Blagden Preserve and Bass Light

Tramps in The Woods: Indian Point-Blagden Preserve and Bass Light
Friday, November 18, 2022.

It was a fine November day, clear and bright, seasonably cold, but with little wind, so we bundled up and headed to Mount Desert Island (MDI). Much of MDI is Acadia National Park, but today our first objective was the Indian Point-Blagden Preserve, managed by the Nature Conservancy, on the "quiet" west side of MDI.

Indian Point-Blagden Preserve

Handsome old oak trees line the Higgins Farm Road entrance to the preserve. The one on the left has a brass plaque that reads, "Mrs. John H. Abram's grandfather Seth Harding planted these oak trees which came from Ellsworth the day Abraham Lincoln was assassinated 1865."

The Big Woods trail leads from a spacious parking area through mossy woods down to a private road. The first bit is very easy going - wide, smooth, and well marked. But there a few bits that are a little tougher going, mostly due to tree roots, and a few tiny stretches that are a bit steep. Tree roots mean you have to make a gazillion micro-decisions about where to put your feet. Walking on the roots can be slippery, but walking between them you have to be careful that you don't get your foot caught, so you spend a lot of time looking down rather than looking around. There was another stretch with jumbled rocks, which also require attention to where to put your feet. There are a lot of trees, so there's not much undergrowth except mosses and a few baby trees, mostly where big ones had been blown down. It looked like it was foggy from the gray tree trunks as far as you could see. It's probably a refreshingly shady walk on a hot summer day.

Path winding through the trees on the Big Woods Trail with carpets of moss on either side.

It had snowed then rained the other day, leaving some puddles and mushy bits. We were glad of the sturdy bits of boardwalk through the worst places.

A box-type boardwalk, with covered sides, about eight feet long and reaching across a muddy puddle.

Once you're past the steeper bits, the trail comes into a wide, flat area with ancient apple trees with a gravel road through it. The road was lined with "no parking" signs, which suggests it's a busy place in the summer. But we only ran into one couple as we were heading back to our car. We're so glad we can go to places like this on off-season weekdays so we can have them to ourselves!

A field of asters sporting their fluffy seed heads with a cluster of old apple trees.

On the other side of the road, there are two trail choices. We took the Fern Trail. We were not expecting to see that many ferns in November, but we did come across a few hardy specimens. This trail was very flat and had lots of bits of boardwalk through the marshy areas. It leads down to the shore and then along the gravel/pebble beach for a bit. Behind the curving beach is a fresh water marsh. The tide was out, exposing the golden seaweed covering the intertidal rocks.

A brave and/or hardy fern growing through brown fallen leaves and pine needles.

A marsh, in late autumn russets and brown, peeking out from behind the mounded up pebbles of the beach.

Bright yellow seaweed draping the exposed rocks in the intertidal zone.

We never saw the return loop, but we didn't look that hard since we found where it hooked up with the Shore Trail. The Shore Trail follows along the rocky edge of the ocean. The characteristic shoreline rock of MDI is the beautiful pink granite, but the exposed bedrocks on this bit of the island is Ellsworth schist, handsome in its own special swirly, layered way.

Huge slabs of Ellsworth schist slant up towards the sky at the edge of the ocean.

A closer look at the Ellsworth schist shows its wavy layers. This piece has a small seam of white quartz at the bottom of a rainwater puddle.

This preserve is supposed to be great for birding, but, well, it's November, so mostly we saw Chickadees and gulls. But there are a few benches along the trail where you can watch the ocean and keep a lookout for osprey and other coastal birds, and maybe harbor seals basking on the rocks. It was great day for watching the ocean. The air was clear and you could see islands dotting the horizon, the most distant ones seeming to float the air just above the water.

When we got back to the car, backtracking on the Shore Trail and Big Woods Trail, we snarfed down a few granola bars and then proceeded down Indian Point towards Bass Harbor. Our plan was to grab some lunch in Bass Harbor, but the places we had hoped to go were closed for the season. That happens around here. As we passed through town, a huge white-tailed deer buck stepped into the road in front of us. We told him that he should be wearing a safety vest, but he paid no attention to us.

Bass Harbor Light Station

We followed the road down to the Bass Light, first lit to guide mariners around the Bass Harbor sandbar and the treacherous rocks in 1858. This had been a U.S. Coast Guard facility, but they transferred it to the National Park Service when the light was fully automated. There's no access to the interior, in fact there are signs saying that it's a "private residence" but also posted "U.S. Property No Trespassing". But you can go down a narrow paved roadway and stand next to the small house and connector to the cylindrical brick light house itself. It's topped with a glass and metal cupola housing a Fresnel lens. At the base are two bells that had been used on foggy days - they had to be rung every 10 seconds! Various gadgets were adopted so the lighthouse keeper didn't have to stand outside for hours on end to ring it manually and eventually they were replaced by bell buoys.

The lighthouse, connector, and a corner of the keeper's house, with a view miles out over the bay.

A large brass bell mounted at the base of the lighthouse. It says, "Blake Bell Co. U.S. Light House Establishment. 1891." The frame holding it has a sign that reads, "Please don't hit the bell."

A slightly smaller bell mounted in a rusting tower fixed to the rocky cliff edge. It says, "U.S.C.G. 1966" It, too, has a sign saying, "Please don't hit the bell."

On the other side of the parking lot is a trail that takes you down for a picturesque view from the other side. The first stretch is a flat, wide walkway of packed gravel, but any hopes of getting a wheelchair someplace interesting disappear with a series of stepped terraces ending at a set of stairs. The stairs wind down the steep face of the cliff, with little platforms where you can step aside to catch your breath on your way back up or look out at the ocean, and dump you out onto some stone steps. But to actually see the lighthouse, you have to clamber out onto the giant pink granite rocks. I only climbed out enough to catch a glimpse, and then we clambered back up.

The deceptively inviting hard path to the cliff-side lighthouse view.

Steep but sturdy stairs leading down the cliff face with the ocean just below.

The rest of the staircase leading to steps made of rough granite blocks and then jumbled boulders and the ocean beyond.

Jumbles of pink granite with the ocean to the left and the lighthouse peeking out from the trees at the top of the cliff.

English Pub

We were really hungry at this point. We decided our best bet was to head back towards home and look for a place in Ellsworth. We settled on the Airline Brewing Company pub on Maine Street on the way down to the river, which we had driven by many times. Its decor was a very good rendition of a traditional English pub, reminding us of those we had visited, although very tiny. They served actual English-style beers, a delightful change from the aggressively hopped American craft beers you find everywhere these days, and had several cask-conditioned options and more on tap. I ordered bangers and mash and Jon got a cobb salad, and we finished up with pumpkin cheesecake and another Special Old Bitter. (Why do they bring two spoons? If Jon wanted some, he could have ordered it himself. The second spoon went unused.)

The front corner of the Airline Brewing pub with red leather seats and dark woodwork.

A slice of pumpkin cheesecake with a fancy dollop of whipped cream, and two spoons.

A stretch of Main Street in Ellsworth at dusk. The Airline Brewing company is on the left and the Grand theater, lit up in neon, on the right.

And then we drove the rest of the way back with the last light of the day. It was full dark when we arrived. The kitties were so glad to see us - they were sure we had abandoned them forever.