Acadia National Park, Maine

9/11/16 to 9/22/16

Sunday 9/11/16     We left Palmyra Campground around 10:30 in the rain. It sprinkled a little in the morning but started pouring when we began to pull out. We had to dump the holding tanks in the rain and drive all the way to our next campground in a downpour. Although the trip only took 2 hours, it wasn’t a nice drive. I even told Rose that if it was raining when we got to the campground we would just sit in the trailer for a while until it slowed down. When we got there it was still pouring, I ran from the truck to the office to check in. Once we were assigned our site and we started to back in, the rain stopped! It takes us about a half hour to set up. We are getting pretty good at it after all this time on the road. We have this site for 7 days and then we have to move to another site in the campground for our last 4 days.

The name of this campground is Smugglers Den and it’s located in Southwest Harbor, Maine. About 20 minutes from Bar Harbor. (Or as the locals pronounce it, Ba-haa-ba) It’s a pretty nice place. Our site is grass with a nice level gravel driveway. The sites are close but right now no one is on the left of us. Restrooms and showers are usable. One good thing is that there is a free shuttle bus that travels around Mount Desert Island and one of its stops is at the campground. After we set up we walked around the campground and found a trail that leads to a narrow gravel road where we can ride our bikes. Then we went for a ride in the truck to check out some of the Maine coastlines.

Monday 9/12/16     Today we decided to take advantage of the free shuttle bus and take a ride to Bar Harbor. We caught the bus at 9:30 right at the office of the campground. These buses are sponsored by L.L.Bean. The company sells clothing and outdoor recreation equipment and its headquarters are in Freeport, Maine. We arrived in Bar Harbor around 10:00 and then switched buses to go to the Hulls Cove visitors center. We needed to get some information on passes, trails and other things to do in the park. After about a half hour there we got on another bus and went back to Bar Harbor to walk around.

A long time ago Bar Harbor was a summer getaway for the rich and famous and in 1880 there were already 30 grand hotels in the area. Many influential people called Bar Harbor home for at least part of the year. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., son of John D. Rockefeller of Standard Oil Co., donated about one-third of the land in Acadia National Park and built the carriage roads that are used for hiking and biking. J. P. Morgan owned a house that is adjacent to Bar Harbor. Cornelius Vanderbilt built cottages in Bar Harbor. The Astor family owned hotels and cottages in Bar Harbor and the surrounding areas. William Howard Taft used to enjoy games of golf in Bar Harbor. In 1947, Maine experienced a severe drought. Sparks at a cranberry bog near Town Hill ignited a wildfire that lasted over ten days. Nearly half the eastern side of Mount Desert Island burned, including 67 summer houses on Millionaires’ Row. Five historic grand hotels and 170 permanent homes were destroyed. Over 10,000 acres of Acadia National Park were destroyed.

Now Bar Harbor is a popular tourist destination and is filled with hotels, bed and breakfasts, restaurants and souvenir shops. It was also pretty crowded because the harbor is a stop for cruise ships and one just docked and left off 4000 people. We walked around a little and ended up eating lunch at the Route 66 restaurant. I know Maine is famous for lobster but I just don’t like seafood. After lunch, we got back on the bus and headed back to the campsite. We didn’t spend too much time here because we will be back when Wendy joins us.

There is a path from the back of the campgrounds to a gravel road. Looking on the map, that road will take us to Echo Lake where there are a beach and trails. We got on the bikes and took the trail to a gravel road. Then took that gravel road to a blacktop road that went into the parking lot of Echo Lake and beach. We saw a trail that took us to the rock cliffs on the side of the lake and decided to walk part of that trail. It started out very nice and level but then turned to all uphill and big rocks. We came to a Y in the trail and a sign said “Overlook and Summit” we took the overlook trail because we didn’t have our hiking shoes on. We were rewarded with some great views of the lake and beach area.

After our short hike, we headed back to the trailer and just relaxed the rest of the day.

