Sunday, August 8, 2010

Acadia Trails

It's always fun to go on a vacation to Acadia National Park. The Park offers some of the best hiking and biking anywhere with the dramatic views from the granite mountains to the Atlantic Ocean. The island has a rich history of highly crafted hiking trails and carriage path roads that is inspiring when it comes to trail building. Here's some examples of various trail construction that we can try around Shelton:

Dorr Mountain is the quiet mountain east of Cadillac Mountain - all the same great views, but without the crowds, because there is no road to the top of it. Here's the trail sign at the large cairn on the Dorr Mountain Summit. There are 5 really stunning trails up the east face that are the highlight of any trip to Acadia.

We took the free shuttle bus to Sieur du Monts Springs where they have the Nature Center, the Wild Gardens, the Spring, and the indian museum. There is a beautiful carved sign at the Wild Gardens and it's worth going in there even if your'e not a big plant person. Their volunteers do a nice job with the place and Teresa came back with some good ideas for the Eklund Native Species Garden.

We hiked out along the Kane Path from the Springs to the Tarn to get to the foot of our climb. The Park Service recently replaced this rustic looking footbridge over a stream.

Ryan & I did Kurt Diederich's Climb this time. The trail was constructed as a memorial in 1916 & contains some of the largest stones used in trail stairs anywhere on the island (and they were all built using hand labor).

There is a great paperback book titled "Trails of History" by Tom St. Germain and Jay Saunders for $14.95 that lists the history of all the trails in the park. One of the amazing facets of Acadia was that most of the land, and a lot of the improvements, such as the trails and carriage roads were built and donated to the Park Service by wealthy individuals and families that enjoyed Mt. Desert Island and wanted to see it preserved. Today it is one of our most heavily visited National Parks. Taking any of these trails will allow you to enjoy the park far from the crowds.

The trail follows a series of faults and cliffs using an ingenious series of granite stairs. It's a fun hike but bring lots of water. The blueberries and huckleberries along the trail were a great treat.

Here's more of the stairs going thru a crevice in a rock slide. And this is only one of 4 trails up the mountain face on this side that are like this. The others are Homans Path, Emery Path, and the Ladder Trail. All show amazing craftsmanship in providing ingenious solutions in scaling the mountain.

We passed two guys from the Parks Dept. trail crew who were on their way back down to mountain to carry up more gear for their days work. We later stumbled across their tool cache & Ry had to model the model the stylish Smokey the Bear hat. The Park guys had to buggylug a gas-powered rock drill, gas, water, bits, etc. on their backs up a mountain, and then go back for more stuff, just to start their work. Talk about logistics! I was sweating just hiking up the trail - those guys really work. We carefully put their stuff back and left them a little something for their trouble. Hope they were able to enjoy a cold one at the end of the day. Support your local trail builders.

Here's a section of granite stairs further up the trail that have been restored. You can see where holes were drilled in the granite boulders, then split using iron wedges and pins. The granite stairs hold up well, but everything takes maintenance after a century of use. The Park Service seems to have put a greater emphasis on restoring some of these historic trails the last few years, and that's a really good thing.

The Climb joins the Schiff Path which gradually winds up to the Dorr Mountain Summit. On one side is the mountain and on the other side just air. It's a really dramatic trail that you would not want to take a wrong turn on in the dark. In a number of places the granite boulders were set like paving stones. It took a lot of work to do this, but it works to prevent erosion.

Here's the view of Bar Harbor from the Schiff Path. I don't know why there's not more post cards, tee shirts and posters of these trails because they are amazing climbs. Sieur du Monts Spring is in the lower right hand corner and The Great Meadow is in the center.

Following the Summit we returned using the West Face Trail, and then went north on the Gorge Trail. The Gorge trail was a cool ravine that was a refreshing change from the hot summit. We had been experiencing some hot, dry weather when we went up, but I can see where the Gorge Trail would be tricky during high water.

We came back and hiked into Bar Harbor. The Jessup Path looks like it got a recent upgrade with this boardwalk.

We walked back thru The Great Meadow using portions of the Jessup Path and the Great Meadow Loop. This trail is an elevated crushed stone path through the marsh & was a unique persective that you don't get when driving by on The Loop Road. This is a good reason to fill in a little wetlands & we saw a nice buck in velvet. Too bad they prohibit dogs and bikes on this trail - Biscuit would've had a great time. Maybe the Parks Service should consider loosening this rule up a bit if people take care of their dogs.

The walk back along the roads into Bar Harbor was most difficult portion of our hike, but at least this hike ended in a trip to the ice cream parlor for a Pina Colada Smoothie. Now we could copy this experience in Shelton with our Shelton Lakes Nature Center, Brew Pub & Ice Cream Parlor..........

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