I’ve only lived in Maine for a few months, but I am already beginning to feel like a native. There is something about the landscape that appeals to me on such a deep level. It’s gorgeous and rocky and a little bit untamed. Unlike the woods of Massachusetts, which are lovely but often feel just steps away from civilization. Walden is beautiful—but does it feel wild? Not when West Concord is just minutes away. Maybe not since Thoreau.
I think a huge part of the feeling of wildness is the constant close-proximity to the ocean. Working in downtown Portland, I see the Atlantic from my office every day. But the best view I’ve seen so far was up in Camden, when I hiked to the top of Mount Battie.
Not a trek of Cheryl Strayed proportions, the climb to Mount Battie’s peak took only an hour. It was a perfect Autumn day, but I was glad I wore my down vest. Autumn in Maine is a fickle thing. The day starts sunny and warm, but can end with frigid winds and bleak rain. But this day we were lucky. The sky was dotted with clouds, none of which threatened to break, and the air was cold enough to keep me moving, but warm enough that I didn’t care to turn indoors.
While you can drive straight up the mountain and enjoy the view without any physical exertion, the hike up is worth the effort. There are miles of trails, winding gently through the pine and birch woods. Where the trail becomes steep, there are often rock stairs to help you make the ascent. Like all of Maine, Mount Battie is seemingly covered in rocks. It’s almost as though they grow there, springing up from the soil like mushrooms after the rain.
Though the woods are lovely (dark and deep, as Frost once said), the destination is, in this case, just as significant as the journey. From the peak of Mount Battie, you can see what feels like the entire state of Maine. On one side, you can see the ocean and the harbor stretch out into the deep blue of the Atlantic. If you turn 180 degrees, you can see the mountains of mid-coast Maine. No matter where you look, everything is a wash of color. Deep greens of pine and conifers, burnt orange on the oaks, and the stormy gray of the rocks.
I sat for awhile on the coarse grasses and moss that cover the top of the mountain. I didn’t want to come down. I was researching the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, so I read some poems from a bent paperback I had thrown in my backpack. It wasn’t too long before the wind began to whip around me, reminding me of just how far from sea level I had strayed.
The way down was, as it always is, less pleasurable than the way up. But all in all, it was a perfect a day-hike: a miniature excursion into the wilderness of Maine. Whether you are traveling through or living in the state, climbing Mount Battie is (ironically enough) a quick way to feel really grounded.