If really big rocks are your thing, a visit to Freeport’s Quarry Woods is in order. The town-owned 35-acre preserve offers 1.5 miles of wooded trails where you can enjoy a walk in the woods, see vernal pools and explore the site of a former granite quarry.

The trail, blazed in both white and blue, is well worn and easily followed. Rugged timber planks span marshy areas, although weeks of dry weather have left the vernal pools here thirsty for rain. The preserve’s not far from Mill Stream and the Harraseeket River and contains a fair amount of wetland.

The entrance is well shaded beneath a canopy of hemlock, mixed hard and softwood trees. The route passes over thick coils of black roots that crisscross the path like some crazy latticework. Not too far along you’ll see a few twisted apple trees, survivors of an orchard from long ago. 

Further in are depressions where some early granite diggings took place. A side path veering off to the left brings you to the main quarry, which covers several acres. A closer look at the rocks reveals scoring left behind by the quarrymen showing where huge sections were skillfully cut away. The stones were carted away by teamsters along a nearby tote road. Granite was quarried here from 1886 to 1904 and put to good use in foundations, steps and stone posts.

According to the Freeport Historical Society, the quarry was among the many holdings of Edmund B. Mallet Jr., a 19th century entrepreneur and philanthropist. Mallet invested his sizable inheritance in a number of business ventures including a shoe factory, the foundation of which had come from what became the quarry.

Returning to the path and bearing left carries you over a small hill that twists and quickly drops off. It soon forks, and going left takes you to a wooden footbridge that brings you out behind the elementary school. During your visit, be on the lookout for ripening teaberry and the china white blossoms of Queen Anne’s Lace.

Quarry Woods is owned by the town of Freeport and protected from any future development by contributions from Land for Maine’s Future Fund, the Freeport Conservation Trust, Casco Bay Estuary Partnership and private donations.

No bikes or wheeled vehicles are permitted at the preserve. Visitors are encouraged to stay on the marked trails. No camping or fires are permitted. Dogs are allowed but should be leashed and kept out of the vernal pools that provide a breeding habitat for frogs and salamanders. The day of my visit, the bullfrogs were in full chorus at the inky pool near the quarry.

During non-school hours, the Quarry Woods preserve can be accessed from the Mast Landing Elementary School that you pass on Bow Street. The trail begins at the back of the school near the playground.

There are several trail maps posted in the preserve, but it’s a good idea to download one by visiting freeportmaine.com.

I’d recommend a wearing a pair of hiking shoes, because sandals could result in a stubbed toe, especially if you plan to explore the quarry. Insect repellent is a good, idea too. The mosquitoes were in attack mode during my mid-morning visit.

Phil Di Vece has resided in Maine since 1979 and written two books on Wiscasset history. He works as a freelance journalist and an active retiree at L.L. Bean in Freeport.