Archive for October, 2009

October 27, 2009

How Long It Takes to Climb the Precipice and Other Notes from an October Trip to Acadia

Maine Fall 2009 044I recommend visiting Acadia when the blueberry bushes have turned red.  The air is crisp, most places are still open, and everyone is so much more relaxed than in summertime. 

And so it was on a recent October morning when my companion and I decided to hike the Precipice.  My Somesville neighbor Bill leaned against the picket fence separating our houses and stated in a Maine monotone, “It’s the only trail in Acadia where people have died.” 

Maine Fall 2009 020The Precipice Trail climbs 930 feet in 0.8 mile to the top of Champlain Mountain.  With Dorr and Cadillac to the west, Champlain is the closest mountain in Acadia to Frenchman Bay.  Thus, the foghorn provided musical accompaniment as we scrambled boulders and quickly came to the first rock face that required climbing iron rungs.  That initial reach was particularly strenuous, reinforcing the message that the Precipice is maintained as a non-technical climbing route, not a hiking trail. 

Maine Fall 2009 005It should have taken us an hour and fifteen minutes to get to the top.  But each switchback and set of boulders seemed to be another photo opp.  Then there were all of those relaxed visitors.  The couple from Atlanta.  The serious climber who hikes Sargent in the winter and knew exactly where the peregrines nest.  The Mid-Coast couple who told us lobstermen were making four times the average Maine income before the recession hit.  And the guy from Boston who got so involved recommending restaurants to the couple from Atlanta that his girlfriend took off without him. 

Needless to say, to get to the top it took us, well, it took a while. 

All of this camaraderie added to the exhilaration of the height, the iron ladders, and the ledges with no protective railings, including the one I crawled across because the rock was wet.  

We came down North Face Trail (formerly known as Bear Brook Trail) which, after the stunning views we’d had of the Porcupine Islands from the top, continued to thrill us with its covering of fiery blueberry bushes.  Our only complaint, which also applies to Kurt Diederich’s Climb which we did in August, is that the Jackson Laboratory buildings are a hideous blight on the landscape.  We connected to East Face Trail (now called Orange and Black) to descend to the Park Loop Road and walk back to the car.  Next time, we will consider hiking South Face Trail to Sand Beach, the longer route taken by our Mid-Coast compatriots. 

Maine Fall 2009 045I was so high (pardon me) from this climb that we decided to fit one more excursion into our day: Hunters Brook Trail.  The path ran for 0.3 mile along a lovely brook, over wooden walkways, across a bridge, and through balsam firs that immediately transformed October into December.  The trail itself would have sufficed, but the ultimate prize was Hunters Beach.   This crescent of pink granite cobblestones offers iconic Maine coast views. 

Little Hunters BeachFor the purposes of my photograph below, I’d like to say that we then went home for tea and cranberry bread, which was the “welcome” gift from a friend and neighbor.  However, we didn’t have time.  We drove directly from Hunters Beach to Thurston’s Lobster Pound in Bernard, the day before their season ended, and guess who was there – Maine Fall 2009 066the couple from Atlanta.

For specific recommendations and contact information for guides, tours, restaurants, and inns, visit OUR ACADIA.  You can find special tips for when to visit, what to do on a rainy day, and how to pack.  It also features tips for fall trips and sample itineraries.

October 8, 2009

Planning A Foliage Trip to Acadia National Park?

Witch Hole Pond, October 2, Courtesy of Clyde W. Voigtlander

Witch Hole Pond, October 2, Courtesy of Clyde W. Voigtlander

I’ll never forget the flight I took to Maine when, upon landing, the little boy behind me looked out the window at the evergreen forests and gleefully screamed, “It’s Maine!  It’s Maine!” 

With exactly the same excitement, I’m going to Acadia the weekend of October 16th.  But I’m eager to see trees of crimson, orange, and gold. 

As I sit here in New York City, I keep checking the “official” fall foliage site for Maine.  This week, although two northern zones are already at peak, Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island has only seen moderate color change in the leaves. 

My fingers are crossed that a wildly windy day won’t blow them all away before my visit.  As Robert Frost says, autumn’s gold is “her hardest hue to hold.” says the October temperatures range from an average low of 38 to a high of 58.  However, I’m hoping for the golden days in the 70s that we experienced two years ago.  Still, I’ll pack plenty of fleeces and maybe even light gloves for hiking. 

