Monday, December 20, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 91: Mount Desert Island, Maine

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 91:  Mount Desert Island, Maine
October 4, 2010

            Although not a town I considered Mount Desert Island to be a wonderful place worth sharing.  It is the largest island off the coast of Maine and at 108 square miles it is the sixth largest island in the contiguous United States.  It is on Mount Desert Island where you find Bar Harbor and the one in a million Acadia National Park, however this article will attempt to showcase what else this place of natural beauty has to offer.
Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse
            I was amazed by the size of the island as I drove from Bar Harbor on the northeast side down to Bass Harbor which is on the southwest side.  It ended up being more than a half hour drive to get there but it was a great drive filled with incredible scenery.  My reason for visiting Bass Harbor was a chance to see the spectacular Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse.
            Built in 1858 this lighthouse sits on a rocky cliff with a view of Swans Island a few miles offshore.  It is only a short walk from the parking lot down to the Coast Guard Station where the lighthouse still is in operation.  The view of the lighthouse is great from the end of the paved walking path but I found a view that was a one in a million. 
            At the eastern end of the parking lot there is a path which leads you down to the rocks along the ocean shore.  The lighthouse can be seen from the edge of the rocks but I decided to venture out among the rocks to get a truly remarkable view of the lighthouse and the cliffs it stands on.  I do not recommend this for just anybody but if you are in fairly good shape I believe that this view of Bass Harbor Head Light is a can’t miss.
Pretty Marsh Harbor
            Heading back north on Mount Desert Island I stopped at Pretty Marsh and Pretty Marsh Harbor on the western side of the island.  Considered to be a part of Acadia National Park Pretty Marsh has a lot of great views, as most spots in Maine do.  I took a walk down to the picnic area which gives you a great view of the harbor.  The picnic tables are scattered among the trees with one spot having a roof over the table.  There is a steep path which leads to the water as well.  It is sort of like getting a taste of Acadia before visiting it.
            I cannot list all of the spots that I stopped at due to their amazing views but there is a place at the northern tip of ‘Great’ Long Pond on Pretty Marsh Road that needs to be seen.  Located in the village of Mount Desert it is called the ‘Great’ Long Pond due to the fact that there is a ‘Little’ Long Pond located to the east in the village of Seal Harbor.
Cadillac Mountain seen from 'Great' Long Pond.
There is a small dirt parking area for the beach and for boat launching.  While I was there I saw a long wooden dock which stretched out into the water.  From the end of this dock is yet another ‘classic Maine’ scene with the towering Cadillac Mountain dominating the horizon.  The rapidly changing foliage on either side of the pond caught my eye and led me toward the middle where the mountain stood.  The pond is very narrow at this end and the mountain seemed to sit in the perfect spot where the majority of it could be seen.  I felt like I could have stayed at the end of that dock for the rest of the day but there were more places to be seen on Mount Desert Island.
The well known Somesville footbridge. 
Lastly I stopped in the oldest village on Mount Desert Island: Somesville.  Dating back to 1761 the village sits at the end of Somes Sound which interestingly enough is the only fjord on the east coast of the United States.  The most recognizable spot in Somesville would have to be the Selectman’s Building and the beautiful wooden foot bridge which curves up and over a small river.  I have seen this spot in photos all over the internet as I did my research for this article, it definitely deserves all of the attention.  The Selectman’s Building should not be ignored though as it is one of the oldest buildings on Mount Desert Island being built in 1780.
Across the street from the brilliant covered bridge is the Somesville Library built in 1905.  That is a nice piece of history but the scenery located behind it will take your breath away.  The Somes Pond Outlet leads to Somes Harbor and beyond that is Acadia National Park.  You can park across the street where the Selectman’s Building is and walk over to the library and see the picturesque scenery.  It was yet another wonderful stop as I ventured back and forth across Mount Desert Island.
Although it is mostly known for the popular vacation destination of Bar Harbor and the incredible Acadia National Park there is so much more to see on Mount Desert Island.  Whether it’s the majestic sight of Bass Harbor Head Light on the rocky cliffs, the picture perfect footbridge of Somesville, or the view of Cadillac Mountain from ‘Great’ Long Pond, there is no shortage of worthwhile adventures to have on Mount Desert Island.  Have fun and happy traveling!

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DirectionsBass Harbor Head Light:  Take Rt. 3 onto Mt. Desert Island, continue onto Rt. 102, follow over 12 miles.  Follow Rt. 102 south to Lighthouse Rd.  Follow to parking area.
            Pretty Marsh Picnic Area:  Take Rt. 3 onto Mt. Desert Island, continue onto Rt. 102.  Turn right at Pretty Marsh Rd., picnic area is 3rd right after Indian Point Road.
            Somesville Footbridge:  Take Rt. 3 onto Mt. Desert Island, continue onto Rt. 102.  Follow it south 5 miles.  Parking area is on right at Oak Hill Rd.


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