My wife Linda and I have always enjoyed traveling across our country, and throughout the world. And while there are many great places to visit, you can’t beat Maine, where adventures start right outside our door.

When our kids were young, we piled them in our VW camper and spent some of our summer traveling the Western states, preferring Montana and Wyoming. One of the most memorable trips was our chicken pox trip. Son Josh had chicken pox as we began the trip, and halfway to Montana, Linda and our daughter Hilary got it. I tried a couple times to convince them we should head home, but they refused, despite their suffering. On the way home, Rebekah got it. Oh yeah, that was quite a trip.

After we purchased our camp on Sourdnahunk Lake, on the edge of Baxter Park, we spent lots of time there, including hikes of many of Baxter’s mountains.

Maine has so many beautiful places; I hope you are able to travel the state and enjoy them. A couple new books can help you do that. One is “The Maine Playbook” by Jennifer Hazard, which gives us a great list of Maine family getaways and adventures.

If anyone knows the best places for family getaways and adventures, it’s Hazard. Jen, her husband, and their two kids have been traveling the state for years, enjoying our best places.

Eventually Jen began writing about those adventures, starting an award-winning website called Cute Potato. She’s served as the “Family Fun Maker” for Maine’s Office of Tourism and written for lots of publications, including Food Network magazine, and even created content for L.L. Bean.

The book is organized by season, and Jen describes in detail our family-friendly farms, trails, nature preserves, and parks, along with lots of events and outdoor adventures for families. She includes many of my favorite places, where Linda and I would enjoy our own adventures with our kids — and now with our grandkids.

But I was truly astonished by how many other places Jen included in the book. I guess she and her family did more traveling than I realized.

Jen’s photos are wonderful too, particularly those of her kids enjoying their outdoor adventures. And she also includes a resources section that includes lots of great information, from the best places to swim to the best places to pick crops. I think her suggestions for day trips are particularly good.

You should also get a copy of Aislinn Sarnaki’s new book, “Maine Hikes,” published by Down East Books. Subtitled “Off the Beaten Path,” it is all of that and more.

One thing I especially like about the book is that Aislinn doesn’t just focus on mountain hikes; some of the hikes could even be described as walks. And while she writes about a number of my favorite hikes, she’s included lots that I never heard of.

I didn’t even know we had a Lobster Township and Lobster Mountain, which turn out to be near the camp of one of my good friends. I would love to know how we came to name a township and mountain in the north woods after our lobsters. Nope, you can’t catch lobsters up there.

Some of my favorite places that Aislinn writes about are Swan Island in the Kennebec River, Cameron Mountain in Lincolnville, Round Top Mountain in Rome (10 minutes from my home), Spruce Mountain in Rockport, Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge, and Sentinel and Trout Brook Mountains in Baxter Park. Of course, I’d love any mountain named after trout.

For each hike, Aislinn gives you lots of information from directions to degree of difficulty. Following all that information is a detailed description of the hike, plus a map and nice photos. My favorite part of the book comes after that, when Aislinn writes about her own experiences on those hikes. A few years ago, Aislinn wrote a book, “Family Friendly Hikes in Maine,” and that’s a keeper too.

Another favorite of mine is Nancy Griffin’s “50 Things To Do In Maine Before You Die.” I’ve done 40 of them. Ten to go!

Other books that you might want to have along are “The Islandport Guide to Lighthouses in Maine” by Ted Panayoff, “Hiking Maine’s Baxter Park” by Greg Westrich, and “Nearaway Places” by Lois Stailing, which focuses on scenic and historical places.

If you are looking for a great place to stay or eat, go to my website,, select Best of Maine and a town, and you’ll get all the travel columns Linda and I wrote about places in that town.

Now get out and enjoy Maine this summer and fall.

George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon, ME 04352, or [email protected]. Read more of Smith’s writings at

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