Is Late-October Too Late for a Fall Foliage Trip to Acadia National Park in Maine?

Suddenly a business trip came up for the week after Columbus Day when I was planning to go to Maine.  Should I go later or forego the fall foliage in New England this year?  I couldn’t bear the latter.  But would there be huge trade-offs with the former?

They say Mount Desert Island rolls up the sidewalks after Columbus Day.  The lobster pounds are closed.  Stores have concluded their end-of-the-season sales and hunkered down.  Locals begin planning their winter trips to Florida.  And it’s highly likely that the scarlets have turned to russet.

But we went anyway. 

Yes, the weather was chilly.  Although I’ve enjoyed temperatures in the 70s in October in past years, this was not the case now.  We were happy we had our Under Armour and fleeces, and I wish I had had a knit cap for the top of Cadillac.

That was our best hike – in fact, Canon Brook Trail to Cadillac may be my favorite hike in all of Acadia.  It’s a 6.5-mile route that starts just a bit south of the Tarn on Route 3.   The initial stretch took us across a boarded footpath alongside a pool created by antiquated beaver dams.  Even though the terrain was flat along Kane Path, the going was slow because of the monumental beauty of each leaf along the path. 

The birches, beeches and maples provided glowing bowers of gold and orange for us. 

The initial waterfall we encountered, first by sound, then by sight was a big deal.  Little did we know what was ahead.

It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced.  After ascending a rough, steep staircase that criss-crossed over a brook, we entered an area of smooth rock over which the brook flowed.  No contemporary sculptor has created anything quite so breathtaking and we were in the center of it.  Because of the rains the prior week, the brook burst over the granite.  I kept thinking that’s why it’s called Canon Brook! 

 (However, later I read Acadia hiking guru Tom St. Germain’s note that the trail’s proper name is Canyon Brook in recognition of the resemblance of  the split upper south ridge of Cadillac to a canyon.  Over time, though, mapmakers lost the tilde in the word “cañón” and the brook acquired the new descriptor of Canon, which certainly fit my experience after October rains.)

We ascended to a glacial pond called the Featherbed, and then fought the stiff autumn breezes to the top of Cadillac.

We also did a cycling circuit that started and ended at Jordan Pond and the Bubbles. 

We biked to Conner’s Nubble, which is only 525-feet high, but has a stunning 360-view that is amazing considering it is one-third the height of Cadillac. 

I explored the mountaintop, as a photographer carefully positioning his tripod to capture the late-autumn beauty of Frenchman Bay, Eagle Lake, and key mountains east, south, and west. 

Strenuous hiking and biking should always have its rewards, and this year we took comfort in the cuisine of Mache Bistro in Bar Harbor.  Despite the fact that it was late in the season, almost every table and bar seat was full.  We celebrated the season with an autumn salad of greens, goat cheese, pecans, cranberries, and sweet potatoes.  Hanger steak with garlic mashed potatoes and a duck cassoulet were warming choices after our chilly outdoors activities.

In the end we were happy because we were able to focus not on what we had missed at autumn’s peak, but instead on the special qualities Acadia offered as it approached its quietest time of year.  I’m so glad I didn’t miss out.  Just looking up at the sky was glorious.

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