On a clear morning in June, a woman with short, white hair made her way through the Ingersoll Point Preserve at a blistering pace — except Donna Kausen wasn’t worrying about blisters. Shoeless, she sped through the groves of red spruce, adjusting signs and clearing brush like a five-star chef perfecting her recipe.
“Hmmm. This trail is really making me want to run,” Kausen said, moving from squishy moss onto firmer dirt. “I can’t stand running on roads.”
As volunteer architect and caretaker of the Downeast Coastal Conservancy’s (DCC) recently-opened Ingersoll Point trail system in South Addison, Kausen knows this 1.5-mile-wide thumb of beach and woods better than most, whether it be under 6 inches of snow or mud. She has never encountered poison ivy and isn’t worried about invasive species. But in bare feet, she did periodically stop to yank out the beginnings of a prickly blackberry bush or Canada thistle.
Based in Machias, Downeast Coastal Conservancy is a nonprofit membership organization working to protect 5,700 acres and more than 54 miles of Washington County.
Besides Ingersoll Point and a nearby stretch of beach, where anyone can launch a boat into Tibbett Narrows between South Addison and Tibbett Island, it manages the 317-foot Pigeon Hill in Steuben and Tide Mill Creek in Jonesboro, among others.
Volunteering for DCC, Kausen and local volunteers began work on the Ingersoll Point trails just over a year ago. Now, the Adler Woods Trail takes you from the trailhead, over three bog bridges (cut from cedar in a Jonesboro sawmill), into the Preserve. Eventually it forks into the Carrying Place Cove Trail to the north, Adler Woods Trail to the northeast and Wohoa Bay Trail directly east.
Turning left at the fork, the Cove Trail wound around spruce trees and mossy boulders. But as the path bent east along the northern edge of the Preserve, the foliage opened to allow views of Carrying Place Cove. A few mussel shells lay where raccoons or birds had dropped them on the needle bed, while a small mink track had formed to the side of the trail.
Born in California, Kausen came to Addison in the 1970s. Liking the friendly people, back-to-earth lifestyle and abundance of wild food, she never left. Though she and her husband had originally stayed in town, they eventually built a log cabin in the wooded outskirts when rent jumped from $40 to $350 per month. Now a widow, she turns wooden salad bowls, shears sheep, tends a garden, makes mead and kayaks.
She still eats for just about nothing, a fact all too believable as she led the way out to the clearing on Ingersoll Point (which locals call “Ingersoll place” and have used for years as an ATV and snowmobile destination).
“That’s a nice, fat clam there,” she said, spotting a tiny hole bubbling up through the soggy sand and digging the shellfish out with her hands. She put the clam back, but explained that clams —which require a permit to take —aren’t the Preserve’s only edible flora and fauna.
Neither mussels nor periwinkles require a license, and both cover the beach, along with slippery, edible rockweed (a green seaweed made up of small bladders). Closer to the woods, Kausen also pointed out where deer had been munching on beach pea, a salty green that she herself crunched into a piece of.
But one doesn’t need an empty stomach to visit Ingersoll Point. Kausen has spotted cormorants, ospreys and eagles on the water, and throughout the trail system she pointed out deer markings and plants, like the occasional patch of blue-bead lily. Though none had bloomed, soon the cabbage-colored shrubs would bud yellow flowers that eventually turn dark blue.
Although Kausen denies that she will ever become a true Mainer, she has ingrained herself in the local wildlife and community. She recently contributed photos to the guide “The Plants of Acadia National Park.”
When an elderly man accidentally drove into the water a few years ago, she pulled him out. Now on the town’s recreation committee, she even got it to officially list its single nude beach.
Free-spirited though she may be, Kausen compares her lifestyle to that of the “old folk”— the older generation gradually getting replaced by younger retirees with summer homes. She can tell history lessons to prove it: old folk, for example, once fashioned herring weirs (fishing traps) from the spruce limbs all over the Point.
Kausen feels possessive of the trail system like a captain of a ship, christening particular features with her own nicknames. After she and a friend fell while skiing down one sharp bend, both breaking their bamboo poles, it became “Break-Ass Hill.”
Still, Kausen wants the Preserve to evolve on its own terms. The trail names — Moss, Cove, Bay — all reflect the landscape, while she still hasn’t even marked the whole system because she is waiting to see people’s natural hiking patterns.
So far, those patterns can’t be too different from hers. Studying the trail register at the end of the loop, Kausen recognized every name. The DCC hopes that may change. With bittersweetness, Kausen does too. Though she likes the solitude, more traffic will mean more funding and work opportunities.
“My trail! A tree fell over my trail,” she joked at one point in the hike, coming upon a trunk that had fallen in the last couple weeks. Before the Preserve came in, she might not have given that tree a second thought.
Climbing over it now, however, she took note. Her crew would be back with the saw.
What: Ingersoll Point Preserve
Where: Downeast Coastal Conservancy South Addison
Details: Parking is at the Union Church of South Addison.
Trail system: The trailhead is right off the parking lot. Four trails — none longer than 1.3 miles — crisscross the Preserve and converge at the Point. Walking around them can take 1-2 hours. Trails are marked by blazes on the trees. Free maps are available at the trailhead, while hand-painted signs also can direct you.
What to bring: Water and snacks will be enough, though the beach at the Point makes for a nice lunch spot.
Terrain: Can be wet, mossy, muddy and rocky, so trail shoes or boots are advised. Mosquitoes bite in the wooded sections. Dogs are allowed with leashes.
Learn more: 255-4500, [email protected], www.downeastcoastalconservancy.org.