HomeHave You Heard About the Sunrise Trail?

Article by Susan Shaw of Penobscot, Maine

The three people from Massachusetts rode their bikes up to their truck and were grinning from ear to ear!  My friends and I had just finished our ride and were loading our bikes and also grinning.  Different versions of “Wow, what a great trail” were flying through the air.  They were photographers…the kind who earn their living at it…and they had come up from Boston to take photos of and to ride bikes on the Downeast Sunrise Trail.  We were locals who have enjoyed the trail all summer.  We all agreed…it had been a perfect day!  But then…the Downeast Sunrise Trail MAKES perfect days!

Sometimes I discover something new in my life that is just so amazing…so important…so HUGE…that I want to share it with everyone I know.  I interject it into every conversation possible…I bring it up at any event or gathering.  I mention it to strangers in the grocery store and people in parking lots!

So it is with the Downeast Sunrise Trail. 

The Downeast Sunrise Trail, the completely finished and officially open to the public rails-to-trails corridor that stretches from Washington Junction in Ellsworth to Ayres Junction up by Dennysville, is magnificent….and I find it impossible not to broadcast the fact!

There is not a single stretch of trail that is not Maine beauty at its best.  It crosses bogs, passes through woodlands of every configuration, parallels streams, rivers and saltwater, and has views of mountains, blueberry fields and cranberry bogs.  In the spring it is going to be a birder’s paradise with habitat of every possible type from mud flats and beaches to forests and shrub rows.  Its bridges go over beaver ponds, marshes, and some of the prettiest creeks imaginable.  Although not always readily visible, stone work supporting the trail dates from early RR days.  The workmanship and beauty of those arches, supports and spans rivals that of Mr. Rockefeller’s bridges in Acadia although on a much smaller scale.

The DST does all of this on a fairly level (perhaps a 4% grade?) surface that is wonderful for mountain bikes, walking, jogging and ATVs.  It would be impossible to design anything more beautiful than the functional route laid out by the RR many, many years ago.

Trail access is very simple.  There are small parking spots all along the trail where it crosses roads or passes through various towns as it wends its way down east from Ellsworth.  Road crossings are frequent enough to be handy, but infrequent enough to preserve the feeling of being completely immersed in back country Maine.  It is easy to “spot a car” so that a trip on the trail only needs to be one way…but there is so much beauty that a round-trip or ‘there and back’ is a good plan also.

The signage is very well done—there are mile markers, stream and bog names, caution X-ing, stop ahead, road names, county line markers, town boundary lines…everything that needs a sign has one.  Signs are small, but bright and easily read.

The Downeast Sunrise Trail was built to be enjoyed by everyone…and is.  I will admit I was worried about ATVs and snowmobiles sharing the trail with bicycles and hikers and those on X-C skis and snowshoes…but my fears have been proven groundless.  I have not returned home once from riding my bike on the trail when I have not said, “every ATV we saw slowed down and waved or nodded!”  Everyone I have spoken to that has biked on the trail has said the same thing.  I sincerely hope the ATVers are able to go home and say, “Every single biker scooted over and waved!”  It is for all of us, after all!

Perhaps the most often repeated phrase shared by folks on the trail no matter what they are doing is, “How wonderful that a few people had the vision to dream of this and then the determination to make it happen!”  I hope that wonderful group can feel all of the “thank-you” messages winging their way from folks on the trail.  Kudos—many, many kudos to them…what a gift they have given Downeast Maine! 

The trail, as it becomes well known regionally and even nationally, should draw more tourists like the photographers from Massachusetts.  Tourists...with their bikes, cameras, bird books, running shoes, binoculars, painting gear and sketch pads, walking sticks, ATVs and snow toys.  Tourists…who will need meals, places to stay or camp, gas, and stores in which to shop.  A gift, indeed.

I am very proud of the fact that, as of last Friday, my bike and I have covered every inch of the trail.  As I said to the photographers from Massachusetts, I feel like I have finished a mini Appalachian Trail!  I plan to do it again…and again…it is too wonderful an experience to experience it only once. 

And since it is so wonderful I simply cannot remain quiet about it.

So…be warned…if you have a bike on the back of your car…if you are hauling an ATV or snowmobile trailer…at some time…some where…I am probably going to walk up to you in a parking lot and say,

“Hi--have you heard of our Downeast Sunrise Trail…..?”

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Susan Shaw (Center) and friends

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