The L.C. Bates Museum on the Good Will-Hinckley campus is looking for at least 100 hikers to walk the Dartmouth Trail Saturday behind the museum to help celebrate the trail’s 100th birthday.

Along with a hike, visitors may take part in scavenger hunts and attend a museum photography exhibit focusing on natural history.

The 100th hiker to appear on the scene Saturday will win a prize, according to Deborah Staber, director of the museum.

The trail is a little less than a mile long and connects to a series of other trails.

“It’s a beautiful trail that originally was open farmland, but it’s grown in over the years,” said Staber. “There are hemlocks, mixed wood, the Avenue of Pines — red pines.”

She said it’s “moderate walking — it’s not hard walking” through woods and near a vernal pool.

A century ago, Ray Toby, a Dartmouth alumnus and teacher at Good Will, came up with the idea of developing the trail and that is why the marble plaques gracing the fieldstone pillars to the trail’s entrance bear the words “1915 Dartmouth Outing Club.”

The trail leads to a high point of ground where hikers will see a monument to Adirondack Murray, an early outdoors enthusiast and writer who influenced George W. Hinckley’s philosophy for caring for children at Good Will.

Along the Dartmouth Trail is a monument known as the Murray Tablets, which looks like an early pulpit with a small stairway leading to its top. Children often climb the stairs.

In 1889, Hinckley, of Guilford, Connecticut, founded Good Will-Hinckley home, school and farm for underprivileged children on 125 acres off U.S. Route 201.

The museum on the Good Will grounds about halfway between Fairfield center and Skowhegan hosts school groups and summer campers and offers guided nature walks.

The school closed its core operations in 2009, but Good Will operates the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, one of the state’s first charter schools, which opened in 2011 and focuses on agriculture, environmental studies and forestry. It also operates the Glenn Stratton Learning Center, a school for children with social, behavioral and emotional challenges. Part of the campus was also sold in recent years to Kennebec Valley Community College.

The museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and features exhibits about natural history and Native Americans and includes rocks, minerals and other items. Exhibits featuring New England artists are held in the summer and fall.

Staber said many people visit the museum, both to see the exhibits and to walk the trails.

“They’re a wonderful complement to the museum,” she said.


Hikers may walk the trails any time between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday, but the museum will offer a guided tour of the Dartmouth Trail at 1 p.m. Admission to the day’s events is $3 for adults and $1 for children up to 17.

Museum educator Serena Sanborn will conduct the tour, which will include stories about the trail’s history.

Maps of the trails will be available Saturday, Staber said.

From 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., the museum will host a reception for about 14 artists who will display photographs of the natural world.

Staber said about 30 museums are hosting such photography exhibits. “Ours is open Saturday through Dec. 30,” she said.

From 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, visitors may look through museum telescopes to see the moon as part of International Observe the Moon Night, if it is a clear night, according to Staber.

She said the telescopes will be outside the museum, but indoor activities will allow visitors to explore the moon’s phases.


John Meader, 56, of Fairfield, has spent many years hiking the trails behind the museum with his wife, Laura, and their three children, now all grown. The oldest is now 27, the youngest nearly 20.

“We walk there quite a bit,” Meader said. “We are hikers and it is close by and it’s nice. The trails are well-marked. When the kids were little, we liked it because it’s an easy hike. There’s woods and monuments. The kids found that just fascinating.”

From the Seton Fireplace to the Black Wolf Seat, the monuments along the trail served as a source of wonder for Meader’s children.

Thompson Seton, known as the Black Wolf and chief scout of the Boy Scouts of America, arrived at Good Will on July 31, 1912, and built a round fireplace in a natural amphitheater. He also built a chair of stones, according to museum literature. Seton would sit in the chair to oversee ceremonies which included a Caribou Dance by the fire.

In later years, Good Will would hold a ceremony at the fireplace to mark the start of the school year. The chair was rebuilt by a stone mason in 1915.

There’s also the Roosevelt Monument, built in 1921 to honor Theodore Roosevelt, a naturalist and natural resources conservator. The monument, which is a series of large stones, includes one from the Roosevelt Estate on Long Island, N.Y. The stone was selected for the monument by Eleanor Roosevelt.

A bird sanctuary, granite house and sunrise fireplace are among other trail monuments which Meader’s children loved and found magical.

“It’s a special place and it’s nice that it’s right here,” Meader said. “It’s really old and there’s a lot of neat history there. I’m a history buff and I’ve looked up all the monuments along the trail.”

A photographer who also runs a portable planetarium, Meader said owls, rabbits, warblers and small song birds are among the wildlife seen along the trails.

“It’s a great place for families,” he said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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