As I wind down my second season here on Mount Desert Island at Acadia National Park, I’ve been reflecting on what it is that makes Acadia unique among national parks. The origin of the early trail system in the park certainly meets that criteria. There are numerous publications that touch upon the historic nature of Acadia’s trails. These island trails were built over a period of many years – both before and after the establishment of the national park. Early trailblazers included Native Americans and, subsequently, European explorers turned island settlers. These settlers were farmers and fishermen who established the foundation of some of today’s current industries. Following the settlers, a new wave of tourists arrived in the mid-1800’s including artists and writers from the Hudson River School – called rusticators – whose work led to a new breed of island inhabitant. Following the Civil War, travel to Mount Desert Island picked up and the major towns of the island enjoyed an influx of affluent families who purchased land and built summer homes on Mount Desert Island.
Native Americans were the first to blaze paths throughout the island although little remains to suggest precisely where these trails where located. Their trails were most likely portage paths for traversing the island between lakes and ponds via canoe. Some evidence of potential carry paths is still in existence today in the form of current hiking trails. For example, the Jordon Pond Carry Path provides passage between Eagle Lake and Jordan Pond while the Jordan Stream Trail makes a connection between Jordan Pond, Little Long Pond and the sea. I’ve hiked both of these existing trails and can easily imagine this ancient use of these connector pathways.
With the increase in population following the influx of wealthy families to the area in the late 1800’s, the towns grew in size and the desire to maintain the natural beauty of the area led to the development of civic and village improvement societies. One of the earliest civic organizations was the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations. In addition, each community on the island created their own village improvement associations that specifically addressed their unique needs. It is because of these early preservation efforts that the island-wide trail system exists today. Early trail builders included George Dorr, Herbert Jaques and Walden Bates.
Many of today’s trail names pay homage to those who helped establish and maintain the aesthetic and natural beauty of Acadia. I’ve tried to hike most of these early historic trails – many of which are adorned with memorial plaques commemorating the person or persons who contributed land, money and time towards the preservation effort of Mount Desert Island’s unique surroundings. My July 25th post explored one of my favorite historic trails – the Beachcroft Path. Time to honor some of the other early trails that helped make Acadia what it is today. I hope you enjoy the photographs I’ve captured of some of these amazing trails. The pictures show not only their beauty but the incredible engineering work involved in their construction.
Built by George Dorr, the Emery Path was constructed from money donated by Mrs. John Anson, a member of the Bar Harbor Village Improvement Association. The path was named for her late husband, John S. Emery. The Emery Path is a tad over ½ mile long and is said to contain over 900 steps. While I did not count the steps as I climbed, I am not inclined to disagree with this assertion. 😊
Located in the same area of Sieur de Monts as the above trail, Dorr built this trail as a memorial to Mrs. Charles Homans. She donated several very important tracts of land to the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations that would later be incorporated into Acadia National Park. The view looking down onto the Great Meadow from this trail is unrivaled!
Considered to be an ancient Native American travel route between Bar Harbor and Otter Creek, the Jesup Path runs from Sieur de Monts, along the Great Meadow and eventually ends in the town of Bar Harbor. Part of the trail is now a boardwalk that protects the fragile ground through a swampy area. There are a pair of Barred Owls that hang out here – although they have eluded me this summer! I’ve heard but not seen them!