Difficulty: Easy-moderate. While this loop trail is just 1.5 miles and changes only slightly in elevation, it is a narrow, rocky and criss-crossed with exposed tree roots.
How to get there: The parking area to Central Penjajawoc Preserve is located off Essex Street in Bangor, approximately 400 feet south of the intersection of Burleigh Road and Essex Street. The parking area is across from 1242 Essex St. and next door (to the north of) 1231 Essex St. The short drive that leads to the parking area is easy to miss, though the trailhead kiosk can be seen from the road.
Information: Bangor Land Trust purchased Central Penjajawoc Preserve in two parcels totalling 87 acres in 2010 with funding from the Land for Maine’s Future and North American Wetlands Conservation Act programs. The following spring, they began mapping out a 1.5-mile loop trail, which officially opened Aug. 13, 2013.
The trail — which is well-marked with small, white BLT signs — is for pedestrians only. It has not been prepared for mountain bike use. Skis and snowshoes, however, are permitted.
To minimize impact on wildlife, BLT has decided that dogs are not allowed on the preserve. If on leashes, however, dogs are permitted on all other trails owned by the trust.
From the preserve parking area, the trail travels away from the busy street through tall evergreens. As the trail slopes slightly downhill, the city sounds begin to fade. Not far from the trailhead, the trail splits and the loop begins.
Much of the land is wetland habitat, but BLT managed to map out the trail so that the majority of it travels over dry land. Wide bog bridges span over the few wet sections of trail.
Wildlife is abundant in the preserve.
“There are lots of porcupine here that we’ve seen pretty frequently,” BLT President Lucy Quimby said at the trail’s opening ceremony on Aug. 13. “And we’ve seen tracks or scat for deer, moose, hare and other animals.”
The far end of the loop travels along the edge of Penjajawoc Marsh, where hikers should beware of a boundary of barbed wire fencing. The roughest section of the trail is along the edge of the marsh, where exposed tree roots and rocks make footing tricky. Also near the marsh, the trail travels alongside and then crosses an old stone wall.
Though BLT owns and maintains other parcels containing Penjajawoc Marsh wetlands and uplands, Central Penjajawoc Preserve is not connected to any of these parcels, which makes it easy to maintain as a dog-free zone for wildlife watchers and walkers.
Founded in 2001, BLT is a nonprofit organization that currently owns and conserves more than 700 acres with public access in the Bangor area. In addition to Central Penjajawoc Preserve, they own Walden-Parke Preserve, North Penjajawoc Forest, Northeast Penjajawoc Preserve, South Penjajawoc Overlook, West Penjajawoc Wetlands and Levant Wetlands.
BLT’s mission is “to protect for public benefit land and water in the Bangor region that have special ecological, natural, scenic, agricultural or recreational significance; and to increase public understanding of the value of land and water conservation.”
Each month, the trust hosts events such as nature walks and presentations on its preserves. The next scheduled event is “Bangor’s Beavers,” 5-6:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21, at Walden-Parke Preserve. The program includes a 1.5-mile walk in the preserve and an educational talk about the beavers living there.
For information, including a calendar of BLT community events, visit www.bangorlandtrust.org or call 942-1010.
Personal note: I attended the official opening of the Central Penjajawoc Preserve trail on the morning of Aug. 13, 2013, and took the opportunity to be one of the first people from the public to walk the trail. It was a solo hike, but not really. Along the way, I was joined by two wild turkeys (or the same one, following me), a ruffed grouse, a garter snake, a hairy woodpecker and a gang of noisy chickadees, among other songbirds that I couldn’t identify. I kept my eyes peeled for porcupines, scanning the trunks of birch trees (which they like to munch on), but I had no luck.
Later that week, I returned with my hiking buddy Derek to film the “1-minute hike” video. We walked the trail silently, hoping to stumble upon some more wildlife. Along the way, we spooked two ruffed grouse (though I don’t know who was more spooked, the birds or us) and found a wood frog under a log beside the trail (given away by its call).
I identified the frog by its “robber mask,” a dark band that stretches past both eyes. Aside from that, wood frogs don’t have much in the way of patterning on their body. For helpful descriptions and pictures of Maine’s frogs, visit the Maine Herpetological Society website at www.maineherp.org.
In a short stretch of meadow that the trail crosses, we stopped to watch a variety of colorful dragonflies. The grass stirred with the movement of grasshoppers and crickets, which were especially noisy. And the breeze in the meadow (or perhaps the dragonflies) seemed to drive away the mosquitoes, which were driving us crazy for much of our walk.
In my opinion, the trail is a great place to simply escape the hustle and bustle of Bangor for an hour or so. And chances are high that you’ll come across some wild critter in the process. I think birders would especially have fun exploring this new trail.