At 7:45 a.m. on a weekday, Michael Wade tightened the laces on his bright green running shoes. Lush lawns, shrubbery and iridescent green tree leaves popped out against the overcast sky at his chosen place to run.
“I do 75 to 80 percent of my runs on trails,” the 49-year-old architect said. A light mist wrapped around him as he made his way across a field on Ellsworth’s 180-acre Woodlawn Museum estate to get a pre-work run in on the wooded trail network there.
Wade, whose day job as a project manager at Design Group Collaborative along with freelance work keeps him sitting at a computer desk designing, drafting and managing building projects eight to nine hours a day, finds contentment in running.
“I was a road runner,” he said, sporting a gray T-shirt with the word “run” emblazoned across his chest. “I did a lot of road races and road marathons over the years, and I just found running on the trails to be more peaceful because you don’t have to worry about cars all the time.”
Originally from Salem, N.H., he ran in high school, but took a break for 12 years before rediscovering the sport to lose weight. He runs for pleasure and competes. He’s raced almost every distance from 1-mile courses to epic 100-mile ultra-endurance events. Now he runs mostly for pleasure but still reaps benefits from sweating it out.
“Fitness, confidence, peace of mind, energy release, friendships, alone time, thinking time, no-thinking time,” he said describing what the sport gives him.
Five minutes from downtown Ellsworth off the Surry Road (Route 172), Woodlawn was once the summer retreat for three generations of the Black family starting in the 1820s. Up a winding driveway bordered by restored fieldstone walls, the estate and grounds belong to the Hancock Country Trustees of Public Reservations. Open to the public, the nonprofit Woodlawn offers a 2.5-mile trail system used year-round by runners, walkers, bikers, dog walkers, cross-country-skiers and snowshoers.
Originally built in the late 1800s as an exercise track for the Black family’s horses, the trails are shaded by pine trees creating a canopy overhead.
Close to work, Woodlawn’s trails are an easy option for Wade to tuck in a run at either the start or end of his workday. This Wednesday morning, he took off, hitting the dirt path blanketed with orange pine needles. Unlike pounding on pavement, his foot falls barely made a sound.
Running on trails is more technical than on paved roads. Woodlawn’s trails don’t vary much in elevation, but do involve occasionally hopping over roots and traversing narrow foot bridges that break up and enliven the run.
“When you’re running on the roads, it’s the same kind of rhythm, repetitive use, and on the trails I think, ‘I need to go over this, I need to turn,’ so I find it more interesting,” Wade said. “It’s a varied kind of thing. There are some parts that are wide and easy to navigate. There are some that are narrow.”
In total, the trails make up a little less than 2.5 miles. There are three loops, tracks A, B and C, that all connect. Track A is 0.54 miles; track B is 0.98 miles, and track C is 0.73 miles.
At each intersection, there is a sign marking where the trails intersect. A few wooden benches flank the paths available and a lily pond is hidden in the woods.
A serious runner himself, Woodlawn’s Executive Director Joshua Torrance said the trails are an option for people shopping or doing business in town to break up their day.
“They can get in a nice little exercise and do their errands before going back home,” he said.
The trails also can give visitors a quick taste of nature if they don’t want to venture all the way to Acadia National Park.
“If you want a short, manageable hike without going all the way to Acadia, the trails are a good option,” Torrance said.
The Woodlawn Museum and trails are located at 19 Black House Drive in Ellsworth. Hours are daily from dawn until dusk. For more information, call 667-8671 and visit www.woodlawnmuseum.com.