Acadia National Park, 2006

We went to Acadia National Park for the first time Labour Day Weekend last year (travel diary), and I wanted to go back again and explore a bit more. The date kept getting pushed back further and further, until we were getting ready to go in the very last weekend of September. I'd packed up the car with the first round of gear on Wednesday night, went to see the Banff Mountain Film Festival Radical Reels program on Thursday and then finished packing up my clothes and threw them in the trunk once I got home. Friday morning, I headed off to work on my bike, and Cris worked from home, he'd pick up food and then me, and we'd have our bikes on the roof rack, ready to transport north to Maine.

My pictures, and Cris'.

Fri Sept 29/06

At just after noon, I went over to El Pelon and picked up a pair of burrittos for our lunch. I just had time to devour mine before Cris called to say that he was downstairs. I grabbed my bike panniers and went down the back stairs, greeted in the parking lot with the site of the car loaded with Cris' bike and our camping gear, and just needing my bike to be complete. We had to shuffle things around a bit to fit the wheels in the trunk (the back seat was full...) as the roof rack bolts the bikes through the front drop outs. It was rock solid the whole trip, well worth the investment. Cris ate his burritto as he drove north. We were both watching the skies, rain was forecast and it hit us with a vengence as we were on I95N - visibility was so bad at one point that I couldn't see the lights of the cars in front of us for more than a third of the windshield wiper cycle. It finally let up, thank goodness, I was sure that we were going to have to stop and wait it out, it was so loud that we had to yell to hear each other over the sound of the drops striking the car. We got off the highway at Augusta, ME, taking route 3 directly across instead of looping around to Bangor and then coming south on 1A (our return trip). We stopped in Belfast to get some coffee/tea and to switch drivers, and the rain was stopped fully by then. I was trying to find this neat little tea shop that I'd visited when I went up to Belfast to watch a meteor shower, but either we were on the wrong street, or it was closed. We ended up in Murphy's Coffee House, with very ... jovial guys tending the place. I was short on cash, having fed Cris with dollar bills to pay the road tolls, but they let me write a cheque (no credit cards). Lots of cutesy signs everywhere, very touristy it felt like, but the chai latte that I had was good, and I swapped over into the driver's seat for the rest of the way.

Route 3 wasn't as no holds barred interesting as route 1 along the coast up to Canada, but we still saw some yards where the owners had put some effort into their presentations. The rain continued to hold off, though I felt that I was racing the sun and time to get to our campground, Blackwoods, before dark and the cut off time of 8pm. We made it to Ellsworth at around 6:45 and down the east side of Mt. Desert Island on Rt 3 to Blackwoods. I gasped at one point as I spotted a small herd of deer in the ditch watching the car go by, luckily there weren't any more deciding that the road would be a good place to run, and we arrived safely at the camp ground at 7:15 or so. We got the site map and some park brochures and were directed to our site with the woman checking us in happily proclaiming "that's a good one!". It was pretty good, with no neighbours on our left, and decent screening to the empty spot on the right, and the ones across the way offset. We were a short walk to the bathroom house, as well, though the only showers were outside the camp site on the main road. I set up the tent while Cris got the fire going. He skewered some chicken pieces and roasted potatoes and red onions in a foil packet. I'd picked up a candle lantern at REI and it served us well, as did our bike lights, as the natural light failed. The sky had totally cleared up by the time we were eating supper, and we had starlight shining down from the circle of sky that was visible through the trees. The rising moon was shining through the trees, not quite high enough to see clearly, but there weren't that many trees between us and the ocean. I could hear the wind through the pines all night, but the next night it died down and I could hear the waves breaking on the beach. We turned in right after supper, Cris didn't want to try finding the path to the ocean in the dark, and I was going to freak myself out by imagining bears stalking me in the woods if I went myself. I had brought flannel pj's but they didn't quite keep me warm, even with two pairs of socks and borrowing into my sleeping bag - it was around 10C, and the bag was rated to 5C, but I think that's just the "you won't freeze to death but sure wish you did" rating.

