Ferry Beach, Camp Ellis Breakwater, Saco
A trail as sweet as tupelo honey with a history that includes a dummy train.
For real, these woods are home to the rare tupelo tree and were once home to "The Dummy." I'm not making this up.
This 1.4 mile woods loop, just a stone's throw from Ferry Beach, hosts a large stand of the rare to Maine tupelo trees. Before I share details on this gem of a trail, here are some facts I learned about the tupelo from the informative signs along the way:
The black tupelo, also called black gum tree, is in the dogwood family. It is a medium sized tree of rare occurrence in Maine. They have light brown, deeply fissured bark and short, horizontal branches. They are long lived, durable, and produce edible fruit in the fall.
Tupelo was a Native American food and the name "tupelo" comes from the Native American muscogee language meaning "swamp tree". The Latin name is Nyssa Sylvatica. Nyssa is a Greek water nymph and Sylvatica refers to woodland habitat.
Tupelo honey is the only honey that will not crystalize. It is also the only honey that diabetics can eat because of its ratio of sugars.
A tupelo swamp is a low densely vegetated area that provides a home for a whole community of plants, including the black tupelo. The Camp Ellis trail includes one of these swamps, and you will walk right past it. You'll know you've arrived when you reach this sign:
I explored this trail with my friend Becca and my dog Romy. My expectations were high, but this place blew them right out of the water. With the variety of quiet, cozy woods and sunny, spacious beach, it truly checked all of my boxes. Ok, that's not true. A coffee stand would have checked that final box, but its ok, because a road coffee is already part of my plan.
Located at 95 Bay View Road, the gate to Ferry Beach will be closed, but you can park just in front of it. From there, follow the road until you've reached the boardwalk leading to the beach. We started with a long walk on the beach and Romy was all zoomies ALL over it. Cleary, she was as uplifted as we were by the salt air and expansive views.
After our beach walk, we headed over to the Camp Ellis loop. You will pass a small pond on your way to it. After passing the pond, the trailhead will be on your right.
I did use my All Trails gps tracker while on this loop and am glad I did. There are a couple of places where you have the option to branch off of the loop - the reason the tracker comes in handy. I'm pretty certain we would have found ourselves off track and in some fancy backyard, had we not used it. Here is the All Trails link: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/maine/ferry-beach-camp-ellis-breakwater
This woods loop includes many boardwalks, light filtering through the trees, and of course, tupelo swamps. It is rated as easy and dogs are allowed.
Confession time, I forgot to bring a Seek'em on this walk. I did, however, have some back at my car. So, I hid one for you close to the gate. To motivate your kids to actually do the loop and beach adventure, here's my idea: Tell your kids the Seek'em is hidden near the tupelo swamp. When you don't find him there, you can act really disappointed. Your kids may cry. Everyone will survive and here's the good news - they will go home happy when they discover the Seek'em waiting for them near your car.
You will, however, have to explain how he got there. Maybe he walked his way over from the swamp. But with no legs, only a toddler would believe that story. Maybe a seagull picked him up and dropped him there. This is a more likely scenario since he does look like he's been through the wringer.
If you look to the right of the entrance gate, you will find him tucked between two trees, connected at the mossy base.
Before letting you go, let's talk about the dummy train. From a sign near the beach boardwalk, we learned that a genuine railroad called The Dummy Line ("The Dummy" for short) once operated behind the beach dune. It transported folks from Old Orchard Beach to Camp Ellis.
Because I was curious about this ridiculous name, I did a little google search. I learned that a dummy is a steam locomotive boxed up to look like a passenger car. The Dummy Train at Camp Ellis Station operated from 1880 to 1923. It ran on one set of tracks and would reverse direction to return to the starting point at Old Orchard Beach.
There is more history to be found on The Dummy Line sign, but I'll let you discover that for yourself. A little mystery goes a long way. Enjoy this spectacular trail!