Government Shutdown of Acadia National Park: It Won’t Spoil Your Trip to Maine

 travel  Comments Off on Government Shutdown of Acadia National Park: It Won’t Spoil Your Trip to Maine
Oct 012013
 
Acadia Mountain

The view from Acadia Mountain, access to which is not affected by the national park closure.

The government closure of national parks, effective October 1, 2013, has affected thousands of visitors looking forward to seeing Acadia National Park this fall.  With National Park webpages also shutdown, official information is limited.  However, local experts have stepped in to share the latest information on such social media sites as TripAdvisor, where postings under “Contingency Plans” in the Bar Harbor forum are filling the gaps for worried travelers.

The Park Loop Road has been closed, thereby barring roadway access to such popular attractions as Cadillac Mountain and Jordan Pond House. The Hulls Cove Visitors Center is also closed.

That’s the bad news.  On the other hand, the Island Explorer bus system is running and ferrying visitors throughout the island.  In addition, as Acadia National Park Deputy Superintendent Len Bobinchock told the Portland Press Herald, “You can’t lock up trails, but you can close the roads that lead into the park.”  Because skeletal crews are not adequate to handle extensive search and rescue operations in the case of emergencies, the National Park Service is asking people to stay off the park’s trails until the shutdown is over.  However, they are not requiring people to leave, it seems.  If you do decide to hike, exercise good judgment.

Acadia National Park occupies only about one half of Mount Desert Island.  The sublime beauty of this area far surpasses any single mountain or pond, and a government closure of the national park won’t lock you out of enjoying a trip to Downeast Maine.

Here are 7 ways you can enjoy Acadia National Park and Mount Desert Island, despite Congress.

  1. Hike to the top of Cadillac Mountain.  And, in fact, with no tourist buses circumnavigating the top, the summit may be just that much more peaceful.  There are trails from all four points of the compass, but the easiest to access during the closure is to the Cadillac South Ridge Trail, a long, but gradual climb 3.7 miles each way.  The trailhead is on Route 3, just south of the entrance to Blackwoods Campground.  It is a lovely hike, with spectacular views, just be prepared for the 7.4 miles of hiking and remember, of course, that you are hiking at your own risk.
  2. Choose another mountain to climb.  If you are not up for such a long hike, there are many other alternatives.  Consider Acadia Mountain, with its great views of Somes Sound and the Atlantic beyond.  Its trailhead is on Route 102 between Somesville and Southwest Harbor.  A moderate loop including both Acadia and neighboring St. Sauveur Mountain is 4.2 miles.  Another great choice is Beech Mountain.  There are also several different trails to its summit—none of which is affected by park closures.  Tom St. Germain’s excellent hiking guide, available in bookstores throughout Bar Harbor, can provide you with all of the details.
  3. Bike around Eagle Lake.  The carriage roads around the lake are just off Eagle Lake Road/Route 233.  According to the TripAdvisor posts on October 1st, cars were lined up along the roadway, indicating that the carriage roads were still open.  These carriage roads connect to others in the network, including the road that runs closely along Bubble Pond, with Cadillac Pond towering above.  The reflections of the colorful foliage of the West Face on Bubble Pond are compelling for any photographer.  Walking around Eagle Lake is also a good option. 
  4. Go sea kayaking.  “They can’t control the water, so we’ll still be open” was the message of Mark Fletcher at Aquaterra Adventures in Bar Harbor.  This operator of group kayaking tours launches from a private dock on West Street, so there’s no need to worry about park closures.  Another option is National Park Sea Kayak, also in Bar Harbor, which leads tours on the western side of Mount Desert Island, including popular sunset trips. 
  5. Take a horse-drawn carriage ride.  Although the national park concession at Wildwood Stables will be closed, you can enjoy a carriage ride throughout Bar Harbor with Wild Iris Horse Farm.  The driver discusses points of interest, as well as the history of the town.  Says owner Sandi Read, “It’s a great way to experience Bar Harbor the way it was before the days of automobiles.”
  6. Visit Bass Harbor.  Although the roadway to Bass Harbor Head Light has been barricaded, you can walk a short distance to see this lighthouse listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Then drive the short distance down to the harbor.  A stroll around this working lobster harbor in late afternoon is full of charms.  Walk along the shoreline and down on the pier.  Whether it’s a skiff, a pile of lobster traps, some worn-out buoys, or a Boston whaler, the scene is iconic Maine and stunningly beautiful in late-afternoon golden light.  Don’t forget your camera.
  7. Enjoy Mount Desert Island’s villages.  From Bar Harbor to Bass Harbor and Northeast Harbor to Southwest Harbor, each has its own personality.  Don’t miss Somesville, in the center of the island, with its charming Japanese-style bridge, one of the most photographed spots in Maine. 

