Are you looking for an active September getaway in New England with temperatures in the 60s and 70s, with very few touristos? Do we have the place for you! A mere 3-4 hours north of York on the coast of Maine lies Acadia National Park. (Truly, stop by and see Dan and Hannah on your way up. I’m cereal.)
Traveling to Acadia National Park during the off-season is a kick for Hannah and me. This weekend after Labor Day we find two double beds for $55 at the Edenbrook Motel across the street from the College of Atlantic in Bar Harbor.
The College of the Atlantic has 349 students and 41 faculty. It’s the kind of college boomer parents would now love to attend, especially those who went to large state universities (e.g, Dan graduated from Arizona State (72,000 in 2011). If Plato were to return and take a professorship, I would bet my copy of The Republic that he would settle into teach at the College of the Atlantic. – Colman McCarthy, Washington Post
At the Edenbrook motel, the 1950s retro-look with metal rocking chairs outside each room adds to its charm. We have packed our hybrid Trek bikes for a day of biking along some of the 45 miles of carriage roads in the national park.
Driving into Bar Harbor from Ellsworth, we take Route 3, which is no friend to bicyclists. Once within three miles or so of Bar Harbor on Mount Desert Island, the fingernail thin white lines mark the edge of the highway and leave no margin for error for bicyclists or motorists. Thankfully J. D. Rockefeller, Jr., the force behind the Carriage Roads, came to the rescue in the early part of the last century.
Above the Edenbrook Motel, we easily bike up Highbrook Road to the Park Loop Road, which takes us downhill about three miles to the Visitor Center. Flashing our senior citizens lifetime National Park pass ($10 for those 62 and older!) we hit the steep climb of the access bike path (crushed, packed gravel like the real Carriage Road). A low gear and a strong set of thighs make this a sweet climb. Genetically advantaged, Hannah and I relentlessly pedal to the Carriage Road by Witch Hole Pond.
On this cool, overcast mid-September late morning, we whip off our sweatshirts and riding tights and head for Jordan Pond at a leisurely pace, gabbing most of the way. The gentle grades make this an exercise experience for all kinds of bicyclists. The splendor of the surrounding trees and lakes is only matched by the beauty that nary a vehicle is in sight. The moderate grades allow for steady pedaling and easy conversation. We pedal the ascending grade to the East of Jordan Pond, but that workout just prepares us for lunch. On this blustery and chilly day, we are the only ones on the Jordan Pond House lawn, which on a warm day is filled with tourists feasting on their famous baked popovers.
After roughly seven miles of biking, we take to the Day Mountain summit. We pass two horse-drawn carriages similar to what must have been popular in the 1930s. It turns out this is our most difficult biking as the weight of the wheels of the carriages and the hoofs of the horses have compromised the integrity of the gravel road and made it mushy and sand-like. Even so, it is very doable pedaling. Do remember to always pass on the left of the carriage so as not to spook the horses.
The summit provides views of Seal Harbor.
The descent is rapid and a little squishy, but just slow down and you’ll be fine. It’s a good work out and one that our hearts and lungs appreciate.
Though I have affection for the hiking warriors of the Appalachian Trail (AT), I much prefer day rides or hikes that end with a shower, clean sheets, and a well-deserved afternoon nap, which we do this late summer day. Having done some 20+ miles on the Carriage Roads, our goal is to do all 45 some day. Nothing like “bagging” the entire Carriage Road to feel the AT spirit.