Me? I’m fine. Totally fine. Really. Things are just so dang dandy over here – really just perfect – and I’m in no way whatsoever stressed out about pandemics, job markets, recently discovering there are mushrooms growing in my living room walls, presidential elections, and/or most of my food choices over the last six months. Not a bit.
Alright, my noggin could use a breather. Perhaps yours could, too?
We could take a nod from the North Pond Hermit and flee to the woods and live out our days in glorious WiFi-free isolation under tarp tents stocked with canned foods and paperbacks stolen from area camps. That’s one option.
But is it really our style to sprint for the hills and bury our heads in the dirt whilst the world tilts and wobbles? Are we really the kind of people who can turn away from the play-by-play of current events and let our thoughts wander around the color of leaves, the puff of the clouds, the expansive views from a stone lookout tower on a mountain summit?
Yes, we are. Come to think of it, fleeing for the hills is exactly what we need.
We won’t remain in the wilderness forever, but an afternoon visit sure would be nice. A sunny afternoon on a trail, away from the social media scroll, is good for bodies and brains.
And while a hard-earned summit on steep terrain is often a wonderfully distracting challenge, it’s also great to grab the low-hanging fruit of an easy-going path and give ourselves a break. Especially in those moments when the world feels so hard already.
Those easier-to-reach vistas are grand in their own right.
On a Maine trail, the trees don’t give a hoot how many calories you’ve consumed or burned, the status of your checking account, or whether you’ve been showering on the regular over the last several weeks. They don’t care how many times you’ve lost your cool or bitten your tongue on Facebook or how many home projects you’ve completed or shoved aside.
You’re always welcome on the trails, whatever your history, whatever your list of to-dos for tomorrow looks like. And if you do feel the need to scream your stresses into the rough bark of an old pine, go for it. That tree won’t judge you one bit.
There are many moderately sized hills in Maine that boost your heart rate just enough, and for that small effort, reward you with outstanding views. Bradbury Mountain in Pownal fits the bill. Jockey Cap in Fryeburg and Sabattus Mountain in Lovell, too.
One of my favorite such hikes is Douglas Mountain in Sebago.
Douglas Mountain features 2.8 miles of network trails, with a few options for making your way to the summit, and a stone lookout tower at the summit that you can climb to take in the mountaintop views of Sebago Lake and the Maine Lakes Region. (And kind of feel on top of the world. You know, emotionally.)
While there are some steep sections that will get your heart pumping as you hike, the trail distances (ranging from 0.25 miles to 1 mile) are still short enough to make for a family-friendly and beginner-friendly trek.
There are two trailheads for Douglas Mountain, although only one parking area on Douglas Mountain Road. From the parking area, you can access the 1-mile Eagle Scout Trail (which later meets up with the Nature Trail). Just a smidge farther up the road (it’s an uphill walk) you’ll find a pick-up and drop-off area (no parking is allowed here) and the trailheads for the 0.4-mile Woods Trail and the 0.25-mile Ledges Trail.
Everyone has their favorite way up. The perk to small local mountains like this: You can come back often and try them all. Or go up one trail and down another.
The Ledges Trail is only a quarter of a mile (not including the 0.2-mile walk up the road from the parking lot to the trailhead), but it’s steep enough to keep your heart rate up all the while. There are also a few spots where the trees open up to offer scenic views into the distance.
And however fast you hike or how many times you pause to gawk or catch your breath, the summit and tower will be waiting for you. Loiter with lunch on the rocks, climb the tower stairs and raise your arms up in triumph. And don’t stress about a thing.
Freelance writer Shannon Bryan lives in South Portland and is the founder of fitmaine.com, where she writes about the coolest ways to be active and get outdoors in Maine.