Posts tagged ‘Ken Burns’

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.

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September 21, 2009

Top Ten Things to Do When You Visit Acadia National Park in Maine

Cadillac SunriseKen Burns’ series “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” may have piqued your interest about Acadia, the easternmost park in the system.  It’s where the mountains meet the sea, and a desire to “do everything” co-exists happily with a sense of calm contemplation.  

Acadia National Park is about three hours north of Portland, in relatively easy proximity to the metropolitan areas along the eastern seaboard.  It occupies about two-thirds of Mount Desert Island, the most well-known town of which is Bar Harbor.  The village where I live was founded in 1761.  Acadia’s boundaries are intermingled with the communities of this New England island. This adds considerably to the charm that captivates park visitors. 

Here are some favorite things to do both in and around the park. 

  1. Watch the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain.   At some 1500 feet, it is the first place from which to witness dawn in the United States, and it is breathtaking.  Make sure you wear a warm fleece even if it’s August.
  2. Drive the Park Loop Road.  You can get your best overview of Acadia by driving these 27 miles of unsurpassed beauty, created in part through the masterful collaboration of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.  There are many lookouts so have your camera ready for this drive.
  3. Eat lobster.  Whether you want a lobster roll, lobster stew, or a two-pounder steamed, you can find a wide range of topnotch restaurants, harbor-side lobster pounds, and quaint cafes to serve you.  Our favorite is Thurston’s in Bass Harbor.
  4. Go biking.  Thanks to John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Acadia offers 57 miles of car-free carriage roads for cycling.  There is plenty of parking at Hull’s Cove Visitor Center.  Or, if you prefer, you can take a horse-drawn carriage drive from Wildwood Stables and see the park the way Mr. Rockefeller intended.
  5. Stroll, hike, or climb.  The park boasts 130 miles of well-maintained hiking trails that appeal to all levels of fitness.  The most exciting trails, such as the Precipice and Jordan Cliffs, feature rungs and ladders.  A beautiful moderately challenging hike is Acadia Mountain, overlooking Somes Sound, the only fiord in North America.  If you’re looking for easier strolls, consider Asticou Trail and Wonderland – they’re lovely.
  6. Have lemonade at Jordan Pond House.  Select a biking or hiking route that stems from behind Jordan Pond House so that you can conclude your afternoon with lemonade and popovers on the lawn looking towards the Bubbles, a sight that has mesmerized visitors at teatime since 1896.  It’s a favorite destination for everyone, but worth the wait.
  7. Visit Sand BeachThis sandy crescent has cliffs at each side and the Beehive Trail behind it.  The views won’t disappoint, even if the chilly water does.  Another option for a swim is the beach at Echo Lake on the island’s “Quietside.”
  8. Touch nature – literally.  There are several enterprises, including Mount Desert Biological Laboratories, The Dive-In Theatre, and the Mount Desert Oceanarium, that feature touch tanks full of lobsters, crabs, and sea cucumbers. I always end up liking this stuff just as much as the kids do.
  9. Learn from a park ranger.  The National Park Service offers very entertaining talks and walks on subjects ranging tidal pools to birds of prey to the stars over Sand Beach.  Scan The Beaver Log to figure out how you can fit in more than one.
  10. Get out on the water.  This great national park is on an island so you must see it from the vantage point of the sea.  Whether you’re powering yourself in a sea kayak or the wind is propelling you forward on a Downeast Friendship Sloop or the Margaret Todd, being on the water is a special part of a trip to Acadia National Park. 

Evenings will keep you on the run as well as you explore Mount Desert Island’s restaurant scene.  Many specialize in seafood and locally grown produce, but you’ll also find French bistro, authentic Mexican, tapas, and Cuban cuisine.  And what if it rains?  There are local breweries, bookstores, antique shops, movies, repertory companies, museums, and fashion purveyors that are sure to keep you entertained.  In fact, after a few days of hiking, biking, and kayaking, you might hope for a slight drizzle and an afternoon in the rocking chair of a local Maine library. 

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.