Secluded Secrets at Seawall Beach

Maine is an ideal place to live if you enjoy going outdoors, especially in a mild summer climate that rarely rises above 95 degrees. The northernmost state in New England boasts chilly sea breezes and sunny mountaintops covered in bright, thriving foliage and fauna. Where I live in Portland is particularly nice, because it allows access to mountains like Douglas Mountain or beaches like Seawall Beach within an hour of driving. Yet I am still close to the city, and can go downtown to the library for a book, or to Arcadia for a drink and a game of Galaga.

My trusty Doc Martens on a beach
My trusty Doc Martens on a beach

One of my favorite things to do is to find a place I’ve never been, and visit it. It’s easy in Maine because there are dozens of beaches close by. Even for those that are further away, I’m willing to drive up to 2.5 hours to go somewhere if it’s worth it. And when I can, I like to bring Batou the dog with me.

This last weekend I chose a beach called Seawall Beach, one that I had heard about on the radio. I don’t often heed advertisements, but when it’s for a beach in Maine that’s secluded and has a tiny parking lot, it’s hard not to pay attention. So I messaged my friend Alicia, who had planned on going on a hike with me this weekend, to find out if she wanted to go too. She said yes.

Seawall Beach at Morse Mountain Preserve.
Seawall Beach at Morse Mountain Preserve.

We went early on Saturday morning, armed with iced coffee, beach towels, and bathing suits donned under protective hiking wear. The warnings about the parking lot filling up early were no joke; by the time we arrived at 9:30 AM, more than 75% of the parking lot was already full. Alicia and I packed our backpacks up, sipped the last of the iced coffee, and started the two-mile trek through the woods.

The walk through the Bates-Morse Mountain Preserve was peaceful and beautiful. The weather was perfect; it was cool, in the upper 70s. The lush green trees along the dusty gravel road hung down, and gave us shade from the bright morning sun. It’s a 500 ft+ elevation climb, as the dirt and gravel road winds through low marshes and rumbles over a wooden bridge, to climb a short hill that leads over another rise. Neither climb was hard. It was easy enough for families we saw along the way, with their beach chairs and gear, the children tailing behind with their beach towels.

South to the other side of Seawall
South to the other side of Seawall

After some time we made it through the walk in the woods. We went up and down rolling hills, took a left turn here and a right turn there, until we came to the end of the woodsy path. The two of us emerged from the trees as the foliage faded away into brush, and the brush faded away into sand. Our conversation had been good, and the walk had handed both of us some challenges, including mosquitoes.

When we stepped out onto the sand and took our shoes off, we looked left and right. Nothing to see but broad beaches in either direction. There were barely any people. Tiny, near uninhabitable islands anchored in the mainland a half a mile from the edge of the beach, where it met deeper sea. We stood in awe at the wide expanse of sand that reached out to touch the Atlantic’s glittering blue waves. It was beautiful, breathtaking, infinite. We decided to walk north, towards the tiny islands and shallow tide pools beyond the sandbars.

Sand bars create knee-deep warm pools of sea water to wander in.
Sand bars create knee-deep warm pools of sea water to wander in.

Seawall Beach is peaceful, perfect with its glittering silver sand that leads you to the ocean. Everywhere you look, minuscule silver glints make it hard to look directly at the sand. The feeling of an extravagant, haunting magic we know nothing about hangs in the air. Gulls drifted on invisible breezes. We set down our backpacks beside a great rock that clearly belongs to the sea when the tides come in. It was early yet, and the tide was out just far enough for us to get to the sandbar, the border between deeper, icy seas and the warm shallow pools we wade in.

There was an abundance of shells at Seawall Beach, most of them in whole pieces, which felt unusual compared to other Maine beaches. There were shiny purple mussel shells, and wide brown and blue clam shells yet to be bleached by the sun. We saw the edges of the shells buried in the sand under the water. They were everywhere in the pools we wandered through; we even found a whole one. We gathered some shells to look at, but not to take home. There are rules about beaches in Maine; you do not take anything from the sea.

Alicia and I wandered around in these pools, laying on the sandbar and talking about our lives. We talked about how the world treats the people we love, and what love was. We considered our family relationships, and how we relate to other people and their understanding of the world. A helicopter flew over the tiny islands. We spotted a lighthouse on one of them, short and stubby, stubborn in its eternal watch for ships. Several small boats went by, and the morning wore on. The sun grew warmer. The sea began to creep into the mainland, covering our sandbar.

Looking back toward the mainland on Seawall Beach
Looking back toward the mainland on Seawall Beach

“Let’s go back before it becomes waist-deep,” we said to one another, and ventured through the tepid blue pools that stretched east to the sandy mainland. We were still talking, and it was only just 12 PM. We knew it would take us about an hour to get back to the parking lot, and about another hour to get back to Portland. Both of us had naps planned that afternoon, and I had to walk the dog. There’s no dogs at Seawall so we had to leave Batou at home for this hike. We headed away from Seawall Beach.

