2015 Chapter 3 – Route Digest
Day 6: Sweden to Kennebunk
Distance: 74 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,040 feet
Upon leaving Camp Tapawingo, we ride on familiar roads for the first couple of mile as we head west to Lovell, then take a sharp left onto Knights Hill Road. As you have discovered by now, road names in Maine often describe something notable about the road, and Knights Hill is no exception. You have a few hills to start the morning, but things level out as we approach the coast.
After crossing Route 302, we pass Shawnee Peak Ski Area, which opened on January 23, 1938, and is the oldest major ski area in Maine.
The shaded Mountain Road takes us on the west side of Moose Pond, home to Camp Winona for boys and the United State’s oldest continuously run camp for girls, Camp Wyonegonic.
We turn onto Route 117 into Denmark. Denmark was incorporated in 1807, and named in solidarity with the country in Europe that had been attacked that year by the British Royal Navy, who had attacked Portland, Maine in 1775. Early settlers found the soil in the region to be stony and sandy, making farming difficult. Fortunately, the flow of water from Moose Pond into Moose Pond Brook provided an excellent source of power, and mills were established to manufacture grain, lumber, barrel staves, sashes, blinds and doors.
Rest Stop 1 (Mile 18): Denmark Congregational Church, built in 1834.
The route winds through lovely back roads to Hiram, where it crosses the Saco River and turns onto River Road. Although we stay on River Road, about a half-mile down the road is a right turn onto Douglas Road. At the end of Douglas Road is Wadsworth Hall, a majestic home built for General Peleg Wadsworth between 1800 and 1807 on 7,800 acres of land that were granted to him for his service in the Revolutionary War. Once the house was completed, Wadsworth moved here from his home in Portland, which he gave to his daughter Zilpah and her husband Stephen Longfellow, parents of one of America’s most beloved poets. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow spent many of his childhood summers at his grandfather’s estate. Wadsworth Hall, which remains in the hands of Wadsworth descendants, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.
The aptly named River Road follows the banks of the Saco River to Cornish. Cornish began as a trading post established by Francis Small, an enterprising landowner and fur trader who lived primarily in Kittery, in 1665 near where the Ossipee and Saco Rivers meet. Here converged three major Abenaki Indian paths —the Sokokis Trail (Route 5), the Ossipee Trail (Route 25) and the Pequawket Trail (Route 113), a prime location for conducting fur trade with Native Americans. Small’s practice of extending credit in the spring in exchange for repayment in the fall with fur was not seen as a good deal by all. Indeed, Chief Wesumbe of the Newichewannock Abenaki tribe warned Small of a planned attempt on his life by renegade tribesmen, who decided to erase their debt through a plan to set fire to his house and shoot Small when he ran out the door. At first Small thought the warning was a trick to frighten him away and avoid payment. Just to be on the safe side, however, Small took refuge on a nearby hill, from where he could observe what might transpire. Sure enough, at first light his trading post went up in flames. Small escaped to Kittery.
As compensation for his losses, Chief Wesumbe in 1668 sold to Small twenty square miles of land between the Ossipee River, Little Ossipee River, and Newichewannock River (now Salmon Falls). The price was two large Indian blankets, two gallons of rum, two pounds of powder, four pounds of musket balls, and twenty strings of Indian beads. The purchase comprised what is called the Ossipee Tract – Limington, Limerick, Newfield, Parsonfield, Shapleigh, and what became known as Francisborough, then Francistown, after its original proprietor, Francis Small.
Francistown was incorporated on February 27, 1794, as Cornish (presumably by settlers from Cornwall, England). The soil was very productive for corn and grain. The Portland and Ogdensburg Railroad began running up the Saco River valley in the early 1870s, servicing Baldwin Station across the bridge from Cornish. Today, the town of Cornish has a quaint downtown area, with antique shops and other interesting specialty stores.
In Cornish, we pick up a section of the Sokokis Trail, once connecting the Sokokis village at Pequawket (now Fryeburg) to the tribe’s coastal encampment at what is today Saco, and follow it on Route 5 to Limerick. Along the way, we climb to a lookout point that provides a gorgeous view of Sokokis Lake and the surrounding area.
After Francis Small purchased the Ossipee Tract form Chief Wesumbe, he sold half of his interest to a wealthy merchant from Eliot, Major Nicholas Shapleigh.
