“My heart is tuned to the quietness that the stillness of nature inspires.” – Hazrat Inayat Khan
I’ve completed my first two full weeks of work at Acadia NP and celebrated after the first week with an 8-mile round trip hike up Cadillac Mountain. It was a cool, cloudy start to the morning but quickly gave way to sunny skies. I started to shed layers almost immediately! But, I’m getting ahead of myself……
Let’s begin with our arrival here on Mount Desert Island. Jim and I drove up from our Airstream’s winter home (A.K.A. our son’s home in southern NH) on May 17th. Jim was a little nervous about driving without a co-pilot in the adjacent seat. Just before our departure, my daughter-in-law offered us her older model Honda Insight hybrid for the summer. So, we were traveling in separate vehicles for the first time. It was decided I would be the leader, and Jim would follow. Given that the Insight is a tiny, 3-cylinder car and I would not be driving very fast, I was pretty sure Jim could keep me in his sights! He had hand-written directions and I had my Google Maps. The uneventful trip took us about 7 hours and we arrived around 5 pm with plenty of daylight left to get set up, which ended up being a good thing.
I was surprised that the foliage was so far behind even central Vermont in leafing out! We investigated the situation and decided just how we wanted to position the trailer before backing into the site. I remember remarking on how easy this was going to be. The site seemed fairly level with ample room to jockey the trailer into position. Jim commenced to back the trailer up, and once I was satisfied with the angle of the trailer in relation to the site amenities and the approximate level seemed manageable to tweak, we got everything properly leveled up, unhitched and lowered the stabilizers. Jim started working on getting the outside lines all hooked up while I worked on the inside, our normal division of labor tasks.
It was then that we realized we were too far away from the septic hookup! We had noticed where the water and electric hookups were placed when deciding on where to locate the trailer, and decided we were okay, but neglected to double-check the septic connection distance. After all that work! We both felt pretty darn foolish. This was the first time in 4 years of owning the Airstream that we had made the mistake of not checking ALL the hookup distances before unhitching. Arghhhhh……we needed to back the trailer up quite a bit further than we would have liked and move it more towards the far edge of the site. Even then, we were going to need all the sewer hose we had with us. I have already silently cursed the designer of these two employee sites for lack of planning and attention to detail. The WSE hookups should have been positioned better given the generous space available on each site. It meant being much closer to the back of our fellow employee’s camper. The only consolation was that at least we had not physically hooked up the water and electric lines yet! But, we still had to hitch back up to the truck and manipulate the trailer into a different position on the site. And, it still meant using our extra sewer hose.
It all worked out in the end, and we still managed to have everything set up before dark. A lesson learned…the hard way! Motto of the Day – never boast about how easy a set up is going to be until completed! Our site has a picnic table, a fire ring and a permanent stand-up wood/charcoal grill – although I plan on using our portable Weber grill for the ease and convenience. (When I’m feeling less embarrassed I will share my Weber grill tale!) We spent the next two days before I had to start work getting everything in working order and exploring a bit of the area. On Friday, we decided to head to Seal Harbor first thing in the morning so I could get my temporary post office box registered. It was then I discovered that Seal Harbor is much smaller than even our town in Vermont. The post office has 24-hour access to the lobby and PO boxes, but the window is only open for 4 hours in the afternoons! That’s definitely going to limit my access to mail.
We had a couple of hours to kill before the window opened, so our first stop was to the little café next door to the post office for a cup of coffee. Since we had already eaten breakfast, I did not sample any of their baked goods, but I will be back to do just that! They looked delicious! The Coffee Shop Café has a nice selection of fresh baked goods, a simple yet impressive sandwich menu, and a small counter against the window for enjoying a cup of java. Once our caffeine infusion kicked in, we drove on to Northeast Harbor to check out this town and the Pine Tree Market. I was curious how extensive their product line was and found it to carry all the essentials. I’m not sure that it would be better than driving into Bar Harbor for me, though. I read in the Acadia Weekly that this is the most exclusive of the island villages so I’m guessing prices are high, maybe? I might, however, change my mind when the height of the season descends upon us and Bar Harbor becomes inundated with summer visitors. After checking out the market in Northeast Harbor, we headed back through Seal Harbor in time to catch the post office open and my first checklist item was complete!
Another plumbing issue…
When we returned to the campsite from Seal Harbor, Jim noticed that we had some water leaking from behind the toilet in the bathroom. Since we had just replaced all the seals in the toilet right before the trip, he was coming to the conclusion that it was the water module behind the toilet where the water intake is located. He thought perhaps this was the source of an occasional “drip” in the past but he was never quite sure. I looked up the part number online and after numerous phone calls to local hardware and RV suppliers nearby, I found the part in stock at McKay’s RV and Boat located near Bangor, ME. It was about 45 minutes to an hour away from us, and if we left immediately, we would get there and back in time for me to still accomplish an afternoon grocery store trip. This RV parts place was great! They had our part put aside for us and receive high marks from me for their customer service. It’s reassuring to know there is a decent RV parts store relatively close by.
I headed into Bar Harbor to find the Hannaford’s grocery store while Jim commenced to do yet another “toilet” repair. Don’t feel bad for him though – I guarantee you he would much rather do that than grocery shop! There’s something comforting about shopping at a familiar grocery chain. This store was smaller and more cramped than the remodeled versions in Vermont, but still stocked all the same items I’m used to purchasing. An added bonus is that, unlike our store in Vermont, the organic options are all grouped in the same aisle with their non-organic counterparts! I love that! I’ve always preferred this aisle arrangement and am glad to see it in practice here!
