In the second half of 2017, we were on a roll with road trips – we had done our Eclipse Road Trip in August, and driven around half of North Dakota in early September. Just a few weeks later, it was time for another road trip and another new state – Maine! This would be the last state we needed to visit together in the Northeast.
Our destination in Maine was Acadia National Park. I had been once before – the same year I met Elliott – and I was so happy to finally be able to take him there (or, as it was, let him take me there). I remembered beautiful rocky coastlines, good hikes, and difficult bike rides. I was not at all disappointed to be able to do it all again, and more!
The weekend we chose was specifically based on the Acadia Star Party, but the weather forecast leading up to our trip was very ominous, and we kept wavering on whether or not to go. We booked our campground at the last minute, which meant we had to camp outside the park due to the park campgrounds being full. No problem – we camped at Mount Desert Campground, just a ten minute drive outside the park, near some of the carriage trails and right on the water! We took our time driving from our home outside Philly up to the park, stopping at the local Walmart to stock up on food and supplies. We got to our campsite just in time to set up camp and cook some hot dogs for dinner.
Friday morning we drove to the Visitor Center, where we got our stamp for my National Park Passport book and talked to a park ranger about his recommendations for challenging hikes and bike rides. At Acadia there are park shuttles to reduce the number of drivers on the road, and we figured we might as well join in the fight against emissions and crowds. Once we had everything we needed from our car, we took the park loop shuttle to Gorge Path and hiked up to Cadillac Mountain via the North Ridge Trail. At the top we met motorcyclists who are doing a six month tour of all the national parks and we talked for a while and even signed their motorcycle with their black Sharpie! On the way down we stopped at the Hawk Watch and joined a ranger in looking for these beautiful predators.
High atop Cadillac Mountain
They let us sign their bike
We got back on the shuttle and took it to Sand Beach – but the water really was too cold for swimming, even for me!
High viewpoint of Sand Beach from beginning of Great Head Trail
So back on the shuttle we went, napping here and there as we drove around the enormous park loop, finally getting off at Jordan Pond. We took a long, leisurely walk around the pond and called it a day in regards to activity.
Piles of rock line one end
As the sun sets the beauty intensifies
Swingin’ on a suspension bridge
Back at our campsite, eating hot dogs for dinner again and s’mores for dessert, we noticed the sky clearing up a bit and we could see stars. I hoped it would be at least as clear the next night for the star party!
One of Elliott’s one-match-fires
Saturday morning we changed gears (no pun intended) and readied our bicycles. The nice thing about our campground location was that it was very close to a slew of carriage roads. I think of them as the biking roads, but in reality John D. Rockefeller paid for and directed the 57 miles of crushed stone roads for use by hikers, horses and horse-drawn carriages in addition to bicyclists. No vehicles are allowed on these roads, and 45 miles of the roads are inside of Acadia National Park. Get ready for some hills! We rode from our campground to the gravel roads and then around three different loops, including Eagle Lake, which is even bigger than Jordan Pond. What we didn’t count on was that the last half of the last loop included a hugely steep, long climb… and Elliott got a flat tire… and we didn’t have a bicycle pump! Oops. We did have a Co2 cartridge but we didn’t have the right mechanism to make it work (we were sort of a mess in regards to having the things we should for an emergency). We walked until some other bicyclists took pity on us, and helped us out of our jam. Unfortunately, by the time we got back to camp, our epic ride of over twenty mostly-gravel and often-hilly miles meant Elliott’s knee was in pretty bad shape.
Me and my bike
Biking around Eagle Lake
Way up high over the mountains… with a flat!
That night we did go to the Star Party on top of Cadillac Mountain, and the sky was thankfully and blissfully clear. Everything was so well-organized! We got to the local high school, where the shuttle would pick us up, nice and early, and there were already tons of people there! They had us line up in a snake-like fashion in the gymnasium and handed out red cellophane and rubber bands to cover flashlights and phones. They even gave us Clif bars! Each bus had a guide who talked about the festival and explained where everything would be at the top of the mountain. We got to the top and were happy to find out it wasn’t nearly as cold as it had been the day before. There were over 30 telescopes set up and we had our choice of cool things like Saturn, nebulae and star clusters. We went to a Constellation Talk and sat through it twice, learning about some new stars, how to locate constellations, and tips on using certain constellations to find others.
