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Long Reach Preserve in Winter

By Ed Robinson

February 5 brought another storm to Harpswell – 12 inches of powder snow with a light wind, a good day to stay home and get started on your income tax return. But the best was to come – an uninterrupted span of seven days with brilliant blue skies! With temperatures remaining below freezing most of the time, the snow stayed soft and was ideal for cross country skiing, snowshoeing, or making snow angels.

On the last day of that dazzling stretch, I worked until mid-afternoon, then drove a mile north of Mountain Road on Route 24 to the Trufant-Summerton Athletic Field. No baseball for now, but this is also the parking spot for one of Harpswell’s best trails. Long Reach Preserve is one of the largest properties owned by the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust (HHLT), 93 acres of rolling terrain with some of the highest elevations in town. I put on winter boots with deep treads, and grabbed my walking poles. Long Reach is a popular trail, so the snow was packed enough to make the walking relatively easy.

I enjoy looking for wildlife tracks in fresh snow and Long Reach did not disappoint that day. Another visitor ahead of me was on snowshoes, and had a large dog along for the hike. As I made my way up to ridgeline to the northwest, I saw large numbers of deer tracks – they probably find good browse among the younger hardwoods, and shelter from the wind, thanks to heavy conifers tucked up against the small cliffs. The peat bog between ridges was covered with ice and snow, revealing the path of a fox, intent upon filling her belly. Further along I found squirrel tracks, the little fellow probably moving among his winter stockpiles of acorns from the red oaks.

If you like upland forests, Long Reach has much to offer. It is thought that the property was last logged around 1960, so you can find sizable trees of many species – red spruce, hemlock, white and red pine, beech, red maple, yellow and white birch. With no leaves on the deciduous trees, the low winter sun penetrates to make your walk bright throughout the day. In summer, the forest canopy will keep you cool on the hottest days.

Making my way down to the shoreline, I enjoyed the glow of late afternoon sun on the cliffs across the water. There was plenty of ice and I probably could have walked across but that would be dangerous on my own. I contented myself with the view and a short rest on a downed log, hardly a sound to tell me I was not in a deep northern forest.

Long Reach is a personal favorite, both for the physical beauty of the place, but also for the solitude it can offer if you wish. We are fortunate to have such a large stretch of forest for public recreation all year long. The beautiful 213 acre property to the north is currently for sale, but there is no need for concern. This land is also protected from development thanks to generous owners who arranged a conservation easement with HHLT. Please note that there is no public access to that private property.

The next time you want a brisk walk, try this lovely preserve with a friend or your dog (please make sure your dog will not chase the deer, since they are easily stressed during long winters with minimal nutrition). Snowshoes or good boots work well in winter, but the trails here are too steep for skis. I recommend using a pair of poles to help you maintain your footing, since you never know when you’ll find a rock or a patch of ice under the snow. Carry some water, and your camera, and enjoy!

February 2014