Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Presidential Rail Trail

The train came though at 1:00 am. Holy Smokes! It was loud! The train didn't blow it's whistle, but it must have been coming up the hill because the engine was chugging hard & sounded like it was coming right in through my RV! (The tracks are prob less than 100 feet down a steep ravine from my RV). I went back to sleep and 2 hours later the train came through again! Quiter this time, but it still woke me up!

When we were in Bar Harbor we were doing laundry and got to talking to a guy who was doing his laundry and he told us about the campground and about The Presidential Rail Trail that runs between Jefferson and Gorham. He said it was really great because you had views of the Presidential Range the whole way! It took a lot of research to figure out where it was and where to go to pick it up, but we thought we had figured it out.

Despite the forecast for rain we decided to try and ride the trail today. The whole trail was only 18 miles and we were going to have Mom drop us off and pick us up in Gorham. Also, we had read a review that said that after Route 115 the trail was very rough and not passable for hybrids, so we were going to start at 115, cutting several miles off.

When we got to the spot where we thought the trail crossed 115 we couldn't find it. We drove down the road that went parallel to the trail and we were about to give up when Mom saw it. Dad and I got out to survey it, the trail was very rough - gravel base, covered in grass and the weeds on the sides were growing over it. We decided it was impassable. I was using Google Maps (the rail trail was on the map, however it was indicated like a railroad, I had to know that it was not in fact an active railroad) and I saw another place ahead where the trail came near the road and we went there. Here the trail looked smoother so we went for it.

Despite being smoother and less overgrown, the trail was still rough! I suspect that this trail is more for snowmobiles, snowshoeing, & cross country skiing and all the rocks and such are covered by snow! We managed to bike it, but There were lots of rocks! I was not exactly heeding the advice of the guy in the bike shop in Bar Harbor to stay on paved roads only! Luckily my tire seems to have survived!

The trail was very straight and passed by many ponds that looked like they should have moose in them, but I didn't see any! After we hit the Castle Trailhead Parking area - 4 miles from where we started - the trail smoothed out significantly and was more suitable for bikes! We continued downhill, in and out of the trees, with some views, even though the mountains were covered in clouds!

As we neared Gorham the trail was open to ATVs and we encountered many. We had to cross a high bridge over the Androscroggin River and when we got over it we realized that we needed to get back over it to get to Gorham, or go on to Berlin. We weren't sure which option was the best, and we saw another guy on a bike (first one we'd see all day!) and we asked him what our options were. He seemed like a nice guy, very polite, but he had a pistol on hip! No idea why! Dad pointed out that a gun on his hip is better than a gun in backpack! Turned out the best option was to go back over the bridge and go down what looked like an overgrown trail just on the other side.

Turns out the trail on the other side of the bridge was not only overgrown, but very steep! We wrestled ourselves and our bikes down, it wasn't the easiest thing, but it wasn't too hard either. When we got to the bottom, the only option was to walk next to the tracks. We were pretty sure we wouldn't encounter a train, but it still felt very "Stand By Me". Soon we were at the road and we rode over to McDonald's to text Mom.

While we were waiting for mom we checked out the bike shop - it was tiny and the kid inside was quite the salesman. Soon we got in touch with Mom and headed over to Mr. Pizza for lunch & Gifford's Ice Cream. After lunch we saw three thru-hikers leaving the post office and trying to hitch a ride the 5 miles back to the AT. We didn't have room for all three so we left Mom at the Italian Grocery Store and picked them and took them to the trail! They were really nice and it was fun hearing about their hike! They will be in Maine either tonight or tomorrow!

After we dropped off the hikers & picked up Mom we headed up highway 16 toward Errol, NH to go to LLCotes - a big hunting, fishing & outdoor store. By this time the promised rain had begun and it was pouring most of the way! The road was next to the Androscroggin River the whole time and we were told there could be moose but we didn't see any. After LLCotes we continued around on route 26 to Grafton Notch State Park back in Maine. I'd been there a few years ago but I didn't get to see Screw Auger Falls so we stopped there and took a quick walk to see it and continued down the road. After a quick tour of Bethel, ME we returned to the campground for dinner!


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