Adventure Log Entry #1
If you're like me and you were fortunate enough to grow up on the West Coast, you forget that you had everything within reach. All climates and terrain were a road trip away. When I relocated to the Big Apple, I quickly realized it would be a bit more of a challenge to get my fix of the outdoors. Of all the sites in the upper right USA, I heard time and time again that Acadia National Park was the one that I needed to visit. Clam chowder, lobster rolls, autumn colors, intense Boston accents ("park the car where?") - what wasn't to like?
After a number of missed opportunities, we decided that we'd make the quick 8 hour drive up to Maine from Brooklyn. We had a couple friends willing to tag along as well. Being the troopers that they were, they agreed to make the 8 hour drive next weekend with us. Oh wait, did I mention that next weekend was Labor Day weekend? Oh joy, let's take a drive that is usually 8 hours and then add a ton of holiday weekend traffic. If this happens to you, know that you can at least stop in coastal New Hampshire to stock up on fireworks (two birds...). After the quick jaunt north, we arrived at camp.
Obviously booking a camp site under 48 hours before a holiday weekend was not wise. However, it's possible. Check out BLM land if you're okay strapping camp to your back. Fortunately, we were able to find a great spot on the cheap about 15 minutes from the park entrance using my good friend's company, Hipcamp (highly recommend!).
If you've been to other National Parks in the U.S., you'll know that it takes careful planning to see all of what you're hoping to when you visit. Acadia doesn't abide by that rule though - it's so small that you can drive across it in 20 minutes. As a result, we just explored with no real direction. Our first stop was at Upper Haddock Pond for a picnic lunch. Not another soul was around except for the marmots interested in our lunch.
After that, we looped the park to the southern end and explored the coast. It was a warm day and the ocean mist was welcome after scrambling. We were about two seconds away from cliff diving but decided it wasn't worth it as we wanted to see more of the park while we had light. Okay, so perhaps we were in over our heads and didn't want to get thrashed by zerbra muscles.
After being nicely salted by Atlantic mist and breaking a nice sweat scrambling, we stopped by Jordan Pond to take a quick dip and rinse (I don't recommend this - it's illegal an while we felt super sly, we were in plain sight anywhere we tried to be sneaky). We might have loitered a few minutes too long, but the water was just so damn clear we couldn't help but relax.
It occurred to me daylight was quickly fading so we continued on to the western side of the park. Here, my number one spot to visit was located - the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse. Despite what I said about the park being small, we barely made it prior to sunset. It had nothing to do with the blue heron perched on a log in a marsh with perfect light that I managed to fill up a full card capturing. No, definitely not.
I'm always late... I'm working on this.
We did manage to make it, though. I was glad too as with the number of hobbyists and pros that had the exact same idea I did, I needed to get there with some time to spare. It was like navigating the subway platform during rush hour.
This was all in one day. I told you you can get a lot done here.
That night we gorged in town at a local join eating fresh caught lobster and barely could stay awake long enough to make it back to camp. The following day, we decided that we'd do a nice hike. We opted for one of the iron rung hikes. These things kick your ass. I'm in decent shape but man, climbing up a ladder 600-700 ft with no gear/pro is mentally draining more so than physically. No one fell, no one died.
After this, we knew we needed to relax so we decided to do a polar bear plunge at Sand Beach. From what we had heard, this was a quaint place to go relax and enjoy the views. We quickly learned this was not the case. It was Labor Day weekend! Beach life was happening down at Sand Beach. Once sunset hit though, everyone vanished back to town for the bars. A few remained such as ourselves until we were frozen which was entirely worth it.
Rather than retire to town, we then headed to the summit of Cadillac Mountain to watch the stars. We didn't last long with the cold so we drove down to the southern end of the island for an evening picnic listening to the waves crash. We had originally planned on heading back to Cadillac Mountain at sunrise to watch the first glimpse of sunrise one can witness in the U.S. Unfortunately, or fortunately (as we were able to sleep past 4am), fog rolled in and kept us from making the trip. Future me in holiday rush hour would thank Mother Nature for this as I stayed awake for the 10 hour journey home.
If I had to do it again, I'd keep the plan open ended and let spontaneity dictate the itinerary. It's rare you can do this and accomplish so much but it allowed us to really enjoy Maine. The one thing I might do differently is take the camp reservation a bit more seriously and try to get one of the more exclusive sites located on the bluffs at the southern end of the island (Backpacker raves about these).