You’ll find more tips for fall trips to Acadia here.  Have a great vacation!

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A Profile of Mount Desert Island’s Villages

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Pemetic Mountain in Acadia National Park: A Hike that Has It All

 travel  Comments Off on Pemetic Mountain in Acadia National Park: A Hike that Has It All
Jul 212013
 

What’s your favorite kind of hike?  A stroll alongside a pond?  A heart-pumping scramble across boulders?  An exciting squeeze through a narrow ravine?  Anything that provides the reward of spectacular views?

Hiking the west side of Pemetic Mountain provides all of these and more.

At 1,248 feet, Pemetic Mountain is only about 300 feet shorter than Cadillac, Mount Desert Island’s highest peak and star attraction for visitors to Acadia National Park.  Yet, unlike Cadillac, which is to its east, Pemetic has no tour buses obscuring the views and offers an exceptionally varied hike to its summit.

Jordan Pond The Bubbles

We started the 4.6 mile loop from the Jordan Pond House, warming up on the pleasant, well-traveled path along the eastern shore of Jordan Pond with the Bubbles in the distance.  We crossed a flat stone bridge, passing a vigorous junior hiker, then a wood foot bridge.

Jordan Pond Trail Acadia National Park

The Jordan Pond Carry Trail brought us to the Park Loop Road, where we entered the woods and started the challenging scramble across a boulder field.

Pemetic  Mountain West Side

We then came to a signpost, offering the option to hike through a ravine or across the steep, smooth granite to the right.  Even though it was wet, we opted for the ravine.  (This was not my first time through this ravine, so we had prepared with good mosquito repellant!)

Ravine Pemetic Mountain Acadia National Park

The ravine is not as tight as the popular Lemon Squeeze in New York’s Hudson Valley.  It has two sections, each of which you emerge from by climbing a large wooden ladder.  I think it is really fun.

Ravine Pemetic Mountain

At the summit you first get breathtaking views of deep, steel-blue Jordan Pond.

Jordan Pond from Pemetic Mountain Acadia National Park

More spectacular views of the Cranberry Isles follow as you traverse the mountain and start your descent along the southern ridge.

Pemetic Mountain Cranberry Islands Acadia National Park

I highly recommend hiking with a detailed trail map, such as the one of Acadia published by Map Adventures.  I never leave home without it.  Acadia’s trails are much trickier than you think, even if you have prepared by studying a trail guide.

One other thing that makes a hike a favorite of mine: a stretch of trail covered by a cushion of pine needles.  It’s a great way to end a challenging hike.  And this trail had that, too.

Pemetic Mountain Acadia National Park

 

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Five Favorite Hikes in Acadia National Park

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Best Hikes in Acadia: Jordan Cliffs and Penobscot South Ridge Loop

 

Best Hikes in Acadia National Park: Jordan Cliffs and Penobscot South Ridge Loop

 travel  Comments Off on Best Hikes in Acadia National Park: Jordan Cliffs and Penobscot South Ridge Loop
Aug 052012
 

Jordan Pond Acadia National Park

Let me introduce you to a cliff-side hike along east face of Penobscot Mountain.  Because so much of the climb overlooks the shimmering cobalt of Jordan Pond, many hikers list it among their favorites in Acadia National Park in Maine.  We do.

