Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Kennebec River Rail Trail, Part 2

Gardiner to Hallowell

The final section of the KRRT, from Farmingdale to Hallowell, officially opened on October 4, completing the 6.5 mile rail trail. This southern half of the trail extends 3.75 miles from the Hannaford parking lot in Gardiner to the southern edge of downtown Hallowell, at which point it joins Water Street to the rail trail parking lot north of town. If you don’t have time to complete the whole Gardiner to Hallowell section, opt for walking the area between Hallowell and the KV Health Club access at mile 5.0. This part of the trail is more scenic, traveling through a pleasant mixed hardwood forest, and more removed from the road.

Getting There
To start on the KRRT from the southern terminus in Gardiner, turn into the Hannaford parking lot on Maine Avenue. Park near the Rail Trail kiosk at the northeast corner of the parking lot. In Farmingdale, you can access the trail at Sheldon Street, Bowman Street, Hill Street and across from the KV Health club. In Hallowell, access the trail from the south end of Water Street or at Greenville Street. Not all of these access points offer obvious parking.

The Trail
Length: 3.75 miles (each way)
Difficulty: Easy
Walking Time: 2-4 hours (round-trip)

The trail starts at mile 6.5 in the Hannaford parking lot. From there, the trail heads north, under Bridge Street. For the first half-mile, the trail is squeezed between Maine Avenue on the left and the tracks on the right, with the river gleaming just beyond. This section of trail is wide open, with no trees to offer shade. After passing into Farmingdale at Sheldon Street, mile 6.0 (where the only bench on the southern portion of the trail is located), a few trees and houses begin to separate the trail from the road, providing some buffer from the noise of traffic. Just before Bowman Street, around mile 5.75, a small drive-through coffee shop offers refreshment to weary walkers. Approaching mile 5.5 and Hill Street, the trail again travels right along Maine Avenue. After mile 5.0, at the KV Health Club access, the trail departs from the road, dipping down a hillside, along a grassy floodplain that thickens into a dense stand of mixed hardwood. The trail passes over small inlet stream and then crosses tracks, skirting along the river into a stand of giant oak trees, including one double-trunked specimen with an impressive girth. Around mile 4.5 the trail moves into a lovely forest of white birch and other hardwood trees. Unfortunately the rock crusher humming up the hill to the left mars the peace of these woods somewhat. The trail crosses back over the tracks just below mile 4.5. At mile 3.75, on the Hallowell line, the a small stream cascades down the bank to the left in a number of small waterfalls, and passes under the trail. At mile 3.25 the trail goes under Maine Avenue/Water Street and crosses Greenville Street. The trail crosses a wooden bridge over Vaughn Brook just before mile 3.0, then crosses the tracks again, and heads downhill to Water Street. At mile 2.75 the off-road part of the trail ends. At this point, northbound bicyclists must cross Water Street to the northbound bike lane. Where the downtown parking begins, bikes will need to merge with traffic until the trail starts up again at the north end of town. Pedestrians will need to navigate the broken and often closed sidewalks through town.

Kid-Friendly Factor
Like the Augusta portion of the KRRT, this section is also paved and smooth, with little change in grade. This surface makes it ideal for strollers and little bikers. In areas where the trail comes near the road or a steep bank, it is fenced off, making it safe for little ones to explore. Although all of the bikers I have encountered have been courteous and not too fast, it’s best to stick to the right side of the trail and allow them plenty of space to pass. Getting through Hallowell to connect one section of trail with the other could pose some hazards to small kids on foot or bike.
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