Suckfish Brook Conservation Area is a two-part preserve in Falmouth and Westbrook to the east of Highland Lake, a total of about 132 acres in size. On a mid-December day, I explored the 94-acre preserve in Falmouth by the Falmouth Land Trust, with a trail system maintained by the Town of Falmouth that begins in the Conservation Area and connects to trails made possible by neighboring landowners. The Conservation Area is named for the white sucker fish, which spawns in the eponymous brook. The small parking area is at the end of Upland Road, off Mast Road close to the Falmouth/Westbrook line. Navigation through Suckfish Brook Conservation Area can be difficult, as the maps are good, but some of the trails, particularly those through the Christmas tree farm owned by Skillins, are unsigned. I typically use the AllTrails application to navigate and track hikes, but in this case, the best way I found to navigate was using the QR code on the trail sign to access the Google Maps version of the trail map, showing my position relative to my anticipated route. In addition, the AllTrails trailhead directions tried to send me towards the wrong side of Falmouth.
I made a loop by taking the Huston Trail clockwise to the Stone Ridge Trail, the Presidential Trail, the Red Tail Trail, and back north on the Presidential Trail to the Huston Trail, with a quick stop at the Beaver Trail. This route along the edges of the Conservation Area was about 2.6 miles, and easily completed in an hour. A sign and map kiosk mark the beginning of the trails, which are open sunrise to sunset. Shortly after the parking lot, a series of plank bridges led to the right, with a view over a small pond, a bench, and a beaver dam at the pond’s outlet. Returning to the main trail, white-blazed Huston Trail splits to the north and south, and I went left/north. Leaves rattled on the trees and crunched underfoot, frozen under a thin carpet of snow. There are periodic placards along the trail with notices and QR codes regarding the history of the area. The Huston Trail is named for William Huston and his family, the historical landowners. Huston was a forester working for the King of England’s mast agent for Maine, and white pines were harvested for Royal Navy masts here, hence the name of Mast Road, as well.
The Huston Trail turned right along a low stone wall and intersected with the yellow-blazed Stone Ridge Trail near a monument in the memory of William Huston and family next to a No Trespassing sign. This part of the trail was closed at the request of the landowner. A hand-printed sign and yellow diamonds on the trees denoted the “new yellow” section, along with small orange flags on the right margin of the trail. This new section switches back and forth across a low hill, crossing a wide gas pipeline corridor and then a power line corridor. On the east side of the corridor, the trail re-enters the woods, running concurrently downhill with a snowmobile trail through a long, wide tunnel of birches. This rolls across a series of brooks, before skirting the edge of the Christmas tree farm. A sign that is on the other side of the farm advises the property is actively hunted from October 15th to December 1st, and that during that time, visitors should only walk between 10 am and 2 pm.
The trail turns into a path through the farm, climbing the hillside with views to the west of the White Mountains, with the snowy cap of Mount Washington clearly visible. Here were the only icy parts of the hike, as rain and melt had frozen in the ruts of the road, creating a slick track. At the top of the hill, there was finally a trail sign denoting the Presidential Trail, and I started downhill on the road. Shortly before the base of the hill, I found a fallen sign for the Red Tail Trail and followed it to the left, curving around the edge of the farm and back to the Presidential Trail. Every now and again, the wind picked up the pleasant scent of the small pines being cultivated. The trail, marked with orange diamonds, eventually pops back into the forest, crossing a small brook, and then moves back across the power lines, through a small tree line, and to the gas line corridor, following this wide gap briefly before turning left through a small break in the stone wall. A sign announced the return to the Suckfish Brook Conservation Area, and I turned left onto the Huston Trail to the small Beaver Trail spur, which is across the marshy pond from the beaver dam and the parking area. From here, it was a short walk around the edge of the pond to my starting point. The trailhead parking, empty when I arrived, was full when I returned.