The 4.3-mile loop starts and ends at Jordan Pond House, so plan your hiking time accordingly.  Do you want your “reward” to be a lunch of lobster stew or an afternoon tea featuring popovers?

Rated as difficult, this hike features stone and timber box steps, iron rungs and ladders,  railings, and a variety of bridges – all to span the ravines and manage the steep terrain.

Between there are flat sections, for sure, with wonderful views.

Moreover, Penobscot’s bald summit at 1,194 feet will give you a 360-vista of Mount Desert Island.  And the beauty continues.  The descent along Penobscot South Ridge Trail is also one of my favorites because the wide-open ridge displays views of the Atlantic Ocean and islands to the south.

Ready for your reward at Jordan Pond House?  This hike, however, is truly one of those cases when the journey is the reward.

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7 Stunning Scenes You Must See When You Visit Acadia National Park

 Photography, travel  Comments Off on 7 Stunning Scenes You Must See When You Visit Acadia National Park
Jul 162012
 

Before you go to Acadia National Park in Maine, you’ll research all of the best things to do on Mount Desert Island.  You’ll drive the Park Loop Road.  You’ll be sure to stop to see Otter Cliffs, Sand Beach, and Thunder Hole.  You’ll stroll down the Main Street of Bar Harbor.

But I want to share with you seven stunning sights to see that may be off the beaten path or require a little extra effort.  And some of these are manmade!  Bring your camera.

1.  Start with Acadia’s most well-known site, Cadillac Mountain.

Porcupine Islands and Sunrise from Cadillac Mountain

At 1,530 feet, it the highest point on the Eastern Seaboard and the perfect place to survey the spectacular beauty of Mount Desert Island.  But, believe me, it’s worth it to get up to see the sunrise and view the Porcupine Islands in Frenchman Bay at dawn.

2.  Visit the famous Stone Barn Farm in Bar Harbor.Stone Barn Farm Bar Harbor MaineBarns, bridges, and churches are as much a part of the Maine landscape as some of its natural wonders.  Add to your itinerary the cobblestone barn on Norway Drive, built in 1820, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

3.  Walk, bike, or carriage-tour Acadia’s carriage roads.

Carriage Roads Rockefeller Acadia National ParkJohn D. Rockefeller, Jr. oversaw construction of 45 miles of carriage roads available to you today that weave around the mountains and valleys of Acadia.  They will bring you to some spectacular sites and sightings, which may include David Rockefeller himself taking a drive.

4.  Let Jordan Pond and The Bubbles take your breath away. Jordan Pond Bubble MountainsJordan Pond House visitors not only take in tea and popovers, but this iconic view.  I urge you to explore Jordan Pond’s shoreline and see if you prefer the views from a point slightly more west, as my husband does.  The 3.2-mile walk around the pond is delightful.

5.  Be charmed by the Somesville Bridge.

Somesville Bridge Mount Desert Island

The village of Somesville, founded in 1761, is Mount Desert Island’s oldest settlement.  The bridge, often cited as one of the most photographed spots in Maine, will get your attention first, but then you should focus on Somes Sound, the seven-mile-long fiord that divides Mount Desert Island.

6.  Behold the boats on Bass Harbor at dusk.

Bass Harbor Mount Desert Island Maine

A highlight of the so-called “Quiet Side” of Mount Desert Island is the working fishing village of Bass Harbor.  When you visit this quiet community, you’ll certainly also want to see the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, built in 1858, and to have dinner at Thurston’s Lobster Pound.

7.  Find inspiration at Little Long Pond in Seal Harbor.

Little Long Pond Seal Harbor Maine

Charles Eliot, the influential president of Harvard University, in 1901 founded an entity on Mount Desert Island to acquire lands for public use, setting the stage for the establishment of the national park eighteen years later.  His son and views like this one – which he felt to be the most beautiful on the island – were his inspiration.

It’s hard to limit this list of must-see scenes to just seven!  Comment below and share your favorites!

