Difficulty: Easy to moderate. The trails in Thurston Park vary from wide multi-use trails that travel over small hills to narrow footpaths that navigate slightly more rugged terrain. The biggest challenge you’re likely to confront on the trails is water. There are several soggy areas on the multi-use trails and hiking trails. Be sure to wear waterproof boots so you can stay on trail.
How to get there: From Causeway Road at the north end of China Lake, cross Lakeview Drive and head east on Pleasant View Ridge Road. After 0.8 mile, go straight onto Dutton Road. (Pleasant View Ridge Road bears to the right.) Drive 1.6 miles, and turn right onto Yorktown Road. Follow Yorktown Road for approximately 0.5 mile to the park entrance. There are three parking areas to use along the access road to the park. Refer to a park trail map to decide which parking area is best for you.
With the goal of maintaining long-term visitor access, trails and access roads are closed to motorized vehicles from March 15 through May 1. During these times, visitors may still access the park by non-motorized means. Also, the road to the park is not plowed in the winter. You’ll need park at the first parking area and walk, snowmobile, ski or snowshoe into the park during that time.
Information: In the northeastern corner of China, Maine, Thurston Park is a place where local history, nature and recreation meet. The park features a trail network that totals more than 5 miles and explores the wooded property, visiting key natural and historic features, including small waterfalls, stands of giant white pines, cellar holes of early settlers and the cornerstone monument placed in 1888 where the towns of China, Palermo and Albion meet.
Owned and managed by the town of China, the park covers 387 acres. The trails on the property officially opened to the public in 2014 after about four years of planning and construction by the Thurston Park Committee and volunteers.
Approximately half of the trail network is designated as multi-use trails, open to both motorized and nonmotorized forms of recreation, with a temporary ban on ATVs during mud season (March 15 through May 1). Then, branching off of the multi-use trails are several signed and marked trails designated for foot traffic only.
The multi-use trails on the property are: Old Yorktown Road (0.84 mile), Trail #1 (0.85 mile) and Trail #2 (0.39 mile). And the foot trails are: Esker Trail (0.25 mile), Rufus Jones Trail (0.77 mile), Partridge Trail (0.52 mile), Moose Trail (0.36 mile), Deer Trail (0.34 mile) and Monument Trail (0.24 mile).
These trails are labeled on a trail map posted on the trailhead kiosk by the north gate of the park. The map is also available online through the Thurston Park Facebook page and on the Town of China website.
The two cellar holes located on the property — the remains of the Thurston and Chamberlain homesteads — are also marked on the map, as well as three small waterfalls, a picnic area, the old Talbot cemetery, and the Three Town Monument Stone.
The park is open year round, 6 a.m. to sunset unless you obtain a special permit to be there during other hours. Dogs are permitted but must be kept on leash or under voice control. Also of note, there are no restrooms or potable water in the park, so plan accordingly.
Hunting is permitted in the park, so visitors are advised to wear blaze orange, especially during deer hunting seasons. And visitors are also expected to carry out what they carry in, picking up all litter and leaving nature undisturbed.
For more information, visit www.china.govoffice.com or call the China Town Office at 445-2014.
Personal note: I got a little lost driving to Thurston Park on Jan. 21, with my husband, Derek, his mom, Geneva, and her partner in crime (or boyfriend), John. I blame the confusion on my GPS, which brought me to the south end of Yorktown Road, rather than the north end, where the parking areas are located. You see, Yorktown Road runs right through the center of Thurston Park, becoming a multi-use trail called Old Yorktown Road. So if you’re at the south end of the road, you can’t get to the north end of the road without driving around the park on other roads (or hopping on an ATV or snowmobile). Or, to use an old phrase used frequently in rural Maine, “You can’t get there from here.”
So after some more driving, we made it to the north end of Yorktown Road and the parking areas. Though there wasn’t much snow cover, we decided to park at the first parking area and walk into the park rather than risk driving up the access road (though judging by the tire marks, someone had).
The access road was icy. John was smart enough to wear ice cleats. The rest of us weren’t. Someone fell on his or her butt. I won’t divulge who. He or she was OK.
On our way to the north gate, we faced another challenge. Yorktown Brook had risen above the road. Upon investigation, we found several sticks displaying the telltale pattern that an American beaver leaves after gnawing off bark. So either a beaver was responsible for the flooding (having dammed up a culvert) or the recent thaw was. Either way, John and Geneva didn’t feel too guilty about commandeering two of those sticks to help them across the wide span of frigid water, which reached about 5 inches high in some places, threatening to spill over our boots.
As for my dog, Oreo, he seemed to thoroughly enjoy the whole endeavor, splashing about in the water as if to say, “Come on, guys!”
Once we made it onto the trails, we had a nice long walk, admiring the well-made wooden trail signs, inspecting the cellar holes of the old Thurston and Chamberlin homesteads and identifying animal tracks in the snow. We followed the Old Yorktown Road multi-use trail, spurring off to do the Deer Trail loop, then walked back on the Trail #1 and Trail #2. And before ending our walk, we took the Monument Trail to the old cornerstone at the border of Albion, Palermo and China, where Geneva — who lives in Albion — attempted to stand in all three towns at once.