Tucked up in Maine across the Atlantic from Nova Scotia, Acadia National Park is a coastal delight. Upon arrival late in the afternoon, we made our way to the Blackwoods Campground on the southern end of Mount Desert Island, the park’s principal island, and chose one of only a few remaining campsites.
To get our bearings the next morning, we stopped in at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center and watched a poetically inspiring film with stunning visuals and narration by TV host Jack Perkins. With more than 120 miles of hiking trails and countless lakes, bays and stretches of coastline, Acadia offers so many places to explore the outdoors that we needed a ranger’s help to choose places to kayak and trails to tackle. Many trails follow old carriage roads built from 1913 to 1940 with funding and input from John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
Rockefeller and other wealthy property owners who wanted to protect the landscape from development pressure donated land to create Acadia National Park. Even so, several areas of Mount Desert Island remain private property today, such as bustling Bar Harbor and other small towns, some of which are little more than collections of a few homes and cottages.
Armed with maps and good advice from the ranger, we set off for the other side of Somes Sound to kayak in Echo Lake. Other than two fishermen and a pair of loons that swam around just out of camera range, we had the lake to ourselves.
We still had enough daylight to get in an afternoon hike, so we drove to the summit of Cadillac Mountain, a large expanse of exposed granite that form the park’s signature peak. More of a gently sloping mound than a craggy mountain, at 1,530 feet it’s the highest point on the East Coast. We descended the Cadillac South Ridge Trail, which led gently down a rock slope that afforded marvelous views of the Atlantic Ocean and small islands and coves on the park’s southern coast. For anyone up to the challenge, I highly recommend the several-hour loop we did. We connected from Cadillac South Ridge to the Canon Brook Trail (a steep traverse through a boulder-filled ravine that joined a small stream) to the A. Murray Young Path (through birch and pine woods) and finally the Gorge Path (which climbed back up into increasingly rocky terrain) to the summit.
Thank goodness for the T-shaped rock cairns and blue paint markings that dot exposed sections of granite to guide hikers in the vicinity of the summit; without these clues to the route, one could quickly get lost. Occasional signposts also come in handy.
Another of our favorite hikes was the Jordan Pond Trail, which circles the lake starting at the Jordan Pond House. Sitting on the southern shore of Jordan Pond, this building has served as a refreshment stop for tourists since the 1890s. It’s famous for its tea and popovers, which to our dismay we didn’t get to sample because the restaurant wouldn’t open until the day after we left the park. From the restaurant’s large picture windows or on the deck, guests have a wonderful view of the lake and The Bubbles, a two-humped granite mountain at the northern end of the lake. We chose a counterclockwise route, which began on a log boardwalk through the forest of pine, cedar and spruce, with the lake edge often only a few feet away.
At the northern end of Jordan Pond, we took the connector trail that goes steeply uphill between The Bubbles and over to Eagle Lake. Returning along the eastern side of Jordan Pond, we had spectacular views of the lake, surrounding forest and granite boulders visible beneath the crystal clear water. In fact, Jordan Pond is one of the clearest and cleanest lakes on Mount Desert Island. Because it supplies Bar Harbor’s drinking water, no swimming is allowed, even though kayaks and canoes are permitted.
Back at camp, a boisterous Boy Scout troop arrived about the same time as a rainstorm and set up camp next to us. However, on the other side of us was a crabby toddler whose parents seemed deaf to the child’s near-constant bleating. Given a choice, Hector and I both will take loud, nerdy 14-year-olds over a crying toddler any day. And of course teenagers don’t wake up as early as toddlers. Regardless, national park campgrounds are rarely the place to find peace and quiet, even early in the season.