1-minute hike: Woodlawn trail network in Ellsworth

Difficulty: Easy. The trail network consists of less than 2.5 miles of trails that form three loops or “tracks,” as they are called on the map at the trailhead. The wide trails travel over relatively even terrain. The most challenging aspect of the trail network is a number of narrow wooden bridges that help walkers travel over soggy sections of trail.

How to get there: Woodlawn is located at 19 Black House Drive in Ellsworth. To get there, start at the intersection of Route 1 and Route 172 (also known as Surry Road) woodlawn0114-1in Ellsworth. Drive approximately 0.25 mile on Surry Road and turn right onto Black House Drive, which is marked with a big white sign that reads “Woodlawn Museum, Garden & Park.” Follow signs to the large parking area at the end of the drive.

Information: Woodlawn, a 180-acre historic estate located just outside downtown Ellsworth, includes a network of woodland trails that are open to the public year round.

woodlawn0114-2Built by Colonel John Black in the 1820s, Woodlawn was home to three generations of the family before George Nixon Black, Jr., willed the estate to the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations in 1928.

Initially, Woodlawn’s trails were built in the 1800s as exercise tracks for the Black’s family horses. Later, automobiles were driven on them, but today, you’ll see no evidence of that. The relatively wide trails, off limits to vehicles, are used by the public for walking, running, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Benches along the trails provide comfortable places to rest and observe wildlife.

woodlawn0114-4The trails are just a piece of Woodlawn. The house has become a museum, which is open May 1 through Oct. 31 and for special events, such as “Christmas at Woodlawn” holiday tours, high teas and traditional Christmas feasts, which occur in December.

Back to the trail. A large kiosk located at the edge of the woods marks the trailhead, which can be seen from the parking area behind the carriage house. A trail map on the kiosk will give you an idea of how simple the trail network is. It’s made up of three loops — Track A, B and C — which are connected.

Track A is 0.54 miles; Track B is 0.93 miles and Track C is 0.73 miles. A 0.07-mile trail connects Track A and B. To help you navigate the network, the trustees have posted maps (marked with a “you are here” dot) at trail intersections.

woodlawn0114-5A few simple wooden benches are located throughout the trail network so visitors can sit and observe wildlife. For example, a bench is near a lily pond not far from the trailhead on Track A.

Also seen from Track A are old stone walls, which have defined Woodlawn’s boundaries for 180 years and measure approximately a mile and half long, according to the Woodlawn website.

woodlawn0114-6Dog are permitted on the trails, but Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations has adopted the city of Ellsworth Animal Control Ordinance that states that all dogs must be controlled by a leash that is 8 feet long or shorter. Dog walkers should also clean up after their pets. Plastic bags and a garbage can are located at the trailhead for that purpose.

woodlawn0114-13Also keep in mind that Woodlawn is a tobacco-free campus; smoking is not permitted. In addition, the trustees have adopted the State of Maine law on public drinking; unauthorized use of alcohol is not permitted on the property. The trails are open from dawn to dusk.

For information about Woodlawn, including a trail map and an event calendar, visit www.woodlawnmuseum.org or call 667-8671.

Personal note: A few years ago, I was introduced to Ellsworth’s Woodlawn Museum through my work writing for the Lifestyle section of the BDN. Often, I’d receive press releases about upcoming Woodlawn workshops on things like basket making and gardening. And in December 2011, I decided to attend and write about one of their many holiday events — a Christmas high tea.

woodlawn0114-8Before the tea cups were filled, the guests were given the opportunity to roam the grand house and learn about the history. It was then I learned of the splendor of the Woodlawn grounds — gardens, fruit trees and fields bordered by old stone walls and trails leading through the woods. Reflecting on this memory, I decided to visit Woodlawn once again on Jan. 17, 2014. (Hard to believe it’s more than two years later!)

woodlawn0114-12What surprised me most about the trails was the scenery — the makeup of the forest. Rather than a variety of trees, the woods were almost entirely composed of tall evergreens and moss. Piles of shredded pinecones littered the ground, telling of a healthy population of squirrels. Chickadees sang. Deer tracks cuts across the trail.

woodlawn0114-11Oreo sniffed, and sniffed, and sniffed, pausing at downed trees — pines and firs that had fallen victim to the recent ice storms. The smells intrigued him, and often, he showed his appreciation by lifting a leg. By the time we returned home, he smelled of evergreens. The earthy odor stuck to his coat for days.

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.