Bordering the Orono Bog, East Trail takes hikers and bikers from the Tripp Drive gate to the northern boundary of City Forest, where the trail meets West Trail.
Unlike West Trail’s gradual peaks and valleys, East Trail provides a relatively flat hike or ride until a couple of thousand feet from the end.
The trail begins at the Tripp Drive parking lot, next to a covered picnic table. It approaches the Orono Bog and then winds its way to the west before heading north. Benches along the way provide the weary with frequent breaks.
Naturally, the farther you go on East Trail, the better your chances of seeing or hearing wildlife.
After passing through a large section the city cleared of trees a few years ago, the path goes through a patch of ferns before descending into a relatively uncut section of forest at about the 4,500-foot marker. A bench at the marker provides a pleasant respite at the trail’s half-way point. This section of the maintained trail is new this year. Before the city put gravel and dirt down, you had to make your way through the trees while following the original and much narrower trail.
If you prefer – and you might find it more fun – you can leave the maintained trail and explore the worn path that is the original trail. In some areas the original trail runs alongside the maintained trail, but in other areas the older trail loses sight of the new trail. Nevertheless, the two converge in several places.
Sections of the original trail venture into uncut parts of the forest, where pine tree groves are thick and grass and ferns are plentiful.
As you continue to the north, you will encounter larger chunks of stones beside the trail. These rough and jagged stones that jut out from under the peat- and moss-covered forest floor are the bedrock of Maine’s geological history. Exposed by, and carved from, the mammoth glaciers that blanketed the state’s area during the Ice Age, these rocks are hundreds of thousands of years old, their layers telling the story of how Maine’s rugged landscape came to be. The receding glaciers also dragged the large boulders along the trail to their resting place. They are the same rocks as those atop Mount Katahdin, Mount Cadillac and Mount Megunticook, and along the state’s 3,500 miles of coastline.
At about the 6,500-foot marker, the original trail again diverges from the maintained trail on the bog side. The original trail in this area provides a much better view and a greater sense of intimacy with the forest. You’ll need to watch your step to avoid tripping over rocks and roots, but the extra time it takes to walk this part is worth it. Keep a look out for side trails that lead to the edge of the bog and check them out for nice views of the tall grasses, cattails and scattered-about trees. These side trails provide some of the most peaceful areas of the forest.
Back at the maintained trail, birch trees begin to dot the landscape to the left at about the 7,500-foot marker. At the 8,000-foot marker, the original East Trail again splits from the maintained trail. From this point on, the last leg of the original trail is rough with exposed roots, stones and sharp rises and falls. Mountain bikers in search of a challenge will like this last 500 feet of trail especially.
At the end of East Trail you will have a few options. You can explore the defunct Veazie Railroad bed to the north or south. You can continue and take West Trail to make a complete lap around the forest’s trail system. You can pick up Main Road back to Shannon Drive, which will take you back to the Tripp Drive gate and save yourself a few hundred feet on the return trip. Or you can take the maintained trail all the way back.
© 2001-09, Ryan R. Robbins. All rights reserved.
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