The second day of my time off work last week, I decided to ride my bike on some of the carriage roads in Acadia National Park. One of my favorite areas is the loop that surrounds Witch Hole Pond. Since that circular loop is only 3 miles, I extended the ride by taking the carriage road connector to the Eagle Lake parking area. Crossing under Route 233, I hopped on the carriage road towards Aunt Betty’s Pond. The ride totaled around 8 miles – with an impressive ascent coming back up from Aunt Betty’s Pond.
It was a leisurely ride on a picture perfect day. I’m dismayed about the decision to close the entire Eagle Lake loop for reconstructive work this summer. While it is possible that part of the loop may eventually open, it is a major route used to connect with many other carriage road loops. Seems to me that the park could have opted to shut down sections of the trail allowing for better traffic flow to adjoining carriage roads. I’m sure there will be many disappointed visitors.
I did not stop for many photos along the way, opting instead to just enjoy the ride. Here are a few….
I’m always curious about the origin of place names. I tried to find some information detailing why this pond is named after an “Aunt Betty.” On the Mount Desert Island Historical Society facebook page, someone else posed the same question. There was no clear answer but local historians posited that perhaps Aunt Betty was a member of the Richardson clan – a local family. The Richardson Brook has its origin at this body of water.
I found a little more history regarding Witch Hole Pond. Early maps show that today’s name is derived from the “Pond of Witch Hollow.” Old land maps showing ownership indicate that the pond and surrounding area was divided and owned by two separate families – the Bowlers and the Haights. Over a period of 20 years, the park eventually purchased the tracts of land and the area was incorporated into the growing acreage we now know as Acadia National Park.
The origin of the name is lost to history. At one time, the pond was surrounded by dense forest that may have created a “spooky aura” about the place. Local sentiment believes this is perhaps why “witch” came to be associated with the pond. There is documentation that suggests the presence of a sawmill and quarry adjacent to the pond in the early years of settlement around Bar Harbor. An interesting article I found indicates that Witch Hole Pond was once the location of a “pest house.” Dating to the late 1800’s, these houses were small, town-operated buildings used to isolate community members who were afflicted with infectious diseases such as typhoid and small pox.
With this new knowledge, my walk around Witch Hole Pond will be much more interesting as I conjure up what it must have been like back in the day!
Since I usually do not cycle on the connecting carriage road between Eagle Lake and Witch Hole Pond, I’m not very familiar with the Breakneck Ponds that border the carriage road along this stretch. I propped the bike up on a tree and walked over to the shoreline of these two ponds and made a mental note to come back. A group of birders were scanning the landscape here for feathered friends so I’m guessing this might be a good spot for birdwatching. I asked what they were looking for (keeping my “pandemic” distance) – but I got a very “chilly” response. I usually find birders to be more friendly – but perhaps Covid has us all wary. In any case, I will need to return with binoculars and find out for myself!