The Donnell Pond Maine Public Reserved Lands in Hancock County near Sullivan are part of over 15,000 acres of barely touched wilderness. There are many walking and ATV trails through the forest and several mountains to enjoy in addition to crystal clear Donnell Pond. Above are two views that comprise a near panorama of Schoodic Bay from Schoodic Beach on Donnell Pond. On the right is the foot of Black Mt and on the left, the base of Schoodic Mt. The beach is unbelievable, with coarse yellow sand that extends into the water as far as I could see. Even with the cloud cover and chill of early September in the air, I was tempted to take a dip in the pond.
This year for our annual mini vacation, we decided to stay between Acadia National Park and the Schoodic Peninsula. Our home away from home was a lovely Airbnb in Sullivan. The post and beam house was right on the ocean with a gorgeous view of the bay. This is the sunrise over Flanders Bay from our bedroom window.
The first day of our stay, we climbed 1049 ft Black Mountain. It’s a good thing the sky was overcast because the climb would have been too hot for us otherwise. As it was, we got fairly sweaty by the time we reached the top. The trail is moderately steep and sometimes crosses bare rock faces or scrambles over boulders. We started at Schoodic Beach, passed through a thick oak and pine woods, then began the ascent. The tree species changed to fir, spruce, maple and beech as we gained altitude.
Many of the beech on the mountainside are afflicted by Beech Bark Disease that has been destroying the species statewide. The trunks become riddled with cankerous sores until the trees are killed. A scale insect accidentally imported to Nova Scotia from Europe in the late 1800s has spread through most of the eastern seaboard. The insect opens wounds on the trees which are then invaded by a fungus. The fungus kills or severely weakens the tree.
It is so sad to see the stands of silvery-barked beech that once provided nuts for the wildlife now reduced to standing rotting wood. I hope some of the trees develop natural immunity to this scourge before all the beech are lost just like the chestnuts. There is evidence that certain beech trees do have immunity and over time these trees should become prevalent in the woods.
Nearing the summit, the forest changes again to include large fields of reindeer moss (a lichen) and other lichens and mosses. This year these plants are doing particularly well due to the abundant rainfall. Another plant to benefit from the excess moisture is the fungus. Mushrooms popped up all along the trail. The most abundant were bright yellow species.
This small dead maple leaf was surrounded by tiny white mushrooms. I’m not a fungi scholar so I don’t know the names of the various mushrooms, but I do like the great variety of their shapes and colors. The forest floor was also covered with laurel and wild low bush blueberry and cranberry. I enjoyed a few late season berries, yum.
The summit provided spectacular views of the surrounding area and also a pleasant breeze off the ocean, welcomed by two perspiring hikers. We somehow missed a connecting trail at the top that would have taken us over to a small mountain pond. There is always next time to see that. We descended through impressive cliffs made of slabs of granite. In places the stones formed natural steps. The trail back to our car was relatively flat and passed through a lowland boggy area. Cedar, spruce and maple towered overhead. Moss and mushrooms lined the way.
The Black Mt trail is only one of many in this reserve. Next door to the Donnell Pond Unit (as the State Forestry Service calls it) is another unit, the Tunk Lake Reserved Lands with more mountains, streams and ponds. This area of Maine is particularly beautiful. It is also not heavily used. The scenery is very similar to Acadia Park without all the crowds. We did not encounter a single soul during the several hours we spent around Black Mt. Passing through the reserved lands is Black Woods Road, a designated scenic bi-way linking the towns of Franklin and Cherryfield. This drive along Rte. 182 is well worth the time.
There is even a ghost story associated with the highway. Back at the turn of the last century, it is reputed that a newlywed couple were traversing the road at night. Their horse was frightened and their wagon went off a long drop. To this day there are reports of motorists at night encountering a woman in white standing in the road who disappears. Although I’ve driven that way many times both during the day and after dark, I’ve never met the ghost. I have seen many miles of old growth forest and idyllic waterways.