Old Orchard Beach
Thomas Rogers settled Old Orchard Beach in 1657. Rogers envisioned the town as a tourism hotspot and dubbed it the “Garden by the Sea,” but was forced to flee to Kittery with his family following an Indian attack. The official name for the town was inspired by Roger’s abandoned apple orchard.
Though Rogers was not around to see it, his dreams for the town came true in 1842 when the first steam railroad was constructed from Boston to Portland and tourists flowed into the area. New buildings sprang up on new streets as the town hurried to accommodate the influx of tourists.
Today, Old Orchard Beach is home to 10,000 permanent residents and attracts up to 100,000 visitors in the summer months. The historic Old Orchard Pier, built originally in 1898, is located in the center of town. Near the pier you will find a variety of restaurants shops and nightclubs. Festivals, fairs, fireworks displays, and concerts make the town even livelier during the summer months, when Palace Playland, a four-acre amusement park on the beach is open. The town has seven miles of beautiful beach to enjoy. A little-known fact is that on July 24, 1927, Charles Lindbergh made an unexpected stop at Old Orchard Beach. The field he was due to land on was fogbound, so he used the much larger natural landing strip at Old Orchard.
The BikeMaine Village is in Veteran’s Memorial Park, located at the corner of Staples and First Street, and within easy walking distance of the beach, Pier, shops, hotels, restaurants, and nightclubs. The beer garden and dinner will be held on the Pier, followed by a breathtaking display of fireworks.
Day 2: Old Orchard Beach to Bridgton
Distance: 54 Miles
Elevation Gain: 2,420 feet
We leave Old Orchard Beach and head northwest and inland along back roads and past the Saco Heath Preserve, a 1,223-acre Nature Conservancy reserve that features a woodland trail to a boardwalk through the heath’s varied peatland communities. The bog ecosystem formed when two adjacent ponds filled with decaying plant material called peat. Eventually, the two-peat domes grew together to form a raised coalesced bog, where the surface of the peat is perched above the level of the groundwater. The preserve supports four rare plants including one of the largest stands of Atlantic white cedar in Maine, and is home to a globally rare species, the Hessel’s hairstreak butterfly.
We continue on through Hollis and Buxton and crisscross the Saco River, a favorite for boating, tubing, and fishing. The Saco River, its tributaries and other rivers that we pass in western Maine, were critical to the lives of the Native Americans who lived there when the Europeans arrived in the 17th and 18th centuries. Early Americans started farming the land and then moved to manufacturing using power generated by the rivers of the area. Buxton, for instance, had gristmills, sawmills and woolen mills. Today buildings in Buxton, that dates from that era that can be found on the National Register of Historic Places. If you have seen the movie The Shawshank Redemption, you may remember the scene in which Red retrieves a message from Andy, hidden beneath a rock on a hillside. That scene was filmed in Buxton!
While on Hardscrabble Road in Hollis, we pass the Killick Pond Wildlife Management Area, a 12,000-acre preserve with pitch pine-scrub oak barrens – a rare natural community type in Maine. The Nature Conservancy works with the Army National Guard and other partners in this area to perform controlled burns to promote pitch pine growth.
The morning rest stop is at the scenic Limington Rips Rest Area. The Rips are a set of rapids on the Saco River, which can be enjoyed by the avid kayaker. This video gives a sense of what it’s like to ride the Rips.
Originally called Flintstown, Sebago was granted in 1774 by the Massachusetts General Court to survivors of Captain John Flint’s company of soldiers from Concord, Massachusetts. The first inhabitants of the area were lumberjacks and woodsmen, but they left as soon as the first growth of pine was cut. The surface of the town’s land is very uneven and generally rocky, so it was hard work to clear a farm for cultivation. But the soil was good and yielded abundant crops, so people eventually stayed to work the land, then began building mills to make lumber, boots and shoes.
Lunch is at Mile 38, put on by the Sebago Center Congregational Church.
After lunch, the Hancock Pond Road takes us past Hancock Pond, a great fishing pond. Hancock Pond has a very irregular bottom type, shape, and contour. All of its deep water, forty to seventy feet, lies in the vicinity of the so called “Narrows.” These irregularities create an abundance and variety of habitats, which in turn make this water a consistent producer of quality brown trout and bass. Summer and winter anglers regularly fish this water.
In East Denmark, we turn onto Route 117, ride past Woods Pond and into Bridgton, our stop for the night.