Dan and Hannah Scale the Beehive Trail Cliffs at Acadia National Park (2022)

What were we thinking?  We’ve lived in Maine for forty years for goodness sakes. We know that the summer season is wall to wall tourists. Still, we are surprised by all the post-Labor Day traffic and people in Acadia National Park this Monday in September.  Let me explain. 

212 miles in 3.5 hours

Up before dawn, Hannah and I travel north on the Maine Turnpike by six AM planning a coffee stop at the McDonald’s in Ellsworth three hours away.  Once properly caffeinated, we take the Park Loop Road towards the trailhead of the Beehive Trail.  That’s not so simple as this is also the parking area for uber-popular Sand Beach and Thunder Hole.  Houston, we have a parking problem at 10:30 AM. 

Parking in one lane of the two-lane, one way Park Loop Road. The Ocean Path for pedestrians is to the right.

Fortunately, the park is ready for crowds.  We eventually find a spot 0.3 of a mile from the trailhead, actually in one of the two lanes of this one-way road.  Simply walking down the Ocean Path that parallels the Park Loop Road, we see where many are massing at the trailhead to for Beehive Trail

Non-descript trailhead marker for the Beehive Trail

We follow the crowd, at times scooting past the “old folks,” and by that I mean people slightly younger than our 74 years.  

The Beehive Trail begins; it is exposed bedrock most of the way

Then very shortly there’s the trail junction.  For senior travel groups, such as Roads Scholars, and families with kids there’s a side trail left around the mountain.  And then there’s the cliffs of the mountainside for the Big Boys and Girls.

Fair warning at the Beehive Trail junction

Though I have scaled this mountain before with my friend, the Canadian Bill Buggie, this is Hannah’s first assault.  Since she has hiked the Precipice Trail here in Acadia, and by the way an even more challenging scaling of a mountain cliff, Hannah is good to go.  Click here for the thrilling Precipice Trail that we climbed three years ago.

Part of the well-marked, vertical blue blaze Beehive Trail

Never fear, the metal rungs are securely placed in the rock mountainside on the Beehive Trail.  It seems that any time we need a rung, there is one. 

Spectacular views to Sand Beach and the Great Head peninsula from the Beehive Trail

And we climb on.

Without these rungs the Beehive Trail is unclimbable
There seems to always be a rung when you need it
Hannah on the ledge with Sand Beach in the distance
Hannah taking to one of the many helpful rungs to the top

And all of a sudden there are no more rungs and we are on terra firma.  

We never saw anyone climb back down the rungs of the Beehive Cliffs and I wouldn’t recommend it.  If you are afraid of heights or out of shape, this is not the trail for you. 

Once at the top, I immediately think that our agile and motivated ten-year old grandson Owen could scale this mountainside, possibly his athletic eight-year old brother Max, if he were so inclined.  It is far easier than the Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park that the boys and their parents will encounter next April 2023 with us.  Stay tuned.

On the mountaintop

Once at the top, we take the mountaintop  trail to the Bowl, a mountain tarn.

The Bowl where I show my loyalty to St Joe’s College of Maine athletics and the Jimmy Fund.

Later we climb towards Gorham Mountain to complete our four-mile hiking loop,

As we approach Gorham Mountain, we look back on the Beehive Trail cliff
A mellow walk in the woods to Gorham Mountain
The Ocean Path paralleling the Park Loop Road back to our 2016 Prius

We cross over the Park Loop Road back to the Ocean Path to our parked car 0.7 of a mile away after two and a half hours hiking in paradise.

Leaving Bar Harbor, we see this sign on Route 3 near Ellsworth

Dan Hikes His Favorite Trail in Acadia National Park (Maine) – the Jordan Pond Loop (2022)

Acadia National Park in green

After summiting Pemetic Mountain yesterday with my friend, the Canadian, Bill Buggie, I am ready for some lighter fare this mid-May 2022 Wednesday morning.  Click here for the Pemetic climb blog.

