Originally published in Seasonal Guide, June 27, 2014
Three destination hikes
Seeking nature’s treasures along the way
by Peter Cooperdock
Three destination hikes, as opposed to loop hikes, of less than an hour each offer multiple sources of interest along their ways. Each hike has a reward at its end, but there are lots of observations to make along the way.
Pine Hill Preserve Blastow Cove Road, Little Deer Isle, Island Heritage Trust
A little effort brings a big reward at the Pine Hill Reserve on Little Deer Isle. Found on Blastow Cove Road behind the church, a small parking area on the right signifies the trail head. The gentle grade through a typical spruce-balsam fir forest along the old quarry road lulls the hiker into a sedentary pace.
Peering into the woods, deep mats of moss suggest abundant moisture from coastal rain and fog.
Old Man’s Beard, an epiphytic lichen, can be found on several trees along the trail and are reminiscent of Spanish moss.
Enjoy this gentle grade and wide path under the forest canopy until the surprising revelation of the old quarry site. The trail bursts into the open flat area before the cliff face which remains from the quarry operation. Unique volcanic rocks formed here which can be spotted on the cliff face. Several large nodules of green serpentine peridotite can be spotted as evidence of the tectonic collision of 400 million years ago.
Amazed by this marvel, the best is yet to come, one not without effort. A steep, rocky trail leads out of the right side of the quarry site up to the top of the Pine Hill. This is a rugged trail which may require assistance from fellow hikers as the trail climbs uneven rocks fashioned into crude steps. Once at the top, partially covered with a healthy white pine population, the hiker gets a panoramic view of Little Deer Isle, Eggemoggin Reach, the Deer Isle-Sedgwick Bridge and across to the mainland and on to Mount Desert Island.
The summit is also partially closed off to the public. Scientific research has discovered unique vegetation, some of which is found no where else in Maine. The chemistry of the rocks has created soils which are found nowhere else in the state. These plants have been protected to assure their long term occupation of this special place.
Other, not as rare gems can be found, including maidenhair fern.This interesting fern differs in character from most common ferns with its flat almost circular leaflets attached to its thin stems.
As always, take only pictures, and stay on the trail. The cliff face is unstable and dangerous.
Peter’s Brook Trail and A.B. Herrick Memorial Landing, Route 176, East Blue Hill, Blue Hill Heritage Trust
This delightful little trail has a plethora of enjoyment. A moderately strenuous, 20 minute round trip can easily consume two hours as one enjoys the offerings along the way. The hiker needs to remember this trail is an easement across private property and not stray off the trail.
The parking area at the A.B. Memorial Landing provides some parking for this adventure, which can be coupled with a kayak or canoe launched into Peter’s Cove. Another parking area is available further east. Safely cross the road and walk facing traffic to reach the trail head to the east of Peter’s Brook. The view north from the road at Peter’s Brook suggests an old mill site.
As the hiker enters the trail, the dense white pine canopy removes the brightness of the highway and muffles the sounds of traffic. The forest under the canopy is filled with cedar, balsam fir, red oak, and spruce as the trail parallels Peter’s Brook to the left. The trail is relatively level for the first part with an abundance of glacial erratics, large boulders left by the glacier, scattered throughout the surrounding forest.
The roar of the brook increases at bedrock outcrops as the trail begins an ascent to the right. The brook has the water flow constricted by the bedrock which crosses the brook’s path. The hiker ponders the force of the water needed to make this flume. The bedrock is covered with polypody ferns, attractive epiphytic ferns commonly found clinging to bedrock or boulder faces.
As the hiker ascends the trail, a patch of trailing arbutus, also known as mayflower, can be found. The small pink or white fragrant spring flowers sprouting on trailing vines were once over-harvested and sold to the point of extinction in some areas. Its shiny green leaves and spreading character form dense ground cover.
The forest canopy contains increasing numbers of spruce to complement the white pine. A few muddy patches occupy the trail as seasonal wetland drainages cross the trail. Peter’s Brook continues along the right side with interesting views from the increased elevation. Several sightings of small waterfalls add to the enjoyment of the trail. Patches of wintergreen, a small evergreen shrub, can be noted along the trail. Wintergreen is the source of the common flavoring used in chewing gum and other products. A leaf can be picked and chewed to give that oral sensation, especially useful if the hiker is thirsty and has no water to drink. Care must be taken to avoid over-consuming as the oil can be toxic in high quantities.
Patches of reindeer lichen and moss can be seen along some of the barren patches along the trail. This slow-growing host of algae and fungi is very delicate and can be easily destroyed if stepped on.
Another little gift along the way to our final destination is a remnant of the historical stonecutter’s art. A piece of cut stone left over from the chiseling of a stone foundation for a local home reveals bore holes, used to crack the rock, along smooth faces.
The best is yet to come, as the trail terminates in an impressively accessible bedrock-shrouded waterfall and pool. Shaded and sunny locations are available for either preference as a leisurely moment or hour are spent absorbed in the interaction of flowing water and static earth. The sounds surround the experience with an enveloping capture of entrancement.
Rejuvenated from the immersion, the hiker descends the trail to enter the rest of the day with brighter steps and greater calm. An easy hike can become an adventure through the observation of the details available along the way.
Greenbie Natural Area Route 166A, north of the Castine Transfer Station, Castine, Maine Coast Heritage Trust
The field is crossed to a trail sign at the edge of the woods at the remnants of a stonewall. Wild strawberries and blueberries greet the hiker in the field at the right time of year. The forest canopy begins dominated with relatively young red maple, balsam fir, and white ash, making for an open forest.
Multiple blow-downs and toppled branches may be the result of our recent ice storm and windy winter. Fallen trees, signs of recent trail clearings, suggest this is a popular and well-maintained trail. Following the gentle grade along the natural ground, care must be taken to observe roots and rocks along the way. Spruce becomes dominant as the trail progresses further into the forest. As the trail begins a slow descent, the forest floor becomes covered with more vegetation such as ferns, gold thread, and clusters of skunk cabbage in wetter locations.
Moss-covered logs provide nursery grounds for increased growth.
Two seasonal streams can be easily crossed along the way.
The trail levels off through a perennial wet area. Adequate footwear is recommended under a predominately hardwood canopy. The trail soon ends at its property line with a view of a beaver pond lined with tamaracks, sedges, cattails, and phragmites, an invasive perennial species which has found its way even to this remote location.
The beaver pond is not on the natural area property; please respect property rights and refrain from entering the pond area. The view is adequate from the trail end.
On the return journey, ascending the trail, the natural sounds of the forest become more evident. Red squirrels chatter their insistent warning to other animals of the arrival of a threatening species. Or are they laughing? Woodpeckers pound away with intense hammering on dead or dying trees in search of insects. The osprey sends a piercing cry into the sky above. Scraping trees whine and moan in the wind. A 20-minute hike each way can easily last two hours through the observation of the many gifts along the way.