Tuesday 9/13/16     We heard from Wendy this morning and she said she should be here around 3:00 so we decided to go back to the trail we walked yesterday but this time hike to the summit. Again we rode our bikes to the parking lot of Echo Lake and started walking from there. If you look at the map this trail to the summit is just a little over one mile long, but it’s very steep. So steep in fact that there are 4 metal ladders mounted on the granite walls. It’s a great hike, difficult but not too long. It’s a lot steeper than it looks in the pictures. Once we got to the top there’s a trail along the ridge that gives you access to some beautiful views of the lake below and the other mountains. As we began to start down we saw another couple at the top. They told us that there was a different way down. Safer than taking the ladders down backward. We looked at their map and headed the way they told us. After walking about a mile we felt that we were too far away from our starting point so we turned around and went back to the summit. Once at the summit we went back down the same way we came up. Then back on the bikes and back to the trailer. On that trail, we walked 8 miles and did 67 flights of steps. (According to Rose’s Fitbit) Wendy and Faith arrived around 3:30.

Wednesday 9/14/16    We wanted to get a feel for Acadia today so we drove The Park Loop Road. It’s the primary avenue for navigating through Acadia National Park. This 27-mile road begins at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center and connects the park’s lakes, mountains, forests, and rocky coast. Construction of the Park Loop Road began in 1922 and continued through the 1950s. It was partially financed by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who also was the father of the Carriage Roads. Much of the road is one way. It’s a great way to see a lot of Acadia at one time. Our first stop was the summit of Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak in Acadia. Part of The Park Loop Road takes you right to the top. We walked around there for a while checking out all the views.

As we continued on The Park Loop Road we stopped at different points along the way to take pictures of the rocky Maine coastline.

Later that day we took a ride to Bar Harbor. It was cold and rainy but we checked out some of the shops and ate dinner at The Side Street Cafe. Wendy had the lobster stew, Rose got a tuna sandwich and because I hate seafood, I got a barbecue pulled pork sandwich. But we split a famous slice of Maine blueberry pie a la mode!

Thursday 9/15/16     Yesterday we were telling Wendy about the trail with the ladders near Echo Lake and today we decided to hike it again with her. Since she didn’t have a bike with her we walked from the campgrounds to the gravel road, to Echo Lake and then up the trail. At the top, we walked along the ridge and had lunch overlooking the lake. It was a perfect, clear day and we could see forever. After lunch, we took a trail called Canada Cliffs that runs back down to the gravel road. Lots of beautiful views on this trail.

After we walked back to the trailer we took the car and drove to the Bass Harbor Lighthouse. This was the closest lighthouse to the campgrounds. It wasn’t a very impressive lighthouse but it’s still used today and someone from the Coast Guard lives in the house attached to it and takes care of it.

We also walked a short trail called the Wonderland Trail. It leads to a small peninsula on the south shore with access to cobble beaches and tide pools. 

After a day full day of hiking and walking around we ended up doing 10.5 miles and 56 flights of steps. We drove back to the trailer, built a fire, cooked hotdogs and sat around the campfire until bedtime.

Friday 9/16/16     Today we took the bicycles on some of the carriage roads. These carriage roads were built between 1919 and 1931. In the early 1900s, Mount Desert Island was a summer resort haven for a number of wealthy families, including the Rockefellers, Carnegies, and Vanderbilts. Despite their efforts to keep the island free of motor vehicles, they were authorized on the island by 1915. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who had a large summer house on the southeastern part of the island, decided to build a network of carriage roads, which would be isolated from the roads open to motor vehicles, and which would provide access to the scenic views of the area. He personally selected the skilled craftsmen who built the roads, bridges, and gatehouses, and directly supervised a significant portion of the work. The entire project resulted in the construction of more than 50 miles of roads, sixteen bridges, and two Tudor Revival gatehouses, located at the points where the system intersected the public roads. The present bounds of Acadia National Park include 47 miles of these roads, thirteen of its bridges, and both gatehouses. Today these carriage roads are open to hikers, bikers, and horse carriages.

