A scant mile east of the village of Blue Hill, Big Peters Brook flows out of the dense coniferous woods and empties into Peters Cove in Blue Hill Harbor. A wide trail thickly carpeted with needles leads along the east side of the brook for a half-mile to a frothy cascade that tumbles into a large pool. Part way along the Peters Brook Trail, the newish 3 Bridges Trail, diverges to the west.
On a crisp, clear late autumn Sunday afternoon about this time last year, I joined a robust group from the Blue Hill Heritage Trust for a walk on the short but scenic 3 Bridges Trail. The hike was led by George Fields, the trust’s associate director; Merrie Eley, a volunteer trail steward and master Maine naturalist; and Pete Coleman, a volunteer trail steward, professional trail builder and the primary designer of this special trail segment.
Though less than 4/10 of a mile long, there’s a lot to see along the 3 Bridges Trail. The wonderful idea behind it was to give visitors an opportunity to really interact with the natural landscape, to go slow and get an up close and personal look at the big trees, the mosses and ferns, the boulders and ledges, and the pretty brook and its waterfall.
“It was difficult visioning the trail at first. With all the rocks, downed trees, and brush, you couldn’t see very far ahead of you,” said Eley. “The takeaway we wanted for people was a real sense of how the trail was originally imagined and then actually built, which isn’t a straight line but rather a winding course.”
In addition to the lovely coastal forest setting, the highlights of the 3 Bridges Trail, are, as you might expect, the three footbridges, which were constructed entirely (except for one small hidden board) of cedar trees harvested from the surrounding forest and limbed, peeled, and milled onsite. The bridges are true works of art, so impressive is the craftsmanship. The sections of rock sidewalk and steps are pretty cool, too.
The three bridges don’t have official names, but perhaps those Eley has given them might one day stick. The first bridge you cross is the “Heart Bridge,” so named for the heart-shaped pattern made by the railing supports. Just beyond, snaking around a large ledge, is the “Corduroy Bridge,” the decking of which is built in corduroy log style.
The big bridge over Big Peters Brook is the Troll Bridge. “It was named by my classroom kids for the fairies and gnomes and magical woods they imagined around it,” noted Eley.
The 3 Bridges Trail ends much too soon at a platform above the waterfall. Future plans call for extending the path a short distance north, then building another bridge to span the brook and connect back to the Peters Brook Trail, thereby creating a nice loop hike of about a mile.
“We wanted this trail to be a place for people to contemplate, meditate, and rejuvenate,” said Coleman, words that echoed in my head as I sauntered back out to the road after a glorious hour.
I can’t remember the last time I took so long to hike so short a distance as on this day. All too often I take the AT thru-hiker, got-to-make-miles approach to hiking, and it’s a tough habit to shake. So, it was a real treat to meander and stop here and there and look around just because. You and I, we should take more of these kinds of walks, don’t you think, in the spirit of say, John Muir or Henry David Thoreau?
I enjoyed my visit to Peters Brook so much that I returned a week later to explore the adjacent Penny’s Nature Preserve. Its 107 acres feature three miles of hiking on five trails that lead to an old granite quarry, along another half-mile stretch of Big Peters Brook and to the wetlands of Albion Meadow. Since 1985, the Blue Hill Heritage Trust has protected nearly 12,000 acres across 30 different properties and 68 conservation easements. And with a network of 31 miles of woodland trails spanning the beautiful Blue Hill Peninsula, there’s plenty to explore