Archive for June, 2010

June 12, 2010

Bar Harbor Shopping Guide: The Best On and Off the Beaten Path

From trip mementos for yourself to special gifts for others, from the simple to the spectacular, Bar Harbor and the neighboring villages on Mount Desert Island have lots to keep shoppers entertained…at least until the skies clear and we’re back on the hiking trails. 

Cool As A Moose®
118 Main Street, Bar Harbor

The iconic vacation souvenir is a T-shirt, and there are lots to choose from here.  Cool As A Moose even has its own line, reprieving a psychedelic design.  My favorites are downstairs in the Life is Good collection.  But why not branch out to, say, their Gluteus Maximoose boxers? 

8 Rodick Place, Bar Harbor

A relative newcomer to Bar Harbor, Fiore doesn’t have a shop; it’s a tasting room lined with mini stainless steel canisters of extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegars from which you sample blends and infusions of different flavors.  Then they pour and bottle it for you.  Although the traditional 18-year balsamic vinegar is most popular, I couldn’t pass up a fig-flavored balsamic.    

Spruce & Gussy
12 Mount Desert Street, Bar Harbor

If your tastes run more toward the contemporary, you’ll want to check out this new shop run by two local women.  They’ve brought together the work of artisans from throughout the U.S. and Mexico that convey color, craftsmanship, and whimsy.  From leather-bound journals to bibs to hand towels, something will catch your eye as an “adornment for self or space.” 

Kimball Shop & Boutique
135 Main Street, Northeast Harbor

I can never get enough of ferns and scallop shells, so the barware, table linens, and serving pieces at the Kimball Shop hold endless appeal for me.  Furnishings range from elegant tableware to rugs and floor cloths that epitomize traditional summer style.  Their tent sale in the fall allows me to afford some of it! 

Hatched on MDI
360 Main Street, Southwest Harbor

A native of Mount Desert Island, Heather Brown has a flourishing shop, with expanded quarters, that is as much a community center for year-round parents as it is the perfect spot to find a baby gift.  From “super cute” bathing suits to toys and books to the best Anti Bug Balm Stick by Badger, you won’t be disappointed, especially if you then pop in next door at the Quiet Side Café for a piece of blueberry pie. 

Old Red Store
129 Bernard Road, Bernard

This is what every antique shop in Maine should look like, but during my last visit I was equally delighted with what I found inside.  I bought a wonderful old watercolor of loggers loading cargo on to sailing ships for $36 framed, a fabulous tote bag made of recycled sail cloth, and very nice stationery.   Call before you make the trip and combine it with dinner at Thurston’s Lobster Pound. 

Judy Taylor Studio & Gallery
1517 Tremont Road, Seal Cove.

The western side of Mount Desert Island is blissfully undeveloped, with beautiful ponds, rolling meadows, and deep coniferous forests.  Here you can visit the studio of Maine artist Judy Taylor – by chance or appointment.  She works in oils, gouache, watercolor, and oils.  Although some formats are smaller (24″ x 18”), there’s always an iconic strength in her work that makes her appealing Maine landscapes remarkably distinctive.

For more ideas on what to do when you visit Mount Desert Island, including tips for exploring the villages outside of Bar Harbor, visit OUR ACADIA.

June 5, 2010

Five Favorite Hikes in Acadia National Park

Imagine: 24 mountains on an island the size of Martha’s Vineyard.  That’s Mount Desert Island in Maine, and it should be your destination if you want to hike where the mountains meet the sea.

I’m now on my seventh summer of hiking Acadia National Park’s trails, marveling at each experience and recording it in my copy of A Walk in the Park  by Tom St. Germain.  This small volume has been my indispensable guide and should be yours.

When I started hiking in Acadia, I’d always ask locals and people I’d meet on the trails, “What’s your favorite hike?”  Now that I’ve covered 32 of the 59 Tom St. Germain lists, I’ll share my favorites.

Jordan Cliffs & Bluffs to Penobscot Mountain

This 4.3 mile loop, sections of which were constructed before 1900, makes me feel like a kid.  Stone steps, iron rungs and railings, ladders, and bridges over ravines combine with great views of Jordan Pond on the ascent.  That alone would make this a spectacular hike, but the 360-degree views atop Penobscot deliver sheer bliss.

