Pass under the train trestle, then past the dam.
The trail I hiked today started behind an old woolen mill (which burned down in January) and ended 2.5 miles later alongside a penstock just beyond a train trestle bridge and small dam (which warned repeatedly of death if I strayed off the metal walkway).
The short, five-mile, out-and-back hike may not have been the most primitive hiking route in Maine, but you know what? It was quite nice, especially as a spur of the moment hike with my toddler.
Chances are, the realities of your life don't allow you to head off into the backcountry every day or even every week for pristine wilderness experiences. If work, family, or other commitments never slow you down from pursuing your favorite outdoor activities, you can stop reading this now. For the rest of us, front-country trails can provide an extra taste of outdoor adventure on a regular, even daily, basis, whether it's for a short hike, a trail run, or a chance to stop and bird watch.
In a previous life (before children), I likely would have dismissed today's trail as not a "real" hike (not long enough, remote enough, high enough). I might not have decided to stop as I drove by the trailhead with a few hours to spare, and I would have missed the opportunity to get out and have a nice walk in the woods, just because.
Through the pine trees.
In addition to the mill and dam mentioned above, the trail I hiked today traveled alongside a beautiful large stream, through lovely tall pines trees, over small brooks, and near nesting ducks. It provided quiet, calm and escape, just a short walk from the center of town.
The outdoors is many things, including remote mountain peaks, forests, trails, and rivers — wild, natural places we love and need. Places I wish I could visit and be a part of more often than my schedule (and budget) allows.
But the outdoors also can be found closer to home — in parks, on nature trails, even backyards — if we choose to stop, find it, and see it. Because the outdoors should be accessible to everyone, every day, whether you're on a multi-week trek or a short walk in the woods on your way home from errands.