1-minute hike: Till’s Point Preserve in Penobscot

Difficulty: Easy. The hike, out and back, is approximately 1 mile and travels over fairly even terrain. The beginning of the trail is wide, following an old road. The trail then becomes a narrow footpath with tangles of exposed tree roots and narrow bog bridges that can make footing challenging in places.

How to get there: From the western intersection of Route 175 and Route 199 in the town of Penobscot, drive south on Route 199 for about 1.5 miles, then turn left onto Wardwell Point Road. Drive a little under 0.5 mile, then turn right onto Till’s Point Road, which is a narrow gravel road. Follow this road across a field, and when the road bends sharply left, turn right into the drive for the preserve parking area, which will be in a few hundred feet. The drive is marked with a preserve sign, and there is another preserve sign by the trailhead at the parking lot, and a kiosk displaying a trail map just beyond.

Information: Located on a forested point on the wide, tidal section of the Bagaduce River, the 49-acre Till’s Point Preserve features a 0.5-mile walking trail that travels through a mossy forest to the shore, where you’ll find a wooden bench perched on a grassy overlook, a rocky beach to explore.

The trail starts out wide, following an old road through a mixed forest filled with tall red oak trees. At the edge of private property, the trail takes a left turn, leaving the old road behind. This intersection is marked with a sign so visitors know not to follow the road onto the private property. From this point on, the trail is a narrow footpath that is uneven in places due to exposed tree roots and rocks. There are also several long sections of narrow bog bridges that have been constructed along the trail so visitors can avoid sinking in particularly soggy sections of the forest.

As you walk toward the shore, the forest transitions into a spruce-fir stand. You’ll also find giant pines in this mature forest. Thick moss carpets the ground and the tall, straight evergreens tower overhead.

This evergreen forest abruptly ends where the trail enters a grassy clearing above the banks of the river. In the clearing is a wooden bench built in memory of Georgia “Babe” and Richard “Dick” Packard. A plaque on the bench explains that “they treasured their time on the Bagaduce Shores.”

Just beyond the bench, the land dips, then levels out to become an open grassy expanse at the edge of the river that transitions into a rocky beach. Walking along the water, you can walk around the point in either direction to find large flat rocks that are perfect for picnicking or simply sitting and enjoying the view. Looking out across this wide section of the river, your view is dominated by Youngs Island, with three smaller islands scattered to the east, and across the river, Mills Point in Brooksville.

The Bagaduce River flows past Tills Point, narrows, then opens up to the ocean at Castine.

Tills Point Preserve is a particularly good place to spot a variety of wildlife, including nearly three dozen species of breeding songbirds, according to information provided by the Maine Coast Heritage Trust. And the shoreline is a great place to find a variety of shorebirds. The shore is also frequented by eagles and ospreys, and seals are often found sunbathing on a rocky islet across the water, southeast of Tills Point. Bring your binoculars to get a good look at them.

Seals 😀

The town of Penobscot acquired the property on Tills Point in 2006, and the Maine Coast Heritage Trust manages it as a nature preserve that is open to the public with a few visitor guidelines.

The trail is for foot traffic only and is open for the public to use free year round. Visitors are asked to stay on trail, respect the privacy of nearby landowners, carry out trash and leave archeological artifacts where they are found. Dogs are permitted if kept under control at all times. Camping and fires are not permitted.

For more information, visit the Maine Coast Heritage Trust website, mcht.org, or call the land trust at 729-7366.

Personal note: It was a gorgeous, sunny day on Saturday, April 15, when we arrived at the trailhead of Till’s Point Preserve, so I was surprised to find we were the only visitors. On the trailhead kiosk, I read that dogs needed to be “under control” but not necessarily on leash, so my husband, Derek, let our dog Oreo off leash — a rare treat — so he could sprint back and forth on the trail, the only conditions being that he stay on trail and within sight.

Acorns crunched under our sneakers as we walked away from the parking lot, following the old road through the forest and listening to birdsong.

“What’s that?” Derek asked, pausing to listen to the faint chorus of odd, croaking chirps, originating somewhere in the forest to our right.

The sound was familiar to me, but I just couldn’t place it. Then it came to me — my FrogWatch USA monitor training from a few years ago. The chirps were frogs. Still, I couldn’t name the exact species. Maine is home to nine frog species, if you include the American toad, and their different calls are a challenge to remember. However, I did remember from the class — which I took at Hirundo Wildlife Refuge in Alton — that the frogs in Maine emerge and start calling for mates at different times of the spring and summer. So I looked up what species emerge first thing in April, and I came up with spring peepers and wood frogs. From that, I was able to listen to recordings online and compare them to my recordings in Penobscot to confirm that they were wood frogs we were hearing on April 15.

Bald eagle way up high!

Even with Oreo running back and forth on the trail — an activity we like to call “rock-and-rolling” — the frogs were just the beginning of the wildlife observations we made that day at Tills Point Preserve. In the forest, I photographed a hermit thrush, which is fairly large, brown songbird with a speckled chest that produces a beautiful, haunting call. And on the shore, we watched as a bald eagle scared a group of mallards off the water and a double-crested cormorant fished in the shallows. Then, right before leaving the rocky beach to head back into the forest, I spotted what ended up being a group of seals sunning on a rocky islet across the river. Looking through my 400mm camera lens, I could count the seals — which totaled more than 20 — and I could clearly see how much the different in coloration, from light gray to brown to almost black.

Hermit thrush

Encouraged by the seals, we remained on the beach a bit longer, looking through my camera for sea ducks hiding in the waves. As we sat, soaking in the sun, we were serenaded by a song sparrow tucked in the woods nearby, but the only animals that actually presented themselves to us were two crows, which flew over the treetops, yelled at us for lingering on their beach (I imagine), made a U-turn, and disappeared.

Is this a well? I’m not sure. It was beside the trail.

More photos:

Aislinn Sarnacki

About Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn is a Bangor Daily News reporter for the Outdoors pages, focusing on outdoor recreation and Maine wildlife. Visit her main blog at actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com.