Hiking in Maine: Lots in Pittsfield, with a good pit stop after a hike
The community of Pittsfield (pop. 4,230) straddles the Sebasticook River in the southeast corner of the Kennebec Valley region of Maine. The 49 square mile former mill town isn’t exactly known as a hiking hotspot, but like most places – if you dig a little deeper – you’ll still find interesting things to see and do.
Interstate 95 makes a wide arc around Pittsfield proper, and for years pretty much all this hiker knew about town was Robinson’s Mobil Mart just off exit 150. But with a hankering for visiting the new Outland Farm Brewery and a desire for a good hike before grabbing a few pints, I searched online, asked around and found some great walking opportunities.
Peltoma Woods, also known as Town Farm Property, encompasses a vast expanse of forest land along the Sebasticook River – including an incredible 5,700 feet of shoreline – one mile south of the village. A colorful and well-marked system of six trails and several shortcuts represent 3 miles of pleasant and ecologically generous meanders.
At Peltoma Woods you’ll pass over gentle needles under majestic ancient white pines, then along the river’s floodplain there are 16 acres of gracefully spreading silver maples; these are two of the twelve tree species found in the field. There are also a multitude of vernal pools which provide important habitat for amphibians, insects and reptiles.
Peltoma Woods is named after the legendary Norridgewock native, Peltoma. Wounded by rival Penobscot Sly Fox in a battle for the love of tribal princess Laughing Eyes, Peltoma is said to have lived out his days at a bend in the river now known as Peltoma Point. Peltoma’s story may be a legend, but Native American use of this land was real, as evidenced by an ancient fish weir that can be seen in the river at low tide.
The walk along the banks of the Sebasticook River on the Outer Loop trail is simply stunning. The largest tributary of the Kennebec River, the Sebasticook flows 50 miles from its source in Dexter to empty into the Kennebec at Fort Halifax in Winslow. The Sebasticook River drains a massive 606,000 acre watershed that helps support over 50 ponds.
Moses Martin and his family became the first permanent settlers in Plymouth Gore in 1795. Organized as Sebasticook Plantation in 1816, three years later the town was incorporated as Warsaw, and in 1824 the name was changed to Pittsfield to honor William Pitts, a prominent local landowner. A small side path leads to the site of the former Martin property, indicated by a plaque attached to a rock.
The kiosk at the trailhead is worth the time to come and go. This is where you’ll find not only a good trail map (take a picture of it before you hit the trails), but a number of displays about the natural and cultural history of the property. The kiosk is the work of the Peltoma Pioneers, a group of eighth-graders from the Warsaw Middle School.
The children’s mission was to “share the historic and ecological values of the Town Farm property with the public while encouraging our community to be more physically active outdoors…We hope to see this property used and enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.” …” Bravo, children, very well done.
The Outland Farm Brewery is located one block from the intersection of Routes 152, 100 and 69 downtown. The spacious and sunny dining room is a comfortable and friendly place to enjoy a cold brew after the hike. Opened by local transplants Heather and Mike Holland in 2020, the Pittsfield Brewery offers a fine selection of craft beers produced with ingredients grown in Maine. You’ll also find delicious pub grub to satisfy cravings and a freezer stocked with meats from the couple’s farm.
Sated with beer and grub, burn off the calories as you stroll the nearby Mill Pond Trail, a mile-long circuit that visits five of the city’s lovely parks. You can also explore another beautiful section of the Sebasticook River at Manson Park, stroll along the Pittsfield Rail Trail, and ride the ski slopes at Pinnacle Park. For information on other hikes in the general area, go online to check Lake George Regional Park in Caanan, and the Sebasticook Regional Land Trust in Unity.
Mount Desert Island’s Carey Kish is an avid hiker and freelance writer. His latest book, “Beer Hiking New England”, will be available later this year. Follow Carey’s adventures on Facebook and Instagram @careykish
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