The way back through the woods was warmer than the way there had been. The afternoon had become more buggy also. The mosquitoes were in force despite our enthusiastic bug repellent use, and the horseflies soon joined in. We booked it back to the car, down the now less shaded gravel road. Through the marshes we marched, and up over the last hill before it gave way to the parking lot. Seawall, we decided, was a beach we must return to. Its sparkling silver sand and incredible expanse of wide, tepid tide pools would call to us again. We would bring willing friends and family who could make the hike here, any time they wanted to go.

If you’re looking for a peaceful, out of the way, gorgeous beach to spend the day, try Seawall Beach. Get there early, bring plenty of bug repellent and sunscreen. Bring food, and don’t expect to find a bathroom anywhere. But enjoy the beach for what it is: untouched, some purity remaining within this less traversed conservation area.

See the map below for directions (1 hour from Portland) :

Ridiculous, curious, most likely delirious.

I love a great story, whether it comes in the form of words or visual stimuli. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and I love to share mine.

Please feel free to read along, comment, share your own stories, or send me a message via the contact page. Thanks for your time reading my words.

Hiking Up Douglas Mountain

Getting to the mountain

Days off together are a precious commodity for Nick and I, since he works retail and I have a 9-5:30 job during the week. We never know when we might get a day together, so we try to take advantage when it happens. Yesterday was just such a Sunday. We slept in together, and headed up to Douglas Mountain in Sebago after we stopped off at DD so I could get my coffee.

The drive up to Sebago
The drive up to Sebago

The drive up was cloudy at the outset. Nick said that even if it didn’t get brighter or warmer, the view would still be worth it. He has already hiked to the top of Douglas Mountain a few times. The sun came out as we ventured further north and wound around the lake. We took Route 114 North up through Sebago to Douglas Mountain Road, past picturesque farms and bright green hills. The Maine countryside looked fresh from numerous April rainstorms. We saw no more signs of winter.

Peaceful green Maine countryside
Peaceful green Maine countryside

We arrived at the parking lot around 12pm, and prepared our backpacks with water and some snacks. This time of year the forest is busy composting millions of leaves, and recent rainwater helps to turn everything into a useful mulch. So we started out carefully, stepping around the thick mud and ankle-deep puddles at the bottom of the hill.

Nicholas climbs Douglas Mountain
Nicholas climbs Douglas Mountain

The hike out to the peak and back, using the Eagle Scout Nature Trail (map here), is about 3 miles. Both of us had brought our Apple Watches, but we forgot to “start” the hike digitally at first, so we both ended up tracking 2.65 miles there and back. Though muddy and full of many puddles that looked like mass mosquito nurseries, the trail up the mountain was gradual and provided many rocks and roots to step on during the climb. It was steep enough that I had to catch my breath a couple times on the way up.

 

At the summit

The 16-foot stone tower at the summit was originally named for Dr. William Blackman, a surgeon who had purchased the area in 1892 and built the structure himself. Later it was purchased by a nature conservancy organization, and given to the town of Sebago for all to enjoy. Thanks to Dr. Blackman and the kind hikers who passed before us, we made it to the summit.

A bridge over the Eagle Scout trail
A bridge over the Eagle Scout trail

By the time we reached the Blackman Tower, the sun had come out and the sky was a rich blue. It was gorgeous. We spent some time atop the tower, hanging out together under wide skies. We looked out at Maine, and west to New Hampshire. There was a sign which showed the different distances to at least 20 different hills, ponds, and mountains all around. It said the tower looked out over several hundred square miles. Nick said the sign was new to him, though he’d been here a few times last summer.

We were there for an hour, snacking on jerky, saying hello to other hikers, and reading aloud the playing cards we have that show edible wild plants on them. The wind was wild but not cold, and the sun shone warm for a long time. The mosquitoes were decidedly fewer at the top of the tower. Nicholas kindly offered me his warm sweater, because he’s a gentleman like that.

At the top of Dr. Blackman's 16-ft stone tower
At the top of Dr. Blackman’s 16-ft stone tower

Soon enough we decided to go back, and ventured down the Eagle Scout trail the way we had come, to the parking lot. It took us a little less time to get down than it had to go up, but that is only natural considering the 480-ft elevation gain we had climbed. It wasn’t a long ride home, where we both promptly relaxed after consuming a delicious home cooked meal (thanks Nicholas) and I took a nap. Here’s to more hikes, and seeing more of the Northeast this summer.

Blue skies over the Blackman Tower
Blue skies over the Blackman Tower

 

Ridiculous, curious, most likely delirious.

I love a great story, whether it comes in the form of words or visual stimuli. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and I love to share mine.

Please feel free to read along, comment, share your own stories, or send me a message via the contact page. Thanks for your time reading my words.

October Cider

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Cure what ails you with original Maine cider and October air.

Ridiculous, curious, most likely delirious.

I love a great story, whether it comes in the form of words or visual stimuli. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and I love to share mine.

Please feel free to read along, comment, share your own stories, or send me a message via the contact page. Thanks for your time reading my words.