The Carriage Road at 6 AM on a May morning with a 5:15 AM sunrise

Prior to our three plus mile hike around Jordan Pond, I wake early at the Bar Harbor Motel for a solo morning walk on the Carriage Roads of Acadia National Park.  Among the many reasons to stay at this fine motel (one of which is the delectable muffins with coffee) is that the motel grounds connect directly to the 45 miles of Carriage Roads of Acadia.

Jordan Pond at the heart of Acadia National Park

With the sun already up at 6 AM, I have a classic Walk in the Woods (Bill Bryson) all to myself on this 46 degree morning.  Returning for the free continental breakfast at the Bar Harbor Motel, I pick up a coffee cake muffin, pour myself a cup of joe, and return to my motel room to watch Sports Center.  You got to be thinking, our boy knows how to live. Oui?

Later Bill and I meet for breakfast in the lobby of the motel and plan our hike around Jordan Pond, a hike we did three years ago.  The Covid pandemic kept us off the trails in Acadia in 2020 and 2021.

The trail begins down the lawn from the Jordan Pond House
From Jordan Pond, we see Pemetic Mountain to the right center and the North and South Bubbles to the left center.

Arriving by 930A on a windy, mid-forties overcast morning (remember it’s May in Maine!), we decide to hike the pond loop clockwise starting with the puncheons (planks of wood) above the pond-side undulating wetlands).  We have a mile of timber plank joy as we hike the east side of the pond.

The puncheons go on for nearly a mile on the east side of Jordan Pond
Bill on puncheons with turn-outs every 100′ or so for hikers coming in the opposite direction
The trail is always within feet of the pond. Bucky Beaver slipped away before we got to tell him how impressed we were with the first stages of building a dam.

After a mile, we have pond-side boulders to climb over.  This kind of bouldering is actually fun and a piece of cake as there is little elevation gain.

Bill on the easy-to-navigate boulders of Jordan Pond

At the far end of the pond, we cross a wooden bridge to an easy peezy wide-enough-for-two trail for the next mile plus.

The far end of Jordan Pond

It’s a gentle way to end our return to hiking Acadia National Park for Bill and me.

The sweet trail along the north side of Jordan Pond. Our boy sporting a pair of LL Bean zip-offs.
Like walking down main street albeit in a woodland setting

Dan Hikes the Big Bad Pemetic Mountain in Acadia National Park (Maine) – 2022

Since our days as public school teachers in the Summer Writing Program at the University of New Hampshire in 1983, my friend Bill Buggie and I have lately hiked in Acadia National Park each May.  As you might imagine, we have not done so since 2019 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Through much of 2020 and 2021, Bill as a Canadian was not allowed in the United States.  With restrictions lifted, he and I plan to resume our hiking tradition near Bar Harbor, Maine this May 2022.  We each live three to four hours away from the Park.  See maps below.

Bills journey of 300 miles, 3 hours 50 minutes
Dan’s journey of 210 miles, 3 hours 25 minutes

Leaving at 8 AM from York, I arrive at the Bar Harbor Motel just before noon.  The planets align and Bill pulls in one minute later.  Lunching on tuna Subway subs, we sip a fine Trader Joe’s IPA at a motel picnic table before driving twenty minutes to Jordan Pond at the heart of Acadia National Park.

Our go-to motel in Bar Harbor is within walking access to the Carriage Roads of Acadia; its the best coffee and big muffins combo in the world, well in my experience.

The Bar Harbor Motel lobster welcomes me in. Hannah and I have learned to always tip the chamber maids.

Jordan Pond is the starting point of the Pemetic Mountain Loop Trail.  In my many circumnavigations of Jordan Pond, I had seen the turn off to this mountaintop trail and imagined the four-mile up and over this 1200′ mountain as a challenge worth taking.   

Pemetic Loop trail

Little did we know what awaited us.

Our hike begins benignly at Jordan Pond on an idyllic spring afternoon in May
With bedrock just beneath the surface, we hike over roots aplenty…
…as well as exposed stone.

Acadia has a foundation of bedrock and more rocks per square inch than you can imagine.  This is no sweet-on-the-feet sandstone trail of Utah’s National Parks.  Climbing through the forest early afternoon on a mid-May 2022 Tuesday, we meet a number of descending hikers, generally retirees like we are. 

