Difficulty: Easy to moderate. The preserve features 3 miles of intersecting hiking trails that travel over small hills and a few short, steep slopes. As is the case with most forest trails in Maine, exposed tree roots and rocks can make footing tricky in some areas.
How to get there: There is currently no parking at the Penny’s Nature Preserve trailhead, but visitors can park at the nearby AB Herrick Memorial Landing on Peters Cove. To get there, start in Blue Hill village at the intersection of Route 172 and East Blue Hill Road (Route 176), and take East Blue Hill Road east for 0.6 mile, then park on your right in the landing’s gravel parking area.
From there, you have two options. You can start your hike by walking the 0.5-mile Peter’s Brook Trail, which leads to Penny’s Nature Preserve. This trailhead is across the road from the landing, on the east side of the bridge over Peters Brook. Or, you could continue walking east on East Blue Hill Road (away from the village) for about 0.25 mile to the main trailhead to Penny’s Nature Preserve. From there, a trail leads into the preserve’s Quarry Loop, which travels around an old granite quarry.
Information: Named after a beloved dog who once roamed the property, Penny’s Nature Preserve in Blue Hill was donated to the Blue Hill Heritage Trust by Blue Hill residents Rich Storck and Aletha Langham, with the condition that it remain a place where dogs can run and play.
The 107-acre preserve features a network of 3 miles of intersecting trails, which Storck mapped out and built over the course of 15 years, accompanied by his dog, Penny. These trails explore a historic granite quarry and weave through forest filled with moss, lichen and ferns to trace the banks of Peters Brook.
For years, Storck and Langham have welcomed the public onto the property, but this summer, they donated the property and its completed trail system to BHHT, along with a gift to the land trust’s stewardship fund, so it can remain a place of public recreation forever.
Penny’s Nature Preserve trail system connects with the existing 0.5-mile Peters Brook Trail, which is managed by BHHT on a conservation easement. And later this year, BHHT plans to unveil a new 0.36-mile trail on the west side of Peters Brook, on land donated by Doug and Posie Cowan in 2015. This trail will include a whimsical footbridge that spans Peters Brook and is made of stripped white cedar from the property. Altogether, it will be a network of nearly 5 miles of intersecting, dog-friendly trails.
On Penny’s Nature Preserve, dogs are permitted off leash if kept under control at all times. However, outside the preserve (for example, on Peters Brook Trail), dogs must be leashed. All trails are for day use and foot traffic only.
Navigating the trail system can be difficult. Trails are marked with blue painted blazes and the occasional cairn (rock pile). To help visitors navigate, BHHT has posted laminated trail maps at the many intersections in Penny’s Nature Preserve, and the land trust plans to improve signage in the near future.
For more information, visit bluehillheritagetrust.org or call 207-374-5118.
Personal note: It was a sunny September day when I first walked the trails of Penny’s Nature Preserve, and I was lucky enough to be joined by a few people who knew the property very well: Chrissy Beardsley Allen, development and outreach director of Blue Hill Heritage Trust, her 6-year-old son, Corwin, and her mother, Jo Barrett. And perhaps most importantly, we were joined by two dogs, sister black Labrador retrievers Maeby (from the TV show “Arrested Development”) and Callie (or Calpurnia, from the book “To Kill a Mockingbird”).
Leading the way, Corwin and the dogs trotted along the Quarry Loop Trail, pausing to climb onto boulders and read the trail maps (with the help of his mom and grandmother) posted at intersections. We hadn’t been hiking long when we came across evidence of quarrying, places where granite had been cut away from the bedrock, leaving rock shelves. We also came across a few granite blocks, and an old, rusted piece of equipment, which had been set beside the trail as a reminder of the property’s history.
The trail climbed along the edge of the quarry to place where we could look out over it and the surrounding forest. In fact, we could just see the ocean over the trees.
From there, we headed north, into a mossy evergreen forest filled with beds of ferns and lichen. There we passed by several large boulders, two of which stood side by side to create a tiny cave that Corwin had fun crawling into.
The trail led us to Peters Brook, a fairly sizeable brook bordered with ferns and moss. The water, flowing swiftly to the ocean, appeared a rich orangey color in the sunlight, which I think may be the effect of tannins, harmless organic matter that often makes water tinged yellow or orange. The brook, which after a heavy rain can be quite dynamic, drains the uplands east of Blue Hill village into Peters Cove.
Following Brookside Trail southwest, we eventually came to the end of Peters Brook Trail. Along the way, the dogs — and Corwin — probably spent more in the brook than they did on land, with Corwin hopping from rock to rock and the dogs splashing about in pools. A small waterfall marked the start of Peter’s Brook Trail (or end, depending on which direction your traveling from). There we ran into some other hikers — two couples who were excited to explore a bit of the newly acquired preserve. We chatted with them for a bit, then continued on our way, closing our loop hike by hiking back to the road on Peters Brook Trail.