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Aug 152010
 

How long does it take to see Acadia?

That’s a common question among tourists and one that’s tough to answer.  You can drive the Park Loop Road, walk around the top of Cadillac Mountain, relax on Sand Beach, and visit Thunderhole in two or three days.  If you spend a week, you can see “inside” the island by biking its carriage roads and from the “outside” by taking a kayaking trip. 

But if you have a little more time, bring your imagination along and see Acadia from the vantage point of its history. 

I’m in my eighth summer now of walking and biking in the park.  Although I’ve whizzed over the carriage roads and bridges many times, I recently constructed a little tour and saw them in a completely new way.

Acadia National Park boasts 17 stone bridges, 16 of which were built by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. between 1917 and 1933.  He oversaw every element of their design and set the guiding principles for their construction:  minimal disturbance to the surrounding areas, designs to take advantage of scenic vistas and conform to the natural landscape, and use of local materials with a commitment to restore the land after construction.

 In this plan to relate to and respect the natural environment, Rockefeller demonstrated his considerable personal talent and foresight in landscape design.  Rockefeller also directed granite be quarried for each bridge close to the site for cost efficiency.  Each granite block was rough cut at the quarry and then re-shaped by a mason at the site.  One stone per day per mason was the standard.

That’s just one of the things we were thinking about as we started our first of two days visiting Acadia’s bridges by bike.  We could have covered more bridges the first day, but we combined it with a hike starting at Gatepost 22 to Long Pond in Seal Harbor to see the view that Charles Eliot, a key figure in the creation of the national park, called the most beautiful on the island.

All together we spent time at 11 of the 17 bridges in the areas of Upper Hadlock and Jordan Ponds, beginning both days at the Brown Mountain Gatehouse.  The photos are in the sequence of our route in case you’d like to follow in our bike tracks.

And lest we get too carried away here with history and design, let’s remember that the purpose of a bridge is to get you from here to there by going over something.  In Acadia National Park, those “somethings” are bound to be beautiful. Whether a charming little brook, steep ravine, or stunning waterfall, we took our time appreciating them.

Our starting point: Brown's Mountain Gatehouse

Hadlock Brook Bridge, 1926, which is only 40 feet long, was modeled after a bridge in Central Park NYC that Rockefeller favored

Hemlock Bridge 1924, lets bikers cross Maple Spring Brook across its 185-foot expanse and hikers pass under its 30-foot Gothic arch

The contours of Hemlock Bridge illustrate how Rockefeller's bridges conform to the natural landscape

Many larger bridges feature viewing platforms, such as this one on Waterfall Bridge, 1925

Stairs help you get down closer to the waterfall

Little Harbor Brook Bridge, 1919, provided a charming place to picnic alongside its 20-foot arch

Cobblestone Bridge, the first bridge to be built in 1917, is the only one with cobblestone facings, the idea not of the architect, but the carriage road engineer

Cobblestone Bridge is a popular attraction, including one of the tours by Carriages of Acadia

We then hiked to Long Pond in Seal Harbor. This is the view Charles Eliot thought to be the most beautiful on the island.

Looking south towards the ocean across "Little" Long Pond

Amphitheatre Bridge, 1928, is a 236-foot structure that features a flared entrance and dramatic viewing platforms

Amphitheatre Bridge's viewing platforms feel like parapets on a castle

Cliffside Bridge, 1932, is 232 feet long and with its crenulated railing resembles a medieval battlement

Even on a misty day the tall, narrow arch of West Branch Bridge, 1920, is the dramatic feature of this 170-foot bridge

Jordan Pond Bridge, 1920, 40 feet long, is at the popular point where Jordan Pond and Jordan Stream meet

Stunning triple-arched Stanley Brook Bridge, 1933, encapsulates much of what was learned in prior bridge design and construction

Jordan Pond Road Bridge, 1932, facilitates a Seal Harbor road above and carriage road underneath

The Triad-Day Mountain Bridge provided passage on our way home after our bike tour of Acadia's bridges.