Half way up Pemetic with the harbor islands to the Atlantic Ocean in the distance
With still more exposed stone to climb

My question to those coming down the mountain, Are you hiking up and back on this trail?  They all are returning to Jordan Pond from whence they came.  No one is hiking the loop that we are.  I wonder why?  We’ll soon learn.

The trail of blue blazes to the mountaintop is well-marked and reasonably popular in the late spring without being busy at all. It’s a challenging climb not made for all, but there is little chance of getting lost.  An hour and thirty minutes later we arrive at the summit 1.7 miles from the trailhead. 

Bill, the Canadian, within meters of the summit.

At the summit of Pemetic Mountain the wind blows and I literally hold onto my hat.

Looking west toward the mainland

Now for the descent.  It’s classic Adirondack switchbacks (i.e. straight down hill).  We slide on our butts, uses our hands repeatedly to maneuver down the rock pile.  We are not climbing down, we are bouldering at its worst. Full of judgment and without a Zen bone in my body for bouldering, I endure the rocky descent.

Log stairs help us descend some of the steepest parts of the trail
Saplings for hand-holds help us descend
Bill successful navigates the steep rocky slope
I told you there were a lot of rocks, especially on the climb down

It takes us 45 minutes to boulder down a half mile to the Park Loop Road.  We are in full agreement that this is the toughest hike we’ve done in Acadia since we began hiking together in 2015.  Bar none, Bar Harbor.  And we have hiked the Beehive Trail using metal rungs to climb to the mountaintop.

From there we return to woodland hiking for a half mile to Jordan Pond.

On terra firma after the rocky descent

We stride triumphantly along Jordan Pond for nearly a mile back to the trailhead.

The path along Jordan Pond back to the trailhead

Dan and Hannah Circle Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park

JP map of pond

After tackling the Big Kahuna at Acadia National Park (click here for our climb up the Precipice Trail), Hannah and I wake at the way cool Bar Harbor Motel with our Acadia overnight winding down.  Just after dawn, we walk to the end of the motel property where we have a 0.2 mile trail leading into the park itself.

Taking a seemingly abandoned road for a half mile to the right, we soon are hiking on the smooth gravel of the Carriage Road towards Witch Hole Pond.  It’s a delightful hour of solitude with my solitude partner of choice, Hannah Banana.

JP 1 deer on motel trail

JP 1B morning trail carriage road

JP 1A D on morning trail

On the Carriage Road early Wednesday morning

Later, after feasting on the sumptuous breakfast at the Bar Harbor Motel of coffee, fruit, blueberry muffins, cold cereals, and bagels with garlic-laced cream cheese, we drive to Jordan Pond for a morning of circumnavigating this freshwater pond.

Probably the most popular trail in the park because of its levelness and access to major trailhead parking, the Jordan Pond loop (roughly three miles) is made for our grandsons, Owen (7) and Max (5).  Starting down the lawn from the Jordan Pond House, we have a mile and a half of gravelly trail within an arm’s length of the pond.

JP 2 D on gravel trail

Trail o’ gravel on the east side of Jordan Pond

JP 2C gravel trail

 

JP 2D gravel trail too

JP 2B rocks on gravel side

Looking back towards the trailhead

At the far end, we return for the trailhead along the forested waterfront.  Soon we are hiking through a series of boulders with orange markings, which turn out to be worn away parts of the granite from the footsteps of previous hikers.  This small-time bouldering adds character and rolling definition to the trail.

JP 3 H on stony part

JP 3A D on stony part

JP 3B stony part

Notice the natural trail markings of orange

JP 3C more stones with H

Once successfully navigated, the boulders give way to puncheons (planks that are an effective way to cross the low lying areas around the pond).  Volunteers have built these wooden trails with widened places for hikers to step aside while others pass.  Views of the pond soothe the smart phone-weary soul.

JP 4 puncheons

JP 4A planks

JP 4B planks

JP 4C planks more

Once back at the trailhead, we believe that this is a trail for hikers and non-hikers among our family and friends looking for an active way to spend a morning in Paradise (and by that I mean Acadia National Park).