The next thing I have to worry about: Which restaurants will be open when I visit? 

I checked around since many close after Columbus Day.  On its Facebook page Thurston’s, my favorite lobster pound, says it’s open through Columbus Day weekend.  But when I called, they told me they will be open through Sunday, October 18, this year. 

Duck BrookMany of MDI’s other top restaurants will also still be open.  Town Hill Bistro, rated #1 of 133 Bar Harbor restaurants by the TripAdvisor public, is open year-round.  Chef Kyle Yarborough is looking forward to bringing fall flair to lamb, scallops, and hanger steak at Mache Bistro in Bar Harbor.  And James Lindquist will surely offer seasonal temptations at Red Sky, although doesn’t this appetizer staple sound perfect for fall:  Shitake and Crimini mushrooms and sautéed locally grown Swiss Chard layered with crispy polenta and finished with a balsamic reduction and Parmigiano-Reggiano? 

Full reviews of all of these restaurants can be found at this round-up of the best restaurants in Bar Harbor and the other villages on Mount Desert Island

And you’ll also want to check out these other tips for fall trips at OUR ACADIA!

October 4, 2009

How a National Park in Maine Turned Me into a Compulsive Blogger

IMG_1124This week the Ken Burns’ series, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, on PBS brought the history of our national parks to life by presenting it through the stories of individuals.  From John Muir to a childless couple from Lincoln, Nebraska, they told us about the importance of natural beauty in their lives.

My first encounter with Acadia National Park in Maine was on a carriage-driving trip.  A New York City executive, I was in the midst of a divorce, when my sister, an independent-minded horsewoman from New Hampshire, invited me to join her and some other women in Maine. They loaded their carriages and horses into trailers and a bag or two into their pick-up trucks, and off we went. 

John D. Rockefeller, Jr. would have applauded such an introduction to Acadia.  Between 1913 and 1940 he developed a system of roads and bridges that traversed meadows and brooks and encircled mountains.  It was his vision that Acadia National Park should be seen behind a horse.  Today, the 57 miles of carriage roads he constructed are used by cyclists and hikers, as well as carriage drivers. 

While the New Hampshire ladies drove their carriages and groomed their ponies, I hiked around Jordan Pond.  We convened to have lemonade and popovers on a lawn that has hosted tea for visitors since 1896.  In the evenings we dined together at our host’s cottage on Southwest Harbor and congregated at the best local lobster pounds

Here I found the unique place where the mountains meet the sea. 

Acadia National Park, located on Mount Desert Island, has 24 mountains, the highest mountain on the eastern seaboard, the only fiord in North America, glacial lakes, boreal forests, and 130 miles of hiking trails to see all of it. 

I was smitten.  It was time to go home, but an irrational passion for the place had overtaken me. 

George Dorr first went to Mount Desert Island in 1868.  Educated in Europe, he traveled extensively there, but chose to reside on Mount Desert Island.  Although he had inherited an extraordinary fortune, he spent his time hiking, biking, swimming and building trails. When he died at age 94, he had spent his entire fortune purchasing land for Acadia National Park.  

When I got back into my NYC routine, I still wanted to talk about the peregrines nesting on the Precipice.  People at work wanted to talk about Alex Rodriguez.  I was thinking about hiking the Western Mountains vs. Penobscot Mountain.  They were thinking about Gossip Girl vs. NYC Prep. 

So, I started blogging.  When is the best time to visit Acadia National Park? Where should you go sea kayaking?  Which hikes are best for kids?  I pulled it together in a Web site about OUR ACADIA – our national park on one of the world’s most beautiful islands. 

This is the power of the places that have been preserved by the National Park System.  

Yet even within this exclusive set, Acadia National Park is unique because it is the only national park in which most of the land was privately purchased and then donated to a land trust that became the park.  That, in particular, tells the story of how Mount Desert Island has captivated people, who then preserved it as a national park for us all.  

I need to pay bills.  There’s a report I should look at.  My daughter needs me to help her with her new laptop.  And I’m thinking that my next post will be about LEAVE NO TRACE and other tips for hiking in Acadia National Park.