Machias River Preserve, located on the banks of its namesake, is a 917-acre area protected by the Downeast Coastal Conservancy (DCC), part of the Two Rivers Conservation Area (see description and map here). On a late September day, I used the parking area on 1A in Whitneyville to walk a lollipop-type loop using the Money Island, Homestead, and Hemlock Trails of about 3.3 miles, taking about an hour and twenty minutes. The Machias River Preserve can also be accessed from a small parking lot off 1A in the town of Machias. According to DCC’s site, “Machias” comes from a Passamaquoddy word meaning “bad little falls,” and I had taken this loop on before as part of the Bad Little Trail run sponsored by DCC and Bold Coast Runners.
Shortly after the entrance from the small parking area to the blue-blazed Money Island Trail, I saw the telltale signs of bushwhacking and circles in the grass indicating deer had slept here last night. I was almost immediately hit with the pleasant scent of wet pine and sweet fern. The trail narrowed, leading into a root-covered path along a healthy rust colored stream. At about a third of a mile in, just after the hulk of an old, abandoned car, a small side trail leads to the left to a series of pleasant moss-covered cascades where black-capped chickadees serenaded from the surrounding trees. Shortly after returning to the main trail, a small wooden bridge leads back over the stream, and a small spur trail can be taken to the right, for views of the Machias, flowing around Money Island in the middle of the river. The familiar clicking call of a belted kingfisher filled the cool river air.
The trail intersection here with the Homestead Trail leads inland, and the Hemlock Trail along the river. I opted to go inland and save the reward of the river views for the return loop. The Homestead Trail quickly opened on a field and a marsh populated by songbirds, including common yellowthroat. The trail, covered in roots, rolled over the forest terrain at the edge of the large marshy field, before turning back into the forest. This trail crossed gurgling brooks lined with moss and led to a piney single-track path watched over by rows of trees dripping Old Man’s Beard and lichen.
The path widened then, passing over the old bed of a woods road, running past and through a former apple orchard, with some gnarled old trees still retaining fruit. The trail opened on an area with more apple trees that was clearly popular with deer. I turned right at the sign for the yellow-blazed Meadow Farm loop to continue my smaller loop on the Homestead Trail. According to DCC, the property was owned by William Albee, a Revolutionary War veteran who established the farm after the war. From here, the trail wound its way downhill to the Downeast Sunrise Trail, where I turned left to use the multi-use path briefly until turning right to pick up the Hemlock Trail.
About midway along this half-moon loop, I scared a large hawk out of a tree along the trail, and it broke several branches as it become a brown mass of feathers shooting skyward and away, leaving the grisly remains of a small songbird in the trail. This portion of the trail was full of the musty scent of elderberries and opened on a large marsh. Here I saw withe rod viburnum and wrinkle-leaf goldenrod, as well as rugosa roses lining the path as glimpses of the Machias River appeared through the thick brush to my left. A small handmade sign warned of poison ivy, and it turns out they weren’t kidding. I wound up with a good-sized poison ivy rash on my arm that hung on for about a week, despite no memory of brushing against anything.
I followed the Machias around the bend, where large hemlocks stood as a natural gateway on the trail, which curved back towards the railroad trestle bridge and the Downeast Sunrise Trail. At this intersection, an open area with picnic tables sits next to a shaded grove, and a small path down to the shoreline. Crossing the Sunrise Trail, it was a short walk along the riverbank to rejoin the Money Island Trail, and back to the parking area.