Difficulty: Easy-moderate. The hike is about 2.2 miles, including the short span of woods road leading to the loop trail. At the far end of the loop, the trail leads to an observation platform on the edge of Sunkhaze Meadows Bog.
How to get there: From Route 2 in Milford, turn onto County Road, which starts out paved and quickly transitions into a well-groomed dirt road. You will pass several gated drives. At about 6.4 miles, park in a small parking area on the left. A kiosk in the parking area contains maps to the refuge, as well as more detailed maps of both Carter Meadow Road Trail and Oak Point Trail, both of which are located nearby.
As you will see on the maps, to get to start of Carter Meadow Road Trail, you must walk along the road, back towards the town of Milford, for just a few hundred feet. The gated Carter Meadow Road is just after Little Birch Stream (which is marked by a brown sign) on the same side of the road as the parking area. The road is marked with a sign. Walk past the gate and down the road 0.3 mile, passing a few private camps. At the end of the road is a small red building with a green roof. On the porch is another map of the Carter Meadow Road Trail. You can start the hike of the loop trail from the right or the left of the building.
Information:The Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, established on Nov. 22, 1988, protects the second-largest peatland in Maine and contains several raised bogs or domes, separated by streamside meadows. Sunkhaze Stream bisects the refuge with its six tributaries, creating a diversity of wetland communities.
This refuge is composed of three units: the Sunkhaze Meadows Unit, the Benton Unit and the Sandy Stream Unit. The Sunkhaze Meadows Unit, located in Milford, is the largest of the three, at 11,485 acres, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It is managed by the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuges.
“The mission of the refuge is to preserve the peatland ecosystem and maintain a biologically-diverse area for native wildlife and plants, while offering opportunities for wildlife-dependent visitor activism,” according to the Friends of Sunkhaze Meadows NWR, a nonprofit volunteer organization dedicated to protecting the refuge.
The refuge is open to visitors year round during daylight hours, offering visitors several options for observing nature, hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing canoeing, snowmobiling and some hunting and trapping. The refuge is currently open to big game hunting, upland game hunting and waterfowl hunting. Trapping is allowed if a refuge permit is obtained. Snowmobiling is permitted only on ITS (Interconnected Trail System) 84 and two connector trails where they traverse the western and southern portions of the refuge.
Prior to becoming a national wildlife refuge, the land was used for hunting, fishing, trapping, logging and blueberry and cranberry harvesting, according to the Friends of Sunkhaze NWR website at www.sunkhaze.org. Today, the refuge is home to three plants, seven birds, two mollusks and three invertebrates listed as Endangered or Threatened by the State of Maine, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Most refuge trails are wet in the spring and summer, so hikers should wear knee-high rubber boots and bring insect repellent. In addition to the Carter Meadow Road Trail, the refuge is home to the short Ash Landing Trail, Oak Point Trail, Johnson Brook Trail and the Buzzy Brook Trails. These trails are also appropriate for snowshoeing, and if the snow conditions are right, cross-country skiing.
For maps and information on each trail, visit www.sunkhaze.org. The refuge headquarters in Rockland is open 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, and can be reached at 594-0600, extension 3.
Personal note: Carter Meadow Road Trail would be cool in the winter for a number of reasons: The forest of old, tall pines will be beautiful in the winter; Muskrat houses visible from the observation platform are easier to see in the winter because the brown domes stand out against the snow; This fairly even loop trail would be great for snowshoeing; And you don’t have to deal with the most difficult aspect of the trail — water.