Difficulty: Easy-moderate. The hike is 2.6 miles total, and while it isn’t a mountain hike, it does include climbing and descending hills. The trail is narrow, but well maintained and marked with blazes and signs. Watch your feet for exposed tree roots and rocks. There are also a few sections of narrow bog bridges.
How to get there: From Route 1 in Harrington, turn onto Marshville Road and travel about 8 miles (at the Harrington Town Landing, the road turns to gravel) and the preserve trailhead is on the left, marked with a small sign tucked back from the road. Just beyond the trailhead is a small parking area that is limited to four vehicles. If the parking area is full, the Maine Coast Heritage Trust asks that you return another time.
Information: The Frank E. Woodworth Preserve, named in honor of a local fisherman who died in 2002, is located in the coastal town of Harrington in Washington County and covers 130 acres: 127 acres of Willard Point at the end of a peninsula called Ripley Neck, as well as the 3-acre Hog Island and the smaller Peter and George islands.
Owned and maintained by the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, the preserve is open to the public year round. On the property is a narrow worn footpath that winds through a beautiful mossy forest, under trees more than 100 years old, over hills and across a brook, to the rocky coast.
The trail, which is marked with blue blazes and wooden signs, starts as one trail and after 0.7 mile, it splits into a 1-mile loop with a 0.1-mile side trail that leads to a viewpoint. Therefore, walking the entire network is a 2.6-mile trip.
While the natural beauty of the property is surely enough to keep any visitor engaged, the history of the land is also quite interesting.
Ripley Neck became a popular spot for summer rusticators in the late 1800s, and it hasn’t changed much. Many of the properties purchased on the peninsula during that time have remained in the same families ever since.
Much of Ripley Neck was owned by the Milmine and Parsons families for nearly a century. In the 1980s, the families donated “forever wild” conservation easements on much of their land. And in 2007, the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, with support from the Land for Maine’s Future Program, purchased 130 acres of the land — Willard Point and three small islands — so it could become a publicly accessible preserve.
Frank E. Woodworth (1919-2002) was a lobsterman who lived in Harrington and was a close friend to members of the Milmine family. It was upon their request that the preserve be named in his memory.
The forest of the preserve contains a lot of old red spruce, northern white cedar, white birch and stands of balsam fir. A carpet of lush green moss covers much of the forest floor, and mushrooms and lichens are abundant.
The trail leads to several outlooks along the shore, which is accessible by rough side trails. While most of the beaches are rocky and covered with seaweed, there are a few patches of coarse sand that can be used as a surface for picnicking or sunbathing. Also, a few rustic benches are located at viewpoints along the shore that make for nice rest spots.
Keep an eye out for wildlife, including a wide variety of shorebirds, waterfowl and seabirds.
Visitors are asked to stay on established trails (which are only open to foot traffic), leave the natural landscape as they find it, and carry out all trash. Dog are permitted but must be kept under control at all time. Camping and fires are not permitted.
For a trail map of the preserve and additional information, visit the Maine Coast Heritage Trust website at www.mcht.org.
Personal note: It was overcast and unseasonably cold on Saturday, July 25, when my fiance, Derek, and I took the scenic drive to the coast of Washington County, also known as the “Sunrise County” because it includes the easternmost point in the U.S. We were headed to the first ever Puckerbrush Primitive Festival hosted by the Pleasant River Fish and Game Conservation Association in Columbia. But first, we planned to explore the Frank E. Woodworth Preserve, a hiking spot that was suggested to me by BDN reader Steven Scott.
It felt strange to be wearing a sweatshirt and pants at the tail end of July, but I wasn’t exactly disappointed. In fact, the weather — which was in the low 60s — was refreshing and reminded me of fall, my favorite season.
From the trailhead, the trail climbed a short hill, turned a corner and headed into a mossy forest. Green, green, everywhere. Moss covered the ground and crept up the base of trees. It obscured boulders and wrapped around roots. Lichens climbed the trees, and in patches of sun grew clover, ferns and low-lying bunchberry, topped with clusters of red berries.
We paused to smell the balsam fir trees by rubbing their flat needles between our fingers and releasing their aroma, which always reminds me of Christmas. Then Derek spotted a small bird clinging to the side of a nearby tree. A nuthatch, I guessed. But after taking a photo, I zoomed in and realized it was a different bird — one I had never seen. Later, I submitted the photo to a birding group on Facebook and learned it was a brown creeper, a small songbird that is known for its camouflage. Its brown feather pattern closely resembles the bark of the trees it climbs.
While dogs are allowed on the preserve’s trails, we didn’t have our dog Oreo with us that day because we planned to attend the festival after the hike. Therefore, we probably spotted a lot more wildlife than we would have with our noisy pup in tow. The forest was alive with birdsong and the chattering of red squirrels.
When the trail split into a loop, we turned right and hiked it counterclockwise for no particular reason. As we neared the shore, we left the shady woods behind to hike through tall grasses and ferns. Remarkably, the narrow trail remained easy to follow, thanks to lengths of bog bridging and freshly painted blazes marking the trees.
Upon reaching the shore, we found a side trail to a rocky beach, and I convinced Derek that it’d be fun to hunt for crabs in the seaweed as I’d done so often as a child. Derek, having grown up on a farm in central Maine, wasn’t as familiar with the activity. Searching under mounds of seaweed, we easily uncovered a number of small crabs — mostly green in hue, but with some faint patterns of red and brown on their shells that set them apart.
Also while exploring the rocky shore, we spotted two common loons swimming at
such a distance that I had to take out my 300mm camera lens to verify their identity. One was an adult common loon, with a black head, red eyes and stately green band around its neck. The other bird appeared to be a juvenile common loon — with a grey head and white throat.
After visiting all of the outlooks along the shore, we hurried to finish the loop and hike back to the trailhead. We didn’t want to be too late getting to the festival, where we shot at moving targets with primitive bows and learned how to start a fire with a handmade bow drill, among other things.