In mid-December, with the temperatures still hovering around 50 degrees, we took advantage of a rare sunny day to explore the Duck Trap River Preserve in Lincolnville. I had become interested in this preserve years ago when I found a picture on the land trust website of a wooden bridge located somewhere on the preserve. During our first attempt to scout this land, we set out on the wrong side of the road too close to the river. That trail dead-ended at an invasive plant control project. We tried again, a little further down the road but what appeared to be a snow mobile trail had no trail map by the road. Our second attempt, had us on the correct side of the road but either from misreading the trail map posted at the kiosk, or not travelling far enough, we never did find that bridge.
Somehow I discovered that due to the goal of preserving the area for salmon and other species, trail maps must be acquired at the land trust office. Having recently done so, we were now equipped with a map to guide us towards that bridge. We began our journey on a snowmobile road, heading off into the woods. After about 1.5 miles, we found a sign directing cross country skiers to the left. I am convinced that this is where we made our mistake during our previous visit; continuing straight instead of making the left towards the back country ski trail.
Continuing our trek on the narrower trail, we discovered some deflated puff fungus and a fuzzy lichen contrasted against the leaf cover. And then, ½ mile from the turn-off, we found “the bridge” at last. It was worth the journey. We stood at the center of the bridge from some time, gazing first in one direction then the other, just watching the river flow beneath us.
After a time, we decided to continue our explorations of the cross country ski loop. Since it had rained the night before, the steep ramps at either end of the bridge proved a bit of a challenge; the wood being quite slippery. Stepping carefully down the ramp, we set off to the “back country” loop.
Sections of the trail, tapered down a bit here but were well marked. Our next challenge came when we reached the river once more and discovered that the low bridge had washed out. Perhaps we were feeling daring on this particular day, or maybe just stupid but we decided to forge on ahead. Neither one of us is particularly agile but by some miracle we managed to cross the river without falling in. In fact, we successfully maneuvered across the river in both directions without losing our balance.
The trail on the far side of the river consisted of a long loop. Here we found the Lady Fern was still green, growing with the Christmas fern. One particular arrangement reminded us of a Christmas Wreath, with the Lady Fern acting as the bow. Further on, some white birches bent over by the heavy snows of last winter created a canopy over the trail.
About an hour later, we cautiously crossed the river once more. As we made our way back towards the snowmobile road, we found the remains of a small tree that had been cut to look like an arrow pointing towards the exit. It had been a lovely day to be outside exploring the 5.5 miles of trail in this beautiful preserve.