Old People Don’t Act Their Age: A Surf and Turf on the Penobscot River Trails

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A cyclist crosses a bridge on the Riverside Trail. Pictures of Ron Chase

The Penobscot River Trails in Grindstone consist of 25 kilometers of exceptional mountain biking and cross-country skiing trails that follow the east arm of the Penobscot River. The superb multipurpose recreational complex offers hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and paddling. There is a visitor center and two arguably sumptuous heated cabins. A well-designed hand-canoeing landing stage is located on the river.

Last winter, while my wife, Nancy, and I were skiing and snowshoeing at the EPR with our retired friends, Diane and John Stokinger, we decided to come back this summer for a surf-and-snow adventure. -turf. Our plan was to paddle the river one day and cycle the trails the next.

A paddler on the east arm of the Penobscot.

Recently, the four of us met at the Hay Brook canoeing facility at the southern end of the PRT network to begin the surfing portion of our jaunt. Leaving a shuttle vehicle in the parking lot, we hauled four solo kayaks and gear north on Highway 11 about 15 miles to Stacyville. From there we traveled west on the Swift Brook dirt road for about 10 miles to Whetstone Falls on the East Branch where there is a small parking area on the left and a path to the lower end falls. Crossing the bridge over Whetstone Falls leads to the southeast entrance to Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

We were particularly lucky that day because the river was flowing at 1,450 cubic feet per second, more than double the average volume. Whetstone Falls is rated Class III in difficulty; however, we launched at the foot of the rapid, which was maybe 100 yards of easy class I maneuvers. Everyone in our group had a smooth descent.

Shortly after, we encountered a couple sliding down the river. They too were going to Hay Brook. Given their lack of paddles for propulsion, we commented that it seemed likely they would have a long day. The unfazed inflatable travelers commented that if any trouble arose, they would leave the river and walk the PRT.

The kayaking conditions were exceptional. We enjoyed clear, sunny skies, warm temperatures and a light, refreshing headwind. High water propelled us into what was mostly fast water with occasional ripples. While paddling, glimpses of the EPR were common.

After traveling several miles we located a gravel beach on an island where we stopped for a lunch break. Continuing downstream, a large group of exuberant cyclists were seen riding south on the PRT. Shortly after, Hay Brook entered on the left. Around the bend, we disembarked at the very convenient Hay Brook Boat Landing, completing an 8.25 mile cruise.

A kayaker maneuvers through the runout on Whetstone Falls.

We arrived at the large PRT parking lot early the next morning for the grass segment of our outing. Hot and humid weather was forecast for later in the day, so our goal was to complete a ride before the temperatures reached an uncomfortable level. After registering at the Visitor Center, we drove north on the Tote Road for about 2 miles to the Riverside Trail junction.

From the junction, the trails are one-way north on Riverside and south on Tote Road. Our group broke up to pursue various constituency programs. The Riverside Trail is a challenging hilly, winding trail with many bridges and frequent river views; while the inner Tote Road is a wider, flatter surface. Four Link Trails connects Riverside to Tote Road to facilitate shorter trips.

I hiked Riverside Trail to Trails End. Just beyond that I passed the Long Meadow Warming Hut to a junction with Long Meadow Hill Trail – an optional spur that turns left. After a steady climb up Meadow Hill for about a mile, I enjoyed an exhilarating descent to Tote Road. The rest of my ride on Tote Road was mostly downhill. According to the signage, this route is approximately 17 miles.

Our two day trip paddling and biking the PRT was a delight. The trails are simply outstanding. We will be back skiing next winter.

Check out many more exciting river and stream excursions in my book, “Maine Al Fresco: The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine.” Five bike paths are also featured along with three unique bike rides off the islands.

Ron Chase resides in Topsham. His latest book, “Maine Al Fresco: The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine” is available at northcountrypress.com/maine-al-fresco or in bookstores and through online distributors. His previous books are “The Great Mars Hill Bank Robbery” and “Mountains for Mortals – New England”. Visit his website at ronchaseoutdoors.com or he can be reached at [email protected]

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