For a fourth time in the past three years, I drive north the 3+ hours from our home in York to Acadia National Park to meet up with Bill Buggie, my UNH buddy from Canada, for two days of hiking. Back in 1983, Bill and I met on the campus of the University of New Hampshire as students in the New Hampshire Summer Writing Program and we’ve been amigos ever since.
Arriving at our rendezvous at the Best Western Acadia Park Inn in Bar Harbor just after noon this first Sunday in May, we are not deterred by the intermittent raindrops. Having come to hike early in the season, we are not dissuaded from hiking this afternoon, on trails that will not be swarming with other hikers.
As we approach the ranger at the Hull Cove Visitor Center for a hiking suggestion, we spread out our $5 trail map and see that his name is Sardius Stalker. I ask if his first name is Greek. He smiles and says that that is what he initially thought but later learned it was Latin. He explains that Sardius is a ruby in the breastplate of a Jewish high priest mentioned in Exodus in the Bible. I was not going to make a crack about his last name.
Noting our map with the yellow highlighted trails of previous hikes to Acadia that Bill and I did together, he says, I see you like strenuous hikes. He suggests a trio of balds (mountain tops with no trees) for our hiking pleasure – Bald, Parkman, and Gilmore Mountains.
Having a trail that fits our desire to hike for two to three hours, we leave the visitor center and take the obligatory picture by the Acadia National Park sign. Traveling on the Park Loop Road, we turn on to route 233 heading away from town, past the Mount Desert Island High School. Route 233 tees at route 198, which we turn left on and drive a half mile to a parking area off to the right near the Norumbega Trail.
Crossing the highway and taking to the forested trail in tee shirt and shorts on this 60F afternoon, I start my hike with Bill in conversation about Lexulous, an online variation of Scrabble that we have played over the last eight years. As word tile aficionados, we talk about strategies, when to swap tiles and if there is ever a time not to play a bingo (a 40 point bonus for using seven tiles in one play).
It is soon apparent that our day of hiking will be one of rock climbing over stones and small boulders. Stepping carefully in many places, we never find it perilous as we climb towards the summit of Bald Mountain at 948’ above sea level.
Though the light rain sprinkles now and again, we are able to negotiate the mini-boulders quite easily. In heavier rain, the conditions on the trail would be treacherous. Falling or slipping on these unforgiving rocks could send either one of us to the ER. We would neither pass go nor collect $200.
A mere month ago these trails were covered with snow as four March nor’easters clobbered the coast of Maine; then a cold, cold April kept the snow around with all the persistence a smoker’s hacking cough. The bright blue blazes in addition to the cairns (piled stones) expertly guide us to the summit.
Summiting Bald Mountain after a one mile climb, we can see the short distance to Parkman Mountain to the northeast and Gilmore Mountain to the northwest.
Dipping down into the valley from Bald to Parkman, we have just 0.3 of a mile to our next summit. The stony climb down over unforgiving granite has us stepping carefully, but it’s not impossibly difficult at all. That said, this is not a hike for kids.
On the Parkman summit, we have a wide view of the coastal inlands, ponds, and lakes. Mist gets our attention and we move along purposefully, not certain what Mother Nature has in store for us.
Descending into the valley between Parkman and Gilmore again requires careful stepping down the granite trail of stones and boulders. One slip and it’s sayonara, but we carefully grab the stones and nearby saplings and descend without incident. Once atop Gilmore, we stand on the rock pile summit with Bald and Parkman summits to either side.
From Gilmore, the Spring Maple Trail follows the creek down the mountain towards the trailhead. As it’s springtime, the creek quietly flows over granite stones making shallow pools and mini-waterfalls of the two to three feet variety.
Then suddenly, the creek tumbles twenty dramatic feet away with a massive 20’+ boulder lying in our path; there is no way in hell that we are walking down the creek any further. With no blue blaze suggesting what we do, we head uneasily on a trail where the sign says we are heading back toward Parkman Mountain.
With an inner sense that this can’t be right, we check our map and conclude there must be a way down this twenty foot cliff. Exploring and poking around the enormous boulder, I see that indeed the trail makers have placed steps of stones around the massive stoneness allowing us to skirt the falls. Peace returns to the valley.
As we cross under the Carriage Road bridge, we have been told of a waterfall above, not two hundred yards away on the Carriage Road itself. Having passed these falls two Septembers ago when it was a trickle, Bill and I are pleased to find a modest flow this spring. The picture to the right makes it apparent we need some selfie picture-taking lessons.
Hiking up and down this trio of mountains for three miles, we return to the trail head two and a half hours later, having never seen another hiker on this spring Sunday. Though I like trails with others hiking, today’s time with just Bill is just about perfect.