With the prospect of cooler weather upon us, I wanted to venture a little farther afield for our explorations. While perusing the events feature on Maine Trailfinder, one of my go to websites for locating hiking possibilities, I located a preserve in New Gloucester that just happened to be next to a cidery. On the Norumbega Cidery website, I discovered that there was a trail system on their property as well. Excellent, we would be able to explore the Big Falls preserve, create a loop with the trails on the cidery land, and finish up with a cider tasting. What a great way to spend a sunny September day!
Unfortunately, summer returned with a vengeance. When we arrived at Big Falls preserve it was 80 degrees and humid. Hiking in oppressive weather would add a significant difficulty factor to our walk, but we had driven an hour and a half to explore, so explore we would. As we walked up the dirt road towards the trailhead, we passed a couple finishing up their hike. They looked very overheated and disappointed. They claimed they had walked about 4 miles and never found the falls. I thought that perhaps the falls were seasonal but we would see.
Just before we reached the trailhead, there was a metal bench overlooking Meadow Brook. It seemed like it could be a beautiful spot to take in the scenery but my husband thought it was more of a great place to feed the mosquitoes so we moved on. At the trailhead, we entered a dark hardwood forest with an abundance of ferns on the forest floor. The trail itself was fairly easy to navigate, and there was always an abundance of blue markers to lead the way. Not far into the preserve, we found the remains of a very old, abandoned automobile. My husband took a few pictures before we continued our hike.
The path eventually led to Meadow Brook and followed it for quite a ways. When we saw the rocky stream-bed, we understood why the exhausted couple we had met had not found the falls. The brook was mostly rocks with a few puddles scattered among the rocks. As I suspected the falls were seasonal. Still the rocks, the wet spots and the sun filtering through the trees created a special scene that we admired for some time.
At this point there was a little bit of an incline through the woods but the hot, humid weather was making it difficult to maneuver. As we reached the top of this hill I commented to my husband that I thought I could hear the falls that the previous hikers had missed. Sure enough there was a pile of boulders that created a natural dam. Behind the boulders was a large pool of water but not enough to rush over the dam. Whatever water was making its way downstream was trickling through the cracks between the rocks.
From here, the path turned away from the brook. It wasn’t long before we were back on the road heading towards the Norumbega Chapel trail on the opposite side of the road. Along the grassy road and at the trailhead there was an abundance of Golden Rod and Calico Asters, the only flowers that seemed to remain by late September.
The Chapel Trail was a little more difficult due to fallen twigs and debris along the path. These conditions continued during the remainder of our hike. Still, there were plenty of red markers showing the way to go. There was never any time that we had to worry about being lost. Halfway through this portion of our explorations, we found a cute little chapel in the middle of the woods with a small stained glass window of a ship towards the back. Unfortunately, I forgot to ask the owners of the significance or history of the chapel.
Shortly after paying our respects at the chapel, we crossed a bridge with cairns at either end of the crossing. Soon we were at the cidery, where we decided we deserved a tasting after our heated travels. After our refreshment we returned to the woods, crossed the bridge and followed the yellow markers along the stream. There were quite a few cairns along either side and in the stream, which could have been old trail markers before the owners expanded this trail and put up the yellow markers. In any case it was a better way to return to the car than to walk down the graveled driveway to the road. Despite the heat it had been a great day for an outing.