Archive for June, 2011

June 29, 2011

Celebrate July 4th on Mount Desert Island: Schedule of 2011 Events in Bar Harbor

If you’re visiting Mount Desert Island on the Fourth of July, prepare to be busy.  Sure, you may start the day quietly by doing something like photographing the footbridge in Somesville.  But I bet you’ll soon become ensnared in the traditional excitement ofAmerica’s Independence Day – with a quintessential Maine twist.  Check out the schedule to see what I mean: 

6am  Blueberry Pancake Breakfast

At the Bar Harbor Athletic Field onPark Street, indulge in pancakes, blueberry or plain, and everything else that makes a great Maine breakfast. 

9am-3pm  Craft Fair

Scour the marketplace at the YMCA, 21 Park Street for jewelry, quilts, photographs, pottery, and porcelain dolls. 

10am  Independence Day Parade

“America the Beautiful” is the theme of the parade, which winds through downtown from Main Street to Cottage to Eden to Mt. Desert to Ledgelawn Avenue.

 11am  Seafood Festival

Back at the Bar Harbor Athletic Field on Park  Street enjoy lobster, mussels, corn, and strawberry shortcake. 

After the Parade, MDI YMCA Annual Lobster Races

At the Bar Harbor Athletic Field on Park Street, watch local businesses race their lobsters to benefit the MDI YMCA Scholarship Program. 

7:30-8:30pm  Bar Harbor Town Band

Enjoy a free concert on the Bar Harbor Village Green with the Town Band, a tradition for more than 100 years. 

8-9pm  Brass Venture

Move to Agamont Park for another free concert, this one by Brass Venture, a dynamic chamber ensemble. 

9:15pm (approximately)  Fireworks over Frenchman Bay

Marvel at the fireworks display on the waterfront as the Brass Venture performs Handel’s Fireworks. 

After such a fun-packed day, you’ll need to schedule some downtime at Sand Beach.  Not so quick?  Well, for more ideas on what to do during your Bar Harbor vacation, including restaurant tips, visit OUR ACADIA.

June 27, 2011

5 Best Places to Eat with Kids in Bar Harbor During a Family Vacation to Acadia National Park

The most popular section of my Web site OUR ACADIA – which is devoted to exploring, eating, and relaxing in Maine – is restaurants.  Maybe it’s because lobster, blueberry pie, and chowder are so high up on everyone’s agenda of what to do in Maine!  If you are planning a family vacation to Mount Desert Island, here are the best spots to eat with kids.

Jordan Pond House

Enjoying tea and popovers on the lawn at Jordan Pond House has been a Mount Desert Island tradition since 1870.  Located on a hill overlooking Jordan Pond and the Bubble mountains, the restaurant serves lunch, tea, and dinner. At the cross roads of hiking, biking, and sightseeing trails, the lawn is a hub of activity, so let the kids run around while your waitress puts in your order for lobster stew, Maine crab cakes, popovers, lemonade, and homemade strawberry icecream.

Thurston’s Lobster Pound

Thurston’s Lobster Pound is the real thing, serving steamed lobster, chowder, and ales from local micro-breweries in a casual setting overlooking the working lobster boats of Bass Harbor.  The folks who own Thurston’s are smart.  They keep parents happy with steamers and lobster, kids thrilled with burgers, hot dogs, and peanut butter and jelly.  A sophisticated teen who scorns seafood?  How about a grilled chicken sandwich with Boursin cheese?  And everyone will love their special blueberry spice cake.

Pat’s Pizza

After days of seafood, some families want something different.  Pat’s is particularly kid-friendly because of its varied menu.  I love their deliciously crisp pizza, but it also comes in “double dough” and gluten-free styles.  Your teenager may want a chicken caesar salad, while the little kids go for a traditional Italian dinner of baked ziti or lasagna.  Nachos and burgers are options, too.  There are so many tempting options for pizza that you may end up coming back a second time to take out.

Café This Way

If it’s going to rain, schedule a day exploring Bar Harbor that starts with a special breakfast at Café This Way.  Parents can choose among six different ways to have their Eggs Benedict or create their own omelets.  Kids love the blueberry pancakes, French toast, waffles, and Big Breakfast Sandwiches.  My husband couldn’t decide between eggs or French toast so he chose the Monte Cristo, a French toast sandwich filled with a fried egg, ham, and cheddar cheese, served with home fries and maple syrup.

Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium

Summertime and candy shops just go together.  Taffy?  Lobster icecream?  From the traditional to the, well, innovative, Ben & Bill’s has it all.  You can get buttercrunch, chocolates, gummy candies, jelly beans, and homemade fudge made from a 100-year-old recipe.  If you prefer icecream, they stock 64 hard-serve flavors in summer, along with 12 flavors of gelato — all made at the shop on Main Street in Bar Harbor.  No  one leaves unhappy, including the family hound, who can get a Yellow Dog Special, a baby scoop of vanilla icecream with two dog bones.

For other ideas on what to do with kids – ranging from boat cruises to family-friendly hikes – visit OUR ACADIA’S “Kids’ Favorites.”  That’s the second most popular part of the site!

June 20, 2011

Which Carriage Roads Are Best for Biking with Kids in Maine’s Acadia National Park?

The carriage roads of Acadia National Park offer families unsurpassed biking.  They are car-free and well-maintained, with hills only as challenging as a horse drawing a carriage could handle, which is, of course, the purpose for which John D. Rockefeller, Jr. originally designed them.  Best of all is the scenery.

