Archive for August, 2010

August 31, 2010

Thuya Garden in Northeast Harbor – Beauty that Compounds the Enchantment of Acadia

There are many ways to get to Thuya Garden. Visitors by sea can tie up at Asticou Terraces Landing and walk up Asticou Terrace Trail.  Drivers can park either at the landing or at the top of Thuya Drive.  But we preferred to hike. 

The path we chose was Little Harbor Brook Trail to the top of Acadia’s Eliot Mountain, visiting Thuya Garden on our descent as a slight – and very worthwhile – detour.  After all, even in the most enchanted of Acadia’s bucolic settings, which this trail is, it is rare to come upon a wooden fence with a door that opens onto such manicured beauty.

Thuya Garden was created by Charles K. Savage in 1956 on land that was formerly the orchard of Joseph H. Curtis, who built a home on this property in Northeast Harbor in 1912.  In the style of a semi-formal English garden, it features colorful annuals, perennials, expansive lawns, and indigenous eastern Maine woodlands.   (By the way, the name Thuya is derived from Thuya occidentalis, the northern white cedar, that grows abundantly in this part of Maine.)

A special aspect of the garden is that many of its original plants and garden ornaments are from the collection of Beatrix Farrand (1872-1959), the prominent landscape architect who designed gardens for private estates, botanic reservations, college campuses, and the White House.   She worked closely with John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and designed the landscaping around Mr. Rockefeller’s granite bridges in Acadia National Park.

Thuya Garden is a lovely place to rest, contemplate, and study plantings that thrive in eastern Maine.

Come by sea, car, or hiking trail – but be sure to come.

August 23, 2010

Where to eat — and drink — after a hike in Acadia National Park

We emerged from the woods after a 5-hour bike/hike, with no energy to prepare either food or ourselves for dinner.  The idea to go directly to Knox Road for BBQ and beer was perfect.  The dress code was flexible, ranging from the basic (Red Sox t-shirts) to the high-end (Patagonia t-shirts), and the menu fit our appetites (big).

Knox Road Grill serves Mainely Meats BBQ and specialty ales and sodas from The Atlantic Brewing Company, where it’s located.  The 15 or so tables are mostly outside under a canopy and on a terrace, from which you can see the huge stainless vats in the brewery next door.

Lunches and dinners, all served with coleslaw, potato salad, and delicious baked beans, feature your choice of pulled pork, ribs, hot Italian sausage, chicken, or a combination.  On the table there’s both a traditional sweet BBQ sauce and a hot one.  We indulged in a dinner of pulled pork and a combination platter.

There are no napkins here.  Just a big roll of paper towels on each table.

Beer is seriously satisfying.  Diners get to experience The Atlantic Brewing Company’s full line of ales, as well as seasonal specialties.  They run the gamut from light and fruity to dark and rich, extracting flavors from malts and hops imported from England and water straight from the well in Town Hill, Maine.  I’m not the only blogger raving about the ales of this micro-brewery.

So, join the locals and visitors relaxing from a day of hiking and biking.  You’ll feel satisfied, not only because Knox Road Grill doesn’t pinch your pocketbook, but also because, thanks to The Atlantic Brewery, the second or third beer might be even better than the first.

Knox Road Grill is located at 15 Knox Road, Bar Harbor.  They are open seven days a week from Memorial Day to Columbus Day.  The Atlantic Brewing Company gives free tours of the brewhouse daily at 2:00, 3:00 and 4:00 throughout the summer season (Memorial Day to Columbus Day). They also have free tastings of all of the beers and rootbeer and blueberry sodas in the gift shop. No reservation is necessary.

For more ideas on where to eat during a trip to Acadia National Park, visit OUR ACADIA.

August 22, 2010

Best Easy Trails in Acadia National Park – Including Where the Obamas Hiked

Do you love the great views only hikers get, but you’re worried about tackling something too ambitious?  Whether kids or bad knees are slowing you down, you don’t have to sacrifice scenery and fun when you hike in Acadia National Park.  Here are five easy hikes I’ve done that delight in different ways.  

Ship Harbor Trail: 1.3 mile figure-eight


 This rocky coastline is your destination for the Ship Harbor Nature Trail.

You can alternate loops on this “figure 8” trail through an evergreen forest to the postcard-perfect shoreline.  David Patterson’s photos give you a sense of the well-groomed path.  Collecting sun-bleached shells along the way can easily turn this hike into an amble, with a picnic at the outermost point where a schooner ran aground in the 1600s.  Nearby is Bass Harbor Lighthouse, a sight not to be missed. This trail and lighthouse are where the Obamas spent time during their vacation to Bar Harbor. 

