The Trail to Acadia National Park

Today’s post is 1700 words, 21 photos, an 8 minute read. Enjoy!

Hi everyone,

After a glorious four-day stay in Quebec City, we headed back to the United States. Our next destination was Acadia National Park on the coast of Maine. My posts for the next three weeks will feature our three-day stay in Acadia. If you missed the posts in Quebec City, click here, here, here, and here.

The Trail and The Trial

We left Quebec by way of the major north/south highway Route 173, also known as Route-du-President-Kennedy in honor of the assassinated U.S. President. At first the 80-mile drive was through lush farmland that soon turned to thick forests. At the U.S. border crossing, we spent a few minutes waiting line. In front of us was a motorcyclist from Quebec that was getting a good look by the border agent. After a few minutes, the motorcycle pulled to the side for further inspection and we drove ahead and presented out passports to the agent. After answering his questions about liquor, drugs, cigarettes, and gifts, he took our passports inside the border kiosk, I’m sure to make sure to verify our identity and citizenship. In a few minutes, he emerged, handed us our passports, and welcomed us back into the U.S. As we drove away, we each took a deep breath. I have no idea why we were anxious about entering our own country.

We were now driving on U.S. Route 201 through a heavily forested area of Maine. It was the first time either my Traveling Partner and I had set foot in Maine. We were glad to be here. It was soon lunch time, we stopped in one of the small towns along the route for a bite to eat. Not a lot of choices that we could see. With the sighting of a few logging trucks and billboards for hunting and fishing resorts, we got the drift of the economy in this part of the state. I have to say it’s pretty spectacular!

After lunch, we continued on the 201 that follows the Kennebec River for several miles. We were admiring the River when I got a red alert on the dashboard that one of my tires was low on air. Fortunately, there was a scenic pullout right where this happened. By the time I stopped and got off the car, the rear driver side tire was expending its last breath of air. My Traveling Partner and I stood there for a minute just looking at the tire like that would help restore its function.

The trunk was full of our traveling gear, we were on the road for three weeks. When I extracted the donut spare and the jack kit from the trunk I realized it had never been used. As I began to jack up the car when a couple of fellows pulled up in an old pickup. They asked my Traveling Partner if we needed some help. She immediately said: “Yes, he’s got a bum knee and it’s hard for him to kneel.” With that, the younger of the two old guys took over the jacking, removing the flat, and installing the spare. When the car was back in equilibrium with the spare attached and the trunk put back together, I offered Mike and Greg payment for their trouble. They flat out rejected my offer with this statement: “We’re from Maine, this is what we do, help each other out.” Then they proceeded to tell me to stop at VIP Tire in Skowhagen, a town about 15 miles down the road. Mike said, “They are real good folks that work there, tell them I sent you.” Then they jumped back in their pickup and headed in the opposite direction. We figured that they were traveling north so had to turn around and come back to help out a couple of strangers. I can’t tell you how grateful we were for this kindness.

When we got to VIP Tire in Skowhagen, the tire tech, Griffen, determined that we needed a new tire after they pulled out a wheel-weight from an 18-wheel truck out of the flat tire. Here’s what it looked like. Even though it was late in the afternoon, the staff at VIP fit us into their busy schedule. In about 90 minutes we were back on the road to Acadia about 100 miles down the road.

Southwest Harbor, Maine

We lodged for our three-night stay at the Harbor View Motel and Cottages in Southwest Harbor. When I was planning our trip in early January and looking for a place to stay in Acadia National Park, most of the hotels and resorts are located in Bar Harbor near the entrance to the park. Availability was sparse and expensive so I broadened my search and got the last room for our dates in Southwest Harbor. The lesson here is to plan far in advance.

This village of about 1800 people is located about 40 minutes from Bar Harbor on the southwest side of Mount Desert Island. This island is where most of Acadia National Park is located. The big plus is that Southwest Harbor is a quiet town with good restaurants, a nice shopping district, and a well-stock grocery store. We found Bar Harbor filled with tourists and bumper to bumper traffic. While in Southwest Harbor, we took our morning coffee and breakfast at the Clark Point Cafe, the bakery and service is outstanding. In the evening, we dined a couple of times at the Cafe Drydock and Inn with its nice, affordable menu and great service.

