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