Difficulty: Easy to moderate. The trail travels through forests and fields over mostly flat terrain, but there is an abundance of exposed tree roots and rocks on the trail that can make for tricky footing.
How to get there: The parking area to Central Penjajawoc Preserve is located off Essex Street in Bangor, approximately 400 feet south of the intersection of Burleigh Road and Essex Street. The parking area is across from the address 1242 Essex St. and next door (to the north of) 1231 Essex St. Even though a sign for the preserve marks the short drive that leads to the parking area, it’s easy to miss because it’s located on a bend in Essex Street and tends to blend in with nearby residential driveways.
Information: Central Penjajawoc Preserve is a quiet chunk of conserved forestland, wetlands and fields just outside downtown Bangor, and features a trail network that forms two loops. Bangor Land Trust purchased the property in two parcels totaling 87 acres in 2010 with funding from the Land for Maine’s Future and North American Wetlands Conservation Act programs.
The trail network on the property opened in two sections. In August 2013, they opened the first loop, which totals exactly 1 mile and is reached by a 0.26-mile access trail. And in October of 2017, the land trust officially opened the second loop trail in the network, which totals 0.55 mile.
The trails — which are well-marked with small, white and green BLT signs — is for pedestrians only. It has not been prepared for mountain bike use. Skis and snowshoes, however, are permitted.
To minimize impact on wildlife, BLT has decided that dogs are not allowed on the preserve. If on leashes, however, dogs are permitted on all other trails owned by the land trust.
Much of the preserve is wetland habitat, but BLT managed to map out the trails so that the majority of them travels over dry land. And where the trail is soggy, BLT has constructed bog bridges to help hikers stay out of the mud.
The first loop in the network travels mostly through a mixed forest that changes in composition several times. This forest includes beautiful stands of white cedar trees, clusters of fragrant balsam firs, big white pines and plenty of hardwood trees, making it a great place for a fall foliage walk. With such a variety of trees and habitats, this preserve is also a great spot to go birding.
The far end of the first loop travels along the edge of Penjajawoc Marsh, where the trail travels alongside an old rock wall and a boundary of barbed wire fencing. This is the roughest section of the loop trail due to tangles of exposed tree roots.
The second loop spurs off of the first loop, and the trail junctures are marked with helpful BLT trail maps that show you exactly where you are in the trail network. This new loop travels through three fields to an overlook of Penjajawoc Marsh, and crosses a brook two times. In the fields, the trail is a wide, mowed path, and at the brooks, BLT has constructed narrow wooden footbridges.
Founded in 2001, BLT is a nonprofit organization that currently owns and conserves more than 700 acres with public access in the Bangor area. In addition to Central Penjajawoc Preserve, they own Walden-Parke Preserve, North Penjajawoc Forest, Northeast Penjajawoc Preserve, South Penjajawoc Overlook, West Penjajawoc Wetlands and Levant Wetlands.
Each month, the trust hosts events such as nature walks and presentations on its preserves. For information, including a calendar of BLT community events, visit www.bangorlandtrust.org or call 207-942-1010.
Personal note: I attended the official opening of the Central Penjajawoc Preserve trail on the morning of Aug. 13, 2013, and took the opportunity to be on the the first people to walk the first loop trail of the preserve. But I missed the grand opening of the second loop trail this past October, and ever since, I’ve been meaning to get out and explore that second loop. So when I was looking for a Bangor-area hike to complete on Friday, just before the Eastern Maine Sportsmen’s Show in Orono, I jumped at the opportunity to finally check out that 0.5-mile loop trail.
The preserve looked a lot different on a cold winter morning than it did during the dog days of summer. To the casual observer, the woods was skeletal and lifeless, but upon closer inspection, wildlife tracks were frozen into the crunchy snow-cover and fresh holes had been drilled in trees along the trail, evidence of woodpeckers. I also spooked what I assume was a grouse (they make the most alarming racket with their wings when they take flight) and found a fresh pile of porcupine droppings by a culvert, which I suspect the critter had turned into its den. And as I entered a field on the new loop trail, I came across a group of four white-tailed deer, which lifted their heads and stared at me for a few minutes before bounding into the woods, their fluffy white tails waving farewell.
I wasn’t too surprised at my wildlife encounters in the preserve on March 10, because I’d had a similar experience when I’d first visited the preserve in 2013. During that hike, I spotted two wild turkeys, a ruffed grouse, a garter snake, a hairy woodpecker and a variety of songbirds. And on another walk I took in the preserve that year, I spooked two grouse and found a wood frog under a log beside the trail.
Now that the second loop trail is open, I plan to return to the preserve in the spring so I can walk through the fields in search for bobolinks and butterflies, and along the edge of the marsh, where I imagine I’ll find red-winged blackbirds perched on the cattails.