It was getting dark when we checked into the motel so we had a bite eat and flopped into bed ready to explore the park the next day.

Acadia National Park

We woke up to heavy fog. The fog lingered until after breakfast as we headed to the Hull’s Cove Visitor Center and the access point to the Park Loop Road. After parking, we walked up to the Visitor Center where I showed my Senior Pass to the Ranger. That pass saved us a thirty-five dollar bill for a 7-day entry fee. After a stop in the gift shop to stamp our National Parks passport and purchase a sticker for the Red Rover, we were on our way. I was disappointed that there wasn’t the usual promotion film that gives an overview of the park. But we did pick up a park map and a few ideas for places to stop on our exploration of the park.

Acadia National Park with nearly 4 million visitors per year is one of the most visited parks in the National Park Service. About half of Mount Desert Island is in the hands of the National Park Service with additional sections on Schoodic Peninsula and parts of several outlying islands. In addition to the rocky, scenic coastline, the park preserves nearly 50,000 acres of land including the highest mountain on the Atlantic coast, Cadillac Mountain. The park is home a vast variety of flora and fauna. There are an abundance of hiking and walking trails scattered throughout the park.

The park came about in the early 1900s after some of the wealthiest families in the U.S. like the Rockefellers, Astors, Carnegies, Fords, and other constructed summer homes on Mount Desert Island. When a movement towards preserving some of the land for a park was organized, these families began to purchase land that later was donated to the government for the park. Thus, Acadia became the first national park created by gifts of land by conservation minded citizens.

For about 12,000 years, members of the Algonquian nation inhabited Mount Desert Island. It is believed the name of the park was translated from a word in the native language, akadie, meaning a “piece of land.” The French explorers called the area Acadie which was translated by the English as Acadia. European explorers visited Mount Desert Island as early as 1525. Samuel de Champlain arrived in 1604 and named the area “Isle des Monte Deserts,” or the island of barren mountains, now known as Mount Desert Island.

On Loop Road, we stopped at several of the turnouts to view the scenic Frenchman Bay with its many islands. Fortunately, the fog had burned off but the sky was hazy, most likely from the wildfires burning in Quebec.

Along the road were ponds filled with lily pads with emerging flowers.

The lupines and other early season flowers were in full bloom, a pleasant sight to see.

At one of the turnouts, we observed a flight of cormorants drying their wings on a rock a ways offshore. For this photo, I pulled out my 70-200 mm telephoto lens, even that wasn’t enough to get a real close look.

While we were watching the birds, we struck up a conversation with the woman in the photo below. Her name is Chris Brown. The one critical piece of information she shared with us was about the popovers served at the Jordon Pond House further up the road. This is the only restaurant in Acadia National Park. Their view of Jordon Pond is spectacular. Since 1893, this restaurant has been serving popovers for afternoon tea plus a full menu of other selections. But most visitors come for the popovers. Thanks to Chris, we learned of this local tradition.

The place was busy when we arrived, we were seated after about a 20-minute wait. We sat at tables outside on the lawn. The sun had finally come out so it was pleasant and refreshing to be outside.

Deanna was our friendly and smily server. This was a summer gig for her, a chance to spend time in a beautiful part of the world. We selected the standard warm popover with butter. I chose lemonade to drink and my Traveling Partner had the hot tea. One of the popover options is to have it come stuffed with ice cream, that’s what Deanna is serving the table next to us. Their eyes got really big when they saw the portions.

It didn’t take long to devour our mid-afternoon treat. We lingered for a while, soaking up the ambience on the lawn of the Jordon Pond House. A big thanks to Chris or we would have missed this fun experience.

Next week, I’ll continue the story with walk down to Jordon Pond and the view of the Dolly Pardon’s.

Until then, happy travels!


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