The morning sunlight launched us from our bed and hurried our feet along a path north and east, 70 miles to Acadia. Those of you who have been there will no doubt feel the quickened excitement that such a prospect must bring to the Experienced. Those of you who have not been there…should go. Do not delay. Get thee hence to Acadia, and you will never regret a second of it.
Acadia is one of the finest diamonds in the sparkling diadem that is our National Park System. There are no words to encompass and adequately convey the delights of Acadia. Photographs can present only a pale reflection of its glory. Films? Also inadequate. I’d love to have been a fly on the wall for Ken Burns’ artistic grapplings with Acadia as he put together his landmark documentary series on the National Parks.
Even a stream of Terrible Mainer Puns like Mainely Used Cars, Mainly Music, Mainely Vinyl, Mainely Meat (and Mainely Meat on Main), Mainely Maine, and Udder Heaven: An Ice Cream Retreat could not put a dent into our fevered anticipation. Even the ghastly suburban sprawl surrounding Ellsworth, Maine could not detract – and that is aBold Statement: there are 10 miles of the kind of commercial activity most commonly associated with major Air Force Bases and Army Posts in Ellsworth, Gateway To Acadia.
Even consideration of the vastly varied retail opportunities afforded by the non-military-post commerce could not distract, and that also is a Bold Statement. It’s been five years since my last (and first) trip to Acadia, and I had forgotten the massive number of concerns that will sell you a lighthouse for your lawn (all of which, for some reason, resemble the highly distinctive West Quoddy Head Light).
Beyond the vasty depths of the Replica Lighthouse Trade are the even larger number of retailers marketing weathervanes and cupolas.
Yes, that is cupolas. Windowed architectural super-structures for the house, garage, or barn.
I can safely say that it has never occurred to me, despite my profound interest in the sport of Shopping, to return from a trip with a souvenir architectural element.
Prints, t-shirts, mugs, food, books, postcards, kitchen utensils, tea towels, oven mitts, dishes, yes.
Vehicles, windows and doors, livestock, buildings, or cupolas? No.
I have to wonder just what the market for these items is.
Even so, I left that fascinating line of thought behind (temporarily) when we entered the park. Acadia. It’s a name to conjure with, one that will launch any soul of even the slightest outdoorsy bent into an extended daydream, to be followed by investigations into kayak.com and travelocity.
Acadia. It starts with Mount Desert Island and Cadillac Mountain, long said to be the first point in the United States to receive the rays of the rising sun. It is the Bass Harbor Light. It is the Wild Gardens. It is 150 miles of hiking trails ranging from pleasant and easy woodland strolls to cliff-climbers. It is the Bubbles.
It is John D Rockefeller Jr getting ticked off when the rules were changed to let automobiles onto Mount Desert Island, and responding by constructing nearly 50 miles of stunning and comfortable carriage roads for non-automotive pleasure travel. It is Jordan Pond and the Jordan Pond House, which offers superb al-fresco dining in the flower gardens and serves Tea every afternoon on the lawn. It is the Thunderhole booming away with the surf, and the frigid waters off of Sand Beach. It is narrow woodland trails, trickling streams, rivers, and cliffs. It is pink granite domes and phosphorescent surf. It is the smell of salt air, warm rock, and balsam firs. It is the crashing waves and a trilling bird. It is chipmunks and warblers.
It is going from sub-alpine climate zone to tidal pools, all in the space of a single day-long hike. It’s standing on a sandy beach and looking straight up onto the face of a mountain. It’s old folks tooling up in RVs to watch the sun set over the wetlands from Cadillac Mountain, passing spandex-clad cyclists powering up the mountain on road bikes with the same intent. It’s mountain bikes plowing down the carriage roads, passing – although they should be yielding to – the equestrians and carriage drivers.
That is something I learned today. Acadia has a stables. People can bring their horses on vacation with them.
Oh. Now there is something that had never crossed my mind. Thank heavens that Huey the Wonder Horse hates bugs at least as much as I do, if not more. I’m not tempted to take him on loads of trail rides. It makes him freaky. Now, If Money Was No Object, I would totally have Horse Number 2, which would be a laid-back kind of guy like Huey’s buddy Elvis, who didn’t really care much about bugs, and I would totally take Number 2 up to Acadia on vacation with me. AND as long as we’re off in Fantasy Land, I’m going to take a Groom for Number 2 so that I don’t need to camp with the horse and can sleep in a clean comfortable bed every night, and ride Number 2 all over the park during the day. Yeah. That’s the ticket.
I’m not sure where I’m going to be racking up, because I don’t think it’s going to be in Bar Harbor.
We spent the morning hiking Jordan Pond, wrapped that up with a long lunch at the Jordan Pond House wherein I had my Daily Ration of lobster in the form of a stew (with two piping hot fresh popovers to soak it up) and a glass of fresh-squeezed raspberry lemonade. Roy has a slice of delicious quiche, a salad with cucumber dill dressing (and quarter-inch dice of cucumbers in that, mind you) and a glass of fresh-squeezed strawberry lemonade. We were feeling all virtuous from the hike, so we both had dessert: for him, a fresh popover stuffed with homemade ice cream and drizzled with chocolate, and for me, a wild Maine blueberry cobbler with more of that fresh ice cream. After this, we bailed out to Bar Harbor to find a cruise.
What a cruise we found, too. We got a cruise on the only 4-masted schooner working in New England (according to our hosts).
The weather couldn’t have been better: sunny blue skies, with tiny puffy clouds that looked like they were suspended from the sky rather than being in it, and seemed so low that the masts of the ship could have punctured them. Winds just strong enough to fill the sails and move the ship along. A lack of screaming ill-behaved children. Plenty of great scenery. It was divine.
Afterward, Roy needed a jolt of joe, so we went into town to find a coffeeshop. I remember Bar Harbor as a sort of Rodeo Drive North. It has evolved. Now it is Rodeo Drive North meets Boulder Colorado meets Gatlinburg Tennessee. With beautiful flowers…the lupines are all in full bloom now, making great big massy spikes of purple, blue, pink, and white everywhere you look. And the throngs of humanity – all in full holiday-making spirits – were enough to take my breath away and send me back, post-haste, to the park. Not that the park is unpopulated, but there is a lot of room to lose other people in.
We lost other people on one of the carriage roads. These things are an absolute pleasure to walk, and judging from the many mountain bikers who passed us, even more of a pleasure to cycle. It is my very fond hope to learn whether they are as much fun to travel in a carriage. The same place that will let you bring your horse along also provides carriage rides, on the carriage roads, which arestrictly off-limits to motorized vehicles.
If the Good Fortune Gods smile upon us, we will get an answer to that question on Friday. And if we don’t, maybe we’ll be able to console ourselves with another dark chocolate-drizzled popover.