Featured Trail: Discovering Tracy Shore

Featured Trail: Discovering Tracy Shore
panorama from overlook at Tracy Shore

Panoramic view of Johns Cove from Garber Overlook Preserve

The first time I walked the trails at Tracy Shore and Garber Overlook Preserve in 2013, I was amazed I hadn’t heard of them sooner. The farther one walks, the more enchanting the trail becomes, with dappled sunlight filtering through hemlock and soft pine needles underfoot, winding along a mossy rock-lined stream and past fantastic rock formations before reaching the cliffs above Johns Cove.

The 40-acre Tracy Shore property has actually been in conservation since 1980, when Mr. and Dr. Tracy donated it to the Maine Chapter of the Nature Conservancy. The land was later transferred to the town of South Bristol with conservation restrictions, and is managed in partnership with the DRA.

Neighboring Garber Overlook Preserve is much newer, having been donated to the DRA by siblings Michael and Beth Garber in 2012.The overlook trail was first created in 2013, and then expanded in 2015 to form a loop. Having been so impressed by the original trail, I was eager to see the latest improvements.

blue bead lily

Blue bead lily

It was a cool and hazy late May afternoon when my companion and I entered the woods at the trailhead. We were greeted by a cheerful patch of blue bead lily in bloom. Lady’s-slippers were nodding green buds close by, promising to show their pink blooms in another week or two. We also found hobblebush, with its striking clusters of white blossoms, scattered profusely throughout the preserve.

We followed the Blue Loop trail through grown-over pastures, the remains of stone walls still in evidence. Hardwoods dominate this part of the preserve, where highlights included a vernal pool and thickets of blooming hobblebush. At the south end of the Blue Loop we picked up the Yellow Loop trail. This loop is shorter, but includes some significant changes in elevation, climbing up to a rocky ridge and then descending rapidly down to the shore. Both points offer a lovely view up the length of Johns Cove.

The Overlook trail begins here at the bottom of the cove. After crossing a wooden bridge, the trail immediately begins to climb steeply, and change in character. It follows a cascading stream, gurgling past on a bed of moss-covered granite. The evergreens close in and there’s more of a hush to the woods, punctuated by the ethereal song of a hermit thrush.

rock formations and ferns at Tracy ShoreAt the top of the rise the trail forks, and we followed the new trail, which continues east along the stream bed. I had been intrigued by the comment of a recent visitor to the preserve, who noted in the trail journal, “It is a counter-intuitive trail, but now takes the hiker to some of the most beautiful rock outcrops in the area. It feels remote, but is not and adds great diversity to the walk.” Those words came back to me as we walked past massive walls of granite and tumbled boulders, all draped with polypody fern and rich carpets of moss.

For me, the deep woods beauty of these green-draped rocky ledges, accompanied by a soundtrack of bubbling brook, sweet birdsong, and a whisper of wind in the pines, make this one of those rare trails that are every bit as worthwhile as the view at the end.

And indeed it is a spectacular view. The end of the trail brings one to weathered cliffs high above Johns Cove – so high, in fact, that we are at eye level with the tops of the pines. We stay to watch a sailboat glide past heading upriver, then turn back to the trail.

For more information about Tracy Shore and Garber Overlook Preserves, including directions and a trail map, click here.

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