Thursday, December 23, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 92: Acadia National Park

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 92:  Acadia National Park
October 4, 2010

            There are many places that I have been to during my traveling time that have blown me away.  However, there was a place that had been on my radar as a must-see destination ever since I was in high school.  That place was Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island, Maine.  From the moment I began to become interested in photography I had chosen Ansel Adams as the photographer I would most like to emulate.  I saw his photos from Schoodic Point in 1949 at Acadia and hoped that someday I could make the trip to see these same natural wonders.  Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined how life-changing this trip would be.
Sand Beach
            Acadia began to be preserved originally thanks to major contributions from local citizen George B. Dorr during the late 1800’s to early 1900’s.  It was his vision to keep the naturally beauty of Mount Desert Island safe for future generations.  The park was first called the Sieur de Monts National Memorial in 1916 because of the house that Mr. Dorr built near the Sieur de Monts Spring in 1909.  It was then known as Lafayette National Park in 1919 before the name Acadia National Park was given to the area in 1929.
With more than 47,000 acres of preserved land it is impossible to see all that Acadia has to offer in one day, possibly even a week, but I tried my best to see a few spots that were circled on my map.  For novices such as myself the best way to see as much of Acadia in as short of time as most people have is to take a drive on the Park Loop Road.
Some folks getting splashed at the Thunder Hole.
The twenty-seven mile loop begins near the Hulls Cove Visitor’s Center and there is a fee to enter but I promise you that once you are inside any amount paid will have been worth it.  The views along the road are simply amazing from the moment you enter the park.  The people who designed the road knew this fact and have designated the right lane as a parking lane as well.  I made quick use of this by stopping and parking over and over just to get out and stare at the ocean and rocky shores.  In a bit of irony the design of the Park Loop Road was the brainchild of famed architect Frederick Law Olmstead Jr. who I previously had discovered as the designer of the unique Rockery in Easton, Massachusetts.
A couple overlooking Otter Cove.
Not far from the entrance to the Park Loop Road is the first spot that I visited: Sand Beach.  There is a stairway to get down to the shore from the parking area and the instant I caught sight of the beach I knew it was going to be extraordinary.  The beach is rather small as it is nestled between rocky cliffs, and the water rarely gets above fifty-five degrees.  Those two things are part of what makes this place amazing.  The waves crash on the shore and weave their way through the outcropping of rocks which line the right side of the beach, I was mesmerized by the sound.  There is a hiking trail called the Great Head Trail for the land formation that it encompasses.  From Great Head there is an amazing view of a spot known as the ‘Beehive.’  This 520-foot mountain is very popular with hikers as it is not nearly as difficult to navigate as Cadillac Mountain.  As I said before though, it is nearly impossible to get to see everything at Acadia in one day and so the Beehive is a spot that will remain for another day.
Waiting for the sunset at Blue Hill Overlook.
The next place along the Park Loop Road that will blow your mind is the very famous Thunder Hole.  This is a small inlet with a cavern formed naturally in the rocks.  When the waves start flowing in they dive into this cavern which forces the air out and in short makes a sound like a roar of thunder.  The waves can shoot as high as forty feet into the air.  I witnessed for myself as a group of people standing at the railing overlooking Thunder Hole were splashed with one of these waves.  After a while it becomes a sort of game to see when the next loud crashing wave will hit, or when the next wave will spray high enough into the air to soak onlookers.  I had to dive out of the way of one rogue wave but was lucky enough to escape this spot virtually dry.  I could have stayed and listened to the sounds of thunder forever but there was a spot I had been waiting to see for many years and I needed to get there before dark.
At 1,532 feet Cadillac Mountain is the highest point within twenty-five miles of the east coast of the United States.  From October to March it is the first spot to see the sunrise as well.  My ultimate goal was to get to watch the sunset from the summit of this incredible pink granite mountain.  It is a longer drive than I thought getting around the Park Loop Road to the Cadillac Mountain access road.  I feared not making it in time to see the sunset. 
The sunset from atop Cadillac Mountain.
The drive on this road was fabulous as well.  At some points the only thing separating your vehicle from the edge of the cliffs are a few well placed rocks.  There were several turn off points that would have been fine for watching the sunset if it had come down to that but luckily for me I made it to the Blue Hill Overlook which is the best spot for viewing the sunset.  There were already about forty people there, cameras out and waiting as the sun slowly crept down toward the horizon. 
It was as cold as I had been during my entire trip to Maine but I would not have traded that experience for anything.  The sunset was spectacular; I have never seen anything like it.  There were hills and rivers all coated in a golden glow and I was even able to see the lights of Bar Harbor.  Even after the sun had gone and the colors had faded to gray I did not want to leave, I did not want the experience to end.  I can say this without a doubt, watching the sunset from the top of Cadillac Mountain was one of the highlights of my life.
I wish that everybody reading this could experience what I did on that night.  Acadia National Park was a place I had dreamed of visiting since I was in high school and after seeing it I can say that I cannot wait to go back again.  There was so much I missed but what I did see will stay with me for a lifetime.  Everybody needs to see this place at least once in their lives.  Have fun and happy traveling!

For a short video featuring the Thunder Hole and the sunset on top of Cadillac Mountain visit my YouTube channel here:  Acadia National Park.

For more In My Footsteps items follow my Twitter Feed, view more photos at the In My Footsteps fan page on Facebook, or visit my homepage at   Thanks for reading! 

DirectionsStart of Park Loop Road:  Take Rt. 3 south onto Mt. Desert Island.  Follow it into Bar Harbor, turn left at Mt. Desert St., turn right at Main St.  Turn left at Schooner Head Rd.  Follow it 2.5 miles, turn right toward Park Loop Rd.  Turn left, ranger station will be straight ahead, this is starting point.

            Acadia National

No comments: