The horror of turning into middle-aged leaf peepers flashed in my mind.
Ironically, one of the best reasons to go to Maine in the fall is to be very active outdoors. With visitors to the national park at half of what they are in August, the carriage roads and trails are less populated. That means easier access to the most popular biking and hiking spots such as Eagle Lake and Cadillac Mountain, Mount Desert Island’s highest point. The rock climbing companies are still open. And the weather is terrific for being outdoors.
So, as we approached our autumn visit to Acadia, now an annual ritual, our plans were very much set. We know what to do in August and what to hold until October to make the most of the seasons and avoid any crowds.
During previous fall trips, we had hiked Cadillac’s West Face (a favorite) and the North Ridge, but we had only done the northernmost parts of the South Ridge in conjunction with other hikes, the previously noted West Face, as well as Canon Brook Trail, another fall favorite. This year we hiked the entire 7.4-mile South Ridge Trail, up to and back from the 1,530-foot summit, in four hours. We stopped very little, just to eat an apple at the summit and take this photo of the glacial cirque known as the Featherbed.
This year autumn rainfall gave us gushing brooks, topped-off lakes, and lots of active waterfalls. We hiked along Little Harbor Brook, for example, where there were frequent crossings along stepping stones, something that holds endless charm for me. I don’t know why.A highlight of the Little Harbor Brook Trail was reaching Amphitheatre Bridge, where we enjoyed a very pretty waterfall.
Another day we made our own hike/bike tour. After dropping our bikes off at Jordan Pond House, we parked on Route 3 near Hunters Brook. We hiked north along this lovely brook, then headed west over The Triad where we picked up the Ponds Path to emerge here on Jordan Pond.
We had lunch at Jordan Pond House where we witnessed – but did not partake of! – such spectacular desserts as popovers filled with ice cream.
After lunch we got on our bikes and pedaled back on the carriage roads to Signpost 36. There was only a short expanse of about .2 mile where we had to walk – and carry – our bikes on a trail through the woods.
Although it was close to dusk, we locked up our bikes and hiked another mile to Hunters Cliffs, where we marveled at Maine’s rocky coastline.
When you pack so much into each day, there’s not much tension left in your body as evening approaches. What’s left quickly dissipates with a glass of a favorite libation – I am happy to promote my recent discovery of Shipyard Pumpkin Ale — at one of Mount Desert Island’s great restaurants. This year outstanding fall fare on MDI ranged from lobster pot pie at Fiddler’s Green in Southwest Harbor to an Autumn Sweater Salad (mixed greens with sliced apple, garlic marinated feta, herbs, and balsamic vinaigrette) at Lompoc Café in Bar Harbor to risotto with butternut squash at Sips in Southwest Harbor.
Near the very end of our fall vacation in Maine, we went for an easy walk along a path called Murphy’s Lane, in the shadow of the Precipice. Actually, there was no shadow that day because it was raining lightly. Despite the precipitation, I was lighthearted as we strolled through birch groves and among rain-kissed leaves and grasses.
Josh was right. I could have seen leaves like these in Central Park…if I had been open to them. Instead I needed to follow John Muir’s instructions to get to that special place:
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”