Lifestyle & Amenities
At Your Fingertips
What are the makings of a vibrant, active community? Part of the recipe is a full calendar of life enrichment programs for you to choose from—created by listening to and learning from you. From exercise and wellness to adventures in the larger community, we provide great sources of joy, excitement and relaxation—each and every day. We’re always sure to make time for laughter, connection and friendship, and include those ideals in everything we do.
We encourage everyone—not just our residents but also our team—to lead healthier, more active lifestyles, helping build a culture that celebrates every moment in our journey together.
Join Us Anytime!
Essential Wellness at The Highlands!
Aging is a beautiful journey, and prioritizing your physical and mental health is key to enjoying each step along the way. At The Highlands, we work with you to explore essential senior wellness practices that will empower you to maintain an active, fulfilling, and joyful life. Embrace your wellness journey at The Highlands! Contact us today to learn more.
It’s not like home. It is home. ™
At The Highlands, our Graceful Dining approach offers a homestyle culinary experience in a warm and inviting environment. Whether sharing an intimate meal with a best friend or celebrating a special occasion with all your loved ones, we are certain that living here will satisfy your appetite for connection with others and for the most delicious food.
Health & Wellness
Living well can mean lots of things. It’s seizing opportunities to connect with others, explore interests, grow spiritually and nurture a healthy lifestyle. It’s being part of a community where you feel valued and welcome. At The Highlands, we provide all the ingredients our residents need to live up to their full potential. From fitness lessons to therapeutic programs and everyday activities that define our vibrant community, everything we do is guided by a sense of purpose.
Friends of The Highlands Trails
1. Come walk with me
The mission of The Friends of The Highlands Trails is to advance a model of thoughtful use and create recreational and educational trails that are cared for by the people who use them.
There are many reasons to walk the trails here at The Highlands. Perhaps you just want some exercise and get your heart pumping as you wind your way down into the ravine and back up again. For many, a trail is an entry into a different world, a chance to slow down, to observe, to gain the benefits of time out-of-doors.
If this is why you are walking here, then this interpretative path is designed for you.
The numbered posts along the path are keyed to descriptions that may be accessed by using the QR codes on each post.* They draw your attention to specific things of interest as well as ecological processes that tie us into the network of life.
Linger along the trail. Look into the woods on each side of the path as you go along; note what is underfoot; listen for the sounds of other living things; inhale the aromas — of woodland flowers, trees, decaying matter; feel the textures of bark or leaves. In other words, explore with all your senses to become familiar with all the life here.
As you wander along the trail, consider how the life found here is part of a complex system – and that you are a part of it.
These trails are maintained by The Friends of The Highlands Trails; the numbered posts were made by Dave Vancura; text was prepared by Jackie Cressy; individual plant signs were provided and placed by Allen Cressy.
Thank you to the many residents of The Highlands and the wider community who collaborated to create the trail and descriptions.
*Hard copies of these descriptions are available in the Library.
2. Alien Invasion
This spot has a prime example of an “exotic invasive”—Japanese Barberry. This deciduous shrub with its attractive arching branches, pale yellow flowers, and decorative red fruit was introduced to the US in the 1860s and has run rampant over the New England landscape. Note the simple spines that adorn the stems. This plant can be seen in many places on The Highlands trails and may have originated from foundation plantings done before this plant was placed on the Maine banned list.
3. Plants from the Time of Dinosaurs: The Ferns
Near this post you can observe a few species of some of the oldest plants still surviving on our planet. First appearing over 300 million years ago, ferns are largely responsible for the deposits of coal and gas that have fueled our economy for so long. (Every time you drive your car, you’re using fossilized ferns to reach your destination.) Ferns dominated the land before the rise of flowering plants and managed to reach magnificent proportions, many over one hundred feet tall. This period of the Earth’s history had a global climate of warm temperatures and high humidity, ideal conditions for ferns to flourish.
