Difficulty: Moderate. The loop trail on the preserve is about 1.5 miles long and features plenty of exposed tree roots and rocks that can make footing tricky. The trail travels up and over small but steep hills.
Information: Covering 95 acres in the coastal town of Harpswell, Long Reach Preserve features one of the longest hiking trails in the area — a 1.5-mile loop trail that explores two prominent bedrock ridges and the shore of Long Reach. Cutting across the Loop Trail, the Bog Trail (which is about 0.5 mile long) travels along the edge of a peat bog, which is located between the two ridges.
The preserve is owned and maintained by the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust, which has conserved more than 1,600 acres in Harpswell and surrounding towns.
From the preserve parking area, a trail enters the forest to visit a kiosk that displays a trail map, preserve guidelines and a map of other land trust properties. Continuing north, the trail is marked with light yellow blazes. The forest is mixed, composed of a variety of evergreens as well as plenty of maple and oak trees. It would be a colorful place to walk at the height of fall foliage season.
The forest floor is fairly uneven throughout the preserve, with tangled tree roots and angular rocks jutting through the soil. Watch your step.
After just a short stretch, the trail turns west and crosses a wide wooden footbridge over a small brook. Immediately after, the trail splits into the Loop Trail. This can be hiked in either direction. At the far end of the loop, the trail travels near the shore of Long Reach to a viewpoint and beach access. There you’ll find tall red pine trees and rugged cliffs, eroded by the ocean’s waves.
When the trail isn’t traveling along the water, it’s passing over and around interesting rock outcroppings and ledges. Between the two ridges on the property is a long peat bog, which is visited by the Loop Trail and the Bog Trail. The bog features some interesting plants, including cotton sedge, sphagnum moss, cranberries and orchids.
The preserve is a great place to observe wildlife because it features several forest types and is a part of a block of more than 500 acres of uninterrupted conserved land. Songbirds are plentiful throughout the forest, and a variety of shorebirds hunt in Long Reach, which is a submerged valley that turns into mudflats at low tide.
The trails on the preserve are for foot traffic only. Trail use is free. Camping and fires are not permitted. Hunting is allowed, and trapping is allowed with written permission from the land trust. Dogs are permitted but must be kept on leash during bird nesting season, April 15 through July 31. At all other times, dogs must be kept under control and not bother wildlife, neighbors or other trail users. Carry out all dog waste.
For more information, visit hhltmaine.org or call 207-721-1121.
Personal note: The sun filtered through the trees of Long Reach Preserve on Monday, creating long shadows just past midday. A small, pale moth fluttered across the trail. Water dripped from rock ledges topped with lush moss.
The roar of traffic from the nearby road faded as I walked farther into the woods. Before long, it was replaced by the songs of chickadees and gold-crowned kinglets.
Hiking alone, I took my sweet time and stopped to inspect many beautiful natural sights, including a pure white boulder protruding from a bed of moss, a stack of pale orange tree mushrooms and a giant burl growing on the side of an otherwise skinny tree.
My favorite sight, however, was the small cliffs along the shore. I know next to nothing about geology, but I can tell you that the rock was multi-hued with fragile, wavy layers. Some of it sparkled. And in some places, water ran down over the rock to rain on the rocky beach and piles of seaweed below.
Near one of these cliffs, I sat in the sun, listened to the soothing sound of the dripping water and inspected shards of glittering rocks, dotted with tiny periwinkles. It was one of those quiet moments, wrapped in nature, that I’ll always cherish.
How to get there: The preserve is located at 648 Harpswell Islands Road in Harpswell. From Cook’s Corner in Brunswick, follow Route 24 south for 6.8 miles, then turn right into the parking lot for the Trufant-Summerton Ball Field. Park on the right (north) side of the parking lot near the green “Long Reach Preserve” sign that’s posted on a tree. The trailhead is just right of the sign.
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