New York & New England Trip 2005                 Main

Sun 12th June - Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine

Up early and across to the breakfast hut to see what was on offer in this budget hotel, and it was a fine spread of bagels and cakes with tea, coffee and OJ. A much better selection than the posher hotel in Cape Cod. We filled up for the day, and looked out at the grey overcast weather and wondered if the rain would stay off for our day in the wilderness. We'd been incredibly lucky up until then, two scorching days in NY and three dry sunny days since. Apart from seeing a bit of rain from the comfort of the car in Cape Cod, we hadn't had to walk in rain since the very first night in NY.

We drove up to the entrance of the Acadia National Park visitor centre, which was only a couple of miles from our hotel, and noticed that there was nobody else in the car park. We were a bit early, since it was barely past 7am, and we saw that the vistor centre didn't even open for another hour yet. We needed to buy our day pass into the park, so we had to wait. Instead we drove down into Bar Harbor again, and walked around a bit. We looked at the schooner which did daily trips out into the ocean to look at whales, and we considered it for later if we got bored. After taking the kids for a toilet break, we got back in the car and went back to the Park entrance.

We were still too early, but we decided just to wait for 10 minutes. We saw one of the park rangers park his car and walk up the steps towards the centre, so we waited a bit, and then made our way up the big forest stairs and into the visitor centre, which was now open. I asked at the book counter if they had any maps or suggested trails we could follow, and the lady there said that they do sell detailed maps, but that I should ask at the Information desk first, since they provide free tourist maps, which was very nice of her. I bought our $10 auto pass for the park at the Information desk, and asked the ranger about trails that were suitable for children, and he pointed out the Gorham Trail on the south side of the island as a good moderate climb for us. We thanked him and took the free map and our pass, which we hung on our rear-view mirror in the car.

We drove round the park loop road, admiring the fantastic views in the misty morning. The weather was a little disappointing, overcast and low cloud cover, but we parked up at the Gorham Trail car park, and got our rucksacks together and started up the trail. It was a fabulous place to walk, large broken slabs of rock, strange trees that we weren't used to which resembled some prehistoric forest. After a few minutes the forest trail started to rise upwards, and soon we were stepping from rock to rock as the trail started to climb the lower slopes of Gorham Mountain. The way was well marked with ocassional little cairns of rock as well as painted markers on the ground, showing the best route. After a while, the route moved above the treeline and we could start to see some of the landscape around us, whch was very moody and spectacular. At one point the trail dipped round an overhanging rock, and I banged the top of my head a cracker on it. Eventually we got to the marker post at the top of the mountain, and we were very pleased with ourselves for making it to the top. The views were not as spectacular as they might have been, due to the clouds, but we took many photographs before starting back down to the car, passing more people who were just making their way up.

The climb up and down had taken us a couple of hours, and when we got back, we consulted the map for more trails that we could do, and we were interested in seeing Cadillac Mountain, which you could drive up to the summit of. So we made our way around the Park Loop road, past Jordan Pond and the Bubbles, and drove up the side road to the top of Cadillac Mountain. The summit of the mountain was huge, and we walked out with the crowds to the summit post. It was an interesting mountain, but all the cars and people made it completely different to our more tranquil and satisfying climb of Gorham. We came down again, and noticed that not only was the car in need to filling up with gas, we were all rather thirsty, and so we exited the park and made our way to a garage in Bar Harbor to fill up on supplies, a full tank for the car and a bottle of water for each of us.

Back in the park, we looked to see what we could do next, and since we'd passed Jordan Pond, we went to have a look there. There was a large restaurant on the lake, and since it was approaching lunchtime, we decided to have lunch there before doing anything else. I had a lobster roll, and some freshly squeezed lemonade without the sugar, which was delicious with the lobster. We also had popovers, which are a local Maine pastry, a bit like a big Yorkshire Pudding, which you can eat with your lunch.

After lunch we went on the marked scenic trail beside Jordan Pond, and the route took us through some fantastic forest and beside the lake, with spectacular views across to the Bubble Mountains in the distance. The kids jumped on stepping stones and we saw tiny little fish in the clear fresh water. We crossed a set of stepping stones and the weather cleared up as we walked around, and the sun came out. We returned to the car park and couldn't find the car, luckily it was in another identical car park. We were ready for some more mountains for the afternoon!

We stopped off at the Bubbles car park, and made our way along the tree lined trail. Like before, it was well signposted through the trees, and soon it started to rise up the lower slopes of the south Bubble Mountain. The grade of this climb was Intermediate, so the going was a little bit rougher, and soon the trail was more like a climb. At the saddle of the two Bubble mountains, the trail split into two, one trail for each summit, and we decided to do the north mountain first, since it was slightly higher. After another 25 minutes hard climb, we reached the very top of the north Bubble and were presented by some of the most breathtaking views of the whole trip. The Bubbles are almost at the centre of Mount Desert Isle, and in every direction was wilderness, mountains, forest, lakes and sea. The sun was beating down, and we lay down on the flat slab summit of the mountain and rested. From the top, we looked down across Jordan Pond to the stepping stones where we'd looked up from a couple of hours before.

Back at the car, we were absolutely exhausted, and the heat made the thought of another climb out of the question. It was around 4pm by now, and we'd only really done the east side of the island, and were keen to drive over to the west side, where we'd heard there was some great scenery. So we took the small loop road out of the park, which took us through Seal Harbor and the 'millionaires village' of Northeast Harbor, and some of the rocky coastal scenery was superb. The road was narrow and winding, and it took us a lot longer to get up the side of Soames Sound than we imagined. By the time we joined Route 3 again, it was after 5pm and we were all starving, so we abandoned the west side of the Island until another time, and made out way back to the hotel for a quick change and into Bar Harbor for dinner.

We got parked on the main street again, further down on the left hand side, and we walked back up the street to look for suitable places. We settled on the Havana restaurant, where I had an American cheeseburger done medium rare. As we were finishing, a load of noisy old people came in and made such a racket we were glad to escape, even though we'd wanted a dessert. We went out to look for a pet shop we'd seen an advert for called Bark Harbor, but it was closed when we found it. We went into a souvenir shop, and Karen bought a Bull Terrier christmas tree decoration, and we had a Maine picture personalised with our names. We had a last walk around Bar Harbor and we all agreed we'd love to come back again someday and spend more time there.

Back at the hotel, it was still light, so we decided to take the kids along to the Pirates crazy golf course at Hulls Cove, where we had a great time, even if Connor got all upset because he didn't win. At the end, the lady gave the kids Pirate flags and other rubbish, which they loved, and afterwards we drove up to the Denny's we'd seen in Ellsmere back on the mainland, and had the dessert we'd missed earlier on. We returned to the hotel too late to have a swim or a swing on the lawn, so we went to bed.