Saturday, August 27, 2016

Happy Birthday to You, Acadia!

Burnt Coat Harbor
We were securely at anchor in a protected inlet with a small fishing village on either side of the narrow harbor when the fog settled in.  It was only a half day of motoring away from Acadia National Park, the bulk of which lies across the island of Mt. Desert. (Locals pronounce it more like “d-ZRT’.”)  Heavier weather was predicted and we wanted to be on Mt. Desert before that happened.  
Dodging lobster pots in the fog

Normally, we get going fairly early in the morning, somewhere between 6:30 and 9 AM.  With the thick fog though, we waited.  We waited, and we waited, hoping the fog would lift so that we could see (and avoid) the lobster pots on the way to Mt. Desert.  By 2 PM we saw that it was a futile hope, and decided we would venture into the fog regardless.  We would go slowly—Carl at the helm, me perched on the port side of the boat, and Jax napping wherever Jax decides to nap.  On the plus side, it was a Sunday and the lobstermen were not out on the water.  It would be just us against a 360 degree dense spray of lobster pots in the fog.
Shoreline ahead

Photographs of dense fog are not very interesting, you may have noticed, but I took a few anyway.  With radar and AIS we were able to detect only three other sailboats out there, creeping along in the fog.  Just like the lobster pots, one of them suddenly materialized out of the silvery white nothingness and then quietly slipped back into it.  No wind, no waves—just the fog, the lobster pots and us.  We felt the boat slow down when we snagged one of the pots but fortunately the brightly colored little buoy popped up again some 20 yards behind our stern and we were safe from that entanglement.
Northeast Harbor

It’s rather disconcerting to come into a harbor in dense fog.  “Oh look, I can make out a boat and a mooring ball.  Oh, here’s another mooring ball, and another—we are in the harbor!”  And then, “I see something darker ahead, like a shoreline.”  Without GPS we would have been blind.  As for beautiful Acadia, we saw none of it.  We said, “Won’t we be surprised when the fog lifts and we can see where we are!”
A stroll through Northeast Harbor


We had chosen Northeast Harbor, both a harbor and a town on Mt. Desert, as our home base from which to visit Acadia National Park.  When the fog cleared the next day, we saw that we were in a lovely harbor surrounded by high hills.  We enjoyed a leisurely walk through the town of Northeast Harbor with Jax and prepared for a full day of national park touring the following day.  
Queuing up for the Explorer bus

LL Bean and the National Park Service has collaborated to provide free buses which take tourists all around the island, in an attempt to alleviate some of the traffic that nearly chokes the few narrow roads through the Park.  That, in conjunction with Carl’s Senior Park Pass which allows him and up to three guests free entrance to all national parks throughout his lifetime, made this a really inexpensive day, and the beautiful weather made it an absolutely stellar day!
First stop--Bar Harbor, Maine

Decisions had to be made however—where should we get off the bus to see the sights on foot before getting back onto the bus again for the next site?  The first place we chose to explore was “le Sieur Monts” where we toured the Abbe Museum, a museum of archaeology and antiquities on the island of Mt. Desert.  We also enjoyed natural gardens there— gardens that held plants one would find growing on the beaches, in the bog, on the prairie, deciduous woodland and coniferous gardens. They were all beautiful!  Sometimes being married to a biologist comes in handy.  He points out things that I may have overlooked.  For example, a pitcher plant holds a lot of water in its’ pitcher shaped upright leaves.  Cool!
gardens at le Sieur Monts

Our next stop was “Thunder Hole” on the eastern shore of Mt. Desert.  Some of the pinkish granite cliffs there are deeply fractured and the pummeling ocean waves have further churned out a large hole into the granite wall.  When the wind and tides are right, Thunder Hole is a place where a tongue of the salt water is pushed into the wide fracture and without anyplace else to go, it piles up dramatically and slaps the cliff walls, spraying the visitors who go down to get as close as possible to the Hole.  It was, however, not impressive the day we were there.  And we have seen our share of dramatic wave action already. We moved along on the next bus.
Thunder Hole

We got off the bus at Otter Point Cliffs.  Awesome!  Beautiful!  Reminds me of Palisades Head, Lake Superior. Except here, there are crowds of people clambering around on the cliffs.  We bypassed a requested stop called “The Precipice.”  We’d seen the visitor center film showing people climbing a sheer cliff face into which someone had very wisely installed generous steel bars.  Apparently, if one can hang on and lift one foot above the other, one can climb a cliff face. Not THIS one, however. 

Otter Point Cliffs
We bypassed the beaches.  We have seen many of those.  Our next stop was Jordan Pond—a lovely little lake adorned with small knobby mountains overlooking the inland water and a dense forest of trees.  A restaurant there with outdoor seating is known for serving popovers and tea overlooks the pond.  The line of people waiting to get into the restaurant was impressive!  We enjoyed the view from an observation point for a bit and then found our way back to Northeast Harbor by way of a different bus route.   
Jordan Pond


It would have taken another few days to explore Acadia National Park thoroughly.  We might have hiked some of the trails that traverse the Park or climbed to the top of Cadillac Mountain to see where the rising sun first touches the United States.  We could have taken a horse and carriage ride on the 100+ miles of carriage trails that were built by Rockefeller back when the ultra wealthy were building their enormous summer “cottages” on the island. If we’d had bikes we could have biked those trails.  As it was, we left satisfied and refreshed with the beauty of Acadia National Park, now 100 years old.  As our boat put the island behind us the next morning, we finally got to see the skyline which had eluded us in the fog.  It. Was. Stunning!
Skyline of Mt. Desert

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