Difficulty: Easy. The hiking trails in both sanctuaries are narrow and travel over fairly level forest floor. Walking all the trails, from the trailhead on Cross Road and back, is about 2 miles total. Expect to step over exposed tree roots and rocks. The trails also include narrow bog bridges, which span soggy areas of the forest, and wide wooden bridges where the trails cross brooks.
How to get there: The parking lot for both Furth and Talalay sanctuaries is located on Cross Road in Surry. To get there from downtown Ellsworth, take Route 172-W Main Street toward Blue Hill and drive for 6.5 miles, then turn left onto Route 176-Morgan Bay Road. Drive 2.7 miles, then turn left onto Cross Road. Drive 0.6 mile and turn right into the parking area, which is also used by visitors to the Carter Nature Preserve.
The trailhead for the Access Trail that leads into both Furth and Talalay sanctuaries is located directly across Cross Road from the parking area and is marked with a sign and kiosk that displays a trail map and visitor guidelines.
Information: Furth Wildlife Sanctuary and Talalay Nature Sanctuary, located in the small town of Surry, are two rectangular parcels of beautiful mixed forest owned by the Blue Hill Heritage Trust. Located next to each other, these two sanctuaries are home to public trails that are connected and offer about 2 miles of easy hiking.
Starting at the trailhead on Cross Road, one blue-blazed trail leads into the forest toward the two sanctuaries. This 0.25-mile Access Trail was created through a trail easement on private property. Be sure to stay on trail, respecting the privacy of the landowner. This trail travels over the most hilly terrain in the trail network. The property has deep ravines and can often be wet.
In 0.25 mile, the Access Trail splits. To the left is a trail known as “Old Road,” which follows an old town road into Furth Wildlife Sanctuary. And to the right is a trail that leads into Talalay Nature Sanctuary.
The 32.6-acre Talalay Nature Sanctuary was given to BHHT by Paul Talalay in 2006. The sanctuary features a 1-mile loop trail that travels through a mossy old-growth forest filled with towering white pines and hemlocks, old white and yellow birch trees, and stands of northern white cedars. These tall trees are home to many nesting migratory birds, according to Friends of Morgan Bay, a volunteer organization that works in partnership with BHHT as stewards of Furth and Talalay sanctuaries, as well as the nearby Carter Nature Preserve.
I suggest hiking the loop trail counterclockwise (veering right at the beginning of the loop) because the trail seems to be marked better for people walking in that direction.
Back at the Access Trail, if you instead veer left onto Old Road, you’ll travel into the 27-acre Furth Wildlife Sanctuary, acquired by BHHT in 2000 through the generosity of the Furth family. This sanctuary is home to a growing colony of beavers, according to Friends of Morgan Bay and evidenced by an impressive beaver dam and flooded area that the trail passed by. The property also features an old-growth forest, as well as young forest, and beautiful brooks, which the trail crosses on wooden footbridges.
About 0.25 from the Access Trail, Old Road crosses a wooden bridge by a beaver dam, then splits into a loop. Hikers are directed by an arrow on the sign to hike the loop clockwise (veering left at the split). The trail was marked for people hiking it in that direction.
While visiting the two sanctuaries, keep in mind that dogs are not permitted. Hunting, camping, fires, bikes and motorized vehicles are also prohibited. Visitors are expected to stay on trail, carry out all trash, and leave nature as its found.
Dogs are permitted on plenty of other BHHT properties, which are listed at bluehillheritagetrust.org. Founded in 1985, BHHT is a nonprofit organization that conserves land and water throughout the towns of Surry, Blue Hill, Brooklin, Brooksville, Penobscot and Sedgwick. The organization also builds and maintains public hiking trails and runs a variety of public nature programs year round.
To learn more about BHHT, call 374-5118 or visit the organization’s new office at 157 Hinckley Ridge Road in Blue Hill. The office is open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Personal note: I was sick over the weekend, but on Sunday afternoon, I was feeling well enough to get outdoors for an easy walk in the sunshine. Breathing a little fresh air, I figured, would do me good. Furth and Talalay sanctuaries in Surry were ideal for my situation. They offered easy hiking not far from my home. So with my husband, Derek, I took a short drive to Surry.
Heading into the woods on the Access Trail, we first turned right to walk the 1-mile loop of the Talalay Nature Sanctuary, and right away, I noticed the abundance and variety of old trees. The most interesting feature I came across in the sanctuary was three different species of trees — a white pine, hemlock and white cedar — crammed together so tightly that they appeared to be growing out of the same base. Hugging each other, these tall trees stretched up to the sky, fanning out to catch the sunlight, and all three appeared to be alive and healthy. It’s an odd thing, to see three trees growing intertwined, let along three different species with such dramatically different bark.
Next we visited Furth Wildlife Sanctuary, where I knelt down by the edge of a brook to photograph the sunlight filtering through the swift-flowing water, bordered by a delicate layer of ice that had formed along the banks. While we saw plenty of beaver habitat in the sanctuary, we didn’t see any beavers. We did, however, notice deer tracks pressed into the snow all over the place in both sanctuaries, so if you visit, keep an eye out for the fluffy white tail of a white-tailed deer as it bounds away.