It didn’t take long for the Mt. Vernon area birdlife to find us. Only a few minutes out from the boat launch on Taylor Pond, an osprey dove into the placid water ahead of us hoping to come up with a fish, to no avail. Through the reeds on our left, we spied seven female mallards tightly crowded together on a rock sticking up out of the water. They calmly watched us glide by and into the cozy confines of Hopkins Stream, where a kingfisher crossed the water in front of us and perched on a hemlock limb.

A mile up the forest-lined stream we approached a narrow passageway of boulders granting access into a magical winding waterway through golden marsh grasses. Swamp maples bordered the outer reaches of the marsh, all aglow in their autumnal purplish-red sheen. A few miles to the north, in Vienna, the broad profile of Round Top Mountain rose up out of the Kennebec Highlands forest.

There are two small obstacles to paddling into Hopkins Pond from Hopkins Stream. First is a low beaver dam that can easily be portaged over just before the Blake Hill Road bridge. Just after the bridge there is a shallow riffle that has to be dragged over. As we got back in the canoe and headed toward the pond, a blue heron stood at the shaded entrance. Instead of flying off, it calmly walked up onto the bank and into the woods.

We slowly circled the pond, soaking in the late-morning sun, reveling in one of the last mid-70s days of autumn. We started debating the merits of a swim and landed along the exposed shoreline to talk about it. After a couple “double dares” and “triple dares,” we plunged in together with screams of delight. Fifteen minutes later, warmed by the midday sun, we were back in again.

It’s a 3-mile paddle back to tiny Taylor Pond. A fresh southerly breeze slowed us down a bit in the marshy area between the ponds. The reward was the soothing sound of wind sifting through the reeds and grasses. The grasses waved back and forth, reflecting a pulsating mosaic of sun-splashed gold. We glided into the protection of the reeds and listened with our eyes closed for a few minutes. It was as if time had stopped.

Back at the boulder-choked narrows, we sprawled out on a flat ledge just below a 12-foot-high boulder on the east side of the stream. It was a perfect fit for two bodies right at water’s edge. After the sun and warmth of the marshes, we relished the comforting coolness of the smooth slab. If we were to snooze, this would be the spot.

Back at the boat launch we enjoyed a few minutes on the mown grass, reflecting on our leisurely 3-hour excursion. We walked across the road for views down Echo Lake, awash in dancing diamonds from early afternoon breezes and low-angle sun.

There are many farmstands and apple orchards on the way to Mt. Vernon. On a crisp fall weekend, the parking lot at Lakeside Orchards in Manchester is jammed with folks eager to pick out their Halloween pumpkin or fill the fridge with cider. The Apple Shed opposite Kents Hill School features an amazing smorgasbord of fresh pastries and is the headquarters of Simply Divine Brownies, making this scenic spot overlooking the foothills of the Western Maine mountains a must-stop, pre- or post-paddle.

Consult the DeLorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (map No. 12) for help getting to the boat launch on Route 41 in Mt. Vernon. On one side of the road is the boat launch into Echo Pond to the south. On the other side is the launch into Taylor Pond. The striking 101-foot-tall brick chimney beside the Taylor Pond outlet dam is a beloved landmark. The chimney was part of a tannery built in 1881 and destroyed by fire in 1912.

Michael Perry is the former director of the L.L. Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools, and founder of Dreams Unlimited, specializing in inspiring outdoor slide programs for civic groups, businesses, and schools. Contact:

[email protected]

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