Day 19 – Acadia: National Park No. 20!!!
[August 10, 2017]
Having decided to make our way to Mt. Desert Island a day early, we enjoyed a leisurely morning before heading out.
After a delicious breakfast, we packed up and were on our way. A short, 30-minute drive brought us to our 20th National Park: Acadia! The drive here was kind of strange for us as this park is wedged in between many towns, and so the roads are congested and there is just so much more civilization than what we’re accustomed to. (Though it was “only” 30 minutes, it seemed to have taken so much longer because of all the traffic and lights that we normally don’t see around national parks.)
The situation at the Visitor’s Center was no different – a packed house! Given that neither of us are too fond of crowds, especially while exploring, we opted to make a quick drive around the park’s “Loop Road” to get our bearings and then check out the nearby town of Bar Harbor. This turned out to be a great decision.
Despite crazy traffic in town, too, we were able to snag a prime parking spot and began our adventure. First up was the highly recommended “Thirsty Whale” for lunch and a drink. An hour-long wait was not too appealing, though, so we changed course and headed down the street to “Finback Alehouse.” The lobster rolls and midday cocktails hit the spot!
Then, following the suggestion of our super helpful waitress, we made our way to the waterfront. We enjoyed a stroll through the town’s park, then a path along the water’s edge (similar to one in Newport, RI), and then we were back in town.
With all that “physical activity,” we were ready for some snacks. We first stopped for ice cream and enjoyed it on a bench while people-watching. (All the vacationers milling about provided plenty of fodder.) With the treats gone, we hopped over to Beer Works for some hydration and then made our way back to the park.
We drove to our campground, got checked in and set up, then decided to explore the nearby sights. First up was a quick roadside turn-out, providing rocky beaches and gorgeous bay views. (The tide was out so a lot of rocks were a bit slick with their seaweed hats not hidden by the water!)
Next, we went about a mile down the road and found a bit more formal of a hiking area. This was projected to be an hour excursion out and back, and would give us time to head to the nearby lighthouse for sunset. So, off we went!
After some along-the-water trails and some through-the-woods trails, we found ourselves exploring a mud flat. Here, Ally was quick to find all the nearby critters and even snagged a crab before he could burrow back into the dirt.
Eventually, we were back at the water. The rocky coastline makes for perfect tide pool exploration, and explore we did.
While the most numerous creatures we found were the usual barnacles, snails, chitons and limpets, we could hear other guests exclaim of sightings of eels, urchins and sea stars. (Surprisingly, no harbor seals!) A family exploring nearby found DOZENS of baby starfish under a cluster of rocks! We could have spent a full day exploring the pools, had the tide allowed it. Sunset (as well high tide) was approaching, however, so we headed back on the trail toward the truck to continue the drive through the park.
Once back to Bullseye, and with the sun close to the horizon, we skedaddled over to the nearby Coast Guard station to watch the sunset behind the lighthouse.
We had to park along the road because the small parking lot (maybe 10 spots?) was already quite full. A narrow path brought us down through the woods and around the lighthouse, dumping everyone along the shore.
Once down on the rocks, we were able to enjoy beautiful views of the sun as it set beyond the lighthouse. Every minute that passed called for a new picture, as the sky’s palette continued to change – from orange and red, to purple and pink.
One enterprising group made a pizza party out of the event and carried down 4 large pizzas for their tribe. (We certainly hope they packed out all their trash!) Another goofy note about this night—in addition to the crazy amount of people bounding about the rocks, all jockeying for the best positions—was the weird détente everyone had seemed to agree to as far as how close to the lighthouse to get. A few folks had set up their fancy tripods and everyone just seemed to say, “Okay, we won’t go any closer either.” It was strange.
After the sunset, we made our way back to camp, ate some pasta, and enjoyed a small fire. Tomorrow looks to be an early morning (3 AM alarm for sunrise?!?), so it was early to bed. Just a quick shout-out to our friend, Joanna, who provided tons of suggestions—and even some literature—on places to go and things to do in Vacationland. So far, so good!
Mt. Desert, ME to Southwest Harbor, ME (via Bar Harbor, ME) – 50 miles (2.5 hours)
-Ally and Patrick
Day 20 – Ladders. Hand Rails. Views.