JP 5 end of trail

Jordan Pond from the trailhead

Dan and Hannah Tame the Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park

Acadia 1AA hand holds

On the Precipice Trail looking handholds in the stone

Ever thought of climbing a really steep cliff?  Sound intriguing?  If it does, I have three rules of vertical climbing that I beg, nay plead that you follow when you next climb a mountain like the Precipice Trail.

One, take a small step rather than a bigger one as you climb; two, look for handholds in the stone; and three, keep at least three points of contact when climbing the mountain (i.e. two feet and one hand).

Acadia map

The Precipice Trail is about where the final c in Cadillac is on this map.

Last September I climbed the Precipice Trail of Verticality with Mitch Sakofs, my teaching buddy and personal mountain climbing guru.  Today Hannah and I will follow to the point of obedience his guidelines to the mountain top.

Last year, I titled that blog, Dan and the Bad Ass Precipice Trail, which suggests how challenging that hike/climb was for me even with a guide with Sherpa-DNA like Mitch.  Click here for that death defying 2018 blog.

Acadia 1AAAA trail explanation

So, what’s with the Tame in the title of today’s posting?  You might be thinking, Dan, do you believe you are now the bad ass?  Let me explain.

Acadia 1AAA trail sign

Hiking today on a 70F afternoon in early September after warming up with a morning of pickleball in Bangor, Hannah and I have a trail that gets our attention immediately with stones, boulders, and more stones rising high above us.

Acadia 1 stone steps where the trail begins

Welcoming stairway with boulders in the distance

Acadia 1A more trail of stones

Within a couple hundred yards, there is a boulder with three rungs that requires significant stretching and agility.  It’s the perfect yardstick to see whether you and this hike will find trail love.  See Hannah attack this boulder below.

Acadia 2 the initial rungs

Acadia 2A hannah on initial rungs

Successfully, Hannah meets the initial challenge and is ready for her first climb up the Precipice Trail.  Our climbing rules have us thinking of hand grabbing of the stone, and often, I have four points (i.e. both feet and hands) as I lean into the mountain.  Following the blue blazes to the summit, we have the comfort of knowing others are here on this popular trail for support if need be.  By the way, Hannah at 5’4” has to leg stretch even farther than I do at 5’10”, which makes this entire climb just a bit more challenging for the shortcakes among us.

Acadia 3 lower part stones

We follow the blue blazes to the top

Acadia 3A h on stones out to bay

Acadia 3C H between rocks

Acadia 3D h on rocks

Another tight passageway to the top

Acadia 3E han with rails

At the junction of the Orange and Black Path halfway up the mountain, we go from bouldering with rung climbing to the “ladder” section of the trail.  This more vertical part of the climb has us reaching for metal rebars securely anchored into the mountain of rock.  As you might expect, there’s a rung whenever we need it.

For this my second time up the Precipice, I never feel vulnerable and at risk on the trail; in fact, a little cocky but not blase.  Let the pictures tell our story.

Acadia 4 first ladder

Acadia 4A more rungs

Acadia 4B Han on rungs

Acadia 4C H on rungs again

Acadia 4D more ladders

Acadia 4E han out to bay

In an hour and twenty-five minutes Hannah summits Champlain Mountain feeling on top of the world while I think it pretty cool that we did this together.  Neither of us feel that this hike/climb pressed us to our limits as I did a year ago.  Above the cliffs, we have views of the islands to the east in Frenchman’s Bay.

Acadia 5 at the top

Within yards of the summit

Acadia 5A out to bay from top

Descending on the Champlain North Trail

Rarely do hikers climb down the way we came up.  As with many others, we take the Champlain North trail to the Black and Orange Path which has little of the verticality of the Precipice Trail.  A half mile walk on the Park Loop Road brings us back to the trailhead.

Acadia 6 trail down

Descending the Orange and Black Path

Tame?  I tamed my fear of this climb.

Next September, Hannah and I look forward to the Beehive Trail, Acadia National Park’s sister vertical climb.

Dan Hikes Around Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park (Maine)

Jordan map

I awake before dawn in the queen bed at the Bar Harbor Motel; my friend Bill in the next room.  After yesterday afternoon’s climb up the Gorge Trail in sunshine (Click here for that posting), today’s forecast is for mist and drizzle.  It’s no morning to climb any of the rock faces of the many mountains here in Acadia.  A hike around Jordan Pond becomes an ideal trail choice.

