Difficulty: Easy. Gould Landing Trail is about 0.5 mile long and travels over a forest floor that includes rocks and exposed tree roots. Exercise care when walking over the narrow bog bridges.
Information: Gould Landing Trail is an easy hiking trail that’s managed by the Orono Land Trust near the shore of Pushaw Lake in Orono. Forming a loop, the trail measures about 0.5 mile, not including a short side trail and a cut-off trail that bisects the loop.
The trail is mostly located on a 38-acre parcel of land that’s owned by the Maine Department of Transportation. The property features upland forest on the shore of Pushaw Lake, as well as wetlands and two islands in Pushaw Lake. A trail easement given by private landowner Glen Young in 2003 made it possible for a walking trail to be created on the property because his land bridged a gap between the trailhead and the state-owned property. The land has since switched hands, but the easement remains.
The hike begins at the parking lot for Gould’s Landing, which is a boat launch on the south end of Pushaw Lake. The largest body of water in the Bangor area, Pushaw Lake covers more than 4,600 acres and is a popular place for water sports and fishing.
Connected to the landing is the town-owned Nadeau-Savoy Memorial Park, which was dedicated in 1972 to Larry Joseph Nadeau and Clayton Edward Savoy, two Orono veterans who died in the Vietnam War. The park features an open green space, a few small beaches, covered picnic areas, trash cans, small gardens and portable outhouses.
Just across the road from the park and landing, the trailhead for Gould Landing Trail is marked with a kiosk at the edge of the woods. The kiosk displays a trail map and visitor guidelines. Beyond it, the trail immediately enters the woods and is marked with blue painted blazes.
The trail passes over a series of narrow bog bridges and over a few small, rocky hills as it travels deeper into the forest. One of those humps of land is known as Pantyhose Hill and is the location of an old dump where an “inordinate amount of panyhose” were found, according to Orono Land Trust. A sign marks this landmark.
The forest features a wide variety of trees. Red oak, white cedar, sugar maple, hemlock, bigtooth aspen and white ash are among the many tree species that line the trail. Much of the forest is deciduous (or leafy), which makes it a great place to view fall foliage. And in the spring, woodland flowers called trillium bloom throughout the forest.
Clockwise from left: Gould Landing Trail in Orono features a few narrow bog bridges; a kiosk marks the trailhead; a vibrant leaf dots the forest floor on Sept. 23. Credit: Aislinn Sarnacki / BDN
Just over 0.1 mile into the woods, the trail splits into a loop that can be hiked in either direction. If you veer left, hiking the loop clockwise, you’ll soon come to two old benches at a location with partial views of the nearby wetlands. A bit further on is a short side trail to another bench and partial view.
Continuing on, the trail loops around and visits a glacial erratic, which is a boulder that was moved and dropped off by a glacier thousands of years ago. Near this boulder, a cut-off trail bisects the main loop trail, though it isn’t very noticeable.
Throughout the hike, keep an eye out for resident wildlife. The trail is a good birding location, according to the Orono Land Trust. Visitors often spot woodpeckers and other forest birds, such as chickadees, blue jays, hermit thrushes, ruffed grouses and wild turkeys. And near the marsh and lake, visitors sometimes spot great blue herons, egrets, a variety of ducks and bald eagles.
Trail access is free. Dogs are permitted if kept under control at all times. While at the landing and exploring the park, all dogs must be kept on leash no longer than 8 feet in length, per town ordinance. Furthermore, dog waste must be properly disposed of; trash cans are located throughout the park.
Personal note: I only had time for a quick outdoor excursion close to home on Wednesday, so I decided to finally check out the Gould Landing Trail. I’d seen the trailhead several times while using the boat landing, but hadn’t ventured down the path.
Joined by my husband Derek and our dog Oreo, I followed the loop, stopping to admire the bright colors of newly fallen bigtooth aspen leaves. Some red maple leaves were also turning color, with blotches of red bleeding into the green. In another week or two, the walk will be much more colorful, I think.
At the viewpoints (which are really just glimpses of the wetlands), we were startled by the loud squawks of two great blue herons as they flew over the wetlands. At first, when I could only hear them, I thought they were crows. But then we spotted them through the trees, their large bodies and wings, combined with long, dangling legs, made identification easy. It appeared as if they were fighting, perhaps over a meal, but that’s just a guess.
Some time later, a ruffed grouse erupted from a bed of ferns and other understory plants, taking us by surprise. It flew off and disappeared among the trees before I could snap a photo.
We wrapped up our mini adventure by venturing down to the small sandy beach on Pushaw Lake to let Oreo wade into the water. Stirred up by a brisk wind, waves lapped the shore. The last of this year’s wildflowers — asters, goldenrods and Queen Anne’s lace — danced nearby. Oaks were raining acorns. Fall had arrived.
Directions: Parking is at Gould’s Landing in Orono, which is located at the north end of Essex Street, where it intersects with Gould Road and Hemlock Point Road. This is approximately 6 miles north of where Essex Street intersects with Stillwater Avenue in Bangor.
To park, a free parking pass is required. The pass is available through the Town of Orono website at orono.org on the Parks and Recreation Department page. The permit is for Nadeau-Savoy Memorial Park and Gould’s Landing. While the town processes your application, you’re given the option to print out a temporary pass, which you should display on the dashboard of your vehicle.
Aislinn Sarnacki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her 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.