[August 11, 2017]
Waking up, it felt like we had barely gotten any sleep. Well, turns out, we hadn’t! Alarms were set for 3:30 AM – and off we went. The super early morning was because we wanted to be sure we got a parking spot up at the top of Cadillac Mountain. (We might have been a bit too eager, because we were only the third car in the parking lot…) Per usual, we made sure we were properly hydrated for the last big day of the trip, preparing a “wemosa” for us to share as we awaited the day’s sunrise.
We bundled up with layers and winter hats, grabbed our chairs, and made our way over to the rocky hillside.
We had heard about the beauty and awe of the “First Sunrise in America” and today . . . well, today disappointed.
Due to some persistent clouds, there ended up being no “real” sunrise. Though, we did catch a glimpse of a fun sliver of color.
Regardless of the sunrise, we both couldn’t get over just how many people ended up showing up. No matter what we turned, our view was full of people.
With a whole day of sunlight ahead of us, we figured what better plan then to hit the trails! We made our way on the Park Loop Road over to Precipice Trail Head and were happy to find an empty lot. We were just the second car there!
We packed up for the 1.5 mile “treacherous” and “strenuous” trek to the top. This trail had only recently reopened after Peregrine Falcons were found nesting in the area.
Based on recommendations of friends, as well as the printed overview of the hike, we knew we’d be in for some decently strenuous hiking. We were able to experience the hike without seeing many other hikers, thanks to our early start. I can imagine the trail would be far less enjoyable, and the metal rungs far more nerve-wracking with lines of hikers both in front and behind you.
Indeed, we were forced to start scrambling nearly immediately. After using all fours to make our way across the rocks, we came upon the first set of railings. Over the course of the next mile, we’d climb up ladders, shimmy across narrow ledges, and even use railings to hold onto the sides of cliffs. Let us tell you, this was not for the faint of heart!
But, at the same time, it was totally doable. And so worth the effort. Though a workout to climb, the ocean and coastline views along the way were stunning.
In fact, one could make the argument that the views are so amazing they help to distract from the literal precipice you often find yourself on. Don’t look down!
The metal rungs and chains reminded us of one of our favorites hikes to date: the Angels Landing Trail in at Zion National Park. That trail, however, was much more intense — with 1,500 foot cliffs on either side of the chains. There really is no more dramatic view than when hanging onto chains bolted into a cliff!
Once to the top, we enjoyed our hike-staple assortment of snacks – goldfish, jerky, and monster mix. The fact that it was only about 8:30 AM was so weird to us, for it felt more like midday. After all, we had already been awake for over five hours.
From the top of the trail, we enjoyed sprawling panoramas over Bar Harbor. The moving sea fog also provided a fun element to the stop – given the early morning time, it still hadn’t burnt off yet and instead was being pushed around to and fro by the wind. We had a great view as we watched it descend upon a cruise ship, hid the cruise ship, then make the cruise ship look like it was floating amongst the clouds.
Our trip back down was largely uneventful and super easy. There were no railings or ladders this time and before we knew it, the trail dumped us out onto the road to finish the last half mile on asphalt. Back at Bullseye, we finished our mimosa that had been chilling and waiting for our return. By now, we were both starving.
Given that it was only a bit after 9 AM, we decided to make our way towards a nearby picnic area and cook up some brunch. More mimosas were in order to continue the Last Day Celebrations, and they helped make all the people watching even more fun. Though we were the only humans at this picnic area for about a half hour, it soon turned into tour bus galore as tour group after tour group stopped, eat their boxed lunches, then continued on their way.
We saw large groups from other countries (maybe that cruise ship?), we saw large families, and we saw groups of senior citizens. Acadia is definitely an equal opportunity attraction. Oh, by the way, lunch was delicious!
After we used the nearby spigot to clean all our equipment, we decided to drive around and explore. With our eyes open for a good snack or maybe even lunch – yes, we were hungry again nearly immediately – we explored all the various small towns that are nestled around the park. Northeast Harbor was a bit blah for our tastes, so we kept on driving until we stumbled upon “Beals Lobster” in Southwest Harbor.
We were so tired from our early morning, that we both actually took impromptu naps as soon as the truck was in park. An unknown length of time later (maybe only 20 minutes), we woke up due to some open-sunroof-induced sunburn and went in. Some oysters and a mule was just what we needed. They hit the spot!
