Difficulty: Easy to moderate. A network of intersecting trails on the property offer 3 to 4 miles of hiking. The types of trails vary from wide, mowed paths to rock- and root-filled forest trails. In general, the trails become more challenging the farther you travel from the nature center.
Information: Covering 229 acres of forests, fields and wetlands in Holden and Orrington, Fields Pond Audubon Center is a place to simply enjoy nature. On the property, more than 130 bird species and 20 varieties of butterflies have been documented, as well as a diversity of reptiles, amphibians and mammals.
Owned and managed by the Maine Audubon, the preserve features a trail network that leads visitors through a number of different habitats, from fields that are maintained for ground-nesting birds to a mature conifer forest. The property also includes the northeast shore of Fields Pond, a 119-acre body of water that has long been a popular place to paddle, swim, skate and fish.
Near the parking lot is a building called the L. Robert Rolde Nature Center, which was named after the Bangor-born, nature-loving father of a top Audubon donor. Public programs are held in the center year round. In addition, the building holds a shop filled with nature-themed items, and offices for staff.
The trails on the property are named after defining natural features that they visit. The Meadow Trail is a wide, mowed path that travels along the edge of a meadow, where birds raise their young in wooden nesting boxes. The Marsh Trail travels along the edge of another meadow to views of an expansive marsh. And branching off of that, the short Frog Pond Trail ends at a platform and bench at the edge of a small pond that’s frequented by amphibians.
The Fern Trail strikes through a mostly hardwood forest that’s filled with ferns. The connecting Ravine Trail heads uphill into a more shaded forest filled with giant white pines and tall hemlock trees to travel along the edge of a ravine. This trail also dips down into the ravine to cross the brook that runs through it, so expect a few short, steep slopes.
Striking west, the Brook Trail follows the brook to connect the Ravine Trail to the Lakeshore Trail. And the Lakeshore Trail traces the edge of Fields Pond to open views of the water. Along the way, it travels through a shady conifer forest filled with white cedar trees. There are quite a few rocks and exposed tree roots, making footing tricky in some places.
In addition, some short, mowed paths wind around the nature center, where bird feeders and wildlife-friendly plantings, such as bushes, attract a wide variety of birds.
Throughout the property are benches placed in strategic spots for wildlife watching, as well as scenic footbridges, long stretches of bog bridging, rock steps and other interesting trail features. A large picnic table is located near the parking lot, where you’ll find a kiosk displaying a trail map and property guidelines.
The preserve is open year round from dawn until dusk. Dogs are not permitted. The nature center is usually open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, with hours varying on Saturday. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the building is closed until further notice. For more information, visit maineaudubon.org/visit/fields-pond/ or call 207-989-2591.
Personal note: I started my adventure at the frog pond, one of my favorite spots at Field Pond Audubon Center and just a short walk from the parking lot. As I sat on the wooden deck by the water’s edge, a song sparrow sang a sweet tune from a nearby perch. A mass of pale green salamander eggs hovered just under the pond’s surface. And as I looked closer, I noticed something peculiar — tiny clusters of grass and wood, pieced together like miniature sculptures, moving quite deliberately along submerged tree branches. Fascinated, I leaned closer, soaking my pigtails in the process, and found several of these slow-moving structures.
As usual, I let my curiosity get the best of me. Carefully, I scooped up one of these mysterious creatures to inspect it out of the water. The adhered snippets of organic matter — which included a hollow reed, a grass blade and a tiny stick — truly looked like art. At first glance, it didn’t appear to be alive at all, but then I found the hole. Inside, a tiny creature waved a number of legs at me. Later, I would learn that number was six. It was a caddisfly.
As I often do after an outing, I conducted a little online research. Right away, I came across an especially useful resource: an educational packet called “Wonderful, Wacky Water Critters” published by the University of Wisconsin-Extension. In it, I learned that caddisfly larvae build shelters out of a variety of natural materials, adhering it all together with silk. I then fell down a rabbit hole of caddisfly artwork by Hubert Duprat, who placed caddisfly larvae in aquariums filled with gold, pearls and precious gems. The insects then built their homes out of those materials, creating tiny masterpieces.
Placing the caddisfly (and it’s mobile home) back into the water, I was pleased to see it instantly grasp back into the same stick it was crawling on before. No harm done.
Another highlight of my visit to Fields Pond on May 13 was the discovery of my first trillium of the year. Producing a large, three-petaled, maroon flower, this woodland plant is also known as stinking Benjamin because it emits a bad odor. Realizing I’d never actually smelled a trillium before, I gave it a sniff. I can now confirm that yes, it smells bad. I’ve heard the scent described as “wet dog” or “rotting meat.” That sounds about right.
A strong wind that day kept many birds hunkered down and silent, but I did observe a few blue jays, goldfinches and black-capped chickadees, as well as a mourning dove, house finch and savannah sparrow. While I was told that bluebirds and sparrows were using the nesting boxes in the fields, and a wood duck was using a nesting box on the edge of the pond, I didn’t spot any of those species during my short visit. I’d love to capture a photo of a bluebird, so now I have an excuse to return again soon.
How to get there: The physical address is 216 Fields Pond Road in Holden. It’s located just 7 miles outside of Bangor. The large gravel parking lot is well marked.
Aislinn Sarnacki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Facebook: facebook.com/1minhikegirl, 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.