In early September my husband and I enjoyed a short vacation in the Blue Hill region of Maine. While there, we visited Deer Isle and the Crockett Cove Woods Preserve held by the Nature Conservancy. This little jewel of a park extends along one side of Crockett Cove, a part of Eggemoggin Reach in the Atlantic Ocean.Many places along the Maine coast are fog forests. Almost every morning, and sometimes the whole day, the area is bathed in sea fog. The tree leaves collect the mist and it drips to the floor of the forest. Resultant growth is verdant and dense, even during periods of drought such as Maine experienced in July and August. Moss and lichen blanket most surfaces.
The preserve has limited parking, but we were the only visitors upon arrival. This place has remained wild. The only human incursion evident is the walking trails. Most trails are marked with paint blazes. The land is composed of thick granite, the remains of massive volcanic upwellings in the area millions of years ago. Scattered about are immense granite erratic boulders, chunks torn from the tops of nearby mountains and deposited here when the last glacier melted. Over the millenia, successive generations of plants deposited a thin layer of earth on the rock. The conifers evolved a spreading, shallow root system, allowing survival on a nearly impenetrable surface. Periodic strong Atlantic gales knock over the tallest trees. When they fall, smaller trees are pulled down as well. The root systems are exposed, along with the bare rock beneath the trees. Fallen trees open a light space with an opportunity for hundreds of seedlings to vie for a spot in the sun.
The trees in the preserve are predominantly spruce, fir, cedar, maple and birch. A walk here is pleasantly shady, with an indescribably delightful scent that might be called floral forest by some perfumer. The space is deeply silent. Nuthatches persistent ermp-ermp-ermp calls and chattering from red squirrels seem to be absorbed into the stillness. The only aural evidence of nearby ocean is the regular tolling of a bell bouy marker in the channel.
The granite base prevents water from entering too deeply into the ground. It gathers in low spots to form bogs and slow moving streams. The dense trees, moss and ferns and little nooks and dark holes in the rock lead one to almost expect wee forest folk to be about, tiny elves or fairies dancing in shafts of sunlight on the carpet of green.The true forest folk are evident in piles of spruce cone hulls, remains of red squirrel feasts. Birds are ever-present: nuthatches, chickadees and kinglets. All survive on the bounty of insects, cones and fruit from various plants. Low growing bunchberry, wild cranberry and blueberry form thick patches burgeoning with a seasonal fruit harvest.
Mushrooms and other fungi flourish in the dim, moist environment. Skunk cabbage, a relative of Jack-In-The-Pulpit, springs up in wet spots. This plant generates its own heat, allowing it to melt through snow for early flowering. Life clings to the most difficult and unexpected places, gathering moisture from the air and nutrients from the minerals released as lichen inexorably break down rock.
In places the trail is steep stairs formed by granite outcrop and tree roots. Other parts of the path are carpeted with a thick layer of fallen cones. The way is picked carefully with a mind to ankle-twisting protrusions.
With walkways that have been given names such as Indian Pipe Stem Loop, Bog Trail, Cedar Trail and Fern Loop, the many attractions of this tiny piece of natural Maine are opened to the enjoyment of all.