Who paddles on Kezar Pond in Fryeburg on Halloween? Don't ask. (Courtesy Kaitlin Spear)
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Boatloads of candy. 

That’s the sugar-coated and chocolate-dipped reason many kids love Halloween. We’re not talking just any ol’ candy here, either, but free candy of all kinds, bestowed with glee by every neighbor on the block. Even the lady who usually yells out the window to tell everyone to be quiet.

The opportunity to put on a costume and saunter through the halls at school as a creepy monster, maniacal chemist, ginormous bug, or noble hero is pretty great, too. 

Grownups also like to get in on that action. Halloween allows us to make a good-natured spectacle of ourselves. It’s a chance to flex some creative costuming muscle and to impress our friends with our DIY genius and twisted sense of humor. Some even seize the freedom to dress up as a sexy tube of toothpaste.

It’s also true that adults like candy just as much as the kids, even if we already have the freedom and finances to buy a one-pound bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and eat the entire thing for dinner whenever we want. 

Traditionally, we showcased our craftiness at Halloween house parties and bars crowded with costumed revelers. But as with all things 2020, Halloween this year has been turned inside out. We may never bob for apples again, but we can still gather the family or a few friends, put on our costumes, and get outside for an informal 5K, leisurely bike ride, or calm-water paddle – and maybe frighten the neighbors just a smidge. 

The open air is a safer way to celebrate, and some physical activity will help us excuse the pile of SweeTarts we take down for breakfast Sunday morning.

As someone who’s brought my Halloween to outdoor spaces for years, I fancy myself a bit of an expert on the subject. Here are some ideas: 

What would you do if you came upon this fork in the woods on Halloween? (Portland Phoenix/Shannon Bryan)

Halloween hike

Pick a favorite trail or new-to-you terrain for a costumed trek through the woods wearing a costume. You’ll undoubtedly entertain every other hiker you meet, and your summit selfie will look even cooler with some sweat-smeared face paint, a smattering of fake blood, and/or weird ears that indicate you’re not 100 percent human. 

Pro tip: Choose a costume that’s easy to hike in and allows for the usual layering, depending on the weather and how strenuous the hike is. Don’t forget to wear your blaze orange when hiking this time of year, and avoid any costumes that might make you look like prey for big game or something a local hunter would like to shoot. 

Witches ride

The witches ride is an organized event in some cities, but friends and I have done an informal version in the past. The approach is simple: dress up like a witch, ride your bike. Cruise through town and cackle at passersby or take to a quiet bike path or your neighborhood. 

Witches take a Halloween bike ride around Back Cove in Portland in 2018. (Portland Phoenix/Shannon Bryan)

Pro tip: Some special attention is warranted when riding a bike in costume. You don’t want your cloak getting caught up in the chain or tires, and you don’t want to ride with anything encumbering your field of vision, especially if you’ll be on the roads. Duct tape a small broom sticking out from the back of the bike for extra witch flair. 

Spooky paddle 

Get a little creepy in your kayak or scary on your stand-up paddleboard by dressing up for a Halloween paddle on your favorite calm waters. 

Pro tip: Absolutely wear your personal flotation device and cold-water-appropriate layers, like a wetsuit or drysuit. And nix the idea if conditions don’t cooperate. Hypothermic Halloween is the worst costume. 

Of course, your plans don’t have to be elaborate. You can run errands dressed as Beetlejuice or encourage the kids to play outside wearing giant cat heads. As long as you keep Halloween’s affable good energy flowing and your pockets crammed with Kit Kats, you’ll be doing it right.

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.

Even playgrounds get spooky on Halloween. (Portland Phoenix/Shannon Bryan)

Outdoor Halloween events

Looking for an organized outdoor event where you can get in the spirit? Here are some options in southern Maine:

• Kennebunk Land Trust Halloween Scavenger Hunt, through October, Wonder Brook Preserve, Plummer Lane, Kennebunk; free.

Scavenge for pumpkins in the woods at Wonder Brook Preserve before October ends. It’s free to participate in this family-friendly hunt, which runs all month. Go to kennebunklandtrust.org to download a checklist that’ll help you know what to look for as you wander. Completed checklists can be brought to the land trust office on Oct. 31 for a treat. For more information: kennebunklandtrust.org.

• Halloween/Full Moon Yoga with Goats, 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 31, Sunflower Farm, 12 Harmon Way, Cumberland Center; $10, advance registration required. 

Do yoga in the grass with goats, while you are also dressed as a goat. You read that right. Participants are encouraged to get a little silly for this Halloween-morning class and dress like a goat. Class is open to all levels and there is plenty of space to spread out. Bring your own mat. FMI: www.sunflowerfarm.info.

• Jack O’ Lantern Walk, 45-minute time slots starting at 5 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 31, Through the Trees, 2 Griffin Road, Freeport; $25 per vehicle, advance registration required.

The trails at Through the Trees will be lined with Jack O’ lanterns on Halloween evening, and guests can enjoy some trick-or-treating along the way. There’s a “spooky path” option as well. Space is limited and groups will be spaced out. FMI: www.throughthetrees.org.

• Full Moon Walk, 6-7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31, Eastern Trail, Pine Point Road, Scarborough; free, advance registration required.

Costumes aren’t required for this full moon walk on the Eastern Trail through the Scarborough Marsh, but who could pass up such an opportunity? Space is limited to 15 people, social distancing is required, masks when appropriate. FMI: www.easterntrail.org.

• Pumpkinhead Mile, noon, Sunday, Nov. 1, Deering Oaks Park, Portland; free, BYO pumpkin-flavored drink and carved pumpkin. 

Run a mile with a pumpkin on your head. Or more like with your head inside a pumpkin. For real. This Runaways Run Club event involves drinking a pumpkin-flavored drink (bring your own, any will do), then running a mile with a carved pumpkin on your head, then drinking another pumpkin-flavored drink. Best of luck to all the brave competitors. FMI: www.runawaysrunclub.com.

— Shannon Bryan

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