Archive for June, 2008

June 28, 2008

Do Eco-Tourists Go to Acadia National Park?

If you are an ethical traveler, do you only go to Borneo or Belize?  Why not Bar Harbor?


I was thinking about this the other day as a read an article about “green travel.”


Someone said, “The essence of eco-tourism is deep respect for the place.”  If you go to Acadia National Park, you can’t help but be awe-struck by the craggy coastline, pines punctuating a quiet harbor, or a lichen-laden forest.  What should impress the eco-tourist is not only the astounding natural beauty – which drew rusticators way back in the mid-1800s – but also the harmony of sometimes opposing forces.  There’s a working lobster trade that balances natural abundance with commercialism.  In fact, even the tourism trades (such as the rock climbing and kayaking outfitters) operate respecting nature and protecting it.


This isn’t new.  In the 1920s John D. Rockefeller, Jr. feared the impact of automobiles on Mount Desert Island.  Collaborating with Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., the son of the designer of Central Park in New York, he helped develop the 27-mile Park Loop Road, a stunning roadway encircling Mount Desert Island and presenting breathtaking views to motorists – while protecting the island’s forests and wildlife.


Today L.L. Bean continues this tradition.  They support a network of propane-fueled buses to transport hikers, bikers, and sightseers around Acadia National Park, free of charge.  Called the Island Explorer, this system has carried over 2 million passengers, reduced smog-causing pollutants by more than 11 tons, and prevented the release of over 7,300 tons of greenhouse gases.


Acadia National Park has the only fiord in North America.  It has the highest peak on the eastern coast of the U.S.  And there are 23 more mountains on this island!  There are park rangers there who will teach you about peregrines and show you the stars over Sand Beach.  Somehow, it’s a particularly fitting place for Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory, a marine research institution founded in 1898, The Jackson Laboratory, another independent, non-profit organization focusing on mammalian genetics research to advance human health, and the College of the Atlantic, where all students major in Human Ecology, the study of our relationship with our environment.


Environmentally aware travelers to Acadia National Park have their choice of 130 miles of hiking trails or 57 miles of carriage roads for biking.  If you’d like to find the guides and outfitters who will help you explore Acadia National Park in a respectful way and with as much awe as a first-time visitor, I recommend you contact Acadia Mountain Guides or Maine State Sea Kayak.  Details for both are available at, where you will find more information about “our national park on one of the world’s most beautiful islands.”  There are also tips about lodging, restaurants, and local markets for lobster, crabmeat, local cheeses, and organic produce.


Conde Nast Traveler recently ranked Mount Desert Island among the “Enduring Edens,” twelve islands that remain beautiful, despite their popularity.  Bali and Capri are also on that list, but they are certainly a lot further away.  If you are genuinely concerned about the disastrous impact of air travel on the environment, you might want to opt for Maine instead of Madagascar for your next eco-adventure.  There are even eight ways to get there without a car.

June 15, 2008

What is a “lobster pound”? Why have I only heard this term around Acadia National Park?

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June 3, 2008

When’s a good time to visit Acadia National Park?


Springtime Rhodora on Bernard MountainAs many people visit Acadia National Park in September and October as in May and June, according to National Park data.  I’ve biked and kayaked in the park in the fall.  I hosted a memorable Thanksgiving in Mount Desert in 2006.  I’ve even dipped into Somes Sound for seawater for boiling lobsters during a visit in January. 


Want the pro’s and con’s month by month?  Click here.


But now let me tell you the wondrous reason to visit Acadia National Park in May: it lets you turn back the clock.


Being here in Maine always lets you turn back the clock.  The pace is more “normal.”  People seem less willing to sell their souls for the almighty buck, as my dad would say.  They even close the stores at 5pm on Sundays during a holiday weekend.


But the real reason for anyone from New York or Boston or Philadelphia to visit Acadia National Park in May is that you get to experience the early spring we luxuriated in four or five weeks ago…again.  The lilac.  The apple blossoms.  Maybe even a glimpse of forsythia.  Leaves are still in that about-to-spring moment.  The mountains are deep spruce mixed with that giddy lime-yellow green that only means spring.  And there are flowers, like the rhodora, we never saw during New York City’s spring.  Come to Acadia National Park in May and enjoy spring twice in the same year.


You’ll find many areas of the park blissfully quiet if you stay the week after Memorial Day.  Organize your hikes to avoid the crowds.  We made the mistake of doing Gorham Mountain on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend and were punished with having to listen to the conversations of other hikers.  So, on Monday we took off to the “quiet side” of the island and hiked the Western Ledge Trail up Bernard Mountain and found a heavenly waterfall and pool when we came down Sluiceway. (We heard something louder and steadier than the wind in the trees off to the east.  We went off trail and made this delightful discovery.)  When visitors returned to work on Tuesday, we hiked the Gorge Trail up to Dorr, crossed east to Cadillac, and came down the Cadillac North Ridge Trail to where we had left our bikes, which we then rode back to the car parked at the Gorge trailhead.  We saw a porcupine at the top of Cadillac, which never would have been “out” in July or August.  We’d never climb Cadillac then either.


I remember businesses in the Hamptons being pretty ramped up for Memorial Day.  Not so in Acadia National Park.  “Pre-season” here means that most of the antique shops in Bernard were closed the short week after Labor Day.  Only two restaurants in Southwest Harbor were open on Monday night. Twice during the week restaurants we were eager to go to were closed for private parties.  So, if you want to come in May or June to take advantage of Acadia’s quiet time, I recommend renting a house so that you can cook at home a couple of nights and then plan your nights-out closer to the weekend, when they are more likely to be open.  And the best news is:  Thurston’s Lobster Pound is open!


Want to avoid the crowds on a big holiday weekend in Acadia National Park?  Here are 7 tips to help ensure your serenity.


Thinking about a particular month for a visit to Acadia?  Click here for an assessment, including temperature ranges and tips from locals.