1-minute hike: Buck Hill Conservation Area in Veazie

Difficulty: Easy. The trails of Buck Hill Conservation Area are wide, relatively flat and smooth. Watch out for thorns lining the trail in the meadow, as well as the low metal fencing that lines the property’s border. (Oreo ran into it.) The largest loop, which travels along the border of the property, is about 1 mile in total distance, though walkers can extend their walk by exploring shorter trails that connect to that loop.

buckhill1113-3How to get there: The small parking area for the conservation area is located at near the end of Mutton Lane in Veazie. To get there, start at traffic light at the intersection of Route 2 (State Street), School Street and Chase Road in Veazie. Drive north, toward Orono, on Route 2 for about 0.5 mile, then turn left onto Greystone Park. Drive through Greystone Trailer Park and turn right onto Mutton Road, which is gravel and travels uphill. Drive about 0.3 mile and the parking area will be on the left, marked with a kiosk.

Information: The 64-acre Buck Hill Conservation Area is owned and managed by the Town of Veazie, with volunteer assistance from the Veazie Land Association, a sub-committee of the Orono Land Trust. The conservation area features a trail network that equals a little less than 2 miles of trails.

buckhill1113-1At the trailhead is a kiosk displaying information about the conservation area, including trail rules and a map. A large sign in the kiosk asks that visitors “take only photographs, leave only footprints [and] remain on marked trails.” The trails are for foot traffic only. Dogs are allowed, but owners must pick up after their pets, according to town law.

A sign at the trailhead also cautions visitors that the trail network travels through tick habitat. Be sure to check your body for the dangerous pests after hiking.

You will also notice a green sign to the right of the kiosk that reads “Certified Tree Farm.” The conservation area is a part of the American Tree Farm System, “a program for woodland owners who are committed to sustainably managing their woods for wood, water, wildlife and recreation,” as stated on www.treefarmsystem.org.

buckhill1113-5To enter the Buck Hill trail network, pass the locked metal gate that bars vehicles from entering. You’ll find yourself walking along a fairly wide trail that is mowed into a field.

Not far into the network, you’ll see a side trail on your left that leads to a grove of American chestnut trees, planted in spring of 2005 by volunteers under the guidance of the Maine Chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation (TACF).

buckhill1113-2The goal of TACF is to restore the American chestnut tree to the eastern woodlands to benefit the environment, wildlife and society, according to the official website of the Maine chapter of the foundation, me-acf.org.

Since 1997, the Maine Chapter of TACF has been conducting an American chestnut breeding program coordinated by TACF’s research farms in Meadowview, Va. The Maine chapter uses pollen from the research farms and local American chestnuts as mother trees to ensure that blight-resistant trees coming out of the breeding will be most ideally adapted to Maine growing conditions. The orchard in Buck Hill Conservation Area is one of the several breeding American chestnut orchards in Maine.

Spiky.

Spiky.

Once done wandering the rows of trees — which produce ripe, spiky nuts by late September — you may want to use a map to continue exploring the trail network. The largest loop is about 1 mile long and much of the trail travels along the border of the property, through forest and meadow.

The forest is made up of a variety of trees, including stately oaks, tall white pines and a stand of white birch. The town manages the forest and meadows for a diversity of plant species.

In addition to the chestnut plantation, a few key features of the trail network are: a field that is home to woodcocks, a berry patch, a bench and a second bench by a footbridge. All of these features are marked on the map at the trailhead.

buckhill1113-9For a printable trail map and other information, visit oronolandtrust.org. Trail maps are also available at the Veazie Town Office at 1084 Main Street. The office is open 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday and can be reached at 942-2781.

Personal note: Since starting this “1-minute hike” project about two years ago, I’ve learned that Maine is filled with small trail networks that few people know about. Often, these footpaths are used by local residents and owned and managed by land trusts or the town. They’re a great opportunity to observe wildlife, view different flora and exercise. And fortunately for my dog Oreo, many of these public lands are open to pets.

buckhill1113-12Despite the fact that I used to live in Veazie, I hadn’t heard of the town’s Buck Hill Conservation Area until last week, when searching through land trust websites. My boyfriend Derek and I decided it was the perfect spot to walk off a few Thanksgiving calories on Friday while not traveling far from home.

My favorite part of the trail was the American chestnut trees, simply because I don’t recall ever seeing one before. In fact, we were so inexperienced with chestnuts that we were surprised when the spiky nuts poked through our mittens and jabbed our skin (followed by a yelp and laughter). Luckily, Oreo didn’t step on any of the fallen nuts.

buckhill1113-10I imagine, with the combination of fields (with plenty of berries and tall grasses) and woods, the property is a great spot for birding, especially in the spring. And since the trails are wide and relatively flat, they look great for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

Oreo butt.

Oreo butt.

Aislinn Sarnacki

About Aislinn Sarnacki

Professionally, Aislinn is a Bangor Daily News reporter for the "Outdoor" and "Living" pages. She's a wilderness romper and fashion-forward bookworm.