Sunday, August 4, 2019

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park
Aug 4
Aug 5
Schooner Head, Cadillac Mountain, The Beehive, Sand Beach
Aug 6
Precipice, Thunder Hole, Otter Cliff, Jordan Pond, Bass Harbor Light House
Aug 5-6
Bar Harbor

After spending the first night of our vacation in a tent at a campground in the White Mountains of New Hampshire near the base of Mt. Washington we awoke and began our drive to the next part of our adventure.  The nearly 5 hour 236 mile drive on the beautiful State Highway Rt. 2 through the back country of Maine took us toward Seawall Campground in Acadia National Park.

Click here to see first day of vacation at Mt. Washington

Josie and I met Greg and George who were at the beginning of their North Eastern US and Canada vacation and we coordinated schedules so that our plans overlapped for a whole week.   While Greg had visited once a long time ago, none of us were really that familiar with Acadia NP tho combining all of our notes from the information we gathered we were sure we could fill up a couple days with some fun hikes/activities.  

Sunday August 4th

Sunday was pretty much a travel day.  Since we had flown in on a red eye flight the day before, this was our first chance after stopping for lunch to pick up some food & drink reserves in Newport, Maine at Walmart.  In Newport we left the scenic Highway 2 we spent all morning traveling and got on the Interstate I-95 which took us toward Bangor.  In Bangor we caught Highway 1A which took us all the way to Mt. Desert Island.

My minds entire focus for our travels was actually for the end of the week when we would head to Baxter State Park for our climb of Mt. Katahdin.   Acadia National Park just sort of got thrown into the mix because it happens to be in the same state.   All joking aside, I think we all really looking forward to the couple days we would spend together there.   What I didn't realize is that Acadia doesn't actually encompass the entire island.   What is further complicated is that the National Park stops and starts on different areas of the island so as you drive around you are sometimes in the park and sometimes not in the park.  It was a little confusing at first but after a couple days we started to get the feel for it.

Still not really understanding the Island we had Seawall Campground coordinates programmed into the GPS and made our way there.   The map above really helps understand the Island and where everything is located.   Our campground was all the way to the south end of the island and very isolated from the main part of the park.  I read that they call the southwestern area the "quite side" of the island.   I would consider the bold/dark road on the map called "Park Loop Road" the main part of the park.  

We found the camp ranger's registration office at the entry of Seawall Campground and quickly wrapped up paperwork before we could head to our campsite.  The campground was pretty basic and only provided the bare necessity of a parking spot, a clearing to put our tents, and a short walk to a building where there were toilets.   As explained by the ranger there are paid showers on the island however none close to our campground.   Already two days without a shower we were all longing to freshen up but it wouldn't be in the cards for another day. 

Since seeing Greg & George after their hike of Mt. Washington the day earlier we had separate cars and our own agenda's so we really had had a good opportunity to catch up.   After our campsite was situated we walked out of the campground to the actual Seawall less than a mile away and just across the street from the campground.   We did get a chance to catch up while walking along the coast and making plans for dinner in a little one block town called Southwest Harbor we drove through on the way to the campground.

Over dinner we figured out we would try to get an early start and head to the Park Loop Road in the morning and stop at the visitor center by the entrance to the loop to see what hikes the rangers may suggest.   Before heading back to the campground we unanimously agreed to drive around the island in search of a short cut we learned about which would help avoid some extra driving and avoid some traffic the next day.   We were all pretty tired from our travels and all retired early.   The night brought mild temperatures and clear skies.   I got up once in the middle of the night and was amazed with all the stars in the sky.    

Monday August 5th

We woke up and broke into our groceries for a quick breakfast and then headed to the "busy side" of the island.  When we arrived at the visitor center it looked deserted as we arrived too early as they hadn't even opened so we continued onto Park Loop Road.   It's mostly a one-way loop so once committed with a few exceptions you must continue all the way around.   Still without a plan other than to hike the Bee-Hive trail at some point during the day we stumbled upon a sign for Schooner Head Overlook so decided to pull in and check it out.  

Schooner Head was a short hike down to the coast with great views of the coast and a chance to crawl around on some rocks.  Not staying too long, we heading back to the car and proceeded to drive the loop all the way back around to the visitor center which would be open.   On the way we saw signs for Cadillac Mountain which is another stop we wished to make so we make the turn and drove up to the top of the road and already the parking lot was beginning to fill up with only a handful of parking spots remaining.   We hiked around the top of the mountain enjoying the panoramic views of the island which really helped us to get our bearings straight. 

We headed back down the mountain and made our way back to the visitor's center, this time only a few hours later the scene had completely changed and it was now an absolute mad house.  Every single parking spot was filled and we had to circle around and ended up parking all the way at the far end of the lot.   The visitor center was also a shuttle bus parking location so you didn't have to take your car on the loop, you could leave your car all day and take public transportation.  We made a quick stop at the visitor's center and decided our next stop would be the Beehive trailhead.   Driving around the loop now for our second time this morning what we noticed is that while everything was calm and quiet in the early a.m. now there were traffic jams, every single parking area was filled, and there were people everywhere.  

