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,420 feet
Bridgton is located on beautiful Highland Lake, home to many summer and private camps. The town was settled in the 1770s and incorporated in 1794. With water provided by streams and the lake, Bridgton developed initially as an industrial center with sawmills, gristmills, textile mills and a tannery and sent completed goods to Portland via a canal. By the latter part of the century there was also rail service to the town bringing with it summer visitors. Although the canal and railroad have been abandoned, vacationers continue to visit Bridgton for its clear lakes and outdoor recreational opportunities.
Bridgton has a vibrant Main Street, with numerous shops, galleries, cafes and movie theater, and is a center of commerce for the region. The BikeMaine Village will be one block behind Main Street, next to the Community Center and located between Depot Street and Pondicherry Park, a 62-acre tract of land with hiking trails that pass through forest, wetlands and pastures.
Day 3 – Bridgton to Bethel
“Heading for the Hills…”
Today’s ride is relatively short, but the magnitude of the hills increases as we pedal west. The views after leaving Bridgton hint of the fun to come. We ride through Lovell, along Kezar Lake, then skirt the White Mountain National Forest, home of Mount Washington and the Presidential Range, through Stoneham to North Waterford. After our big climb of the day, Cummings Mountain, we descend to the Albany Town House and a fairly flat ride through wetlands to Bethel.
Mileage: 45 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,664 feet
Bethel offers the tranquility that comes with small village life along with the convenience of modern amenities. Residents and visitors alike cherish the town’s historic buildings and walkable village with shops, galleries and fine restaurants. Bethel is the perfect BikeMaine 2015 layover community with its lightly traveled scenic roads and many recreational and cultural activities.
Bethel was first settled in the late 1700s and grew rapidly after the Revolutionary War. With good roads and the arrival of the railroad, the largely agricultural Bethel developed into a fashionable summer resort. Visitors can enjoy fishing, canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding and more on the many lakes and rivers; nearby mountains offer a wide range of hikes of various lengths and difficulty; and roads and trails provide hundreds of miles of on- and off-road biking and mountain biking. For those interested in a round of golf, there are two premier 18-hole golf courses in gorgeous mountain settings. Moose spotting tours are offered at dawn and dusk for visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of North America’s largest land mammal.
The BikeMaine Village will be on the picturesque grounds of Gould Academy, a private, college preparatory school overlooking the White Mountains and within easy walking distance of the town’s many acclaimed eating and lodging options. Bethel is also a haven for winter activities; click here for more information on Bethel in the winter.
Day 5 – Bethel to Camp Tapawingo
“To the Top of the Notch…”
After leaving Bethel and heading west, the ride then turns south to enter the White Mountain National Forest. A long, gradual climb on freshly tarred road, with stunning views of the surrounding mountains, takes us to the top of Evans Notch. After summiting, we descend into Chatham, New Hampshire, where we cross the Saco River back into Maine at Stow, and ride into Fryeburg. The ride continues northeast through Lovell and into Sweden to Keyes Pond for our night at Camp Tapawingo.
Mileage: 60 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,514 feet
Sweden – Camp Tapawingo
Located in Sweden, Maine, on Keyes Pond, Camp Tapawingo has one mile of lakefront and 200-wooded acres in the foothills of the White Mountains. This classic Maine summer camp is an idyllic location for a BikeMaine overnight. Enjoy an array of waterfront and traditional camp activities during the day, and at night view dazzling displays of the Milky Way and listen to the eerie calls of loons.
A private, independent girls summer camp, Tapawingo was founded in 1919 and continues to shape the lives of 150 girls each summer.
Day 6 – Camp Tapawingo to Kennebunk
“Tracing the Sokokis Trail…”
Today’s ride is the longest of the week. While the day starts with some challenging hills, things taper off as we approach the coast. Soon after leaving Sweden, we head south on Mountain Road to Denmark, along the base of Shawnee Peak Ski Area and the west side of Moose Pond, to Hiram and Cornish. The ride follows the Sokokis Trail, the route once used by the Abanaki traveling from Pequawket (now Fryeburg) to the tribe’s coastal encampment at what is today Saco, through Limerick. We pedal along the east side of Lake Arrowhead, a man-made lake on the Little Ossipee River, through Dayton and Lyman, and across the Maine Turnpike on the Eastern Trail into Kennebunk.
Mileage: 74 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,040 feet
Kennebunk, a coastal town located 90 miles north of Boston and 25 miles south of Portland, is comprised of three vibrant villages: Downtown, Lower Village & West Kennebunk. People from around the world are drawn to the town’s sandy beaches and open spaces, including the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, the Nature Conservancy Blueberry Barrens with 1,500 acres of nature trails and blueberry fields and the flowing Mousam and Kennebunk rivers.
Originally an agricultural and shipbuilding settlement, the town is rich with tradition and history and stately shipbuilders’ and sea captains’ homes continue to line its streets. The Brick Store Museum, located in the center of town, provides a window into the area’s storied past.
The BikeMaine Village will be on Parson’s Field, one block back from Downtown Kennebunk’s quintessential Main Street. Meals will be served in the new, state of the art Waterhouse Center, an open-sided pavilion that hosts ice skating in winter and recreational and educational opportunities throughout the year.
Day 7 – Kennebunk to Kittery
“Hail to the Chief!”
On our last day of BikeMaine 2015, we alternate between the coast and inland gentle hills. After cycling through Kennebunkport, summer home of President George H. W. Bush and the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, we head west along quiet roads, then turn east to the seaside town of Ogunquit. From there the ride hugs the coast past Cape Neddick and Nubble Lighthouse, first illuminated in 1879. For the final stretch, we cycle through tranquil York Harbor and cross the finish line in Kittery’s Fort Foster, where a farewell luncheon awaits.
Mileage: 55 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,119 feet