But, with 45 miles of carriage roads open for biking, what is the best route for kids?  And, during the height of the summer season, are some trails better than others?

These are the questions I had in mind when I chatted recently with the park ranger at Hulls Cove Visitors Center.  Located on Route 3 north of Bar Harbor, it’s a great starting point for a visit to Acadia National Park.  The large three-dimensional map of the park is  a reason unto itself to go.

The route recommended by the park ranger at Hulls Cove Visitor Center was the circuit around Witch Hole Pond.  That’s also where the Obamas decided to cycle when they visited Acadia National Park!  So, we tried it out for you…

It’s a 3.3 mile circuit that passes by Halfmoon Pond, Witch Hole Pond, and Duck Brook, which you can hear as you cycle above it.  It’s an easy ride that’s pretty flat except for a .2 mile stretch that’s a moderate climb.  The terrain features not only these large beautiful ponds, but also a lot of marshlands.  These offer good opportunities to see beaver lodges, such as the one below, or to spot a snapping turtle crossing the road.

Why it’s called Witch Hole Pond I do not know.  However, throughout the wetlands of this area stand dead trees, known in forest ecology as snags.  They provide critical habitat for many species, including birds that feed on the insects decomposing the wood.  Young minds may find them eerie, so organize a game for your kids to invent origins for the name Witch Hole Pond as they ride…

Another positive feature of cycling Witch Hole Pond is that this route can be easily extended to Eagle Lake, one of the most beautiful rides in the park.  Unfortunately, everyone knows it, so parking may be difficult at times.  If you combine Witch Hole Pond and Eagle Lake, you can avoid that frustration.  Connecting the two is a 1.1 mile stretch past Breakneck Pond.  I like biking south along the eastern shore of Eagle Lake first.  There’s a steady climb up to Conners Nubble, but, regardless of direction, the Eagle Lake circuit is not free of challenges.  That extension will add 6.9 miles to the 3.3 of Witch Hole Pond.

Here’s another tip from the park ranger at Hulls Cove.  Don’t start your bike trip from the Hulls Cove parking lot. There’s a challenging climb right as you start, which may discourage the kids before they even get going.  Instead, enter the carriage road at Signpost 5 at Duck Brook Bridge.  There is parking along the road.  You can get there by taking Duck  Brook Road north from Eagle Lake Road (Route 233) north.  Seeing the Duck Brook Bridge and New Mills Meadow Pond are bonuses.

After a great bike ride like this, where do you go to relax?  Are you in the mood for BBQ ribs, lobster rolls, or a three-course dinner?  For tips on the best places to eat, visit OUR ACADIA.

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June 5, 2011

The Best Hiking Trails in Maine’s Acadia National Park Are the Gifts of Historic Pathmakers

This is my ninth summer of hiking on Mount Desert Island, and every year increases my indebtedness to the trailmakers who made it possible to access so many places where the mountains greet the sea. 

The first pathmakers on Mount Desert Island were the Wabenaki Indians who, prior to the European explorers and the settlers from Massachusetts in the 1760s, forged carry trails to transport their canoes between bodies of water. 

One such trail today is the Jordan Pond Carry Trail between Jordan Pond and Eagle Lake.  As with all carry trails, it is the shortest, flattest route between ponds.  We’ve found it to be a great way to end a circuit that begins at Bubble Rock parking area, ascends up to North Bubble past Bubble Rock, heads north to Conners Nubble, and runs along Eagle Lake.  Here’s what the view is like of Eagle Lake from Conners Nubble.

 By the 1890s extensive trail building was sponsored by village improvement societies, and people who financed a trail could name it after whomever they chose. 

We were thinking of that the time we hiked Kurt Diederich’s Climb.  Hundreds of stone steps enable a 1,223-foot gross vertical gain to the top of Dorr Mountain.  Contemporary guide maker Tom St. Germain calls this path, constructed in 1913, “historically important.”  The view from the top of Dorr, shown here, presents the Porcupine Islands in Frenchman Bay.  

 From stone steps to iron rungs and ladders, innovative trail construction continued with Waldron Bates, who chaired the Roads and Paths Committee of the Bar Harbor Village Improvement Association from 1900 to 1909. 

One of my favorite places for using iron rung ladders is the Beehive Trail.  In fact, if the Precipice is closed because of peregrine nesting, it’s a great alternative hike.  At only 2 miles, it is a short, but difficult climb that utilizes rungs and ladders to help you maneuver the steep face of Champlain Mountain.  As you do, you have beautiful views of Sand Beach, as shown at the right above.

And at the top, one of the rewards is to see The Bowl, below, which is a glacial cirque formed in the depression of the sides of mountains. 

My final acknowledgement goes to the individuals who participated in trail building as part of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).  In 1933 they had a camp on the west side of the island, today known as “the quietside.” 

The CCC expansion of the trail system included such great trails as The Perpendicular, which also features hundreds of granite stairs.  At the height of the summer season these trails offer a solitude not possible on the most popular trails around Jordan Pond or Ocean Drive.  In addition, the deep boreal forests and rich moss floor of the western mountains are in marked contrast to the woods of the eastern part of Mount Desert Island, which have re-grown since the Great Fire of 1947.

If you use Tom St. Germain’s highly acclaimed  hiking guide A Walk in the Park, you’ll also be treated to some historical perspective of Acadia’s trails.  The Olmsted Center has also published a detailed report on the historic hiking trail system of Mount Desert Island called Pathmakers, the photos and maps in which I particularly enjoy.

For more ideas on the best trails in Acadia National Park, just click here. 

Happy hiking.

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