Acadia is regularly referred to as a “rich-man’s park” largely because it was a park assembled from the land holdings of rich men. As it was put together, piece by piece, the richest of the all J.D. Rockefeller, made sure the park was created in his vision. One of his visions was to have a series of carriage trails throughout the park so visitors could be treated to wonderful views without leaving the comfort of their horse-drawn vehicle. Present day, those trails serve as some of the most enjoyable biking around. Aly and I rented our bikes in Bar Harbor and head off to Eagle Lake (G) for the start of our day. While an occasional gradual incline would lead to a small workout, the crush stone paths were hard compacted making biking not too difficult. Aly wanted to see as many of the large stone bridges as possible. Rockefeller, himself, chose the siting of most of the bridges and personally approved their design. Along the way, we’d be treated to great vista across lakes and valleys, intimate settings in tree covered forest “rooms” and swift descents along the mountainside route. The only drama of the day was provide by a small snake slithering across the trail which caused Alison, still on her bike, to be both petrified by fear of the snake and by fear of hurting the snake. She loves all nature but, just wants snakes to stay the hell away. The encounter ended without incident and we continued on our way, weaving through the park on the numerous connecting trails. We spent a little extra time at Jordan Pond where the rich greens of summer were just starting to give way to the harvest hues of fall.
Later in the afternoon, Aly, my dad, and I decided to squeeze one last hike in. We returned to Sand Beach (F, Orange) and did a loop on the Great Head Trail. As we set out, fog started to roll in off the bay. We spent most of the hike not being able to see more than 15-20 feet in any direction. The inability to see distant objects drew our focus to the closeness of the nature around us. Our concentration was on the next few steps, not the destination of the trail. I always enjoy the muted aura that fog brings and made us feel as though we were in an outdoor room. About halfway into our hike, I notice an animal moving about the trail in front of us. Almost as instantly as I got a clear view, two Spruce Grouse shot into the woods and were gone. We hiked on, ending where we began at Sand Beach with the bay completely concealed from view but, the sounds of the waves let us know it was still there.
Our last moments at Acadia National Park were spent celebrating the trip in Bar Harbor. We found ridiculously delicious ice cream as well as the most consistently perfect popcorn we’ve ever had. The following morning we drove to Boston with time for a quick meal at Giacomo’s (I cannot recommended this place more highly) and a return flight to Chicago.
The human element at Acadia is ever present, while looking out at the Mount Desert forests, you do so from trails that have been carefully manicured for decades. Rather than parking in a gravel lot near a trailhead or returning to your tent, the quaint, comfortable town of Bar Harbor is your gateway to adventure. Loving the national parks should not simply be a love of one particular narrative. Limiting the park idea to only the raw mountain wildness of Alaska or Montana, misses the fine-grained experiences that a smaller park can provide. Aly and I remember clinging to the iron rungs off the side of the Precipice Trail or sitting in bar after a tumultuous boat ride. All of these memories are possible because of the wonderful nature found at Acadia and the stewards charged with its preservation.
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