After checking ESPN sports on my iPhone in bed, I slip into my hiking Merrell’s for an early morning walk to check out the weather and warm up on the Carriage Roads of  Acadia National Park just beyond the motel property.  A ball cap and Ithaca College jacket are enough to shed any light rain as I walk for 45 quiet minutes.

Meeting up with Bill for the motel continental breakfast later, we agree that hats and jackets will ward off any light precipitation.  Taking delectable small bites of a blueberry muffin while sipping my decafe black, I have my dose of morning nirvana.

Jordan Park Look Road

Park Loop Road in Acadia

Driving twenty minutes on the Park Loop Road, we arrive at a nearly empty parking lot at the Jordan Pond House.  Like most hikers today, we have come from away and are not going to let a little rain deter us.  Walking down the trail in front of the Jordan Pond Lodge, we are met by two unleashed, large labradoodles; I agree with our grandson Owen who likes his dogs small and not barking.

I am leery of new dogs, having been nipped and bitten before by dogs that “would never bite anyone.”  The female hikers see us, but as we approach the white demon barks wildly at us.  I step back immediately.  She says, He doesn’t like to be startled.  Ya think!  You saw us coming!  I think but don’t say.  Fortunately they head to Pemetic Mountain and we begin our circumnavigation of the pond.

Jordan 6 B and D back at start

Bill and Dan at Jordan Pond

The eastern side is a pleasant easy going, winding gravel trail within an arm’s reach of the water.  Though we see no beavers, we do see their handiwork; and, in this case, their impending triumph.

Jordan 2A beavers at work

Jordan 2 gravel trail

Jordan 2B Bill on gravel trail

My friend Bill

By the far end of the pond, we cross a man-made causeway, then a wooden bridge through the marsh and over the creek emptying into Jordan Pond.

Jordan 3 D at bridge

From here things get interesting as the granite boulders come down to the shoreline from Penobscot Mountain.  Never too difficult to climb over, the low lying rocks have an orange sheen (painted?) which guides our way.  Always within 10’ of the water, we never feel we might slip on the moisture-soaked rocks.

Jordan 4 bouldery trail

Jordan 4A more of bouldery trail

Then, for what seems like ¾ of a mile, we have a succession of planks a foot or two above the rocky, uneven terrain bordering the east side of Jordan Pond.  Though slick, the planks allow us to walk with a steady rhythm back towards the lodge.

Jordan 5 plank trail

Jordan 5A more planks with D

Jordan 5C newer planks

Two couples from Ontario, Au Canada and parents of a darting up and down the planks five year old boy with his three-year old sister brighten the morning as the drizzle ends.  With parents like these, these kids will grow up not letting a little inclement weather deter them from getting a healthy dose of Vitamin N (i.e. Nature).

Jordan 6A D and B again at end

Misty morning in Acadia (Jordan Pond)

Dan Hikes the Gorge Trail in Acadia National Park (Maine)

Gorge map

York is to the east of Portsmouth.  Notice how much of Maine lies north of Bangor.

Looking to break up my 215-mile drive from our home in York to Bar Harbor at the gateway to Acadia National Park, I stop off at the Armstrong Tennis Center in Bangor to play pickleball with these central Maine “experienced” players.

At the indoor courts, the cacophony of whacking plastic “wiffle balls” fills six pickleball courts is sweet music to my ears.  Within five minutes I am in a game of doubles with Lisa as my partner v. Mark and Doug.  “Experienced” enough to give them a decent game, I have just the pause from the road that I wanted after two hours of steady play.

Driving on an hour to Bar Harbor, I am primed for an afternoon of hiking with the Canadian, my friend Bill Buggie of New Brunswick, from our days at the University of New Hampshire.

Arriving at the Bar Harbor Motel just after noon, I chat up the hospitality worker, Kim.  In response to my question about hiking, she suggests the Gorge Trail, a family favorite.  On a sunny afternoon near 70F, it’s an ideal 2-3 hour hiking choice for the two of us, who coincidentally, are on either side of 70 ourselves.

