Difficulty: Easy-moderate. If you hike around both loop trails, the hike is about 1.5 miles, round trip, and travels over hilly terrain that includes a few short, steep slopes.
How to get there: The preserve parking area is located on Warren Lane in Surry. While this road is marked with a sign that reads “Warren Lane,” it is often unmarked on maps; and on Google Maps, it’s labeled as Meadow Lane.
Surry Village is located on Route 172 between Blue Hill and Ellsworth. Warren Lane is on the outskirts of the village, to the east, right beside the post office. Drive about 0.3 mile down Warren Lane, passing two houses, a side road and an outbuilding, and the preserve parking area will be on your left marked with a Blue Hill Heritage Trust sign. The kiosk visible from the parking lot marks the trailhead.
Information: The 41-acre Patten Stream Preserve in Surry offers a 1.5-mile hike on woodland paths beside the rushing waters of Patten Stream, which winds around giant boulders and fallen trees on its way to Patten Bay. The trails of the preserve form two loops and travel through a beautiful forest of tall red oaks, stands of white birches, maples and clumps of evergreens.
Owned and maintained by the Blue Hill Heritage Trust, the preserve is open year round during daylight hours. The trust asks that visitors stay on marked trails, clean up after themselves and keep dogs on leash. Fires are prohibited, and the trails are for foot traffic only.
From the preserve parking area, which fits about three vehicles, a kiosk near the edge of the woods marks the trailhead. The display includes a detailed trail map, preserve guidelines, information about ticks, a notice to wear blaze orange and a trail register; visitors are asked to sign in and leave comments about their experiences at the preserve.
From the kiosk, a blue-blazed trail leads into the woods and downhill to the South Loop, which is marked with a sign. The loop can be walked in either direction. If you walk it counterclockwise (turning left at the intersection), you will soon reach the edge of Patten Stream, which moves quite swiftly in that area. The loop trail follows the edge of the stream for a while before turning back into the woods, where it meets the Connector Trail, which leads to the North Loop.
A letterbox, nailed to a tree, is located by this intersection. It’s no secret, as it’s marked on the map at the preserve trailhead. Letterboxes are a part of an outdoor game that is much like geocaching. Each letterbox contains a waterproof container that holds a special rubber stamp, an ink pad and a notebook. People who play the game will stamp the box’s notebook with a personal stamp, then use the box’s stamp to mark their own personal logbook. The general goal is to collect stamps from letterboxes from different locations, having many memorable adventures along the way.
The Connector Trail is short and soon leads to the North Loop, which is a bit longer than the South Loop and travels over more difficult terrain, including a few wooden bridges, small hills and rocky areas. Like the South Loop, the North Loop’s west side follows along the edge of Patten Stream, then turns east and loops around through the woods, coming full circle back at the Connector Trail.
For information, including a printable trail map, visit bluehillheritagetrust.org. Specific questions can be answered at the Blue Hill Heritage Trust office, which is open year round, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, at 258 Mountain Road in Blue Hill. The trust can also be reached at 374-5118 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Personal note: Between planning a Halloween party, trying to meet deadlines at work, feverishly painting woodwork at my house, installing a generator, shopping for snow tires and writing “thank you” cards for wedding gifts, (takes a deep breath) it’s been hard to find time to get outside and explore new trails lately. And I’m sure most readers can empathize with me. Life gets crazy, and we often end up putting the things we enjoy most on the backburner.
In my opinion, it’s important we don’t let life go on that way for too long. Doing things we enjoy — whether it’s going to yoga or cooking great meals or hiking — is key to a healthy life. So on Friday, after sitting through a meeting in Bangor, I sped out of the office, picked up my dog Oreo from home, and headed to a Patten Stream Preserve in Surry — a place I’d yet to explore and was less than an hour from my home. The sun was already sinking when I made it to the trailhead, but we had enough time for the 1.5-mile hike.
I was surprised at the ferocity of Patten Stream, churning and twisting, frothing even, foaming at the edges. It had rained a few days before, so I imagine it was flowing even faster and higher than usual.
Oreo wanted to jump in for a swim, but I was worried he’d get swept away, so I kept him at my side, on dry land. Farther down the trail, we found a calm bend of the stream and I let him wade in and get his feet wet.
The forest itself was a beautiful variety of young and old trees. At that time of year, the oak trees stood out because they were still holding onto their orange and golden leaves. The maples and birch, on the other hand, had mostly dropped their leaves to the forest floor. And the beech, well, they’ll often hold onto their dry leaves through the winter.
While it’s difficult to photograph birds while walking Oreo, I did spot a number of birds, including a large pileated woodpecker, a bluejay picking bugs from a tall dead tree, chickadees and a number of plump brown birds I couldn’t identify. I also found and photographed the yellow tapering leaves of a gray birch sapling, which I later identified with my Forest Trees of Maine handbook published by the Maine Forest Service. I’m slowly learning, one tree, bird, insect and flower at a time. I think that’s the way to do it.
More photos from this trip: