Difficulty: Easy to moderate. The 1-mile trail travels over some small hills and can be slippery in areas, especially after rain. The forest floor has been smoothed to a degree, and crushed rock has been added to some areas to improve traction on the sandy soil and prevent erosion. Narrow wooden bog bridges and short rock and wooden staircases have been added in several locations throughout the trail to aid hikers in navigating slopes and soggy areas. The trail is well marked with blue blazes, making it easy to follow.
Information: The Jordan Homestead Preserve is a 31-acre property that was owned by the Jordan family for more than 200 years before being acquired by the Frenchman Bay Conservancy in 2017. It features 3,000 feet of frontage on the Union River, mature forestland and a stretch of the scenic Whittaker Brook, as well as a field that contains a small cemetery and large, fenced-in vegetable garden.
An interactive online story about the property was created by the conservation group. It reveals that the Jordan family first acquired the property and established a homestead in the 1700s through a French land grant.
The family worked with the Frenchman Bay Conservancy to preserve the property, which was made possible through donations. In May of 2019, the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund awarded $15,000 to the land trust to create a parking area and improve a public trail on the preserve, and the city of Ellsworth matched the grant with a $2,500 contribution.
Frenchman Bay Conservancy staff, the Maine Conservation Corps and a group of volunteers logged more than 300 hours of time working on the new trail during the summer of 2019. In October, it officially opened to the public.
Starting at a spacious gravel parking lot on Bayside Road, the trail begins as a wide mowed path that strikes through a field and along the edge of a fenced-in vegetable garden. The old cemetery is located right by the parking lot. As you walk through the field, take note of the nesting box for bluebirds to your right.
At the west edge of the field, the trail enters the forest and narrows. It’s marked with blue blazes, which are painted on tree trunks.
In about one-tenth of a mile, the trail splits into a loop that’s about 0.8 miles long. If you veer right, hiking the loop counterclockwise, you’ll soon meet the banks of the swift-moving Whittaker Brook.
Moving away from the brook, the trail continues through a mixed forest that features a variety of trees. At the beginning of the hike are some maple and aspen trees, but these are soon replaced by mostly evergreens, including cedar, pine, spruce and balsam fir. The trail also passes some large white and yellow birch trees.
The trail is a great example of the different types of structures that can be built to prevent erosion and make a trail more scenic and interesting. In just a short loop, the trail features a scenic wooden footbridge, a few small rock staircases, a rock wall, long stretches of wooden bog bridges and wooden steps. Also, about halfway around the loop, is a wooden bench on a rise above the Union River.
Much of the trail travels near the banks of the Union River, which is visible through the trees. There’s no official path down to the water, but the trail does offer some nice views.
The trail is constructed for foot traffic only. Access is free. Dogs are permitted on leash or under voice command. Hunting is not permitted.
For more information, visit frenchmanbay.org or call the Frenchman Bay Conservancy at 207-422-2328.
Personal note: As I stepped out of my vehicle, the first thing I noticed was a line of large deer prints pressed into the damp gravel parking area. It had been snowing and raining for days, and the clouds still hovered, blocking the sun. Despite the cold and gloomy weather, my dog Oreo was excited to be on an adventure, however small.
My agenda was to explore the Jordan Homestead Preserve trail, which had just opened a few weeks prior. Oreo’s agenda was to get as muddy as possible. He was wired from being cooped up indoors, and this energy manifested in rolling around on the ground and squirming against my legs every time I stopped to film or photograph. By the time we finished our hike, his jacket was coated with mud, dead leaves and God only knows what else.
The forest was filled with vibrant moss the crept up tree trunks and covered small boulders. Green ferns rested low to the ground as if waiting to be covered with snow. Chickadees sang high in the trees, accompanied by some other birds that I couldn’t identify.
I’d read that ruffed grouse are common on the property, so I was prepared to be spooked by one at any moment. A chicken-like bird, grouse tend to wait until the last minute to rise up and fly away, making a racket in the process and earning a reputation for scaring the pants off people. We didn’t cross paths with one that day, and I suspect that had something to do with me cursing at Oreo every time he lunged after a squirrel. We were far too noisy to sneak up on anything.
Overall, I loved the trail. It’s scenic. It’s interesting. And being so close to the water and a field, it’s a great place to spot wildlife. If you visit after a good rain, then I suggest you wear waterproof shoes with good traction. The sandy soil can be slippery when wet, and if you fall, you may end up as muddy as Oreo.
How to get there: The preserve parking lot is on Bayside Road (Route 230) in Ellsworth, between Lundin Way and Pioneer Farm Way. To get there from Route 1 in downtown Ellsworth, turn onto Water Street, following it south along the Union River for 1.5 miles??, then turn right into the parking area at the preserve sign. (Along the way, Water Street turns into Bayside Road.)
For more of Aislinn Sarnacki’s adventures, visit bangordailynews.com/act-out. Follow Aislinn Sarnacki on Twitter: @1minhikegirl, and Instagram: @actoutdoors. Her guidebooks “Family Friendly Hikes in Maine,” “Maine Hikes Off the Beaten Path” and “Dog-Friendly Hikes in Maine” are available at local bookstores and wherever books are sold.