Bubble Rock Trail: 1 mile roundtrip 

This trail, which passes through a mixed forest, is popular with families because of the photo opp at giant Bubble Rock.  What’s also great is that you get a big pay-off for a relatively easy hike.  The summit of South Bubble, at 768 feet, provides dramatic views of Jordan Pond — yet the trail’s series of crib box surfaces make it much easier than hiking over rocks or roots. 

 Jordan Pond Shore Trail: 3.2 mile loop

  This walk around Jordan Pond starts with a great view of The Bubbles.

Just about all of the circuit is close to the water, which can be 100 feet deep near the shoreline.  Although the terrain is flat, this hike engages my imagination because of its many charming features: a bridge of flat stones, rock-to-rock scrambling, a birch suspension foot-bridge, a section where you tiptoe over elaborate tree roots, and bogwalks.  “Chronicles of A Country Girl” offers many wonderful photos of this circuit.  Reward yourself with lemonade and popovers at Jordan Pond House when you finish.

 Flying Mountain:  1.5 mile loop

 Of all the trails listed here, this one probably feels the most like a “real hike.”  It’s relatively short, but there is a bit of climbing and elevation at the beginning.  The views of Somes Sound, Sargent Drive, and Norumbega and Sargent Mountains are stunning, as are  the spacious homes and lawns across the sound in Northeast Harbor. The return to the car is easy along a fire road.

 Ocean Path: 4 miles round trip

  Ocean Path lies in the most popular area of Acadia.

 From Sand Beach to Otter Point, this flat trail takes you alongside the ocean with breathtaking views of Maine’s rocky cliffs and pink granite shoreline.  At the halfway point is Thunder Hole, a National Park attraction where the surf crashes through rock chasms.  At Otter Cliffs rock climbers rappel down the 60-foot wall with pounding waves below.  No wonder this hike is so popular! 

Want other ideas?  Kayaking trips also provide wonderful sights in close proximity to the environment.  Acadia National Park is home to several excellent kayaking touring companies that focus on different part of the islands.  Include both hiking and kayaking on your itinerary to Acadia National Park, and you’ll never be satisfied seeing a national park from inside a car again!  Read reviews of Mount Desert Island’s best kayaking tours here.

August 19, 2010

Lecture Series at The Claremont Hotel in Southwest Harbor

It’s a compelling sensation to see a familiar place – a building, neighborhood, or grand vista – in a photograph from long ago. 

That was one of the several distinct pleasures of Earle G. Shettleworth’s recent illustrated talk “Charles A. Townsend’s Mount Desert,” part of the Thursday evening lecture series at The Claremont Hotel in Southwest Harbor. 

Charles A. Townsend was a Bucksport-based insurance salesman who ventured into photography to capitalize upon the growing popularity of picture postcards during the first three decades of the twentieth century.  Along the way he documented fascinating changes on Mount Desert Island and produced some important images of the past.  

So we learned from the well-delivered remarks of Mr. Shettleworth, Maine State Historian and Director of the Maine Historic Preservation Committee, who also charmed us by reading some of the messages on those postcards. 

Too bad if you missed Mr. Shettleworth, but, if you’re on MDI during the next few weeks, there’s still the opportunity to take advantage of this worthwhile offering from The Claremont. 

Here’s what is still coming up: 

Aug. 19         John Singer Sargent’s “Daughters of Edward D. Boit” – Erica Hirschler, Croll Senior Curator of American Art, Boston Museum of Fine Arts

Aug. 26         China Then and Now – Ambassador Nicholas Platt, President Emeritus of the Asia Society

Sept. 2         Conservation of Island Historic Gardens: The Mount Desert Land & Garden Preserve  –   Betsy  Hewlett, Collections Manager & Carole Plenty, Executive Director, Mount Desert Land & Garden Preserve

Lectures start at 8pm and are free.

For more ideas on what to do on a trip to Mount Desert Island, visit OUR ACADIA.  From restaurants to kayaking trips to farmers’ markets, it can help you make the most of your vacation to Maine.

August 12, 2010

Maine Art & Design Dinner at Havana in Bar Harbor

Next week at this time here in New York City it will be in the 80s with thunderstorms.  But cool things will be going on in Bar Harbor as Thos. Moser and Down East Magazine sponsor the MAINE ART & DESIGN DINNER. 

The private dinner at Havana, known as much for its organic, local fare as its Latin flair, will feature five prominent Maine artists and designers who will discuss their current projects and future plans.  They are: 

Tom Curry, Artist

Roc Caivano, Architect

Gifford Ewing, Photographer

Judy Taylor, Artist

David Moser, Furniture Designer 

This event, which would nourish my appetite and soul, will take place on Tuesday, August 17th, 6-9pm, at 318 Main Street.  It is $100 per person and seating is limited.  Reservations can be made at 800-708-9041. 

Since I will be here in New York City, I’m planning to refresh myself by viewing some of my favorite images by Judy Taylor.