The French and Indian Wars intervened, limiting settlement in the region until after the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1763. In 1773, the heirs of Francis Small and Nicholas Shapleigh hired James Sullivan, a Biddeford lawyer, to assist them in establishing their rightful claim to the Ossipee Tract and promised to give him land if he prevailed. He did, and in return, he was given a township in 1775 that he named Limerick Plantation, after his father’s birthplace in Ireland. The land was fertile, and Limerick, incorporated in 1787, became a thriving farming community. The numerous brooks and streams in the area were a source of waterpower for factories making furniture, clothing, and the once nationally famous Holland Blankets, which were supplied to troops during the Civil War.
Lunch Stop (Mile 41): Limerick Fire Station
After lunch, we ride on quiet back roads dotted with old farms. We follow along the eastern edge of Lake Arrowhead, an artificial lake that was created in the 1960s when a dam was placed across the Little Ossipee River.
We pass by Massabesic Forest, a 3,600-acre oak-pine forest, owned and operated by the Northern Research Station of the USDA Forest Service. This forest is interspersed with diverse wetlands associated with three rivers and numerous streams, ponds, vernal pools, and swamps, making the area unique for supporting long term populations of rare turtle and invertebrates. Of particular significance is the 1,000+ acre level bog ecosystem adjacent to Tarwater Pond on the west side of the forest.
Rest Stop 2 (Mile 61): Community Library in Lyman
The Abenaki sold the area now known as Lyman to three men from York in 1660. First called Swanville, the land was settled in 1767 and incorporated by the Massachusetts General Court in 1780 as Coxhall. The name was changed in 1803 to Lyman in honor of Theodore Lyman, a wealthy merchant who established a successful shipping firm in York in the 1790s, before moving to Boston. Early farmers grew grain, hay and apples. Outlets from local ponds made it possible to run sawmills and gristmills. The Great Fire of 1947 devastated part of Lyman. Today, Lyman is a bedroom community for people working in the Portland or Biddeford/Saco area.
As we continue toward the coast, we pass through Arundel and into Kennebunk. The mountains and hills are behind us, with easy pedaling ahead.
Rolling hills and open spaces make Kennebunk a truly unique and special place.
The name Kennebunk means “long cut bank,” probably in reference to Great Hill at the mouth of the Mouse River that would have been an important landmark to Native Americans.
Kennebunk began as an agricultural and shipbuilding settlement and the first settlers in the area were likely fisherman. You can learn more about the town’s history by following the heritage discovery trail, composed of 25 informational panels installed in the street. The Kennebunk Free Public Library dates back to 1907 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Other structures along Main Street, Bourne Street and Summer Street are examples of architectural styles such as Federal, Queen Anne, Greek and Gothic Revival.
Kennebunk has plenty of other relevant sites to view such as the George W. Bourne house, called the “Wedding Cake House,” and the 1799 Kennebunk Inn.
Kennebunk has three large and lovely sandy beaches: Gooch’s, Kennebunk (Middle), and Mother’s Beach. The beaches are easy to get to and great for walking. Other trails for walking or riding include the Kennebunk Land Trust, the Bridal Path, which runs along the Mousam River, and the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, which you will pass on your ride out of Kennebunk.
Kennebunk has evolved into a favorite destination for travelers worldwide. From the sea captains’ mansions on Summer Street to the beautiful Mousam and Kennebunk rivers, there is something in Kennebunk for everyone to enjoy. The BikeMaine Village is on Parson’s Field, directly behind the main street of town. Meals will be served a block away at the new Waterhouse Center, a 100 x 120 foot multiuse pavilion opened in 2014 and houses a skating rink during the winter and is performance space and for farmers’ markets in the warmer months
Day 7: Kennebunk to Kittery: The Grand Finale
Distance: 55 Miles
Elevation Gain: 2,119 feet
Our last day of BikeMaine 2015 is packed with adventure, as we experience both the coast and some inland hills. We begin by heading east to Kennebunkport, where we pass Walker’s Point, the summer home of President George H. W. Bush. The land on which the Bush family compounded is located was originally purchased by the President’s great-grandfather and has been in the family for over a century. We also pass St. Ann’s Episcopal, a lovely stone church attended by the Bush family when they are in town.
We cycle through Kennebunkport, a bustling harbor, with its popular Dock Square at the center.
