Travel across the arching Deer Isle-Sedgwick Bridge over Eggemoggin Reach and onto Deer Isle, and you will have crossed the boundary into a different time zone of sorts, what I like to call “island time.” The pace of life seems slower, more relaxed, and perfect for many hours of recreation and leisure activities. And there are plenty of both on this 24,000-acre island of bountiful natural beauty, complete with spruce-scented woods, pink granite shorelines, deep green waters, salty ocean air, squawking gulls and long island views.
I usually visit Deer Isle to go sea kayaking, but on my latest foray to this treasured place, I decided to try some hiking and explore the woods and trails of several preserves under the stewardship of the Island Heritage Trust.
The trust has been protecting open space, scenic areas, wildlife habitats, natural resources, and historic and cultural features on Deer Isle since 1987. The IHT owns or manages at least a dozen preserves, four beaches and eight islands, and I was delighted to finally sample some of these coastal gems on foot.
PINE HILL PRESERVE
The summit of Pine Hill on Little Deer Isle affords extensive views over Deer Isle, and to Mount Desert Island and Isle au Haut. An easy quarter-mile hike through this seven-acre property gets you there. Follow a grassy woods road to a clearing, the base of an old quarry. A steep cliff wall of serpentinized peridotite, a dark-colored, coarse-grained rock of volcanic origin, rises nearly 100 feet; a jumble of scree at its base. Scramble up the trail along the right side of the cliff right to the top.
Immediately after the causeway leading onto Deer Isle proper is Scott’s Landing, a 27-acre preserve featuring a mile and a half of footpaths that crisscross the woods and fields of the former Scott family homestead. Hike to the site of the old farmstead and milk house, then trundle down the gently sloping field to the shore of Eggemoggin Reach.
Follow the sand and pebble beach to its end, then duck into woods and scamper over Moraine Ridge to the site of the 1807 ferry landing and the old store that served travelers to and from the island.
EDGAR M. TENNIS PRESERVE
Midway down the island, just off Sunshine Road, is the 145-acre Tennis Preserve, the largest on Deer Isle. Owned by the Maine Department of Conservation, the land is the former farmstead of the Pickering and Davis families, who resided here in the 1800s. Four small parking areas are found along Tennis Road, which bisects the parcel. On the east side, start at Great Brook and walk a nearly two-mile loop that hugs the shore of Pickering Cove and leads to a hidden pocket beach. The trail on the west side snakes through the woods before meandering down to the water’s edge at Southwest Harbor.
BARRED ISLAND PRESERVE
On the southwestern edge of Deer Isle is the 48-acre Barred Island Preserve, owned by The Nature Conservancy. A scenic one-mile trail traverses the cool forests of Stinson Point to the waters of East Penobscot Bay. Here, at three hours either side of low tide, you can wander across the sand bar to Barred Island. The beach is also a beautiful spot for a leisurely picnic lunch and a swim. To return, take the trail along Goose Cove with numerous island viewpoints, then pass a spur to Prayer Rock before closing the loop.
There’s so much to see and do on Deer Isle that you’re probably going to want to spend the weekend. So check out Old Quarry Ocean Adventures on Buckmaster Neck in Stonington for great tent camping and hot showers (www.oldquarry.com, 367-8977).
For more information, and brochures and maps of Island Heritage Trust preserves, go to www.islandheritagetrust.org or call 348-2455.
Carey Kish of Bowdoin is editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide. Follow his hiking adventures at: