One of the best things about living in Maine is that there is always some hidden gem that awaits discovery. This time it's something not all that far from our house and is a true example of Maine's beauty. It's the Massabesic Experimental Forest (http://www.fs.fed.us/ne/durham/4155/massabes.htm#INT), owned and operated by the Northern Research Station of the USDA Forest Service. It consists of 3600 acres in the towns of Alfred and Lyman. It is described as an "oak-pine forest interspersed with diverse wetlands associated with three rivers and numerous streams, ponds, and swamps."
I've driven by it many times with my husband on our way to Sanford. It's a regular stop for him on his way home from work for an evening swim in Estes Lake, which is on the edge of the forest. Until last night though, I'd never hiked it. It is just as the website describes it. There are markers along the path identifying the types of trees and things of note, such as a small quarry. It's a very easy hike in to the lake and all the way in you can't help but think of it as a sylvan cathedral.
It was certainly a perfect night for a walk and a swim - not too warm and just perfectly lit as it was just before sunset. I passed on the swim, but enjoyed sitting on the rocks at the water's edge. The lake was a bit busy with jet skis (ugh) but not enough to really distract from the overall beauty of the area. We stayed just long enough for Bobby to have a quick swim. It was a bit dark on the way out of the forest ("lions and tigers and bear, oh my!" dark) but the trail is well-marked and easy to walk.
I think that there is a picnic there in the near future and a lot more in terms of hiking.....Oh, I love being a Maineiac!