Ellsworth’s wild side: City offers scenic hikes

“Do you hear that?” Nancy Patterson asks as she walks deeper down the trail and into the woods.

She’s referring to the call of a bird high up in the trees.

“That’s a blue-headed vireo,” she says.

Patterson, who volunteers and served previously for a decade on the Frenchman Bay Conservancy’s board of directors, knows the Indian Point Preserve well, having helped to maintain its trails and become familiar with its flora, fauna and particular charms since the point of land was first acquired by the conservancy in 2003.

“[The trail] is Ellsworth’s best kept secret,” Patterson said.

Indian Point Reserve 11Indian Point projects out into the Union River. Hidden from view, the preserve lies off Bayside Road minutes from downtown Ellsworth. The trailhead is reached via Tinker Farm Way. Round-trip, the trail measures about .75 miles.

Patterson is joined on the short hike by Iris Simon, president of the Frenchman Bay Conservancy and Tom Sidar, the executive director. They, too, have come to know intimately its wildlife and plants.

As she walks, Patterson points out and indentifies partridge berry, long beech fern and wild sarsaparilla. Farther along, hobblebush, low-bush blueberry, bunchberry and mountain cranberry can be found. Small signs, describing the species of trees and other features, have been placed in the ground by volunteers.

One of Patterson’s former students, Leif Jacobsen, did his Eagle Scout project at Indian Point. He created the Native American Loop on the trail and complemented it with informative displays, benches and a bridge.

“All along, my focus has been on education — an opportunity for children and adults alike to learn about and connect with nature and also the work of land trusts,” Patterson said.

The Ellsworth resident worked with a graphic designer to develop new nature signs with more in-depth information for the public.

“Many volunteers have helped make it what it is today,” she said.

The preserve leads down to the Union River where a view of downtown Ellsworth can be seen. Picnic tables serve as an invitation for people to take a lunch or coffee break there. It’s a great spot for a picnic breakfast or dinner.

Live entertainment also is provided, like two harbor seals that were spotted leisurely swimming in the river on this summer day.

Visitors are encouraged to record their impressions in a small logbook. Patterson laughs at some of the humorous scrawled notes. In many of the entries, people remark on the quiet and natural beauty.

Indian Point Reserve 3“People should hope to find a serene experience where they can connect with nature in a peaceful place…they can enjoy a unique view of Ellsworth and expect to see eagles, ospreys, cormorants, gulls and even seals from the point,” Patterson said. “They will experience bird song, the fragrance of the woods, the wonders of the tiniest moss to the splendor of the ferns to the grandeur of the hemlocks and pines…I just love the place and everything it has to offer right here in town!”

To learn more about Frenchman Bay Conservancy and its other holdings, visit www.frenchmanbay.org.

Walkabout in Ellsworth

* Birdsacre – Stanwood Wildlife Sanctuary is more than just a place for a quick walk during your lunch break. Walking through the wildlife sanctuary, visitors can gaze at a great-horned owl, broad winged hawks and different types of waterfowl swimming in several ponds.

Birdsacre features several different trails ranging in lengths. Along the paths, entries from Birdsacre founder Cordelia Stanwood’s field notes have been inscribed in wood and displayed on trees. Lady slippers are a frequent sight as well as many ferns and mosses.

Picnic tables are available for visitors to sit and eat at. Birdsacre, also known as Stanwood Wildlife Sanctuary, can be found on Route 3 right before the China Hill restaurant. It is open from dawn to dusk.

* Woodlawn Museum Gardens & Park offers three different “tracks” or trails for visitors to take a leisurely stroll on or for runners to get in some exercise. The wide berth of the trail itself and levelness of the ground make it nice for a scenic jog. The well-kept grounds have something for everyone.

Guests also are treated to views of the gardens and historic Black family home on the property. A croquet court also is available for use and a lily pond can be found nearby.

Woodlawn is located off Surry Road at 19 Black House Drive. Information: 667-8671, www.woodlawnmuseum.com.

* Branch Lake Public Forest’s Lake Loop trail, just over a mile round-trip, is perfect for a short afternoon hike. Songbirds are heard and lady slippers found along the path.

The loop eventually leads to the shores of Branch Lake. During winter, the trail is used for snowshoeing.

From downtown Ellsworth, take Route 1A north toward. Bangor. Look out for the Branch Lake City Forest sign off to the left. Turning in, the trail can be a little tricky to find. First, follow the gravel road for approximately one mile. It leads to a small parking area near a gate. Walk around the gate for about 0.5 miles before reaching the area where the Lake Loop trail begins.

Kansas City native Madalyne Bird was a 2014 summer intern for the Ellsworth American working primarily for the paper's summer guide to Downeast Maine, Out and About.