By Aislinn Sarnacki, BDN Staff •
Difficulty: Easy to strenuous, depending on what trails you explore and by what means. The property is home to both gravel roads and narrow trails filled with roots and rocks. The terrain is hilly.
Information: The Dedham Trails, also known as the Kiski Trails, is a network of gravel roads and trails located on the 680-acre Kiski Lot in Dedham. Located right off Route 1A, the property is co-owned by the Town of Dedham and Lucerne-in-Maine Village and is open to the public for mountain biking, hiking, hunting and fishing.
The trail network on the property was constructed by local volunteers, and was designed specifically for mountain biking though it’s also open to foot traffic. Currently there are about 6.8 miles of single-track trails (which are approximately the width of a bike) and about 1.6 miles of wide, gravel roads. These roads are closed to vehicle traffic, making them great for walking, wildlife watching and jogging.
The trail network is constantly being expanded and improved. The construction of it started in 2009, when local resident Keith Blanchard received permission from the town to build trails on the property for mountain biking. He established the first 5.5 miles of trails, with the help of local resident Brandon Tolman and volunteers from the Penobscot Region chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association.
In 2017, Jake Cardello, a member of PRNEMBA, took on the project of constructing an additional trail, with the help of volunteers including Zak Glover, Reid Garrity and Tyler Peabody. This became the Overlook Trail. For mountain biking, the trail is rated with one black diamond, which means “very difficult,” and travels up the steep slope of a sizable hill. It leads to an overlook with an open view of the area.
“It’s got a great view looking towards Bald Mountain and Phillips Lake,” Cardello said. “The trail has quickly become popular.”
Cardello plans to continue improving the Overlook Trail this summer.
“Up to this date, this trail system has been built by money and sweat of local people without the help of grant money,” Blanchard said. “There are a lot of people that have given their time to this system.”
The trails and roads on the property visit several interesting natural features. The Brook Trail travels along an esker and the banks of Coon Brook to a small waterfall. The trail also visits an arrangement of boulders called Rock Table Top because it looks like a giant table. All of the trails pass by some impressive granite boulders, which are common in the region.
Hunting and fishing are permitted on the property. However, the use of tree stands, baiting and trapping are not permitted. Motorized vehicles, camping and fires are also prohibited.
For more information and a trail map, visit dedhamme.org click on “Town Services” to find Kiski Lot. A trail map is also posted on a kiosk near the trailhead. In addition, PRNEMBA has a page devoted to the Dedham Trails at pr.nemba.org, and many of the trails have been mapped out on trailforks.com.
Personal note: Spending time outdoors is almost a necessity of life for me, and I’m sure many people feel the same way. Fresh air, birdsong, the feeling of sunlight — these things have all become essential to my wellbeing. So it’s no surprise that right now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the only things that can make me feel better is a long walk in the wilderness.
Things are rapidly changing, but for now, the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state officials are saying it’s OK to visit trails, parks and other shared outdoor spaces — as long as you avoid crowds.
So on March 25, I took a short drive to explore some of the Dedham Trails with my husband, Derek, and our dog, Oreo. I thought it might be a good place to practice social distancing, since it’s close to our home and usually isn’t crowded. That day, my instincts were spot on. The parking lot was empty.
Derek had biked some of the trails before, so he led the way, taking us on a loop using the Ridge and Brook trails. As the sun melted the snow into mud, we walked along the gravel road and listened to chickadees sing their two-toned song, as well as their telltale “chickadee-dee-dee” alarm call.
Along the road, I was amazed by what I thought were tiny orange mushrooms growing amidst the snow and slush. I later tried finding the species online and in books, and based on photos, I think it was pink earthen lichen. Initially, Derek didn’t notice these tiny, bright growths, but after I pointed them out, he said something along the lines of: “Wow, they’re all over the place.” It’s funny how a landscape can appear so different when you shift what you’re focusing on.
In addition, I came across plenty of “British soldiers,” which is a lichen that has tiny, pale green branches tipped with bright red fruiting bodies. And we spotted plenty of tree mushrooms and Christmas ferns, which stay green year round.
We ended our hike by visiting the small waterfall on Coon Brook, then headed back to the parking lot to find another vehicle in the parking lot. We didn’t see its owner, but it was nice to see that someone else was enjoying the spring weather on the Dedham Trails that day.
How to get there: From the intersection of Route 1A and Route 46 in Holden, by G&M Family Market, drive southeast on Route 1A for about 4.3 miles, then turn left onto a gravel drive. Straight ahead you’ll see a gated-off road, which leads into the trail system. Veer left to park in the small gravel parking lot.
If you are coming from the east, this is about 3.4 miles from Wilson’s Corner, or the intersection of Route 1A with Winkumpaugh Road. The parking lot is marked as “Kiski Trails” on Google Maps.
For more of Aislinn Sarnacki’s adventures, visit bangordailynews.com/act-out. Follow Aislinn Sarnacki on Twitter: @1minhikegirl, and Instagram: @actoutdoors. Her guidebooks “Family Friendly Hikes in Maine,” “Maine Hikes Off the Beaten Path” and “Dog-Friendly Hikes in Maine” are available at local bookstores and wherever books are sold.