The scenery was awesome, too, as we enjoyed a great spot on the deck that gave us front row views to the fisherman as they came into the town dock, unloaded their catch (or the morning’s shellfish collection), and then head back out to sea.
Back in the car again, we headed to camp for a proper snooze. (3 AM wake ups will drain ya quick!) Now rested, we arose from our slumber ready for more adventure.
Again following the advice of JoJo FoFo, we made our way over to the Beehive Hike late in the day to avoid the crowds and ensure a parking spot. Success! By the time we got there, it was about 5 PM and we were the only car in the lot. This proved to be awesome, as we enjoyed quiet trails and encountered almost no other hikers.
This trail ended up being a “Precipice Jr.” – as it also had railings and ladders, though just not as many – but still provided spectacular vistas of the park and nearby waters.
Very quickly we were able to enjoy cool views of the nearby “Sand Beach.” (Though a seemingly funny name to give to a beach, it’s actually necessary given that so much of the coastline up here is rocky. Having actual sand on the beach is such a notable situation, it warrants the special name.)
Up at the top, we enjoyed as the sky changed colors while the sun set. Another quick snack and we were on our way back down. We had to hustle if we wanted to make it to Bullseye before it was pitch black!
This hike, like the morning’s trek, was not an out-and-back trail but instead a loop so we never had to retrace our steps. That meant even more opportunity to explore! The first part of the descent brought us to a nearby lake (The “Bowl”) where the trail meandered along its banks atop elevated boards. We certainly have seen a lot of unique trail designs in our journeys. (As a quick aside, one ranger shared with us how the NPS is noticing many trails are starting to become wider and wider due to increased use of hiking poles.)
Before long, it was dark. Thankfully, we came prepared and only needed our flashlights for the last quarter mile or so. Disappointingly, no wildlife came to visit us during twilight. Once at the truck, we were quick to take off the sweaty boots and let our feet breathe. It felt so good to put on flip flops, as our feet were quite stinky after three weeks of hiking!
Back at camp, we made ourselves a full dinner and did what we could to extend the night. We just didn’t want the trip to end! After a long, long fire, though, it was time for bed. 😦 Tomorrow is definitely bittersweet as we’re sad to be finishing up an amazing adventure, but so excited to be seeing family and starting the Narragansett Vacation.
-Ally and Patrick
Day 21 – On the Road to Rhode Island
[August 12, 2017]
Maybe because it was our last night, or maybe because of the overnight storm, but neither of us got a very good night’s sleep. We awoke to more rain — only the second time of the whole trip that we had a soggy tent at wake up.
We packed up the rain-soaked Turtle into the truck and immediately hit traffic. It took us nearly an hour just to get off Mt. Desert Island and just like that, our plans for the day were dashed as we were now behind schedule.
After an hour or so of driving, we stopped at a Rest Stop for some lunch and “showers.” Refreshed, changed, and reenergized, we were ready to go! Free from the rain and dreary clouds, the day was starting to look up. Soon, we made it to Freeport and were at Maine Beer Co. for some tasters. The outdoor patio was a perfect place to stretch the legs and enjoy the sunshine.
Once hydrated, we drove through the nearby historic town, used a bathroom at the giant L.L. Bean store, and even located a jeweler to give the engagement ring a quick tune up before the big reveal to family in RI.
Back on the road, we enjoyed the quickest visit of any state as we drove through New Hampshire in a mere 20 minutes. Then, more traffic outside of Boston. As we got closer and closer to our destination, it seemed the drive became less and less enjoyable. The freedom of Wyoming roads easily beats out the congestion of the Northeast. Eventually, we had made it into Rhode Island — state #18 for the trip! Then, finally, Narragansett!
We were so lucky to have the annual First Night Pasta Dinner merged into an impromptu Engagement Party! Thanks to everyone who made the welcome so wonderful — including the lovely decorations. 🙂 It’s so fun to share our excitement with everyone.
Southwest Harbor, ME to Narragansett, RI – 370 miles (7 hours)
-Ally and Patrick
EPILOGUE: Thanks to all who have followed along! We’ve been so fortunate to be able to even have this journey, it’s fun to share with all of you. (Sorry these last few posts were so delayed. As you might imagine, it was quite a relief to get off the road — but then we had to face real life again, as both of us started work right away.) The messages and comments we’ve gotten along the way about those reading or looking at our pictures were wonderful and make the time/effort of these posts totally worth it. Again, thank you!