Sat Sept 30/06

Despite a night of broken sleep, I woke up raring to go the next day. We built up a fire to boil water and made oatmeal and hot tea to sustain us. Time passed a bit more quickly than we realised, and it was 9:45 by the time we were ready to leave camp, so we went into Bar Harbor to the bike shop first to get Cris some platform pedals (one of the few things we didn't bring were his biking shoes). Lots of people were renting bikes there, and checking out the stock, so it took a while to catch someone's attention (and keep it!) but he was eventually set up to ride. We stuck with the original plan to hike first and then bike, and drove the car to the Bubble Mt parking lot and headed into the woods. Nice walk through trees and down to Jordan Lake, but as we started around the lake, the moderate rating seemed way way way too high - we were on a gravel path with occasional stepping stones over water ways. We were bored, though it was really pretty by the lake, and there was a fair amount of traffic. We went about a quarter of the way around before digging out our map and deciding to backtrack to a trail that went up between North and South Bubble Mountain - also rated moderate, oddly enough. We caught up to a couple that we'd passed on our way out, the guy apparently taking pictures of the girl holding a camera tripod, but she wasn't actually taking any pictures that we could see. We went past our input trail and on to the new one, and it turned out to be a strenuous climb up the huge tumbled boulders that we'd noticed before as we walked along the wooded path from the parking lot. My camera batteries died here. We were both down to our base layers by the time we were half way up, often stopping, balanced on rocks that weren't tipping, to look for the next blue trail marker, or for a sip of water. Moderate my left toe. We didn't meet anyone on the climb, though, so we had our solitary wilderness for a bit, and much more of a sense of accomplishment than we'd have achieved by circumnavigating the lake. We had to go down a bit over the pass to meet up with the trail back to the parking lot, my knee doesn't like the downward slopes, a biking injury has made the right one prone to shooting pains when I land on that foot. I was able to massage the knots out (another plug for the Trigger Point Therapy Workbook) and keep going though.

We came back to the car and drove it just a bit down the road to the Jordan Lake centre to use the washrooms for a comfort break and to change a bit into biking togs. It was crowded (we nabbed a parking spot as someone pulled out in front of us), but they sold water in the gift shop, so that was good. Lots of bikers around, as there was an intersection point with the carriage roads, but that wasn't where we wanted to ride. The sun was shining brightly, hardly any clouds marred the blue sky, and it was a decently warm day, perfect for being outside. We drove north to what turned out to be a tiny parking lot at another carriage road access point (Bubble Pond), and failed to win a spot in there, so we went back to the Bubble Mt. lot and snagged a spot there. We had some granola and clif bars for lunch and then got the bikes down and rode back to the carriage road intersection point (4 minutes downhill, took us 6 to climb back up after riding).

The carriage roads were sort of busy, not as much as last year, but we kept intersecting with a pair on horses, and seeing more evidence of horses on the roads themselves. Fewer walkers in this area, and once we got far from any park loop road intersection points, many fewer bikers. My new bike is a lot lighter than the one I was riding on the carriage roads last year and it generally felt a lot easier to keep up with Cris, though my wind is still poor. We stopped to pump up my bike's rear tire and that made a difference, I was losing speed to it, but the downside was that now I could feel every pebble. The weather was amazing, and we stopped a few times to take in the view once we'd climbed up to various heights - Cris took a picture of the mountain pass that we'd climbed up earlier in the day, from the opposite mountain, but the trail wasn't visible (not surprising). We went around the Amphitheatre, and rode above Jordan pond before that. We got a nice tour of some of the unique stone bridges that carry the carriage roads over various streams. We looped back around toward the north. climbing up some switchbacks. We ended up doing 17 miles by the end, and I maxed out at 21 mph on the downward slopes, though it felt longer and faster due to the gravel roads that we were on. Getting back onto asphalt was amazing, so much less effort required. As we were getting the bikes back up onto the car, a van pulled up with two older women in it, the passenger wearing a neck brace. The driver asked if they could see Jordan Lake from the road, so I ended up giving her the map the campground had given us and directing them to the centre we'd been to earlier, hopefully they were able to see something of the park from the car. We got a huge amount of use out of the National Geography map of the park that we'd picked up at REI last year - it has elevation information for the whole area, hiking trails with their interesting rating system, and all the carriage roads and parking areas (some not on the park maps...). It's printed on heavy paper as well, and lasted being folded and refolded and tucked into Cris' handlebar bag's map case.

