And a warm welcome to the horseshoe crabs! They're here to lay their eggs and for a short while longer, you can watch these prehistoric arthropods in action.
The Chebeague Cumberland Land Trust recently announced a new trail, now open to public use - the Spears Hill Trail. This trail is the final piece to connect the 1.5 mile loop trail around this gorgeous CCLT-protected property, which features the only public coastal access trail in Cumberland. For a map and more details on this trail, visit CCLT's website here: https://www.ccltmaine.org/broad-cove-reserve
Side note: Because the new trail crosses private land held in common by 10 homeowners, CCLT is asking all trail users to be respectful of private property, stay on the trails, and follow use rules.
Dogs are prohibited from the beach to protect sensitive intertidal habitat.
Dogs are permitted on trails and Beach Drive but must be on a leash.
The Spears Hill Trail winds through a lush forest of moss and ferns, colored with every shade of green. Even more excited, it leads to Broad Cove Reserve, which is one of the few, special places along the Maine coast where horseshoe crabs come to lay their eggs from mid-May to mid-June. It is also a gorgeous little stretch of beach that sits on 104 acres, including the woods and trails.
Located in Cumberland Foreside off of route 88 near the intersection of Tuttle road, this reserve offers a stretch of sandy beach, a dock, meadows, woods and lime green marine grass...and horseshoe crabs. Broad Cove Reserve was once the site of important fishing grounds for the Abenaki people. Later, it served as the Cumberland town farm. Now managed by the Town and CCLT, it welcomes public access.
Parking is allowed at the top of Beach Drive in a lot you will see on your right as you enter. From there, walk back towards the main entrance (near route 88) to find the Stonewall trailhead on the right. This will connect with the Spears Hill trail, which will wind down to the cove where you can explore the beach, then follow Beach Road until you connect with the wooded Stonewall Trail. To locate our Seek'em, follow the trail until you've reached a pile of cut trees. You will be nearing the end of the trail and should see peaks of the ocean.
Keep going until you see the small, white CCLT sign on the right and take a look in the mossy tree stump just past it.
From here, follow the trail to the end where you will take a left onto the boardwalk leading down to the beach.
Back to those horseshoe crabs. Here is some information about these incredible marine arthropods, which I learned from the live CCLT Horseshoe Crab Event with Carol Steingart of Coast Encounters. If you'd like to view the webinar, it's the 4th video from the top on CCLT's video page of their website: https://www.ccltmaine.org/videos
Horseshoe crabs have been on the Earth, nearly unchanged, for 445 million years. That is well before the dinosaurs existed...which would explain their prehistoric appearance.
They may look threatening, but don't actually pinch, sting or bite. This may give you courage to handle the harmless creatures, but please leave them be. They have a big important job to do, laying all of those eggs.
Their favorite food is soft shelled clams.
Predators include turtles, fish, gulls, raccoons, fox and shorebirds.
Native Americans ate them and used their shells for food bowls and to bail out boats.
The Red Knot bird travels 10,000 miles to the Canadian Arctic and could not achieve this distance without the fuel that horseshoe crab eggs provide for them.
The long pointy tail of the horseshoe crab is used to flip itself over by burying the tail in the sand. It is crucial to their survival, so never grab one by the trail.
They are well adapted for spending long periods of time out of water and breathe oxygen through gills.
The blood of a horseshoe crab, which is milky blue, is used to test for bacteria in vaccines. There has been a huge increase in the amount of horseshoe blood needed , as a result of the COVID vaccine. Luckily, horseshoe blood draws do not actually kill the horseshoe crabs and they are supposedly returned to the ocean, unharmed. Hmm...that seems questionable, but I'll go with "ignorance is bliss" on that one.
They say the only time you should pick up a live horseshoe crab is when it's in distress. That said, it is fun to take a quick look at the underside to watch those little legs move...just be gentle with them.
To close out this gorgeous loop, head up Beach Road until you've reached the parking lot. If you time it right, a golf cart with a friendly driver may give you a lift up the big hill. After a day of hiking, swimming, and communing with the horseshoe crabs, my campers gladly accepted the offer.