Getting our hiking legs…
Due to my work schedule, I had two days off after just one day of work so Jim and I took that opportunity to explore the area and get some initial hikes under our belt! I love the hiking and carriage road map I purchased at the Nature Center. The trails are marked with distances and contour lines as are the carriage roads. We can instantly map out potential loops and calculate distance and elevation gain. I am thinking that I probably should have spent the extra $$ for the waterproof version as I’m sure this one will be tattered by the end of the summer!
The Park Loop and Gorham Mountain
I thought it would be a good idea to drive the park loop and get familiar with all the major tourist spots, so we hopped on the park loop road at the Sieur du Monts entrance and made a brief stop at the Nature Center. I purchased a cheap, but very detailed trail and carriage road map here for reference. I love the hiking and carriage road map I bought. The trails are marked with distances and contour lines – as are the carriage roads. We can instantly map out potential loops and calculate distance and elevation gain. I am thinking that I probably should have spent the extra $$ for the waterproof version as I’m sure this one will be tattered by the end of the summer!
I also made a mental note to return and walk through the Wild Gardens of Acadia. Continuing onto the one-way loop road to Sand Beach, we stopped in here and decided to park and hike the Ocean Path Trail to the Gorham Mountain Trail and complete a small, loop hike. The loop was about 2.6 miles in length and the view from Gorham Mountain summit was beautiful. The Downy Amelanchier were in full bloom, and you know that serviceberry is one of my favorite native plants – so I was thrilled!
Throughout Acadia National Park, trails are marked with Bates Cairns – directional points of reference. He was a Harvard graduate and lawyer from the Boston area who spent time on Mt. Desert Island. He eventually became chairman of the Path Committee of the Bar Harbor Village Improvement Association. During his tenure, he established the idea of building cairns during trail construction and maintenance. Today, these cairns serve to guide hikers and keep them on the trail – thus preserving the natural environment.
Norumbega Mountain Trail via the Goat Trail
The next day I wanted to do another hike that was not too long so I could get my hiking legs in shape again. I chose a loop that would take us up and over Norumbega Mountain. I heard the views of Somes Sound from the summit were very nice. And, the trail would take us past one of the parks many lakes – Lower Hadlock Pond. The trail begins on the Goat Trail at a parking lot off Route 3, and ascends rather steeply for .6 miles to the summit.
After reaching the top, it was somewhat disappointing to discover that the vegetation really obscures much of the view towards Somes Sound. But, as the trail descends rather gently to Lower Hadlock Pond, there are glimpses of the “sound” here and there.
Once we reached Lower Hadlock Pond, instead of taking the Norumbega Parking Lot connector trail, we continued onto Hadlock Ponds Trail, crossed over Route 3 and traversed along Upper Hadlock Pond. This small detour was worth it. We had the luxury of watching a loon cruising around on Upper Hadlock Pond!
On the other side of Upper Hadlock, the trail crosses a carriage road and, somehow, we missed the trail head on the other side of the carriage road. So, we simply continued on the carriage road since it would intersect with the Bald Peak Trail and take us back to where we parked the car. I love the fact that there are multiple loop options while hiking the trails in the park. There are endless possibilities for extending or shortening a hike – and can often be done in route. I love the flexibility of altering my plans on a whim.
I understand there are 16 bridges that John D. Rockefeller constructed on the carriage road system, and I’ve made it my goal to find and photograph each one. (The 17th bridge was constructed by the park service.) It ended up being fortunate that we remained on the carriage road because we came across the Hadlock Brook Bridge – one down!! It was completed in 1926 and is 46.9 feet long and 12.8’ high. Apparently, Rockefeller fashioned this bridge based on inspiration from a bridge in Central Park. Jim wandered around noting the construction for quite some time! Each bridge in the carriage road network is unique, and they were all designed by well-known, skilled architects hired by Rockefeller, who oversaw each step of the process whenever possible. The masonry is flawless and Rockefeller had insisted that the stone used for the bridges was to be quarried nearby the site of each bridge. As a result, each bridge blends in with the natural landscape surrounding it. I’m looking forward to discovering the remaining 15!
This loop hike totaled 3.8 miles in all and while probably not the most scenic trail in Acadia, it was certainly less travelled! We only saw one other pair of hikers throughout the entire hike. 😊
When I returned to the campsite after hiking, Jim continued to get the camp site in order and decided to get the Weber grill out and hooked up to our small propane tank. I had started marinating some chicken breasts and wanted to cook them on the grill. He let me know that it seemed the Weber grill was not getting fuel to the burners. This is disappointing since we have only used this grill a handful of times over the last two years. In the Tetons last summer, we never even pulled it out of the truck due to the bear issues.
Jim quickly put on his “trouble-shooting” hat. He checked the grill with our trailer propane tanks, in case it was an issue with our small portable tank. No luck. After I researched the issue online, he checked the burners and took everything apart and made sure there were no obstructions but everything looked clean. Unfortunately, we came to the conclusion that it was the regulator on the grill.
While I went back to work the next day, Jim kept busy removing the regulator from the Weber grill and taking it into the hardware store in Bar Harbor to see if they had one in stock. He was informed that they could order the part, but it would be best if we called Weber and talked to them first. Apparently, the regulators are guaranteed for two years. Long story short, a new, free-of-charge regulator is on its way to us! I’m appreciative of the employees at the hardware store for being honest. They could have made the sale and we would have been none the wiser. They will get my business this summer!
Trientalis borealis – Starflower
This prevalent native perennial herb is in bloom all over Acadia right now. What I love about this little gem is its daintiness. It more or less goes dormant in mid-summer, and therefore, is not really used in more formal gardens. That makes it all the more satisfying that it must often be enjoyed only in its native habitat. 🙂
So, what about my 8-mile round trip hike up Cadillac Mountain? Until next time… 😊