It was about 4pm at this point, we headed into Northeast Harbor to get some more bottled water, paper towels and apples at a market there, and then headed back towards Blackwoods. We went just past and hit up the showers for sale in a little building across the road. Cris picked up an extra bundle of fire wood for us as I was digging out towels etc. Best $1.25 I've spent in a long time, paying for that shower. Just four minutes long, and the building was open to the outside chilly air, but as hot as I could hope for and long enough to just bask for a bit after I was clean. The only problem was that I couldn't get my hair totally dry, but it wasn't that cold yet and it was able to air dry w/o sucking all the heat out of my body. We got back to the camp site with lots of daylight left and set about lighting the fire. It turned out that the new wood was really resistant to flame, but we were finally able to get something going using one of the old bundle's logs that we'd saved from the night before, and then used the new logs to feed it. Cris made turkey burgers with the spicy tea rub that we had left over from the summer, and roasted more potatoes, with lemon and garlic this time. The wood was fairly smokey, the sunbeams were visible through the trees. It was getting dim by the time we sat down to eat, so another dinner by candle light was had. I boiled up water for tea once the burgers were off the fire, and sipped that as we cleaned up and got ready for bed. I'd changed into my fleece pants and jacket, and smartwool socks, and kept those on when I got into my sleeping bag, and stayed warm enough to mostly sleep through the night - I just had cold toes, and had to get up to go to the bathroom because of the tea. I was able to dash out to the restroom hut and back and didn't lose much heat. As I was approaching the building, three flashlights were converging on it at the same time, it was minorly spooky.

Sun Oct 1/06

Despite feeling more rested, I felt more tired this morning. Cris worked on the fire while I broke down the tent and packed us up, but by the time I was finished, both the old and the new wood had failed us, despite storing it under the tent's fly. My shoes were a bit damp from sitting in the same place, so the wood must have been a bit wet as well. I also managed to slice my finger open in two neat parallel lines with my double bladed safety razor (go me) and nixed my plans for trying out bouldering on the coast near the camp site. We decided that our time was better spent paying someone else to feed us than trying to get the fire lit, and we went back into Northeast Harbor to the one restuarant for breakfast. I had the blueberry pancakes and we guess that Cris' lobster omelette caused the delivery of our food to be delayed. There were only two waitresses working then, and a fair crowd, but other tables were served more quickly than we were. The food was just okay, they had no tea I wanted, and we skipped visiting the deli for sandwiches, relying on our packed food.

We drove up to Echo Lake and down to a semi hidden trail head near Beech Mt. There weren't many cars there as we set out on the trail that started from the middle of the lot's driveway (the one at the end wasn't the one to the cliffs). Last year I'd seen people up on top of the cliffs when were were swimming in Echo Lake, and wanted to get up there myself. The trails were rated moderate, but I felt that if I survived yesterday's scramble, I'd be fine today. I was, we had to do a bit of trail finding, but most of it was over rock and tree roots and rarely too steep. We quickly got up to the top of the cliffs and did the Echo Cliff loop and then the Canada Cliffs loop, taking the shorter one. It was windy up there, I'd started out with my sun hat on, then put the tie under my chin, but the wind still kept tugging it off. The view was amazing, we could see the sun glinting on the ocean past the barrier islands, and we could see boats moored in the harbour. The trail ended with a flat stroll along a boulder sided valley back to the end of the parking lot.

We stowed our gear and since it was just before noon, our first stage departure time (last call being 2pm), we hit the road back to Boston. We took a couple of detours, stopping once to get late season blueberries from a stand that also sold antlers (I still feel a bit guilty about buying from that guy...), and stepping off the beaten path to go apple picking. We picked empires, macintoshes, and cortlands, and bought a bag of honey crisps (not allowed to pick those). The clouds were starting to lower and we got rained on half the drive back. I drove from about Augusta to Portsmouth, where we stopped at the Portsmouth Brewing Co. for supper at around 5.

Cris checked using their WiFi that the concert we were to attend that night started at 7:30 not 8 as we thought, so we rushed out of there a bit faster than expected. The veggie jambalya was quite good, though the extra dry cider that I had was too wine like for my taste. Cris just had root beer, and took over the driving and got us home by 6:50. I unpacked the backseat, he took the bikes down and stored them, we changed and were out the door at 7:10. He drove us to Central Sq and we parked there to take the Red Line to Park st, running into Ruben, Laura and Sara and sharing the ride with them. After all the rushing, we arrived on time and the opening DJ was still doing his thing. Quite loudly too, and it turned out that I'd left my ear plugs in my toiletries kit rather than in my purse. I went to try and buy some but only after the concert did I see that the merch table sold them - the bartenders didn't. I stuffed some toilet paper in my ears and saved my hearing that way. Massive Attack finally came on afer 8:30, after a long intro, and thier lighting rig was so enormous and bright that I ended up listening to the whole concert with my eyes closed. The band's energy wasn't that good, either, but I was feeling overwhelmed with the contrast between hiking in the park that morning and urban noise that evening and nursed a bit of a headache through the show. We left after the first encore, got a quick train ride back to Central, and drove home. I took a shower to get the eau du campfire off of me finally, and was in bed (oh sweet soft warm bed) by midnight.

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