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Long Reach Preserve: Rocks and family ties

One of a series of articles exploring the natural and human history of Harpswell Heritage Land Trust’s protected land.

From Long Reach Preserve west to the Town of Harpswell’s Cliff Trail (Nancy West photo)

If you want an invigorating hike through a forest to a pristine water view of another forest preserve, get thee to the Long Reach Preserve. You’ll clamber up and over two ridges, quickly losing the hubbub of Harpswell Islands Road and finding peace and quiet. Why should you do this? Ah, the reasons are many, ranging from nature to history to health and well-being, with combinations thereof.

The Preserve offers a mile and a half of trail through 90+ acres with a handful of features for the curious and observant. The forest is mixed, with red spruce and balsam fir dominating. You’ll also see red maple, white pine, birch, and oak. Look out for red pines along the western edge. This stand of red pines is considered rare in Maine, one of only 20 to 100 stands like them across the state. How do you know you’re looking at red pines? The bark is reddish, the cones are like extra-large eggs, and the needles are in pairs, four to six inches long. You might know them as Norway pines, named for Norway, Maine. (White pines have clusters of five needles, just as the word “white” has five letters. Pitch pines have clusters of three needles—three strikes, and yer out!). And so, I recommend on the next fine day that you walk among pine trees and count their needles.

Cranberry bog (Nancy West photo)

Along the way, you can walk beside a bog with cranberries growing at the north end. When I saw deep red berries in a boggy area, I was dumbfounded. Here was a cranberry bog! On the hoof! In nature! Growing there all by itself! The bog lies in a low spot between the two rock ridges, forming its own micro world of color and beauty. I suspect the low spot is there for reasons greater than run-of-the-mill glacial carving.

The answer I think lies in astounding bedrock geology. Two substantially different packages of rock lie in the Preserve, and another that you can see across the road. All lie on the old Trufant Homestead, about which more in a bit. The westernmost fringe of the Preserve has one package, with crystalline rocks about 450 million years old. These were fragments of rock and ash that spewed from volcanoes in a setting like Japan. The rock was eventually buried to around six miles, where minerals recrystallized into a schist named for Cape Elizabeth. Schists are platy, with crystals large enough to see with the naked eye. The second package is a granular rock recrystallized from a sandstone with clay- and lime-rich layers. It’s the Sebascodegan Formation. Gotta root for a local rock. The Sebascodegan Formation is about 420 to 445 million years old. Note that both packages began as sediments.

What’s odd about these two packages is that the older rocks lie on top of the younger ones. That’s not normal. With sediments, younger ones settle on top of older ones. They build from bottom to top. That’s the geologic law. At the Preserve, though, the Cape Elizabeth rocks cover the Sebascodegan. How? The Cape Elizabeth Formation was pushed (thrust) up and over the younger Sebascodegan rocks.

A geologic map of the Preserve. Same color scheme as the illustration to the right. The heavy, toothed black line is the thrust fault.

This shows the arch of Cape Elizabeth rocks (in beige and labeled “Oce”) lying above Sebascodegan rocks (green, “SOs”). This is what you’d see if the crust were sliced open at the Preserve, and you looked from south to north across the chasm. “Anticline” refers to the arch. The heavy black line is the fault that thrust Oce over SOs. (Hussey and Marvinney, 2002)

Then, to complicate the picture, the stack of rocks were further compressed east-west into a broad arch and beveled to create a window through the older, upper rocks exposing the younger, lower rocks. The rock in the core of the fold is the Sebascodegan. At the Preserve, the line distinguishing the Cape Elizabeth and the Sebascodegan packages runs parallel to the ridges. Cape Elizabeth rocks are to the west and continue across Long Reach to the Cliff Trail. The question is where exactly do they contact each other? Where rocks grind against other rocks at a fault, they weaken and are susceptible to erosion by rivers, creeks, and glaciers. And thus, I wonder if that cranberry bog exists in a valley created by the erosion of rocks softened by the old thrust fault. It’s definitely worth a closer look.

The rocks of the Preserve where compressed when an early version of Europe collided with an early version of North America as the supercontinent Pangea coalesced. The rocks’ recrystallization, stacking of older on younger rocks and subsequent folding are evidence for the collision. When you hike over the ridges to look for red pine and cranberries, feel free to ponder the power of plate tectonics. The evidence lies under your feet.

Stone wall lining the road. Exuberant Flossie for scale. (Nancy West photo)

1857 map of Preserve, with J. Trufant’s home marked.

On your way to pines, ridges, and shore, you will walk an old road defined with stone walls. The walls were built by the James Trufant family. The old road appears on an 1857 map, which also show the name J. Trufant across the road, where a farmhouse lies east of the Harpswell Island Road (Route 24) immediately north of the Trufant-Summerton Athletic Field. Deeds describe Trufant land as stretching from Quahog Bay to Long Reach.

