Touring the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge with Justin Chase

Justin Chase is a regular guest blogger here at L.L.Bean Trailmix, as well as the writer of one of our favorite outdoor blogs, Outdoors, by Cracky! Last year, Justin wrote about a family visit to Maine Audubon’s East Point Sanctuary. We received so much great feedback about his post and photos, we invited him to share another adventure with our readers.




Stretching nearly 50 miles along Maine’s southern coast, and protecting over five thousand acres of estuarine land, the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge is one of New England’s most impressive parks. With most massive parks comes a feeling that they’re almost too big to enjoy, but that is not the case with the Carson refuge. The good folks at the US Fish and Wildlife Service thought of that, and created a one-mile trail that showcases the property’s ecology and natural beauty. It’s a perfect kid-sized loop and one I recently visited with my family. We enjoyed it so much that I had to share.

Justin Chase explores the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Wells, Maine with his family

From the park’s headquarters in Wells, we stepped into our skis and set out along the aptly named Carson Trail. Under a canopy of tall and snowy hemlocks, we made our way on super deep snow and inside a nicely packed trail. Winter’s white sun flickered through limbs and wicked cold air puffed gently from the marsh we traveled toward. We were clumsy at first, crossing our skis and tipping into each other, but we smiled the whole time and quickly skied with proper form – which, by the way, is easier than it looks.


Following a self-guided tour, we skied to numbered outlooks and observation decks offering short lessons of Maine’s coastal ecology – just the kind that Rachel Carson adored and worked her whole life to protect. From salt pannes to meanderings, and from upland hollows to the critical edge, we traversed an entire estuary in a way that was fun for the kids and interesting for me.

Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Wells, Maine

We traveled the forest’s edge and along the shoreline of an upland point, with the marsh and its frozen rivers to our right and the open ocean crashing in the distance. Pack ice crunched and creaked with the outgoing tide and gulls and crows circled nearby. The air was cold, but the skiing was warm, so we took time to slow down and take it all in.

Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Wells, Maine

Over the quiet sounds of our skis and our poles, we heard chickadees sing their winter “dee-dee-dee” and blue jays squawk their bullying squawks. We heard tall pines creak in the wind and snow thud down from limbs overhead. And of course we heard our boys giggling and trying their not-so-hardest to stay quiet and hear those subtle sounds. It was awesome.

Fun in the snow in the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Wells, Maine

Swooshing down tiny hills and crossing a narrow bridge, we finished our trip and rounded the point to ski back to the lot. I thought of Rachel Carson and how her work, her books, were some of my favorite in college, and how her perspective was instrumental in forming my own. I also thought of my first pair of L.L.Bean skis that Santa had given me when I was just 10. But now I am the dad and my boys are already using their first pairs of Bean skis. Time may have passed quickly, more quickly than I knew, but at least they beat me: They’re already killing it at 7 and 8.

Justin Chase's skis

 “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.” —Rachel Carson

Directions to Park Headquarters (only a mile down the road from the Maine Diner)

Carson Trail: Map & Brochure (pdf)

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