A Walk on Petit Manan Point
Belfast — If you drive 26 miles east from Ellsworth to Steuben, and then 6 miles south from Route 1 on the Pigeon Hill Road, you reach near the end of a peninsula that protrudes as far south as the town of Bar Harbor and Schoodic Point. The Petit Manan Refuge is one of the five refuges that together make up the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge.
Petit Manan Point is named after nearby Petit Manan Island, which itself was named by Samuel de Champlain and means “island out to sea.”
The refuge consists of 2,195 acres, both on Petit Manan Point and on nearby islands.
Like the other four refuges in Maine, Petit Manan provides a seasonal home for endangered neotropical songbirds such as the American redstart, Sawinson’s thrush, and song sparrow. The saltmarshes and mudflats provide habitat for black ducks great blue herons, American bitterns, sandpipers, and more. According to the refuge brochure, “During fall migration the 80-acred Cranberry Flowage on Petit Manan is filled with over 4,000 . . . black ducks, green-winged teal, and mallards,” who use it as a resting and feeding spot.
We often say that kayaking is the best way to see the coast, but walking is also good — and it sometimes gets you places unreachable by other means. Petit Manan Point presents a strong case for the argument that being able to see the water is not always a prerequisite of coast. For even where the trails take you over glacially scoured terrain and down into the deep shade of white cedar forests, the fingerprints of the ocean are unmistakable and everywhere. In the cool, moist salt air. In the peat bogs, the subarctic vegetation, and the tamarack. In the thrushes, sparrows, and warblers. In the wildflowers, and –yes — in the sound of distant surf.
Petit Manan Point offers two main options for hikes. The shorter, easterly hike (Hollingsworth Trail) seems to be favorite of some. The longer, westerly hike — (Birch Point Trail) has recently undergone upgrades that include new plank bridges in the boggy areas.
For our late day, late May hike, we chose the Hollingsworth Trail, which, as we found, provides a tremendous variety of vegetation and landscapes in a 1.5 mile loop. There is also opportunity to extend the hike by walking south along the beaches toward the southern tip of the peninsula.
Whether you go in May or August or October, there is likely to be lots to see — and a good chance of seeing something you haven’t seen before.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Ray Wirth is a Registered Maine Guide and owner of Water Walker Sea Kayak, LLC. Comments and questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org