Wendy didn’t bring her bike so we rented her one at Southwest Cycle which was just down the road from the campgrounds. Once we got all three bikes loaded up on the truck we headed to the carriage roads. These roads are very popular and sometimes it’s hard to find a place to park. Luckily it was a Friday and off season so we had no problem. We started at the top of Eagle Lake and headed to Jordan Pond which is about 4 miles. We took a break at The Jordan Pond House and had tea and popovers on the lawn. The tea and popovers at Jordan Pond have been a tradition since the early 1900s. Even the shop where we rented the bike told us we should stop if we were near. The Jordan Pond House is right at the bottom of Jordan Pond and eating on the lawn gives you a beautiful view of the lake and surrounding mountains.

After our break, we continued on another 4 miles to Bubble Pond where we sat on the rocks, ate our packed lunch and enjoyed the view. Then rode around the other side of Eagle Lake to where we started. We did another loop around a marsh where there were active beaver dams and lodges and got to check out one of Rockefeller’s stone bridges. We rode the carriage roads for about 6 hours and covered almost 14 miles. This was a very scenic bike trip. Some of the roads are challenging but there were only a couple times we had to walk the bikes uphill.

After our bike ride, we drove to Southwest Harbor, returned Wendy’s bike and walked around the town for a while.

Saturday 9/17/16    Today I’m proud to say we climbed The Beehive! This is what the hiking booklet says about the Beehive. “Shaped like its name, The Beehive is a stout, steep-sided 520′ peak looming over Sand Beach. The climb up overexposed ledges and cliffs is made easier by using the iron rungs drilled into the vertical granite walls. This trail may be too difficult for children and adults with a fear of heights.” Wendy got a suggestion from someone she knows that The Beehive is a great hike. Because The Park Loop Road was closed to vehicles until noon today (This happens twice a year, just our luck) we took the shuttle from the visitors center to Sand Beach. The Beehive trail starts right across the road from the entrance to Sand Beach. Wow! This hike was the most dangerous hike we have ever done. There were times that we were standing on a ledge about 24″ wide, hanging on to cracks in the rock, looking down 300 or 400 feet with nothing to stop us if we fell. It was crazy but fun at the same time.  At different points, there are iron rungs drilled into the rock that we would use as a ladder. And in other parts, there are iron rungs to use as handholds. Many times we would have to scramble up a rock on all fours. It only took us 45 minutes to reach the summit but that was a very intense 45 minutes. You really had to be aware of every place you put your foot and everything you held on to.

After a short break at the top to rest and take in the views, we continued on to The Bowl Trail which took us down to a small lake and then on to the Gorham Mountain Trail which took us up to the peak of Gorham Mtn. at 525 ft. (longer but not as dangerous as The Beehive). We broke for lunch on the top of Gorham Mtn. Then completed our loop to where we started by taking the Cadillac Cliffs Trail and the Ocean Path Trail past Thunder Hole and then back to Sand Beach. Total for the day was 23,356 steps, 9.92 miles and 104 flights of steps.

Sunday 9/18/16     Today was the day we had to move the trailer. The site we were in for the last 7 days was reserved by someone else for the next couple of days so we had to move to another site in the same campground. We had until noon to move and it was raining when we got up so we took our time and had our usual Sunday breakfast. We ended up moving around 10:30 and it took us about an hour. It was a very nice site. We actually had more room on this site than the last one and weren’t as close to our neighbors.

A short time after we moved it cleared up a little and Wendy suggested we visit Schoodic Peninsula. Schoodic Peninsula is part of Acadia National Park and is only 4 miles away as the crow flies but 45 miles away via coastal roads from Bar Harbor. To get there we had to drive through Ellsworth, Maine and we stopped at an LL Bean Outlet store to do a little shopping. Once we got to Schoodic Peninsula it was around 3:00 and because of the rain in the morning, it was a little foggy. Schoodic Peninsula has a large granite and cobblestone beach and is not as busy as Desert Island. We walked around the granite beach area for awhile taking pictures.