On the southern side of town, we ride past Kennebunk Beach, and through a section of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. This refuge, established in 1966, preserves ten important estuaries that are key points along migration routes of waterfowl and other migratory birds. During winters, the Refuge’s marshes provide vital food and cover for waterfowl another migrating birds at a time when inland waters are frozen. The Refuge also supports piping plover, least terns, peregrine falcons, and bald eagles.
We then ride through a section of the Laudholm Farm, headquarters for the 2,250-acre Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve conservation area. The center at Laudholm Farm is a research, education, and recreation facility and is a public-private partnership within the National Estuarine Research Reserve System. Each year, more than 3,000 children and adults participate in its educational programs.
Rest Stop 1 (Mile 17 ): Corey Daniels Gallery, Wells
We head inland for a few miles to avoid Route 1’s busy traffic. After riding through North Berwick, we head down a long hill to the seaside town of Ogunquit. Ogunquit, an Abenaki word meaning “beautiful place by the sea,” started as a village within the neighboring town of Wells. A sawmill was established here in 1686, triggering an active shipbuilding community along the tidal Ogunquit River.
In 1888, a bridge was built across the Ogunquit River providing access for summer visitors and residents to the beautiful 3-mile beach on the easternmost shore. The easy access to the beach Ogunquit attracted an eclectic variety of artists, all of whom helped create a richly textured art colony and a place to live and paint. In 1898, Charles Woodbury of Boston established a summer painting school that garnered national attention and drew the likes of Edward Hopper, George Bellows and Robert Henri.
We travel through the heart of busy Ogunquit Center, with its many boutiques, shops, galleries, and restaurants. On Shore Road, we pass the Ogunquit Memorial Library, given to the Village by Nannie Conarroe in memory of her husband in 1897. This imposing yet elegant fieldstone structure, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, remains a uniquely lovely landmark in town and well used by residents and visitors alike.
We also pass by the Ogunquit Museum of American Art which houses a variety of works by artists associated with the famed Ogunquit Art Colony, as well as other American artists.
On the south side of Ogunquit is Perkins Cove. Once called Fish Cove, the cove was unprotected from ocean storms, so fishermen in the area had to protect their boats by hauling them ashore each night. Needing to create a safe anchorage, fishermen formed the Fish Cove Harbor Association and dug a channel across land they purchased to connect Fish Cove with the Josias River. When the trench was complete, erosion further widened the passage. The resulting tidewater basin is now called Perkins Cove
We meander along Shore Road past waterfront homes and golf courses to Cape Neddick, part of The Yorks. The Yorks cover 57.7 sq. miles and is made up of Cape Neddick, York Beach, York Harbor and York Village. The Yorks of Maine have natural beauty, old New England seacoast charm, sandy beaches, lighthouses, conservation parks, an amusement park and more, and we cycle by much of it on our way south.
Rest Stop 2 (Mile 41): Cape Neddick Light at Nubble Rock. In 1874, Congress appropriated $15,000 to build a light station oat Nubble Rock. It was first put in use in 1879 and is still in use today. Its lighthouse tower is 41 feet tall and is lined with brick and sheathed with cast iron. The lighthouse is a significant feature both nationally and universally. In fact, an image of the lighthouse is included in the Voyager spacecraft’s photograph collection, along with images of the Great Wall of China and the Taj Majal.
We ride along York Beach, which offers outdoor fun with miles of long sandy beaches and coastal scenic byways.
In York Village, you are invited to stop by the Museums of Old York, a multi-property historic museum preserving the rich history of what was once the seat of government for the Province of Maine. At Old York, you will see and hear what life was like three centuries ago. The Museums of Old York are community operated by The Old York Historical Society. The Museums consist of nine historic buildings including The Old Gaol, the nation’s oldest royal prison. Show your BikeMaine bracelet for a free tour of the Old Gaol (Jail) or the Remick Gallery. The Gaol is one of the oldest public buildings in America. See the original stone dungeons where the prisoners were held, hear some prisoner stories, and learn how being in debt could land you in jail. A Museum for 115 years, the Old Gaol has broad appeal to all kinds of visitors and provides an excellent opportunity to snap a photo of yourself in the pillory!
The Remick Gallery (located on the second story of the Parsons Center) is currently showing an exhibit of the historic photography of Emma Coleman. Coleman turned her camera on York in the 1880s, documenting rural life, architecture, and scenery with an artist’s eye.
The last few miles of the 2015 BikeMaine route are on gentle back roads, taking us into Kittery and to Fort Foster, where a farewell luncheon awaits.