Taking the Park Loop road, I squeeze my Toyota Prius into roadside parking for five vehicles.  Being the Thursday before Memorial Day Weekend, and still not in-season, we are ready for an afternoon dose of Vitamin N (i.e. Nature).

Crossing a small creek, we hike 0.2 of a mile to the Gorge Trail itself.  For ten minutes we have the sweet level dirt that allows us to walk side-by-side, catching up on our lives as “give it our best shot” parents, long-time husbands, quasi-athletes, and former classroom teachers.

Gorge 1 B on gorge trail

Bill creek crossing on the Gorge Trail

Gorge 1AA D on stones on gorge trail

Dan hiking in shorts and an IC tee shirt on the Gorge Trail

Skirting the Gorge Creek for nearly a mile, we hike the very manageable rocky assent that will lead us to Dorr Mountain.  Crossing the creek multiple times, we have granite steps of master trail builders at our disposal most every footstep of the way.  The climb through the gorge comfortably warms us as the ascent is never strenuous or risky.

Gorge 1A mini-falls on gorge trail

Eight foot cascade tumbling down the Gorge Creek

 

Gorge 1B steps of gorge trail

The artistic and functional steps of the Gorge Trail

Gorge 1C D on gorge trail

The mostly functional Gorge Trail hiker on a trail that was not as difficult as this picture makes it seem.

Reaching the intersection on this well-marked trail, we have Option A of scrambling up the steep and boulder-y Cadillac Mountain, a truly nasty skyward climb.  No fools, we choose Option B, the less severe mountainside to Dorr Mountain.  Slow and steady with some hand climbing, we summit guided by mountaintop cairns (piled rocks to mark the trail).

Gorge 2 stones to Mt Dorr

The less severe mountainside to Dorr Mountain

Gorge 2A view to Cadillac Mt

Looking to Cadillac Mountain from Dorr Mountain.  By the way, Cadillac Mountain is the first land in the continental United States that the rising sun shines on each morning.

Gorge 2B D and B on Mt Dorr

Billy and Danny on Dorr Mountain with the Atlantic Ocean in the background

Taking the North Ridge Trail down the rocky crag, we have sloping rock faces for ¾ of mile that have us shortening our stride and cramming our toes into the front end of our hiking boots.  As the heroes you know us to be, we just tough it out.

Gorge 3 smooth stones in descent

The toe crunching descent from Dorr Mountain

 

Gorge 3A B on descent

And the rocky descent coming down from Dorr Mountain

Completing this three mile loop in just over two hours, we are ready to chill with our game of choice (Scrabble) and our Robert Mondavi wine of choice (bourbon barrell cabernet).

Topping off our day in this Atlantic paradise, we walk a mile and a half into town to Geddy’s, where we celebrate a mountain well-climbed with their primo Burrito Grande.  (You may be thinking, Dan, no seafood in this coastal town?  I’ve got to say I’m not a fan of le lobstere or les clams.  My roots in Arizona have me pining for Mexican food any time I can get it.)

Gorge 4 Geddy's

 

Dan and the Bad Ass Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park 

Precipice acadia map

Bad ass, really Dan?  Sans doute!  Though the Precipice Trail doesn’t have the death-defying heights and drop-offs of Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, it was physically more challenging and exhausting.  Let me explain.

Prec 1DD closeup warning sign

Having past success scaling Angel’s Landing in Utah (click here for that blog) and the Precipice’s Little Brother in Acadia, the Beehive Trail (click here for that blog), the morning of our hike I keep to myself my wonder if I am up to the challenge climbing up the side of Champlain Mountain.

Arriving at the trailhead of the Precipice mid-morning on this last Monday in September, Mitch Sakofs, my buddy from my days teaching at Eastern Connecticut State University, and I park on the Park Loop Road beyond the trailhead.  I think, if so many people can climb this mountain, how hard can it be?