Wendy had downloaded a map of the area earlier and had picked out a couple of trails we could hike if we had time. Looking at the map we found one that didn’t look too bad. It was a loop of the Alder and Anvil Trails that were about 7 miles long. We parked at The Blueberry Hill parking area and started the trail. It started out as a level, gravel path through low bushes and trees. We brought Faith with us thinking the whole trail would be like this. After about a mile the trail took a right turn into the deep woods and started uphill. We thought about turning around because we didn’t want to make it too hard for Faith (she’s over 15 1/2 years old!) but she seemed to be doing fine. The trail got harder and harder as we went along. There were places where we had to lift Faith up and over rocks. The map Wendy downloaded did not show how steep the trail was, just how long it was. It was a great hike taking us through beautiful moss covered deep forests and over huge rocks but we were running out of daylight. As we were coming down from a large rock formation we took a wrong turn and got lost. The trail wasn’t marked very well at that point and from the looks of the paths, we weren’t the only ones going right instead of left. After walking around for about 30 minutes we backtracked and realized what we did. But now it was getting dark and the fog was rolling in. It was dark enough that we were having a hard time seeing the trail markings on the trees. Plus because of the fog, the rocks and roots were getting damp and slippery. We were really worried about getting back to the car before it was pitch black. As we were walking the last half mile we were talking about how we would survive a night in the woods all huddled together. We just made it. Getting to the road and then walking a short distance to the car. I think we were the last people left in the park!

We stopped at a small restaurant in Winter Harbor for supper and headed back to the campground around 8:00 PM. It was a long hour back. Driving in the dark, on unfamiliar roads and in the fog. We have Wendy to thank for this exciting day!

Monday 9/19/16     It was raining this morning when we got up so we were in no hurry to go anywhere. Around 11:30 AM it looked like it might clear up (it didn’t) so we took a ride to Bar Harbor. There’s a small museum in Bar Harbor. We thought that would be something interesting we could do on a dreary day. We were wrong. The Abbe Museum focuses on the Native American culture and its history in Maine. The displays, artifacts, and information just didn’t interest us. We only spent about 30 minutes at the museum. We walked down to the waterfront and did some people watching. Walked up and down the streets checking out some of the shops and restaurants. We ended up eating lunch at the Side Street Cafe, the same place we had dinner last Wednesday. After lunch, we walked along the shoreline and watched the boats. It rained on and off for most of the day and was very foggy near the water.

After spending most of the day in Bar Harbor, we drove to Ellsworth, Maine. Ellsworth is about 30 minutes from Bar Harbor and has a Walmart. We went to Walmart to get an oil change in Wendy’s car. Because of the trip to Maine, she was overdue on her mileage and I didn’t want her driving another 1000 miles home. We got to Walmart around 5:15 PM and the guy at the counter told us he didn’t have enough time to do it. He had other cars ahead of us and they close at 7:00. So we headed back to the campground for the rest of the night. Tomorrow we plan on driving to the top of Cadillac Mountain to watch the sunrise and then going into Bar Harbor for breakfast.

Tuesday 9/20/16     Well the planned trip to Cadillac Mountain didn’t happen this morning. The weather for the last 3 days has been terrible. Cooler and foggy most of the day. No sense trying to watch a sunrise when you can’t even see the sun. But we did drive into Bar Harbor for breakfast. We ate at a place called Cafe This Way and had a great breakfast. After breakfast, we hung around Bar Harbor again. Wendy was in contact with one of her friends from The Seaborne Quest (The ship she worked on) which happen to be docked in Bar Harbor today. If her friend could get off the ship they were going to meet for coffee. The crew can’t get off until all the passengers get off so we walked around waiting for her to contact Wendy. We checked out some of the hotels, walked along the shoreline, did some people watching and shopping until around 2:00. For some reason, she couldn’t get off the ship so we headed back to the campground.

After we ate a late lunch we headed just down the road from the campground to The Acadia Mountain Trail. This trail is a loop that takes you up to two different summits with great views of Somes Sound. It was a challenging hike but because of the fog, there weren’t very good views. The trail crew was working on part of the trail so we had to take a detour. For the day in Bar Harbor and on the trail, we ended up walking 22,601 steps, 9.56 miles and did 86 flights of steps.

