Difficulty: Easy. The two loop trails are each about 0.9 mile long and travel over a few hills. Of the two loops, the River Loop is easiest, with much of it surfaced with mowed grass. The Woods Loop travels over many exposed tree roots and rocks, making footing a bit tricky in places.
If heading south to Belfast on Route 1, take the first exit after the bridge over the Passagassawakeag River and turn left onto High Street. Take the first left onto Vine Street after the convenience store on your left. At the end of Vine Street, turn right onto Route 7-Route 137 (Waldo Road, which becomes Waterville Road) and drive 0.8 mile, then veer right onto Doak Road. Drive 0.9 mile to the preserve trailhead, on the right after Doak’s Machine Shop.
If heading north on Route 1, take the first exit after Reny’s Plaza to Route 7-Route 137. At the stop sign, turn left onto Route 7-Route 137 and drive for about 1 mile. Turn right onto Doak Road and drive 0.9 mile to the preserve trailhead.
Information: Head of Tide Preserve is a 92-acre property on the Passagassawakeag River in Belfast, at the uppermost reach of the river’s tidal waters. The former farmland was conserved in late December of 2009, when the Coastal Mountains Land Trust purchased the property with the cooperation of former owners Jason and Martha Campbell. Since then, two loop trails have been established on the property for the public to enjoy.
To reach the trails from the preserve parking area, you’ll follow a grass path across a 0.6-acre field, which is home to the Head of Tide Permaculture Project, a collaboration among a number of local organizations to “regenerate the agricultural potential” of the land “by engaging the community in the hands-on practice of permaculture,” according to a sign posted in the field.
At the edge of the forest is a kiosk, which was designed, constructed and donated by Tommy Schleicher of Northport. The kiosk displays two laminated maps: one of the preserve trails and another of the Passagassawakeag Greenway. The kiosk also displays preserve guidelines and other helpful information.
The trail network begins just past the kiosk. I suggest carrying a copy of the trail map with you to navigate the trails because the trail intersections are simply marked with tall wooden posts, not signs.
The River Loop travels along the edges of three fields and enters the woods, where it descends a hill to visit the banks of the Passagassawakeag River. The trail leads to the river’s edge just once, but there are some unofficial side trails (made evident by the worn forest floor) that also lead to the water.
The Woods Loop is almost entirely in the forest, which is filled with ferns and a wide variety of trees, as well as mushrooms and lichen. The trail crosses the power lines and re-enters the forest, where it loops around to cross the power lines again and return to the trailhead.
To learn about the land’s natural features, check out the “Head of Tide Quest,” a self-guided tour for families created by Maine Master Naturalist Cheryl Morin. The quest is available online at the Coastal Mountains Land Trust website, www.coastalmountains.org.
The Maine Master Naturalist Program, founded in 2011, is all about developing a network of citizen-naturalist volunteers. The extensive program includes hours of classwork, field trips, the creation of a portfolio and volunteer hours. To learn more, visit www.mainemasternaturalist.org.
When visiting the Head of Tide Preserve, remember that it is only open during daylight hours and trails are for foot traffic only. Dogs are permitted but must be leashed at all times. Removal of vegetation is prohibited, as is camping and fires. And groups larger than 12 should receive permission from the land trust ahead of time.
Coastal Mountains Land Trust nonprofit organization that works to permanently conserve land to benefit the natural and human communities of western Penobscot Bay. Since 1986, the organization has protected or facilitated the protection of more than 9,129 acres of land as preserves or conservation easements.
For information, including a printable trail map, visit www.coastalmountains.org or call 236-7091.
Personal note: Bees humming through a sea of goldenrod, the first raspberries of the season, a peaceful river dotted with stepping stones and colorful fungi — these are the things I’ll remember about the Head of Tide Preserve. I visited the small trail network for the first time on Aug. 14 with my dog, Oreo. It was a sunny, muggy Friday, and we were the only visitors using the trails.
The trails were clearly marked and well maintained, though I was glad to have a trail map; the two loops overlap, making for more trail intersections than I anticipated.
As Oreo and I walked along the trails, I kept noticing different mushrooms. Orange jelly mushrooms, which look and feel like bits of bright orange jello, clung to the mossy trunk of a tree. Two dark brown cap mushrooms, a kind of fungi I’d never seen before, grew from the forest floor. And a lone white mushroom gave me pause. Could it be the poisonous mushroom known as the “Destroying Angel”? I’m no fungi expert, so there was no way for me to be sure, but aspects of it matched the description: it’s luminous white skin and the frill beneath its cap.
I photographed the mushroom but made sure not to touch it.
After finishing the two loop trails, I could tell that Oreo still had a lot of energy, so we headed across the road (and over a bit) to the Stover Preserve, another Coastal Mountains Land Trust Property. There we walked another loop trail, which led to some beautiful spots along the river, where I watched a spider skating along the surface while Oreo waded and splashed around. By the time we got back the car, Oreo was ready for a nap.