Saturday, September 8, 2007

Acadia National Park

At the end of June I spent 3 nights at Acadia National Park, on Mount Desert Island, Maine. Maine was the last state east of the Mississippi I'd never visited, and it seemed like a good excuse for a few days off.

The park is an interesting combination of ocean & hills, with clusters of towns scattered here & there across the island. Bar Harbor, the traditional old-money summer town, occupies part of the island, and the town of Otter Creek lies just outside Blackwoods Campground.
the ocean at Acadia

Acadia has no backcountry camping; there are car-camping campgrounds, but no overnight backpacking sites. I stayed at Blackwoods, which is the largest but didn't feel as uncomfortable as most car-camping sites do to me. I hate camping with lots of people around. The sites at Blackwoods are bigger than some, though I wish there was more separation than there is.

One trail to the top of Cadillac Mountain starts just beyond Blackwoods; it was the start of my first full day in the park. Cadillac is the tallest (1530') mountain on the Atlantic seaboard, and looking NE from Cadillacfeatures wonderful views. Trails converge on the top from all directions. (Acadia is dense with trails, offering extensive opportunities to link routes together into loops.) There's also a road to the top, and a huge parking lot, so it isn't the most serene mountain top.

There are, though, great views of the park, and of most of the state.

From Cadillac, it's a nice hike, and a quieter one, to Dorr Mountain. It's a steep drop down the east side, broken rock all the way, into a col between the mountains. An equally steep trail goes back up Dorr, which is several hundred feet lower than Cadillac.

Clouds over the summit of Dorr

From Dorr it was down the Ladder Trail to a nice walk along a lake called The Tarn. The ladder trail actually only has two short ladders- The Beehive Trail is much steeper- but does have several long steep staircases. The steps are tall, but very well constructed, showing the amazing amount of effort spent building trails through the park.

From The Tarn I went over to the park's "Wild Gardens of Acadia", which is a beautiful (and not very wild) set of nature trails through gardens showing off the varied flora of the park.

To return to the campground, I decided to try the park's shuttle bus system. The buses are new, clean, & quiet- much nicer than the shuttle buses at the Grand Canyon. They're also plastered with the logos of their sponsor, LL Bean, but I guess that isn't too bad. The shuttle bus system has a large number of routes around the park, most of them coming together at the villiage green in Bar Harbor.Iron rungs of the Beehive trail

Day two started early. I'd read about the trail up The Beehive, a 500' lump of rock on the north side of the island. The trail was reputed to be steep, the views great, but the crowds greater. I decided early would be best.

Calling the trail steep is an understatement. For large portions of the hike the trail is vertical. Iron rung ladders are set into the rock to make it passable; I'd really hate to climb this route at midday, with the crowd forming a line up & down the trail. It must make Angel's Landing at Zion seem quiet by comparison.

Still, for me, starting at 7am it was a great climb. Yes, it's strenuous, but it is only 520' to the top, so it isn't a killer climb. The top is windswept, with incredible views of the harbor and Sand Beach, Acadia's prime swimming & sunning beach.

I continued over the Beehive, down the other side and past a nice little Alpine-seeming lake, The Bowl. Beyond the bowl are still more trail junctions- I went west, climbing up Champlain Mountain at 1058'.

Champlain, from the Beehive

Champlain has good views into Bar Harbor- that day I could plainly see a cruise ship mooring in the harbor to disgorge thousands of passengers. I decided not to visit town again.

Looking back at the Bowl, Beehive, and Gorham

I retraced the route back down Champlain, heading for my third hilltop of the day, Gorham Mountain. Gorham isn't much higher than the Beehive- only about 25'- but it seemed like a good route to take back past The Bowl, along nice wooded trails.

All the trails I took through Acadia were well maintained & easy to follow. They have an odd method of building marking cairns up there- sort of a little bench with another rock on top- but they serve well on the trails without cover. In the woods, the trails need little marking.

From the Gorham trail I could look back and see all my fears of the Beehive Trail coming true, with a sold line of people slowly working their way to the top. I was very glad I'd taken that one on first.A crowd on the Beehive

Gorham had the typical wonderful view, but really nothing to separate it from the rest. The hike down is very nice though, with a side route (a little more rugged than the main trail) that takes you along cliff remnants that were at one time at sea level and now are huge stone blocks along the trail.

The balance of my trip was a quiet afternoon back at the campsite, and sitting at the ocean near the campground. There was a quick shower, leading to a rainbow, and one of my favorite shots from the long weekend.
rainbow over the ocean

All of the pictures from this trip were taken with a new 8mp Samsung camera I bought before the trip, as a replacement for my nice Canon than drowned in the Catskills. Same megapixels, but a point-&-shoot camera just isn't the same. They aren't bad, but I wish they were better. The full collection is at my Smugmug gallery.

Catskill 3500; Catching up

A weekend about catching up.

First note- after 4 years of hiking in the Catskill Mountains, I completed the requirements for the Catskill 3500 Club in June, on a hike of Kaaterskill High Peak with Katie & Jed. The hike was really nice, except for the rain on the way down the mountain. And the thunder. And the lightning. And did I mention the rain? After that, it rained some more. It rained so much that it overwhelmed my raincoat, and my pack cover, and soaked the pack so thoroughly that it destroyed my year-old digital SLR camera. Major bummer.

But I got a nice patch:

Catskill 3500 Club patch