Difficulty: Easy. The trails travel over fairly even terrain. Watch for tree roots and rocks.
How to get there: In Orono, the Jeremiah Colburn Natural Area can be accessed by several trailheads.
A very small parking area (fits one or two vehicles) is located at the end of Forest Hills Terrace, which is off Forest Avenue, west of where Forest Avenue intersects with Bennoch Road. Take care not to block the driveway at the end of the street. A trail leads into the trail network from the parking area.
The trail network can also be accessed via the Cota Trail Head off Forest Avenue, a few tenths of a mile east of Forest Hills Terrace. This trail head does not have a parking area. Park well off the road.
A trail head is also located halfway down Winterhaven Drive on the left. Winterhaven Drive is located off Bennoch Road, north of where Bennoch Road intersects with Forest Avenue.
And farther north on Bennoch Road is Godfrey Drive, another point of access. A trailhead is located about halfway down Godfrey Drive on the left.
For a map of the trails, visit oronolandtrust.org/wordpress/?page_id=146.
Information: The Jeremiah Colburn Natural Area was purchased by Orono Land Trust and donated to the Town of Orono in 1988. On the land, walkers can enjoy a small trail network (more than a mile of intersecting trails), plus a trail (about 0.7 mile, according to the map) that leads north to Tech Park. Additional land, donated to the trust in 1994 by Virginia and Ron Mallett, added the Cota Trail Head.
(Jeremiah Colburn settled Orono in 1774 with Joshua Ayers.)
The main trails are marked with white blazes, though some side trails are marked in other paint colors. Wooden bridges span a stream that runs through the property, and several natural features are marked with simple signs, including the “Big Old Tree,” an enormous white pine that is featured in the Orono Land Trust logo. The old tree stands amidst a forest of tall evergreens.
Other signs point out the “pineapple tree,” a pine and an apple tree growing together; “lightning tree,” a white pine hit twice by lightning; and “porcupine tree,” a porcupine den with a huge deposit of porcupine droppings at its base.
I was quite taken aback when I first came upon this massive pile of poop, having seen nothing like it before. Worried that it was some sort of joke and not a true natural feature, I did some research and found the story “A Curious Find: Porcupine ‘Poop’ Trees,” written by Ed McGuire and Daniel Evans of the Connecticut Division of Forestry. In the story, which appeared in the “Connecticut Wildlife” newsletter in the May/June 2012 edition, the two authors describe a porcupine “poop” tree they found in Connecticut. The hollow sugar maple with porcupine droppings spilling from an opening at the bottom was similar to the Orono tree.
“Dens are used mostly in the winter … Where there are no caves, hollow trees and logs are used as dens. Individuals may use the same suite of dens year after year,” they wrote, which explains how such a pile can be formed beneath a hollow tree.
McGuire and Evens snuck up to the maple and spied the tail of a porcupine inside the hollow tree. I didn’t think to look into the hollow, but now I wonder what I might have seen.
To find all of these trees, simply follow signs pointing toward Sally’s Field, located near Bennoch Road (west side of the natural area). The field is mowed annually to maintain a field habitat.
Dogs are allowed if on a leash. For information about this trail network and other trails maintained by the Orono Land Trust, visit oronolandtrust.org, call Orono Land Trust President Jim Hinds at 866-3854 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Personal note: People often ask me where I get ideas for places to hike. I have several sources. Readers often give me great suggestions; guidebooks, such as the “AMC Maine Mountain Guide,” are useful; and a multitude of internet sources also give me ideas. When looking for a short walk through the woods, I often visit the Maine Land Trust Network website, www.mltn.org, and search for land trusts by county. That’s what I did on March 3, when the weather was less than ideal (freezing rain) and the snow was melting. It seemed like the perfect day for a short trail located near my home in the Bangor area.
Through www.mltn.org, I found the Orono Land Trust and their list of trails, which included the trails of Jeremiah Colburn Natural Area. Rain clouds and sun were battling overhead as I parked at the end of Forest Hill Terrace and plodded through the mud, over a melting snow bank and into the woods. One moment, I was sloshing through the snow with freezing rain dripping down the tall white pines onto my head, and the next, I’d was peering through my rain-splattered sunglasses at blue skies.
It wasn’t long before my spirits were lifted by a number of animals. Aside from a ridiculous number of noisy crows, I saw three pileated woodpeckers, a ruffed grouse high up in a white pine, two white-tailed deer running through the woods, several red squirrels chasing each other, chickadees and other songbirds I can’t identify. Add that to a big pile of porcupine poop and you’ve got a pretty exciting hike.