Cadillac Mountain and Goodbye to Acadia

Today’s post is 1425 words, 24 photos, an 8 minute read. Enjoy!

Hi everyone,

This week is the last in a three-part series on Acadia National Park on the coast of Maine. If you missed the first two posts, click here and here.

Come with me to view the sunrise (maybe) on Cadillac Mountain, meet an interesting couple, check out the Bass Harbor Light Station, and bid a fond farewell to Acadia, complete with another detour to an auto repair shop.

Cadillac Mountain

I’ve read a lot about seeing the sunrise from atop Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park. At over 1500 feet above sea level, Cadillac is known as the first place in the U.S. that the sun touches as it peaks over the eastern horizon. This is partially true depending on the angle of the sun. In the summer months, when the sun  rises further to the north, there are points to the northeast of Cadillac Mountain that first see the sun. However for about six months of the year (October-March), it’s a good story and I’m told, a great view.

Visitors to Cadillac Mountain are required to make a vehicle reservation online from the end of May to the end of October for a designated entry time. At the time of the reservation, visitors pay a fee of $6.00 USD online. No passes are available at the park. Plus all entrants must show a valid park entrance pass. For us, that was our Senior Pass.

The tricky part is that the vehicle reservations are only available three days prior to the expected date of your visit. The earliest entry time is 4:00 AM, that’s enough time to reach the top of the mountain, find a parking spot, and score a nice place to view the sunrise. That was my goal but when I got online, all the early slots were filled. The sun would rise that day at 4:48 AM Eastern Daylight Time. After a couple of seconds of grumpy whining, I snagged a 6:00 AM entry time. Not great but it would have to do. Beside that it was on our last day in the park. I should mention that when all the reservation slots are filled, entry to Cadillac Mountain is closed.

On the day of our reservation, we were up before 5:00 AM to make a pot of coffee and be ready to leave our lodging at 5:30 for the half hour drive to the Cadillac Mountain entrance station. When I peeked outside, it was still dark with a layer of thick fog. Maybe it would burn off by the time we reached summit. Our fingers were crossed.

We reached the entry station at precisely 6:00 AM. There were no lines, I showed the attendant the QR code on my phone and my senior pass. As we drove the road to the summit, the fog held on, our aim to see the view was dashed. There were only a few cars in the parking lot. My guess is that most people with early slots looked out the window at 3:00 AM and decided to go back to bed or they made the drive and left early.

Here’s what we saw:

This is what we expected to see!

Yes, it was foggy, the air was thick and damp. Heavy dew covered the leaves, even the cobwebs.

We decided to make the best of the situation. We walked over to the ranger station and gift shop where we stamped our National Parks Passport. We checked out the kiosk that showed some of the walking and hiking trails.

We walked some of the trails near the parking lot, being careful not to slip on the damp rocks. Erosion and volcanic activity over millions of years exposed the granite, bringing the colorful stone to the earth’s surface.

That geologic action created some beautiful patterns, lines, and textures in the rock.

I am amazed how hard the flora on the mountain has to work to survive the harsh conditions. The plants and trees seem to hang on by just a few roots that find their way in the cracks between the granite. Note the bend in the trees in the photos below, likely from the howling prevailing winds. There was no wind the morning of  our visit allowing the fog to stick around.

On our walk around the Cadillac Mountain Summit, we came across this couple, Adam and Erin from Massachusetts. We chatted about photography for a few minutes. We learned they are graphic artists, Adam uses a vintage 16 mm camera with a film canister that takes about 2.5 minutes of video. Erin is taking photos and video with a 360 degree digital camera that she is holding in her hand. Somehow, please don’t ask me how, they combine the 16 mm and 360 video into short experimental films. Unfortunately, I didn’t ask them the name of their business. A fun, chance meeting with interesting people.

As we were about to leave, another visitor asked if we knew where the marker for the highest point on the summit was located. We didn’t, but we were curious enough to follow the guy down a path behind the Cadillac Summit Visitor Center. Off to the side, the three of us found the marker imbedded in a large pinkish granite rock. Kind of cool to see.

At 8:00 AM the fog was still hanging in the air. Our stomachs were ready for breakfast and our coffee was cold, it was time to head down the mountain. On the way down, I stopped and took this photo to capture the foggy morning. The sun rose over Cadillac Mountain but we didn’t see it.

Bass Harbor Head Light Station

After another pleasant and satisfying breakfast at the Clarke Point Cafe and Bakery in Southwest Harbor, we were off to explore the western part of Acadia National Park. We drove south of Southwest Harbor past the Seawall Campground and picnic area along the rugged coastline. We stopped at a few of the turnouts to gaze at the ocean. Further down the road, we came to the turnoff to the Bass Harbor Head Light. There was a lineup of cars to enter the small parking lot, we waited about 15 minutes until there was an open spot.

We walked down a stairs and path to the see the light and the rocky coast below. This light was constructed in the late 1850s and continues to be in use today. The keepers residence is currently occupied by a member of the Coast Guard and their family. Access to the lighthouse itself is off limits.

After Bass Harbor, we drove around the west side of the Mount Desert Island. This area is more remote and less populated that other parts of the island. We stopped at Pretty Marsh picnic area for a look at the harbor. Eventually we ended up in the village of Northeast Harbor, directly across The Narrows from Southwest Harbor where we were staying. It was past lunchtime so we popped into Colonel’s Restaurant and Bakery. The food and service was excellent, the place was busy, I could see why. After walking Main Street checking out the shops, we were back in the car making our way back to Southwest Harbor.

Even though we spent three nights in Southwest Harbor, we’d never been to the actual harbor. We walked the public pier where these small boats were tied up to the dock.

Off in the distance, we saw these boys rowing their way across the harbor. It was windy and the air was cool making us grab our jackets from the car.

The Dividend is a commercial fishing vessel based out of Isleford, a small village on Little Cranberry Island, a 40-minute ferry ride from Southwest Harbor. It looked like this vessel had delivered the day’s catch and was loading containers for the ride back to their home port.

Near the public pier is a Coast Guard Station. A pretty nice place to be stationed, if you ask me.

One of the last photos I took while in Acadia was of this sign in a public park in Southwest Harbor. A good reminder to respect the land and leave only with memories.

The next morning, we head off Mount Desert Island. When we arrived a few days earlier, the check engine light in our car came on. During our stay it alternated being on and off. I made an appointment at the Buick garage in nearby Ellsworth for a diagnosis and repair. Sure enough, the auto shop lightened the load on my wallet by a few hundred bucks for some kind of a sensor. Oh well, as the saying goes: “You can’t take with you.” Or in other words, enjoy it while you can.

This ends the series on Acadia National Park, a delightful place to visit. Next up, a car show in Pennsylvania.

Until then, happy travels!