I thought of “Acadia is AMaineZing”, then I thought it’s corny, and it’s probably been done 1000 times. Then I checked, and I am apparently the first person to ever post that phrase on the Internet.
The Internet surprised me, in a good way, in September 2022. That’s a win.
But seriously, Acadia, and really the entire Maine Down East area is amazing. How amazing, you ask? It is, My wife who thinks it snows too much in Richmond, VA was looking at Bar Harbor cost of living statistics amazing.
Note - Maine is expensive, and it snows a lot. We are not moving there. I would seriously entertain the idea of spending June - Oct every year, though.
We were away from home for 13 nights. Our longest trip ever. We left home on Labor Day, making a 4ish hour drive to Lums Pond State Park in Newark, DE, where we spent the night. We were originally going to Harvest Host at a brewery, but it was too hot to dry camp. Lums Pond seemed to be a very nice state park, and definitely a place I would camp at again. It started pouring that night and the heavy rain followed us up I-95 all the way to Boston. Towing a camper in driving rain on I-95 is just as fun as it sounds. On the way we stopped in Fairfield CT to meet a friend at the famous Pepe’s Pizzeria for lunch. Also, Google Maps, in its infinite wisdom, sent me across the GW bridge and the Cross Bronx Freeway in the rain, then directed me to the Merritt Pkwy in CT, which features 8-foot bridges and does not allow trailers. To be fair, Google doesn’t know I’m towing something. I have acquired a better GPS solution, which worked great on the way home. It’s Co-Pilot GPS, and I’ll probably write more about it in a separate post. This one is going to be long enough.
While in Boston we parked the camper and stayed with family. I worked days, we visited with several generations of O’Donnells while there, and attended a cousin’s wedding on Saturday before heading north to Maine on Sunday.
Did I mention Arcadia National Park is AMaineZing?
A tip for the drive from Boston to Bar Harbor. Stay on I-95. I veered off onto Rt 1 to take the scenic route. It’s right on the coast, but you rarely see the water. You do drive through a couple of cute small towns, but IMO it’s not enough for the 90-minute longer drive. Just fly up I-95 and get to Bar Harbor.
We camped at the Mt. Desert Campground, which is about 10 minutes from the Cadillac Mountain entrance to Acadia. It is quite simply the best private campground I have ever stayed at. They only allow tents, and RVs that are no more than 20 feet long. The tent sites all have deck platforms for the tents, every site is heavily wooded, some are on the water, and all are reasonably private. A 40-foot 5th wheel could have parked on my site, if they could have gotten to it. The bathhouses were sparkling clean all week, and the office had plenty of ice and firewood for sale. I think my site was about $50 a night, which is crazy cheap. The KOA significantly farther from the park was over double that price. And it’s a KOA.
We got in around 4 PM so that first night we didn’t leave the campground. We set up camp, cooked dinner, and did the campfire and chill thing.
On Monday we got up and met Mike Good from Down East Nature Tours for 4 hours of birding. I’d consider a tour with Mike a must-do when in the area. We learned so much hanging out with him, and we also got to observe 39 species, including a woodpecker foraging on the ground with an extended session of beating the hell out of a rotting log. I’d never seen a woodpecker spend that much time of the ground. We also saw a few seals, which was cool. That afternoon, we did the Bubble Rock hike, then proceeded to the Jordan Pond restaurant for the famous popovers. We made a meal out of it by also indulging in Lobster Stew while there. After that we headed back to the campground for a quiet evening by the campfire, while I enjoyed a couple of locally brewed IPAs.
Bubble rock has no need for your laws of gravity
The view from our table
It is a popover and it is delicious
Sunday evening, we messaged our son and asked him to be online at 10 AM to try to get us tickets to sunrise on Cadillac Mountain for Wednesday. The tickets are released at 10 AM and sell out by 10 AM + 10 seconds. Basically, you refresh the page at 10 AM and hope you are one of the lucky that get a ticket in your cart. They only allow 150 cars up the mountain for sunrise, because they have 150 parking spots. There are thousands trying to get one of those tickets, We got one. More about the sunrise later.
On Tuesday, we headed out earlyish (by 9 AM) to the Sandy Beach area so that I could do the Beehive hike. Beehive is an iconic Acadia hike that sends you up a granite cliff face on a trail that uses iron rungs to help you navigate up the rock wall on trails that are often about 24 inches wide, with a smooth granite rock on one side and a fall to a certain death on the other side. I looked up the stats and was genuinely shocked at how few deaths there have been on the hike. More have died at Crabtree Falls in Virginia, which is a 2 or 3 out of 10 on the dangerous hike scale. I was attempting this hike with my fear of heights as a test of sorts. If I could handle this hike I feel like I can handle Angel’s Landing at Zion National Park when we finally make it out west.
That rock face is what I climbed
View from the trail
View from the top
I handled the hike just fine. More than fine, I enjoyed the hell out of it. When I made it to the top I lingered for a while chatting with two guys from Romania who commented the US is just too damn large. This is their 2nd summer working in the US, so in 12 months here they’ve only managed to visit 7 states. This is something my daughter mentioned from her study abroad session in the UK. People in Europe really can’t fathom just how freaking large the USA is. While up top the fog started to roll in. I headed back down and by the time I got back to Michelle at the car Acadia NP was fogged in, and it was starting to rain. It wouldn’t be a Maine vacation without some fog. We checked out the Thunder Hole, but it wasn’t producing any interesting noise, and it was teeming with tourists. We realized Acadia sightseeing was pretty much toast with the rain and fog, so we consulted the list of rainy day activities we had made and went to the Wendell Gilley Museum in Southwest Harbor. Wendell was a noted bird carver, and the museum has about 300 of his pieces. The museum was amazing, or should I say AMaineZing?
Why yes, I am going to keep doing that. :)
Carvings from the museum
Bass Harbor Lighthouse
We ended up chatting with the manager at the museum for a bit, and she gave us a nice list of other things to do in the area, things most tourists miss. We didn’t get to any of them, but that was mostly because they were on off-season hours so the several times we thought about going, the places were closed. She did point us to the Bass Harbor Lighthouse though. After that we went into downtown Bar Harbor and checked out some local shops and eventually, an Irish Pub. Downtown Bar Harbor is Gatlinburg for people with money. Lots of people, lots of t-shirt shops. It is very scenic though. Tuesday night we ate back at the camper. The rain stopped long enough for us to get in some campfire time, but we hit the sack early as we had a 4 AM wake-up call for sunrise on Cadillac Mountain the next day.
But more on that in the next post, this one is long enough already.