We did luck out and found a parking spot near the Beehive trail.   This is one of the epic hikes in the park and not for the faint of heart.  One of the first signs you see is one that reads, "Caution: Trail Steep with Exposed Cliffs and fixed Iron Rungs".   The 520 ft. vertical climb takes you straight up the side of the mountain.

I've known Greg a long time and he frequently comments that his wife is scared of heights and how she not only wouldn't have enjoyed as much as we did several of our past adventures but she would never try them in the first place.   It wasn't until today I learned that Greg himself also has his own fear of heights.  We were somewhere in the middle of the Beehive Trail climbing the rungs and standing on the edge of a cliff when we ran into a traffic jam.  I thought to myself, what a perfect opportunity to break out the camera and take a few cliff side photos.   Greg was ahead of me and I called out to him to turn around so I could get his face in the picture with the cliff behind him.  He replied, "No."  I thought he was joking, but his face was planted straight ahead and wasn't going to move from that position until the traffic jam cleared out and he moved onto a new "safer" spot.

The hike/scramble was just about what we expected and at the top were again rewarded with beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean.   The hike continues down the back side of the mountain and is just a normal trail free from cliffs!   

While we had a parking spot, from the same parking location we refueled and then had one more attraction to check out called Sand Beach.   It was just a short hike down to the waterfront.  The water was cold enough I was happy only to get my feet wet, but George decided to take a swim.   Most of the Maine's coast is rocky but this was a nice as the description suggests "sandy beach".    We posed for a few pictures along the beach and decided we would head to Bar Harbor for the remainder of the afternoon/evening.

Bar Harbor is on the "lively" side of the island adjacent to many of today's attractions in Acadia NP, however, the town itself is considered outside of the park.  Again the town was a tourist mecca and cars and people were all about.   We were in search of a pub/restaurant and sat down for the first time all day long to talk about the joys of surviving the Beehive Trail and make our plans for the following day.    

Apparently the most famous "other" cliff side hike/scramble called Precipice Trail.   The Precipice happens to be home to many endangered peregrine falcons that nest on the cliffs. Consequently, the hiking trail can be closed from late spring through mid-August.  Now only the first week of August and as luck would have it the trail is reopened for the season the next day.    Over a beer we turned to YouTube to watch some video descriptions of the hike.   We had three "yeahs" and one "no" from Greg who suggested he would sit this one out.  

After dinner we walked around town, found a few souvenir shops, an outfitter store for a few camp supplies, and while our bellies we were full from dinner we found a bakery that looked like they made a mean blueberry pie so picked four slices for dessert later in the evening.   

Since we had driven two cars we parted ways which left Josie and I with one more mission for the day to find one of the public shower facilities.   Our last shower was Friday morning in Los Angeles and now it was end of the day Monday which was four days later.   We plugged the address into the gps and were thrilled to find there was one only a couple miles away, still on the island, but just outside of Bar Harbor.   Since we were car camping we had everything we had packed for the trip in the car so we had everything we needed with us.    We were overjoyed when we found the place and there were actually pretty busy, but no waiting, there was one shower available for each.  We were pleased the quarter machines took our bills,  This may have been one of the best all time showers in life.

When we arrived back at the campsite we found Greg and George already had retired for the night.  This left us with no option but to bust out the blueberry pie we picked up in Bar Harbor all for ourselves before crawling into the tent for the night.   

Tuesday August 6th    

Traveling east three hours has it challenges especially getting up early in the morning.   Based on the heavy traffic Monday in the park we planned again for an early start with our first destination the Precipice!   We awoke and Greg and George were doing morning push ups, a ritual they both started for their month long travel.   There were up to about 100 per day and encouraged me to join them.  Honestly I couldn't have done five so I didn't even try.   We let them know we had picked up some killer blueberry pie last night for them and I think it was their favorite breakfast ever.

Without further delay we jumped back in our vehicles and followed each other back to the Park Loop Road entrance which the first stop was Precipice.  The lot was already full, only one spot remaining so George pulled his Subaru and we continued to drive down the loop until there was a legal parking spot along side the road.   We learned that the two lane road becomes a one lane road after everyone starts parking in the right lane.   We found a spot not too far down the road and hiked back to meet George at the trailhead.   

Greg decided to bow out and said he would watch.  Actually from the parking lot you can see people hugging the side of the cliff and zig-zagging upward.  The first section of the hike is just a trail that takes you to the base of the cliff where there is the first test, a big boulder that must be negotiated.  Actually it wasn't easy to pass and probably a good warning for the faint at heart to turn around before the trail becomes sketchy.

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