You can enjoy more of Judy Taylor’s work online or at her studio/gallery in Seal Cove.  Better still, enjoy it at home.  Some of her work, including these paintings, are still affordable.

August 11, 2010

A Bike Trip to Swan’s Island

In this my eighth summer on Mount Desert Island, I decided to start exploring some of the smaller islands around MDI.  On a Saturday morning Fred and I took our bikes on the 9 o’clock ferry from Bass Harbor to Swan’s Island.

You wouldn’t like it.

The island is hilly for biking.  There are no restaurants to speak of, only two or three take-out shacks.  And we were told the islanders don’t like cyclists.  That’s why the ferry service charges $16.50 per bicycle, in addition to $17.50 per passenger.

Still, you might like the ferry trip.  Packed in with some pick-ups, a lobster bait truck, and a few SUVs loaded with kayaks and vacation gear, we spent the 40-minute crossing both on deck and above, marveling at Acadia’s mountains as they became more and more distant, then turning our attention to Swan’s as it emerged to the south.  Ferry rides are exciting, and this one passed quickly.

Then we arrived, and something surprising happened.  Every time we pedaled past a motorist, he waved.  Sometimes it was a full-fledged wave, sometimes merely a finger off the steering wheel.  But it was nearly universal.

We biked past freshly painted white Victorian farmhouses and the Methodist Church (1891) on our way to our first destination: the Burnt Coat Harbor Lighthouse on Hockamock Head.  It marks the entrance to Burnt Coat Harbor, a curious name that seems to have come from the explorer Samuel de Champlain, who in 1604 called the island Brule-Cote or “Burnt Coast.”

(Speaking of the origin of place names, don’t look for swans on Swan’s Island.  It’s named after James Swan, one of the Sons of Liberty and participant in the Boston Party, who purchased the island in 1786.)

The Burnt Coat light station, built in 1872, was operated manually until 1974 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.  The lighthouse and the keeper’s house are pristine white forms, topped in black and red, handsome geometry straight out of a Hopper painting.

A man on the ferry had kindly mentioned to us that there’s a hiking path at the top of the hill leading down to the lighthouse.  We found it past a huge outcropping of raspberry bushes and followed it among moss-covered boulders and stunning silvery birches down to Burnt Coat Harbor.  And there was the second surprise of the day, a lobster pound.

You’re thinking, “She said there were no restaurants.”  Such lobster pounds (aka lobster shacks) derive their name from the holding tanks where restaurateurs keep the live lobsters.  But this lobster pound in Burnt Coat Harbor, created by wood fencing and pilings with netting, is where lobstermen hold their catch until pricing is favorable for them to bring it to market.  It wasn’t in use, perhaps reflecting the low price of lobster.

This focus on lobster made us hungry.  We biked back past the Post Office, the busiest spot on the island from what I could see. During the 2000 Census, the population of Swan’s Island was 327, and a good percentage of them seemed to be at the Post Office on Saturday morning.  We headed to the Carrying Place, a beautiful narrow spit of land between Toothacher Cove and Back Cove, so named because it is where the Indians carried their canoes from one body of water to the next.  At the Carrying Place Take-out (40 North Road, 526-4043) we ate lobster rolls and curly French Fries at a picnic table beside a meadow.  (They had a Shrimp Basket with French Fries for $10.35, a Clam Basket for $13.95, and an entire lobster dinner for $10.95, not surprising considering the island’s primary industry.)  Then we headed for Sand Beach.

There’s also a Sand Beach on Mount Desert Island and, as beach lovers, we recognize that “sand” is a relative term when it comes to the coast of Maine.  We were somewhat skeptical.  We cycled north on the paved road 0.4 mile and took the second gravel road on the left.  Over several hills and around bends, we pedaled another 0.7 mile, whirling in dust as a couple of cars passed on the loose gravel.  We stopped where four or five cars were parked and took another left almost missing a rather unpretentious sign to the beach.  We walked another half mile on a pine-needle path, sporadically overtaken by roots or mud. 

When we emerged, it was paradise. 

We discovered a perfect crescent of fine sand beach with only a few appreciative people playing lacrosse and building sandcastles with their children.  It looked more like the Caribbean than Maine.  We waded in the water, quite warm by Maine standards, and sunbathed on towels that had been squeezed into our backpacks.

I had wanted to visit Quarry Pond, from which granite was mined and taken out on ships for cobblestones in major eastern cities.  But we had lingered at the lighthouse and lobster pound and beach.  The last ferry returning to Mount Desert Island was at 4:30pm. 

On the way back I noticed a woman taking in laundry that had been drying all day in the sunshine.  The stretch to the dock seemed longer than when we had arrived.  The fragrance of the rosa rugosa intoxicated us with the idea of finding a B&B for the night, or buying a farmhouse and staying forever.

For more ideas of things to do when you visit Acadia National Park and Mount Desert Island, click here