Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Dane Trail and Wildwood Stables

On the northwest side of Day Mountain in Acadia National Park is an old trail to the 583-foot summit. First appearing, unnamed, on a 1901 path map, it was later referred to as the Dane Trail. Over a hundred years later it is again nameless and nearly forgotten.

This unmaintained trail, which the Park listed as abandoned in 1999, starts on the Day Mountain carriage road 1/4 mile southwest of the Triad-Day Mountain Bridge over the Park Loop Road.*1  It is marked by a wooden sign attached to a tree that says "Day Mtn." Partially concealed steps are below it at the carriage road's edge.

Dane Trail - carriage road entrance
The summit end of the trail is unmarked. The .23-mile trail is a moderate climb guided by small cairns. In places it is blocked by fallen trees and branches; otherwise, the trail is useable if the hiker exercises care. Once at the summit the hiker can descend via the carriage road or the Park-maintained Day Mountain Trail to loop back.

Helen and Ernest Dane
The Dane Trail likely came by its name from the Dane property over which it crossed. It was not uncommon for hikers to attribute trail names to properties' owners. By 1911 Ernest Dane and his wife, Helen, had bought property, which they called Wildwood Farm, and were constructing buildings on it. Wildwood Stables now occupies the site.
The name "Wildwood Farm" was not unique to the Danes; it referred back to "Wildwood ranch," a farm run by W. E. Hadlock at the same location from at least 1887.*2  Intermediate owners also called the property "Wildwood."

Ernest Dane was a Brookline, MA, financier, philanthropist and Harvard graduate. In 1909 he bought Glengariff, the Seal Harbor waterfront estate of George Cooksey.*3  He promptly tore it down and replaced it in 1910, still retaining the Glengariff name.
Dane home Glengariff
Seal Harbor Library

A prominent yachtsman, Dane added a wharf to accommodate his boats, which later included the 240-foot diesel-powered, steel yacht Vanda built for him in 1928 at Maine's Bath Iron Works at a cost of $750,000.*4  Like fellow yachtsman J.P. Morgan (February's post), he was a member of the prestigious New York Yacht Club.

The Dane Trail did not originally begin at the carriage road. Rather, it started from an east-west road, built about 1889, known as the Wildwood Farm Road. This connector road provided access to the scenic Bubble Pond and Jordan Pond on the northeast and west sides of Pemetic Mountain. At the Wildwood Farm Road the trail joined trails north to The Triads, three 600-700' peaks abutting the north side of the farm, and trails south toward Seal Harbor. From the Day Mountain summit the trail descended south to the county road (Route 3) with access to the Caves and Tilting Rock, two popular hiking destinations, and continued to Sea Cliff Drive (Cooksey Dr.) at the coast.

Signpost - 1994
David Goodrich
A 1972 path map introduced a different trail descending from the north side of Day Mountain's summit. This is the north section of the present Day Mountain Trail and connects directly to the Triad-Day Mountain Bridge. The 1972 map also suggested the formal demise of the Dane Trail by its notable exclusion; subsequent maps also do not show it. Yet, in 1994 a post with a wooden sign stating "Wildwood Farm" and "Dane Trail" was still at the summit entrance to the erstwhile Dane Trail. By 1999 the sign had disappeared from the post and by 2011 the post itself had vanished.*5

Wildwood Farm - unknown date
Seal Harbor Library
Postscript: In 1948 Helen Dane, a widow from the death of Ernest in 1942, donated Wildwood Farm to the U.S. Government. The structures, save the barn, were demolished by the Park in 1958. The barn is still a prominent feature of Wildwood Stables. In December 1983, via a land swap between David and Margaret (Peggy) Rockefeller and the U.S. Government, Day Mountain became a part of Acadia NP.
Wildwood Stables - 2010


* Footnotes:
1  GPS coordinates of Dane Trail carriage road entrance: N44° 18.740'  W068° 14.122'

2  William Edwin Hadlock was a Lieutenant Colonel with the 28th Maine Infantry Regiment during the Civil War and an entrepreneurial and prosperous resident of Islesford on nearby Little Cranberry Island.

3  Cooksey, an 1873 English immigrant to New York City where he made his fortune in the grain market, bought and developed tracts of land around Seal Harbor. He built Glengariff in 1891-92 and Sea Cliff Drive in1895, later renamed Cooksey Drive. Due to his wife's ill health, he moved his family to California in 1900 into a new home at Stanford University. His memorial plaque is on Cooksey Drive at N44° 17.462'  W068° 14.099'.

4  Among other yachts built by the Bath Iron Works was J. P. Morgan, Jr.’s 343-foot Corsair IV in 1930.

5  Special thanks to David Goodrich, who provided the 1994-2011 status of the Dane Trail summit signpost.


  1. Another job well done. You tell a good story. Mo

    1. Thanks, Mo. This was a fun research project with a nice accompanying hike.

  2. I have noticed this before, but did not know what it was. Thanks for researching it for me. I just found your blog after doreen from the Y told me about it. Right up my alley! There are a bunch of forgotten trials on Mr. Rockefeller's land around Little Long Pond that I have been exploring since we moved here this spring. Very fun little spots.