Sebago to the Sea

At age 70, I’ve reluctantly come to the realization that I’m not going to be able continue my prior level of athletic involvement indefinitely. I can envision a time when my outdoor activities will be limited to cross country skiing in the winter and biking during the remaining three seasons. They’re the only two sports that don’t cause discomfort or aggravate something. Running and Telemark skiing are already in the past. Make no mistake I’m not surrendering but my inner realist acknowledges the truth. There is an upside, I love skiing and biking.

My biking preferences have also evolved as I’ve aged. Steep single track trail riding has lost its glitter. When I look down a narrow, twisting precipitous decline, my first thought is the longevity of my plastic knee quickly followed by a decision to dismount and walk. Enthusiasm for muddy trails departed about a decade ago. Mud and I are no longer compatible. While I continue a fair amount of road riding, the seeming increase in distracted and reckless drivers substantially detracts from the experience.

Enough about what I don’t like. I love well-maintained bike trails that are completely separated from traffic. Some of my favorite Maine rides are the Kennebec River, Narrow Gauge and Eastern Trails. The Carriage Trails in Acadia National Park are in my opinion the finest rides in Maine. I find myself returning to them on a regular basis because they provide safe exhilarating scenic experiences away from busy, congested highways.

While the number of quality trails is growing, Maine is not a particularly bike friendly place. We have very few quality trails compared to many states and most roads lack safe marked bike shoulders. Recognizing that there are many important competing interests for finite tax dollars, I think we would be well advised to complete a careful analysis of the health and quality of life benefits of expanding biking choices.

Another preferred bike ride is Sebago to the Sea Trail. Located in the towns of South Windham, Gorham and Sebago, the trail system offers an interesting combination of paved and unpaved surfaces.

About a one hour drive from my home in Topsham, I make the trek to Sebago to the Sea several times a year. Probably another example of creeping senility, I find their website, literature and maps quite confusing. Whether the Mountain Division Trail and Sebago to the Sea are one in the same or they are separate interconnected systems is unclear to me. Regardless, I’ve fashioned a favored excursion that I believe incorporates all of Sebago to the Sea and part of the Mountain Division Trails.

There are several access points. For my most recent ride, I started at Shaw Park in Gorham. Situated two miles northwest of South Windham on Route 237, this trailhead has ample parking and a toilet. A caretaker is usually present in the summer.

I began my ride by taking a short connecter path to the paved Sebago to the Sea Trail. Turning left, I rode three miles on a section that parallels the old railroad tracks. A scenic area that passes rural homes and old farms, it ends at what signs indicate is the Mountain Division Trail.

Continuing abruptly left on a rough gravel surface, it ascends steeply for a short distance. Right after it leveled off, I encountered six friendly horseback riders who very politely moved far right so that I could safely pass. The Mountain Division Trail proceeds for just over a mile to Route 35 in Sebago where there are athletic fields and another toilet. On the return, I almost collided with a doe blocking the way. After staring one another down for several seconds, she scampered off into the woods.

Rejoining Sebago to the Sea Trail, it is a five mile very pleasurable ride to Route 202 in South Windham. Near the connector trail, I traversed a narrow railroad bridge where several kids were diving into the Presumpscot. Think the last time I dove off a bridge was about twenty years ago; another activity that’s probably in my past.

Backtracking to Shaw Park provides a twelve mile trip. If I have the time to extend the adventure, I continue on a spur trail in the opposite direction past a dam to the Gambo Road and reconnect with Sebago to the Sea. By traveling east and then west, I can quite easily complete an invigorating twenty mile ride away from traffic in a peaceful setting.

I recommend a hybrid or trail bike for this trip. The bumpy Mountain Division sector is too rugged for road bike tires. Old folks like me should go on sunny weekdays when there are fewer people.

Ron Chase

About Ron Chase

At age 70, Ron Chase is old. But, he’s not under the grass…yet. Retired from a career with the Internal Revenue Service, he has embarked on a new life as a freelance writer and tax consultant. Don’t be misled; in reality, he works a little and plays a lot. When not busy kayaking, canoeing, biking, mountain climbing and skiing, he sometimes finds time to write and assist his tax clients. A lifelong Mainer now living in Topsham, he is the recent author of The Great Mars Hill Bank Robbery, a biography of Vietnam War hero and bank robber Bernard Patterson.