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Maine's Pine Tree Trail


 

While every road tells a story, sometimes the journey to that story works in mysterious ways. Every so often, that story finds you. Such is the story behind the rebirth of the Pine Tree Trail in Maine. The Pine Tree Trail is a scenic tourism route that stretches some five hundred miles between Portland, Maine, and Kittery, Maine, and has its roots in the 1930s. Along the way, the Pine Tree Trail passes through towns and cities including Auburn, Lewiston, Augusta, Waterville, Bangor, Houlton, and Presque Isle. In the modern day, they are connected by US 1, US 2, ME 11, and ME 100 as well. You can come across picturesque towns both large and small, enchanting farmland, forests as far as the eye can see, and more along the Pine Tree Trail.


To promote tourism to more inland portions of the state during the Great Depression, the Pine Tree Trail was created in March 1937 by an act of the Maine State Legislature. The thought was that the Pine Tree Trail could rival some of the popular auto trails of the day, including US Route 66 or the Dixie Highway. Hundreds of signs featuring a silhouette of a pine tree and the words "Pine Tree Trail" were put up along the route within a couple of years and maps marked the route to follow along the Pine Tree Trail. However, some older maps show the Pine Tree Trail going south from Portland to Kittery, Maine. However, the Pine Tree Trail would soon be shoved to the wayside due to World War II, along with changes to travel patterns in the years that followed.


By 2012, the Pine Tree Trail had become mostly forgotten, when by fate, a gentleman from Molunkus, Maine by the name of Nathan Nipula came across an old, rusty, embossed Pine Tree Trail sign amongst some leaves, dirt and rock along his property. Molunkus is one of the towns along US 2 where the Pine Tree Trail traverses through, so the sign must have found its way from the road over time. He held on to the sign for years, and then in 2019, Nipula and his fiancée Robbie McMay decided to find more information and to bring recognition back to the route, but there wasn't much information to be found. However, the legislative act proclaiming the creation of the Pine Tree Trail could be found.


A grassroots effort to revive the Pine Tree Trail with the creation of the Pine Tree Trail Project and a Pine Tree Trail Community was created. Funds were raised from businesses and individuals along the route of the Pine Tree Trail to re-sign the auto trail and to connect the towns along the way. A meeting with the Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap indicated that the Pine Tree Trail was still on the books and was still an active route, so it could be signed and put back on the map. A meeting with the Maine Department of Transportation informed the couple that it would cost over $100,000 to re-sign the route. Instead, they opted to have signs made through White Sign, a sign shop in Stillwater, Maine. The signs would come at a cost of around $300, covering the costs for each sign that was put up. Many of the new signs were put up starting in 2022. Judging by the number of signs that I saw during my travels and what I have come across on the Pine Tree Trail Community group on Facebook, it looks like the Pine Tree Trail revival has been successful.


My discovery of the Pine Tree Trail happened during a vacation to Maine in September 2023. I was driving through Bangor when I started seeing signs for the Pine Tree Trail. The more signs I saw driving west from Bangor to Newport on US 2, the more it piqued my interest. That night, I decided to search online about the Pine Tree Trail and found that it was bigger than I could have imagined.


I look forward to exploring more of the Pine Tree Trail and the treasures I can find during future trips to Maine.



Pine Tree Trail trailblazer on US 2 in downtown Bangor, Maine.

Pine Tree Trail trailblazer in downtown Bangor, Maine.

Pine Tree Trail trailblazer on ME 11 in Oakland, Maine.


Sources and Links:
Pine Tree Trail - "Maine's Longest Trail"
Aroostook County Tourism - Reviving the Forgotten Pine Tree Trail: A Unique Piece of Maine's History
WMTW - Aroostook County couple works to reestablish Maine's Pine Tree Trail
Fox 22 Bangor - Rediscovering the Pine Tree Trail

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