Justin Chase of Outdoors, by Cracky!

Here at L.L.Bean, we love hearing about families who get out and enjoy the outdoors together. That’s why we’re big fans of Justin Chase’s blog, Outdoors, by Cracky! Over the years, Justin has been a farmer, research ecologist, professor and mountaineering instructor. Most importantly – and somewhat more recently – he’s added “father” to his list of jobs.

Justin takes every opportunity he can to explore New England with his two boys, and then share their adventures with the world through his blog. We’ve found his photos and casual writing style to be enjoyable for readers of all ages and skill levels, and we invited him to be a guest blogger for L.L.Bean Trailmix.

Tucked along the shoreline, just a short drive up from Freeport, sits Maine Audubon’s Hamilton Sanctuary. This 93-acre gem offered us a little taste of everything, packaged in a relaxing 1.5 mile network of easily traversed and well-marked trails. Considering my family’s love of hiking Mass Audubon parks, we wanted to check out Maine’s equivalent during a recent mid-week day off from school and work, which brought us to the Hamilton Sanctuary in West Bath. I’m sure glad we did; to say I was impressed is an understatement. My sons, wife, and I enjoyed an awesome day exploring the park and soaking up the first summery spring day.

Justin Chase and his two sons

We started out on a grassy meadow filled with spring plants and bathed in bright sun, then made our way toward the edge of the forest, which began the marked trails. Immediately we were greeted by a beautifully built, wood bridge that led us over a spring stream. The views looked across Back Cove to West Bath. We were already pleased, though we had barely started.


Wending our way through a damp forest dominated by fragrant Spruce, and peppered with taller White Pines, we could hear the trees creaking in the breeze and the first songbirds of the Spring singing from high above. Everything seemed covered in soft and fluffy green moss, vibrant lichens, and colorful mushrooms. It sort of had a feel of Washington and Oregon’s temperate rain forests. What a truly awesome surprise!


After a short walk on a cushioned pine needle-laden trail with exposed roots and scattered boulders, we made it to the shoreline. The greenish water in Back Cove had that cloudy look it adopts from the area’s mineral-rich rocks along its shores. What a perfect day. Walking further down the single-track, windy trail, we enjoyed the bright golden green of spring’s Spruce needles and the warm moist air coming up from the trail and from across the Bay. The air smelled of both the salty sea and of the rich organic forest.

Crossing the footbridge

The trails were simply laid out in such a manner that the kids could safely run ahead without getting lost. The Bay was visible through the trees for most of the trip and we never felt as if we were deep in a forest or directly on shore. It was a perfect blend of forest and sea, making for a truly unique hike. Small bridges over streams, thoughtfully placed benches, cleared trails and newly painted blazes ensured us that Maine Audubon apparently cares greatly for its parks.

Scenic overlook

The Hamilton Sanctuary proved a family favorite, and that’s saying something considering how frequently we get outdoors together. The park is perfect for teaching kids map reading skills, and for observing a great diversity of landscapes and environments. The ever-changing trail prevents boredom and the short hike makes for a wonderful activity to better round out your next visit to Freeport.

At the water's edge

To learn more about the park, to download a trailmap, or to get directions, feel free to visit Maine Audubon’s Hamilton Sanctuary Website. After your trip, we’d love to hear about it!




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