Sunday we gathered our nerves and climbed both the Precipice Trail and the Beehive Trails. These two strenuous trails involve iron rungs and ladders on ledges of exposed cliffs; the Precipice Trail is considered dangerous enough that you are explicitly forbidden from descending the trail. Elliott thought his fear of heights might thwart him, but was happily surprised it didn’t really slow us down at all, unlike some terrified-looking hikers we came upon.
I’ve been told I’m a mountain goat.
Elliott can totally do the Precipice Trail!
Follow the cairns.
We tied our strenuous hikes together by hiking some other tamer trails such as the South Ridge Trail, Pond Trail and Loop Trail. Elliott played with dragonflies at the pond while I took a quick, freezing dip to cool off.
Dragonfly in flight
Playing at the lake
The frogs are everywhere
Ladybug in the lake
View from the top of the Beehive Trail
Monday we took it a bit easier initially sticking to hikes by the sea as we walked the Great Head Trail and Ocean Path. The views from these hikes are what I think of as classic Maine scenery, and make for beautiful backgrounds in many great photographs.
A Zen moment.
The trail is a narrow ridge.
Hiking along the coast of Maine.
Dark, rocky coastline.
Bulging curvy tree!
Ocean Path went on and on down the coastline. At one point we just stopped and watch the enormous splashes at Thunder Hole, named for the noise the splashing water makes.
People are getting sprayed way up high at Thunder Hole
Typical Acadia Scenery
Hiking along the Maine coastline
Later on, we hiked the Bubble Trail, which led us to two different enormous boulders that look like they are going to tumble off a cliff at any moment:
On Tuesday we finally tried to go bicycling again, but alas, it just wasn’t meant to be. (We realized that after getting another flat tire and having our bicycle pump break, pushing through all of that only to realize Elliott’s knee was still not going to take to another hilly ride, and turning around.) Instead, we rented a canoe for a half day and paddled through Somes Sound. It was really peaceful, quiet and serene. We spotted ducks and crabs and even lobstermen setting out their traps.
Bird balanced on a buoy
Surrounded by mossiness
Lobstermen in Maine
Mini bird refuge
On our last full day, we took on the Parkman Mountain Hike – Maples Spring Trail to South Ridge to Hadlock. It was mostly forested, the first half climbing slowly up a dry creek bed. Eventually we climbed up out of the forest to a rocky flat foggy plateau.
Misty Mountain Morning
On our way down, we caught the end of the Rockefeller Bridge Talk where I was able to photograph one of Rockefeller’s classic bridges:
One of Rockefeller’s Bridges on Hadlock Brook Trail
For our last night, Elliott cooked ribs over the fire for dinner. He also made foil packets of potatoes and onions that he threw right in the fire and they came out great! We suddenly felt like we were glamping with our fine meal. Later that night, we noticed it had clouded over, as we couldn’t see stars for the first time in days.
Thursday morning we woke up to the sound of light rain, but it had stopped by the time we had to break camp. The rain that morning made me realize how lucky we had been with the weather considering the original forecast for our time there. We said goodbye to our campsite home for the week while giving each other a super hug, and headed out.
Our drive home was even more leisurely than our drive there had been, and filled with beautiful scenery and fun little adventures. We found an Acadia magnet at one place and some clothing at a thrift store. We spent way too much time at a grocery store called Hannaford, where several employees helped figure out all the issues that kept arising as we tried to make our gift card purchases. We spent lots of time going in and out of lots of antique places looking for an old-fashioned pie serving thing Elliott wants*. We got lobster rolls in Rockport at a place called Claws, where we had a great view of the bay as we ate our sandwiches and amazing fries, and went to the Goodwill there too. We even went back to the restaurant when we saw there was a lobster trap we could climb into.
Claws serves Maine-ly lobster
He’s coming to get you
Lobster rolls for everyone!
What cute claws
Elliott learned several lessons on this trip: he can hike more treacherous trails than he thought he could, he could become quite an impressive camp chef, dragonflies are very difficult to photograph in flight, and lobster is not really his thing. At today’s market prices, maybe that last one isn’t so bad.
*Finally found it on amazon.