Similar to flowering plants, ferns have roots, stems and leaves. However, unlike flowering plants, ferns do not have flowers or seeds; instead, they usually reproduce sexually by tiny spores or sometimes can reproduce vegetatively. In nature, fern spores germinate in moss, rotting logs, or damp exposed soil in shady locations (such as by a stream).
As you have been walking along the trail, especially where it goes along the stream, you have likely noticed a lot of low, dense green growth carpeting the ground. Often overlooked because they don’t have flowers and are low to the ground, these tiny plants are worth getting to know.
Mosses are ancient plants, dating from 450 million years ago, and have survived and thrived through many drastic changes in climate. They occur on every continent and are the second most diverse group of plants, outnumbered only by the flowering plants.
If you look very closely, you will see that the mat of mosses at the base of this stump is composed of many, many individual plants that need each other for support. Each individual plant has a stem and leaves, but no root. Instead, it has rhizoids, hairlike structures that anchor the plant to its substrate, be that rock, bark or soil. (Also note the tiny ferns. Moss plays an important role in providing substrate for other plants to grow.)
5. Eastern Hemlock
Of the four conifers found along our trails, Eastern Hemlock is the most common. Hemlocks are very tolerant of shade; seedlings can survive in as little as 5% of full light. Eastern Hemlock also appears to inhibit the growth of other species underneath its canopy, so it is not unusual to find large stands of Hemlock with very little undergrowth. You can see this on the uphill side of the Brook Trail.
6. What Lies Beneath
Here by this bridge with a railing (Thank you, Trailmasters!), stop and take a close look at the rill draining the hillside and flowing into the ravine stream. Notice two different colors of mud lining the rill bottom and sides-a brown color and an interesting bluish-gray color.
What you are seeing is a geologic phenomenon known as the “Presumpscot Formation” that underlies much of the Maine coast and extends well inland along major river valleys. It is named after the Presumpscot River where large amounts of the characteristic bluish-gray clay are found. The brown color is caused by oxidation of the bluish layer.
This material was once part of an undersea deposit, left there from the glacial grinding of the feldspars, quartz, and micas found in this region. (Topsham was once the site of many feldspar quarries.) Glacial meltwater carried the abraded material to the sea floor, which subsequently rebounded as much as 300 feet as the glacier receded. The age of the Presumpscot Formation has been calculated by radiocarbon dating of fossilized remains of marine organism found interspersed among the deposits. What you are seeing, then, can be anywhere from 11,000 to 14,000 years old!
Sources of information:
7. Maine’s State Tree
Here is another native conifer of our Maine woods, the Eastern White Pine. Its needles are always held in bunches of five. (All pines hold their needles in bunches; the number in each bunch is indicative of the species. Of our other common species, red pine has two needles per bunch; pitch pine has 3.) The needles of White Pine are 2-6 inches long and appear silvery. The White Pine is important economically as well ecologically.
Each tree can produce both male and female cones. The small, clustered male cones produce pollen-that yellow dusty film that seems to cover everything in late spring. Female cones are 3-8” long, curved slightly and have smooth scales; they produce seeds that are favored by black bears, rabbits, red squirrels and many birds, especially red crossbills, making them an important food source for many species.
8. Spring Beauty
At this station, please notice a small native plant that you are likely to see on trails throughout our area—if you are looking closely. Like so many of our native woodland plants, it blooms in the spring before the leafy canopy limits the amount of sunlight that reaches the forest floor.
Trailing Arbutus, aka Mayflower, has an exquisite fragrance, but you will have to be here early in the spring and search among the fallen leaves to find the five-parted white to pale pink flowers. Look for its mat of broad, oval, leathery, evergreen leaves. Its fruit is a whitish berry, somewhat resembling a raspberry.
9. Another Wildflower Treasure
10. FIRm, Flat and Friendly
The Balsam Fir highlighted here is especially well-known because of its fragrance and popularity as a Christmas tree. It is quite easy to differentiate from other conifers- just think “Firm, flat and friendly!”