We’re going to Vienna this month – not the Vienna of Hapsburg fame, but the Vienna of game-board magnate Milton Bradley fame. (He was born here in 1836.)

Vienna encompasses 400-acre Flying Pond, nestled among the verdant hills of central Maine. This pond offers a memorable May paddling experience. We were immediately greeted by a pair of loons just off the boat launch on Route 41.  Off to our right, a striking female kingfisher flew branch to branch ahead of us, its wide, rust-colored breast band spectacular in our binoculars.

While the pond does have many cottages along the shoreline and tucked up into the forest, May offers peace and solitude as most docks and canoes are still sitting in the woods awaiting the flurry of Memorial Day openings.

Red pines on an islet in Flying Pond in Vienna. If you visit, check out their cool bark. Photo courtesy of Michael Perry

An archipelago of six islands a half-mile west of the boat launch makes this pond worth the visit. Red pine dominate one island. You can have all your synthesizers and bass guitars; give us moving air and clusters of pine needles for an auditory performance like no other.

Check out the bark. Examined up close, the red-scaled bark shards create a mosaic of artistry sure to bring out the child’s imagination in you. We saw Daffy Duck and a minnow with a large eyeball and other zany creations. I’d show my wife something she could understand with a tortuous twist of her head, and then she would show me something obvious I had passed right over.

Steep hills surround the pond, each offering a rich palette of spring-green tones, changing daily in the headlong rush toward summer. Building fair-weather cumulus clouds dotted each hillside with fleeting black shadows. Yellow swallowtail butterflies wove their way across the pond, seemingly without purpose, just capricious vessels at the whim of the wind.

The pond is shallow along the edges. Red-winged blackbirds chortled loudly and flitted about in the dried cattail colonies. A few tree swallows darted past us. Kingbirds chased each other through the red pine and birch branches.

A milelong narrow arm of the pond cuts through the hills south of the islands and is home to most of the cottages. We decided to explore down to the end of the arm despite the development. We were glad we did because of the late-morning cumulus cloud show in progress rising up over the lip of the steep green ridge to the west. White wisps, curls and puffballs against a deep blue backdrop re-formed before our eyes as they scudded over the ridge above us. Sporadic tall white pine tops burst out of the dense forest of hardwoods up on the steep slope, like broccoli stalks emerging out of a bountiful summer garden.

About halfway down the arm, we paddled by a cottage with an amazing wooden stairway leading down the steep wooded slope to the water. It had been created with wheelchair access to the water in mind. Wooden switchback after wooden switchback ran down the cleared hillside. Nature is the greatest artist without doubt, but on occasion we humans create masterpieces as well.

As delightful as your time on the pond might be, the drive to and from the Augusta area is a showstopper as well. The Kents Hill Orchard Apple Shed provides a calorie-stoking stop across from Kents Hill School. They offer fresh-baked yummies each morning, and an impressive view north to Mount Blue. On our drive home we drove north on Route 41 to check out Farmington Falls and the scenic Sandy River, and then headed south toward Fayette on the Ridge Road so we could drive over one of Maine’s true glacial wonders, the Chesterville Esker. It is a ribbon of road precariously set on a thin ridge line of sand and gravel, bounded by a vibrant green hardwood forest and small ponds on each side.

Consult the Delorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (Map 20) for help in getting to Flying Pond via Route 41 heading north out of Mount Vernon.  The State of Maine Boat Launch is easy to spot on the left.

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. He can be contacted at [email protected].

 

 


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