James Trufant, born in 1769, bought 50 acres of the Preserve from Edward Sawyer in 1793 and then married Jane Curtis in 1796. Samuel was born in 1797, William in 1802, James Jr. in 1804, Capt. Isaiah in 1806, Deborah in 1809, Joseph in 1811, and Charles in 1814. As the family grew, James Sr. added land: 16 acres from Samuel Small in 1800 and 5.5 acres from Isaiah Snow in 1820 and 1822, for instance. I imagine William and the boys piling Cape Elizabeth and Sebascodegan stones to front the road and define livestock pens. Oxen did the hauling. The 1850 Agricultural Schedule reports the family farmed 50 improved acres, with an additional 50 acres of unimproved land (40 in a woodlot). On the 50 improved acres they grew potatoes, Indian corn, barley, apples, hay, beans, and pastured livestock. They had five milch cows for milk and butter, two oxen as draft animals, five other cattle, 21 sheep for wool, a horse, and a pig. Jane and Deborah fed and clothed the family—spinning wool, weaving cloth, and sewing and knitting clothes. They undoubtedly also helped on the farm.

By 1880, the farm produced 660 pounds of butter, 160 dozen eggs, 40 bushels of Indian corn from 1 acre, 27 bushels of wheat from 1.5 acres, 217 bushels of potatoes from 1 acre, 400 tons of hay from 30 acres, 32 cords of wood, and 10 bushels of apples from 18 trees over one quarter acre. As Ed Robinson notes (see: https://hhltmaine.org/long-reach-preserve-autumn/), three of the trees still feed wildlife in the meadow west of the modern road and just north of the ballfield.

The farm stayed in the family until 2000, when the Trufant Farm Trust sold it to Harpswell Heritage Land Trust. Both James Jr. and and his son, Charles, farmed it. Charles was identified as a farmer until 1926. Then, when he retired to his daughter’s home in Bath in 1927, farming in that branch of Trufants ceased.

The hand off of the homestead from James Sr. to James Jr. brings up one last reason for you to walk in Trufant footsteps: health and wellbeing. Their 1851 land transaction was a remarkable form of health insurance. In exchange for the deed to the homestead, James Jr. posted a $2,000 bond by “which payment well & truly be made I bind my heirs, executors & administrators firmly…to provide or cause to be provided sutable [sic] food, drink & raiment & medical attendance if needed for the said James Trufant, Jane Trufant & Joseph Trufant during the natural lives.” If James Jr. “shall truly & faithfully perform the above conditions in this agreement then this obligation is void….” Joseph, who was disabled, died in 1858, Jane died in 1853, James Sr. in 1858. They are buried with James Jr. and his wife, Mary, together in the Cranberry Horn Cemetery. One could think of the farm as providing necessities for the James Trufants through all stages of life.

While health insurance operates differently now, you can reap health benefits from walking paths in the Preserve. You’ll feel great. You’ll get a workout in nature and feel uplifted. Research clearly demonstrates that walking in nature is good for you (see the articles listed below). It’s even picked up the trendy name of “forest bathing.” What could be better? Take a walk in the woods and enjoy your bath with a view of Long Reach.

P.S. By the way, the winner of a pie for his interpretation of the mystery object in the fall newsletter is Paul Bilgen. He proposed that that it is a “heavy animal skin Cape or overcoat Clasp. The perforated medallion that is still attached was sewn on to a garment or skin on one side, and another medallion, now lost, was sewn on to the other side to receive the active loop on the other end of the bar. Possibly the bar could be unhooked from either end. In any case the 10 cm bar connected the two sewn-on medallions, and ran horizontally across the heart. I saw something like this once in the British Museum, but this piece is not inherently decorative and seems related to so much of what is familiar to early salt water farms in New England. However, it is also not commonplace and may be indicative of rank….My guess: A whaling captain had this made by a blacksmith in his home port and used it on his storm gear when in winter waters. If that is so, that would have been before 1859, when kerosene killed the whale oil industry. “

Articles about the benefits of walking in nature

“5 surprising benefits of walking.” Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/5-surprising-benefits-of-walking.

“Head Out for a Daily Dose of Green Space.” Jane E. Brody. 29 November, 2010. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/30/health/30brody.html.

“How Walking in Nature Changes the Brain.” Gretchen Reynolds. 22 July 2015. The New York Times. https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/07/22/how-nature-changes-the-brain/.

“Immerse Yourself in a Forest for Better Health.” New York Department of Environmental Conservation. https://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/90720.html

(All captured 5 November 2018.)


Hussey, Arthur M., II, and Marvinney, Robert G., 2002, Bedrock geology of the Bath 1:100,000 quadrangle, Maine: Maine Geological Survey, Geologic Map 02-152, 1 plate, photographs, color map, cross section, scale 1:100,000. Maine Geological Survey Maps. 516. http://digitalmaine.com/mgs_maps/516

Hussey, Arthur M., II. 2015. A Guide to the Geology of Southwestern Maine. Portsmouth, NH. Peter E. Randall, Publisher. 229 pp.

Baker, Sidney and Son, Chace, J. 1857. Map of Cumberland County Maine. http://www.oshermaps.org/browse-maps?id=11936. Captured 8 November 2018.