Wednesday 9/21/16     Wendy wanted to try canoeing today. She wanted to find a place that would rent us a canoe that all of us could fit in. (including Faith) She called around and found a place called National Park Canoe & Kayak Rentals. It was just a short drive from our campgrounds and located right at the top of Great Long Pond which is 4 miles long and on the quiet side of Mount Desert Island. They are right across the road from the water so they give you a dolly to load the canoe on and push it to the water. Rose, Wendy, and Faith all got into the canoe and I pushed it out into the water. It took us a little while to get our balance. Every time Faith would move around and it felt like the canoe would tip. Once we got used to it we started paddling. Faith was pretty good in the canoe but she stood up the whole trip. The lake is a mix of privately owned land and park-owned land. So the first half hour of our trip we checked out some of the houses built along the lake. Anything from a small cottage to larger million dollar homes. The lake is shallow so no one owns any big expensive boats. After a while, we paddled to a rocky park owned section and got off to walk around a little. Getting back in the canoe was a little harder than at the boat launch. We had to lift Faith into the canoe. We paddled along the shoreline heading back to the launch. The rental was for 4 hours but we knew we wouldn’t go that long. Once we got back and returned the canoe we hung out a while enjoying the peacefulness of the lake.

We headed back to the campgrounds. Our plan was to leave Faith in the trailer and go into Southwest Harbor for some lunch. When we got back to the trailer I checked my phone and I had a message. It was Smugglers Den Campground telling me that I was supposed to be leaving today. Check out time was 1:00 and it was already 2:30. There was a big mix up. I thought I had reserved 11 nights but they had me down for 10. I walked down to the office to try to straighten it out. What they told me was that our site was reserved for tonight and they didn’t have any other sites available. I had to get out ASAP because the next guy would be here any minute. I even asked if I could just stay in their recreation field with no hook-ups for one night because I had nowhere else to go. Again the answer was no. So I rushed back to the trailer to give Rose and Wendy the bad news. We packed everything up and hooked to the truck in record time. I moved the trailer to a vacant business near the road until we figured out what to do.

We made a call to a KOA (Kampgrounds of America) that was about 20 minutes away and they had a site for one night. So we drove there and set up. This place was called KOA Bar Harbor Oceanside. It was a large campground that borders the ocean but only had a dozen or so ocean view sites. I didn’t like the place. The sites were in a big open area with no trees. Nothing like the spot we had at Smugglers Den. Oh well, at least we had a place to stay and we were only here for one night. 

After we got set up, we headed back to Southwest Harbor for something to eat. We took Faith with us and found a place that had picnic tables outside. On the way back to the trailer we stopped at The Echo Lake Beach area and walked around until dark.

Thursday 9/22/16     One last thing we wanted to do before we left Acadia National Park was to see the sunrise on top of Cadillac Mountain. A trip to Acadia isn’t complete without it. We wanted to do this earlier but the weather didn’t cooperate. Standing about 1,530 feet in height, Cadillac Mountain is the tallest mountain on the North Atlantic seaboard and the first point of the United States to greet the rising sun’s rays. This is a very popular activity and we knew there would be other people wanting to do the same thing, but really how many would get up at 5:00 AM and make the drive for the 6:15 sunrise? Apparently a lot! There was a steady stream of cars bumper to bumper traveling up the mountain road. I guess we should have left earlier because there was nowhere to park when we got to the top. I had to drop everyone off and start down the road. I parked about a 1/4 mile away right off the road. It was a mess! And this is off season! I did get back to Rose, Wendy, and Faith before the sun came up.

After the beautiful sunrise, we headed down the mountain and into Bar Harbor for a big breakfast. We went back to Cafe This Way and waited for them to open at 7:00 AM. After our breakfast, we headed back to the trailer to pack up. We left the campground around 10:00 and hit the road. In the next two days, we have to travel about 800 miles. We needed to get close to the Washington DC area to attend my cousin’s wedding and my uncle’s 100th birthday celebration. Goodbye Acadia! It’s been fun! We’ll be back someday. On to Washington, DC.

We decided to drive as long as we could and find a place to stop along the way. We ended up traveling about 470 miles the first day and spent the night in a Walmart parking lot in Newburgh, NY. There were 5 other RVs parked there. Wendy and Faith were headed home the same way so they slept in the trailer with us that night.

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