Difficulty: Easy to moderate. The preserve features nearly 3 miles of trails that travel over small hills and some uneven terrain that includes rocks and exposed tree roots. Be sure to follow the blue and orange blazes painted on trees, as there are a few old roads and unmarked trails that are not a part of the official trail network.
How to get there: From Belfast, take Route 1 north to Searsport. In about 6 miles, turn onto Mount Ephraim Road. Drive 2.6 miles, then turn right onto Savery Road. Drive 0.6 mile, and the preserve parking lot will be on the right.
From Bucksport, travel south over the Route 1 bridge, then turn right onto Route 174 and drive 7.6 miles. Turn left onto Black Road (which becomes Savery Road), drive 2.8 miles and the preserve parking lot will be on your left.
The trailhead GPS coordinates are 44.497804, -68.941226.
Information: The 456-acre Long Cove Headwaters Preserve, owned and maintained by the Coastal Mountains Land Trust, features nearly three miles of marked footpaths that form two loops. These trails travel through a variety of upland and wetland habitats, offering visitors plenty of opportunities to spot local wildlife.
A kiosk displaying a trail map and visitor guidelines is located at the preserve parking lot, where the Blue Loop trail begins. Marked with blue painted blazes, the Blue Loop is 1.2 miles long. And breaking off of the Blue Loop is the 1.5-mile Red Loop, which is actually marked in orange blazes.
Blazes that mark a trail are usually single painted marks on stationary objects along the trail, typically tree trunks. However, occasionally there are two painted marks, one under the other, and this signifies that the trail is marking a sharp turn. On the Red Loop of the preserve, there are several of these sharp turns, marked with double blazes; so pay attention.
As you hike throughout the preserve, the vegetation will change as you enter different habitats. A brochure about the preserve provided online by the Coastal Mountains Land Trust lists some of these habitats. There are early successional forests as well as swaths of early mature stands, and scattered throughout the forest are a variety of wetlands, including emergent, shrub-scrub and forested wetlands, some of which has been enlarged in recent years due to beaver activity.
The property also features vernal pools, which are important breeding grounds for certain frogs, salamanders and fairy shrimp. And if you look closely, you’ll also come across some bedrock outcrops, which support a diversity of plants and lichens.
Coastal Mountains Land Trust acquired the 455 acres of the property in 2010 from Central Maine Power, and in 2014, Bertwell and Hope Whitten donated an additional acre to the preserve.
The preserve is open to visitors during daylight hours only. Dogs are permitted off leash between dawn and noon, and on leash after noon. Vehicles, both motorized and non-motorized (including bicycles), are not permitted, and fires and camping are also not permitted. Groups larger than 12 should contact the land trust before visiting the preserve, and visitors are asked to leave nature as they find it.
Visitors should keep in mind that hunting is permitted on the property; however, predator (coyote) hunting and trapping is not permitted. During rifle hunting seasons, visitors are advised to wear blaze orange.
Coastal Mountains Land Trust was founded in 1986, and since then, the community-based organization has conserved or facilitated in conserving more than 10,000 acres as preserves or conservation easements.
Personal note: The soft snow was slowly melting into the muddy landscape on March 30, when I arrived at the trailhead for Long Cove Headwaters Preserve with my dog, Oreo. A red-winged blackbird sang of spring’s arrival as I stepped out of the car, so I left the snowshoes in the car and headed into the forest.
I soon regretted that decision. While the blue-marked loop had been packed down by plenty of boots and dog paws, the orange-marked loop was less traveled. By the end of the hike, my boots were filled with melting snow. Fortunately, trudging through snow for three miles had warmed me up so that I didn’t mind the wet socks.
I think Oreo could feel spring in the air because he seemed to be in an especially good mood, rolling and thrashing about on the ground every time I paused to take a photo or video of the changing landscape. Or maybe he was just especially impatient. I’ve always had a hard time deciphering his unusual behavior. Whatever the cause of it, his antics caused him to rip his jacket, which I’d just mended with electrical tape that morning. That particular blue dog jacket isn’t long for this world.
On the orange-blazed loop, we came across what appeared to be a side trail marked with red flagging tape. This trail wasn’t on the trail map, but my curiosity got the best of me and I followed it downhill to the preserve boundary. Later, I called the land trust to ask about the trail and learned that it was a temporary route for volunteers who had recently been working on marking and clearing the preserve boundary.
During our walk, I heard chickadees and the drumming of a woodpecker. I also found what appeared to be coyote scat, filled with hair or grass (I didn’t closely inspect it to determine which). But aside from that, it was a quiet wood walk with enough hills (and snow) to get my heart pumping.