Thursday, December 13, 2012

In My Footsteps: Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park

            Acadia National Park is a place made up of dozens of beautiful natural locations each worthy of its own article.  I spent a day there and only scratched the surface of what there was to see.  If at all possible one should set aside several days to truly experience this wonderful area.  If that is not feasible there is one spot that must be placed at the top of any visitor’s list: Cadillac Mountain.
            The summit is 1,528 feet making it the highest point within 25 miles of the water along the U.S. East Coast.  Needless to say the views from the summit are some of the most incredible you will find in New England and perhaps the country. 
            Originally called Green Mountain it was renamed in 1918 after French explorer Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac.  He was given the parcel of land consisting of Mount Desert Island in Maine when the area was known as New France.
            My time at Acadia was planned around making it to the summit of Cadillac Mountain to watch the sunset.  I had stayed a week in Maine in October and this particular day was warmest, nearly 70 degrees.  It must have slipped my mind that I was driving up a mountain and it might be cooler up there.
            The 3 ½ mile long summit road is beautiful but also slightly dangerous.  There are several points along the steep incline where the only things between your vehicle and a sharp drop are well placed boulders.  As much as I enjoyed taking a gander down toward the nearby town of Bar Harbor I knew that it would be much smarter for me to keep my eyes on the road.
            Though technically not the summit I stopped and parked at the Blue Hill Overlook very near the top.  The first thing I noticed was just how many other people had the same idea as me to go watch the sunset.  The overlook is magnificent.  It is a gently sloping smooth rockface.  Obviously being up as high as it is there is nothing blocking the view of the surroundings, and what a view it is.
            There were many people scattered along the rockface, some sitting on chairs, others on blankets.  Many more people were standing at the edge of the parking lot with cameras and binoculars.  The next thing I noticed after the people was the cold.  It had been in the upper-60’s during the day at ground level, it was about 30 degrees on top of Cadillac Mountain.  I was not fully prepared; my hands were freezing cold pretty quickly.  
            To keep my mind off of the cold I focused on the vast expanse of scenery in all directions.  To my right was Bar Harbor where I had spent the earlier part of the day.  I started taking photos of everything.  In a neat twist I kept trying to line up the horizon on my camera, to keep it straight.  It wouldn’t happen since at that height I could actually make out the curve of the Earth.  That was just another small part of a remarkable sunset.
            I was lucky as well that it ended up being a partly cloudy evening, perfect for catching colors.  It would have been a shame to scale the mountain only for the weather to get cloudy.  It’s not as if I could simply drive up there again night after night, this was a one shot deal. 
            It ended up being a nearly perfect sunset, complete with lots of photos and a video.  I stayed for a while after the sun went down to enjoy the view of Bar Harbor’s lights and the unlimited number of stars overhead.  I would have stayed longer but it was getting colder.  I cannot recommend spending an evening watching the sunset atop Cadillac Mountain.  Of course, weather determines just what you will see.  Plan accordingly, but prepare to be dazzled, it is worth the trip in almost any conditions.  Have fun and happy traveling.

Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park:  Cadillac Mountain Summit Road – Take I-295 N to Exit 49, turn right onto Rt. 201 N.  Follow 4.4 miles, turn left onto Brunswick Ave, continue onto Rt. 9 E, after ½ mile turn left to stay onto Rt. 9 E.  Follow to traffic circle, continue straight onto Bangor Street, .6 miles turn right onto N Belfast Ave.  After a mile turn right onto Rt. 3 E, follow it 100 miles into Bar Harbor.  Turn right onto Eagle Lake Rd, follow a mile turn right onto Paradise Hill Rd., take 1st left to stay on road.  Turn left onto Park Loop Rd., follow it a mile, turn left onto the mountain road.