Home Nature preserves New Gouldsboro Preserve features a 2 mile trail through enchanting woods and wetlands

New Gouldsboro Preserve features a 2 mile trail through enchanting woods and wetlands


It’s a challenge to find color in the middle of a Maine winter, when there are so many
rotten to brown or covered with white. But in the forest and wetlands of Day Ridges Preserve on December 13, as the sun hid behind a high layer of cloud, I found bits of rainbow strewn along the trails.

Plump red tea plants hanging under waxy leaves. Beds of soft moss and crunchy lichens formed a patchwork of varied greenery. Neon orange balls of gummy mushrooms clung to the bark of the trees. And atop a huge boulder stretched a colony of British soldier lichens, their seafoam green stems capped in brilliant red.

I found blue in the cool blazes that marked the trail. Splashes of paint marked the leaves of the plants in the undergrowth here and there, reminding me of the novelty of the trail system.

Day Ridges Preserve officially opened to the public in October. Owned and managed by the Frenchman Bay Conservancy, the property includes approximately 3 km of trails that were constructed during the summers of 2020 and 2021. More than 800 volunteer hours have gone into making them happen, according to the trust’s website. land.

A fir tree grows at the edge of Lower West Bay Pond near a boat launch at Day Ridges Preserve in Gouldsboro. Credit: Courtesy of Aislinn Sarnacki

Recent rain and unusually warm weather had melted snow off the landscape before our visit in mid-December. That, plus the overcast skies, made me worry that the wilderness looks dull in all the photos I take. I was wrong, however. Nature has a habit of exceeding my expectations.

My husband, Derek, joined me on the mini-adventure, along with our dog Juno. From the parking lot of the reserve, we started our walk by following a forest path closed to car traffic. Referring to the trail map (available online and at a kiosk at the trailhead) we knew we would soon find the first hiking trail on our right.

The network of trails is simple. It’s basically a big loop, with a smaller loop deriving from it. Still, I referred to my map when I reached the second trail intersection, just to make sure I followed the route I wanted. Never underestimate the value of a trail map, even for exploring small reserves.

The forest was home to a variety of trees, many of which were evergreen. We walked through swampy stands of white cedar trees and enjoyed the Christmas scent of balsam fir trees. Tall white pines towered over the sky. There were also spruce trees, but I won’t pretend to know what sort. I’m still learning the differences between the different spruce trees that are found in the Maine wilderness: black, white, red, blue and Norway.

Laurel sheep grew along the many sections of the trails. I can only imagine how beautiful it must be in summer, when the bushes are dotted with little pink flowers.

The trail led us to an area that had been inundated by beavers. A small side trail went down to the water’s edge, where we stood on a rock for a better view of the large beaver dam that blocked the flow of the creek. Dead trees stood in the gray, shallow water. It was a charming and frightening scene.

Continuing on the trail, we walked to the other side of the dam, where we crossed soggy ground on a series of narrow bog bridges. All around us, trees felled by beavers, their stumps cut into low peaks, their bark eaten away in patches.

British soldier lichen grows on top of a rock on December 13 at Day Ridges Preserve in Gouldsboro. Credit: Courtesy of Aislinn Sarnacki

We hiked the trail as a loop, marveling at the little wonders along the way. On a tree stump, two long bleached bones had been arranged to form an “X”. Was there any buried treasure underneath? From the size, I can only imagine that the bones are from a deer, and more specifically from its leg.

On another stump, I found four giant brown mushrooms growing around it like the petals of a flower. The larger one was about the size of a pie plate.

Some of my favorite stretches of trail were on long sections of bog bridges, perhaps because they crossed areas that would otherwise have been too soggy to comfortably walk through – and those areas tend to be lush with moss and other interesting vegetation. To everyone who took the time and effort to build these bridges, tip by tip, thank you.

Our route, which formed a large arc through the woods, brought us back to the woodland route. There we turned right (away from the trailhead) to walk to the end of the 1.2 mile road, where we hopped onto a trail to reach a canoe launching pad on Lower Pond West Bay.

The Frenchman Bay Conservancy stocks launch canoes that visitors can borrow during paddling season. To do this, you need to email the Land Trust Land Protection Officer Kat Deely at [email protected] so that you can retrieve the key that locks the canoes, as well as the paddles and paddles. life vest.

From launch, paddlers can explore Lower West Bay and Upper West Bay Ponds, home to a secluded campsite.

By mid-December, a thin layer of ice had formed over part of the pond. By the time we reached the water’s edge, Juno had already discovered the pleasure of breaking thin ice with his paws, then gnawing at it with his teeth. Fortunately she was on a leash, otherwise I think she would have voluntarily taken a bath in the freezing pond just to find more ice.

A sign indicates the Day Ridges Preserve parking lot in Gouldsboro. Credit: Courtesy of Aislinn Sarnacki

On the way back to the trailhead along the hilly forest road, Juno found more ice to conquer. A thin layer of frosty ice, marked with swirling lines, had formed over several puddles on the road. Juno rushed towards her, reared up dramatically and leapt up, crashing through the beautiful sight. We couldn’t help but laugh at his enthusiasm.

For more information on Day Ridges Preserve and the many other properties and trails at Frenchman Bay Conservancy, visit frenchmanbay.org or call 207-422-2328.

How to get to the Day Ridges Preserve: A gravel parking lot for the reserve is located near Highway 1 in Gouldsboro, 0.9 mile east of the intersection of Highway 1 and Highway 195. Coming from that direction, it will be on your left.