After a stretch of rain and gloomy weather, the forecast called for the sun to break through the clouds at last. So there we were, parked at the trailhead for Trenton Community Trail, listening to the pitter patter of rain on the windshield.
Where was the predicted sun? Gray clouds scuttled overhead. We had two options: drive away defeated or brave the rain. We chose the latter. It was just a sprinkle, after all.
The start of the trail was a giant puddle, but it didn’t discourage me. I recalled the wet section from visiting the trail years prior.
“It gets better,” I assured my husband, Derek, as we edged around the water.
Our dog, Juno, needed no such reassurance. She would have preferred there to be more puddles, and extra mud, too.
Marked with bright blue blazes, the trail threaded through tree trunks covered with crusty green lichen. Neon orange gobs of jelly fungi clung to branches. And ghostly white clusters of coral mushrooms dotted the dark forest floor, pushing aside the rotting leaves to stretch their ghostly arms.
The 1.8-mile Trenton Community Trail is located on forestland that surrounds the Acadia Gateway Center in Trenton, where visitors can hop on a bus to explore the nearby Acadia National Park. Friends of Acadia purchased the property in 2007, then worked with the Town of Trenton to plan and construct the trail from 2009 to 2013.
In December of 2013, Friends of Acadia placed a conservation easement on the property to restrict development and allow for public recreation before donating it to the Town of Trenton.
I first visited the trail in early December of 2014, and it “surpassed my expectations,” according to my notes about the trip. During that chilly hike, I was joined by my dog, Oreo, who has since passed away. The temperatures were in the 20s, and the big puddle at the beginning of the trail was starting to ice over. Oreo wore a fleece jacket for warmth, and patches of snow covered the mossy forest floor.
I think the quality of Trenton Community Trail surprised me because it’s tucked away in a small town and doesn’t see nearly as much foot traffic as nearby trails in Acadia. About 0.5-mile from the trailhead, the trail splits into a loop that’s 1.2 miles long. And at the far end of the loop is a 0.1-mile spur trail that leads to a short bog boardwalk and viewing platform.
Spaced throughout the hike, interpretive panels with color photos offer information about some of the natural and historical features on the property. For example, on the bog boardwalk, a panel describes how the bog started as a lake thousands of years ago, then slowly filled with sphagnum moss and peat. As the bog became more acidic, plants such as black spruce and tamarack trees adapted to those conditions and started to grow.
Another interesting aspect of the trail is its two wooden footbridges, which span small brooks.
During our recent rainy hike of the trail, we heard the roar of the brook long before we spotted its churning waters. White froth gathered along its banks, beneath the tall, lacy forms of vibrant green ferns. The recent rainfall had filled the waterway to the brim, but the sturdy bridge carried us safely across.
As it turns out, Trenton Community Trail is the perfect place to explore after a good rain — or, in our case, during the tail end of it. That is, if you wear waterproof boots. While much of the trail was dry, there were a few puddles here and there, including one giant puddle at the intersection where the trail splits into a big loop.
Soggy moss, slippery tree roots and water-speckled leaves. The rain-soaked forest was a beautiful, soothing place to walk. As we made our way around the loop, the rain let up and sunlight streamed through the canopy.
Fresh, vibrant mushrooms were everywhere, likely due to the recent rain. Fungi need water to grow, so you might notice new fruiting bodies emerge just after a shower.
Tiny mushrooms with waxy red caps grew in clusters along the trail, as did a bright yellow mushroom variety. Its long, spindle-shaped clubs, shooting up and to the sides, reminded me of a carton of McDonald’s fries. According to my mushroom guidebooks, it’s a type of coral fungus.
I stopped to photograph mushrooms so frequently during the hike that Derek started pointing out mushrooms farther down the trail just to move me along. I caught onto his tactic at about the fourth time he pointed a mushroom out that wasn’t really that interesting.
If you decide to explore the Trenton Community Trail yourself, be sure to follow the blue blazes. A few old woods roads cross the trail, and they could easily lead you astray.
Hunting is permitted on the property, so wear blaze orange and other bright colors to increase your visibility during hunting seasons. Camping, fires, motorized vehicles and bicycles are prohibited. Dogs are permitted but must be kept under control at all times.
As we made our way back to the trailhead, we ran into a local resident walking two friendly Dobermanns off leash. He told us that they hiked the trail often. Juno made friends, especially with the youngest dog, which was about her age.
Then we walked past a couple and their leashed dog (mixed breed) just before reaching the parking lot. So, while the trail is quiet compared to others in the area, there’s no guarantee you’ll have it all to yourself. Some people have discovered it and love it. I count myself among them.
How to get there: A large paved parking area for the trail is located at the end of Gateway Center Drive, which is on the west side of Route 3 in Trenton. To get there from Ellsworth, start where Route 1-Route 3 splits and take Route 3 south toward Mount Desert Island. Drive for about 4.9 miles to Gateway Center Drive, a wide paved road that will be on your right. Drive to the parking area at the end of the drive, at the turnaround. The trail kiosk and trailhead are visible from the parking area.