Last weekend, to take advantage of the tail-end of a period of extraordinarily beautiful weather, I hopped in the car and drove up the coast to Camden Hills State Park. It's a two-hour jaunt along Route 1, through small towns ranging from the quaint and picturesque to the gritty and industrial. The town of Camden itself is probably the most attractive of the bunch. Nestled around a small harbor in Penobscot Bay, its maritime shops and eateries create a pleasant, though touristy, atmosphere.
The park lies just up the road from the town. Bordered on the west by Lake Megunticook and by the sea on the east, there are plenty of fine views once you gain a little elevation. The main park area is dominated by two peaks: Mount Battie and Mount Megunticook. A paved public road climbs to the top of the former, making it by far the more popular, while Megunticook is both taller and more isolated.
Of course, I didn't know any of this at the time. From the parking lot, I struck out on a trail to Mt. Battie, since that was the name I was more familiar with. It was a disappointing hike, keeping me within sight of the road most of the time. Although I was rewarded with some great views at the top, near the tower, my urge to embrace nature had not been satisfied.
I weighed my options, standing there among the Canadian sightseers and local picnickers. I had no water and no map. Oh yeah, and I was wearing flip-flops. Not the brightest choice for footwear, I realize, but having read that the Camden area is known as "the soft-adventure capital of the world," I had figured the park's hikes couldn't be too strenuous.
Despite the factors working against me, I decided to retrace my path and hook up with a cross trail I had seen heading in the direction of Mt. Megunticook. Leaving the road and all its people behind, I set out.
It was a steep climb in spots but not too long, and soon I had reached Megunticook's Ocean Lookout, flip-flops and all. From atop the high cliff, the landscape looked spectacular, the crisp breeze smelled fresh, and I felt fulfilled. Not even the trail mud squishing through my open toes on the way down could detract from the experience. Next time, though, I'll try to put a little more effort into planning!