Giant Slide Trail & Grandgent to Sargent Mountain

Also in the Jordan Pond area, I like the Giant Slide Trail along Sargent Brook and the steep Grandgent climb.  You get two peaks for the price of one: first, spectacular views from Gilmore Peak and then from Sargent Mountain.  I make the 5.4 mile loop by descending on the North Ridge Trail, which Tom St. Germain recommends for its excellent views of Somes Sound.

The Precipice to Champlain Mountain

This short, but exhilarating hike deserves its notoriety.  It’s a 1,160 vertical gain or loss, depending on how you look at it, but I don’t recommend you look down.  After all, this trail takes you up the sheer east face of Champlain Mountain.  Rungs and ladders help, but some ledges have no protection.  At the top the views of the Atlantic and Frenchman Bay are equally breaktaking.

Acadia Mountain

I’ve done this hike again and again, not only because it is my favorite way to introduce new people to Acadia hiking, but I just love it.  Both on the trail and at the peaks (two of them), there are superior vistas.  In fact, the steep descent down the eastern side of Acadia Mountain offers some of our most-photographed views of Somes Sound.

Beech Mountain

Atop this 849’ mountain is a fire tower that boosts your viewing pleasure.  And at its base is wonderful Long Pond that affords the opportunity to combine this hike with a little kayaking.  My preferred route for this hike is to go up the West Ridge and descend on Valley Trail, which is thickly wooded and covered in moss and lichen.  Another option is to descend to Echo Lake Beach, where you can leave your bikes for the trip back to Long Pond, making this a hiking/biking/kayaking triathalon.

Next to water and great hiking boots, the necessity I also recommend for hiking in Acadia is the trail map of Mount Desert Island published by Map Adventures.  It clearly shows the 110 miles of hiking trails, as well as 57 miles of carriage roads, signpost numbers included.  Believe me, though Acadia’s trails are well marked, you can take wrong routes and end up well out of your way, exhausted.  Last weekend I was stopped twice by people with less detailed maps who were quite confused.

The five hikes I’ve recommended here are all moderate to challenging.  You’ll definitely get some exercise as well as spectaculars views of Acadia National Park’s mountains, lakes, islands, bays, and, of course, the Atlantic Ocean.  The good news is that you’ll be guilt-free when you indulge later in lobster and blueberry pie!  So, after you’ve planned your hike, find the best restaurants and lobster pounds on Mount Desert Island.


Best Easy Hikes in Acadia National Park

Best Carriage Roads for Biking with Kids in Acadia National Park

Four Hikes You and Your Kids Will Love in Acadia National Park

June 3, 2010

Watercolor Workshop on Swans Island in Maine

You step on to a ferry and for six miles you gaze out over island-strewn Blue Hill Bay, glancing back at the spruce forests of Acadia National Park, then up at the screeching gulls.  You arrive at Swans Island.  You and your small group climb on to the dock and drive to the sprawling private home on the shore where you’ll be staying for the next three nights. 

Swans Island has only 350 year-round residents, mostly lobstermen.  But you are here to paint.  

Watercolor field kit in hand, mornings and afternoons, you select your subjects from among dramatic rock cliffs, Hockamock Head Lighthouse, a working harbor, an old quarry pond, the pebbled shoreline.  In the evenings you review your work with your teacher, acclaimed Maine artist Judy Taylor. 

Maybe you will come to see why Winslow Homer once remarked, “In the future I will live by my watercolors.” 

You can join Judy Taylor for this watercolor workshop July 20-23 by calling 207-244-5545.  The total cost of $650 includes ferry tickets, accommodations, meals, materials, and instruction.  Plan to reserve by June 15.

Then extend your stay on Mount Desert Island, wrapping up your trip to Maine with a weekend of hiking, biking, and sailing.  Mount Desert Island is home to a growing band of creative young restaurateurs who feature local ingredients, including, of course, lobster.  For more information on exploring, eating, and relaxing on Mount Desert Island, visit OUR ACADIA.