Prec 2 M as trail begins

My buddy Mitch as the rocky climb begins

Immediately, we are ascending a trail of rocks and boulders.  And then we hit the Massive Crucible Boulder.  At this point, hikers must lift their leg high enough to step up to a three foot metal rung, then again up to another rung, grasp for a stone handhold with the left hand, and elevate to the boulder above.  It’s a fabulous threshold challenge.  If you can’t mount this boulder, this is not the hike for you.

Prec 3A walkway on cliffside

Having the good fortune of hiking with an experienced mountaineer in Mitch, I have him lead, so I can watch where he steps and see what handholds he finds.  Constantly encouraging, he offers these climbing tips: (1) in each stone look for a handhold in the rock, (2) whenever possible take a small step rather than a big step, and (3) finally be sure on the cliff sides and stone slopes to have three points of contact (two feet and a hand).

Prec 3C keeper cliffside preview

Much of the trail I am grabbing the stone faces or pulling myself up with the rungs sunk deep in the rock face.  Every time I need a metal rung, there’s one there.  Throughout the climb I’m guessing I have 200 rungs and one well-placed metal ladder at my disposal.

Prec 4C more rungs

I never have an “oh shit” moment when I wonder what the hell I am doing or doubt if I will make it.  That said, it’s a bitch; as I climb I just keep repeating in amazement this is one bad ass climb as I step and stretch higher and higher. A few times I have to kneel to boost myself up onto the next boulder.

Though the trail is but 1.6 miles to the top, it takes us nearly two hours.

Prec 5 m with rungs

Once at the top, we chat up the twenty-somethings and enjoy the vista to Frenchman Bay.  To return to the Park Loop Trail, we descend on the far less steep Champlain North Ridge and Orange and Black Trails.

Will I do it again?  Only if someone really wants to climb it with me.  And as luck would have it, I have such a person – Hannah Banana.  She’s fired up for this vertical adventure!

Click here for a five minute YouTube video on the Precipice Trail.

Prec 5A d and m at top

Two recommendations: For breakfast prior – Sylvia’s Café in Ellsworth.  For lunch after – the Mainly Meat BBQ of the Atlantic Brewing Company in Bar Harbor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prec 1 D at Sylvia's Cafe

Breakfast at Sylvia’s Cafe in Ellsworth, Maine (15 miles from Bar Harbor)

Prec 1B parking at trailhead 2

The fifteen trailhead parking spots were taken when we arrived at 10A, so 30+ of us parked in the right lane of the Park Loop Road

 

Prec 3 first rungs

Mitch leading the way

 

Prec 3B rungs on mountainside

The ever-present rungs to deal with the ever-present verticality

 

Prec 3D cliffside fair

The cliffside with metal rungs for stepping on and hand grabbing

 

Prec 4 more rungs nearer top

 

Prec 4B cliffside with rungs

 

Prec 6 atlantic brewery

Apres at the Mainly Meat BBQ of the Atlantic Brewing Company just outside of town

 

Prec 6A unattended children

Sign at the playground connected to the Mainly Meat BBQ

Dan Learns about the Bar in Bar Harbor at Acadia National Park

Acadia map of BH

Bar Harbor, home of Acadia National Park

This is a two parter.  First is for those looking for light hiking in the town.  Second is a recommendation where to stay in Bar Harbor.

Located in Downeast Maine, Bar Harbor is pronounced “Bah Hahbah” by Mainers and playfully by those from “away.”  “Downeast” often refers to the eastern coast of Maine.  The phrase derives from sailing terminology: sailors from western ports sailed downwind to the east to reach this area.

Bar 4A B and D summit better

Dan with his Canadian buddy, Bill Buggie

With my UNH college friend, Bill Buggie, I have come to discover the bar in Bar Harbor.  On previous hiking and biking trips to Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island, we have heard the story that at low tide the sand bar magically appears so walkers, even cars, can cross to Bar Island itself.

Bar 4C Bar Harbor from BI summit

The view of Bar Harbor from Bar Island

Coming during the first week of May, Bill and I have the town to ourselves.  Last night we immediately got a table at Geddy’s in the heart of the downtown at the prime dining hour of 7P.  Parking last night, and now this next Monday morning, is plentiful as we prepare to walk the land bridge to Bar Island at low tide.

Bar 1AB high tide 2

From Bar Harbor to Bar Island at high tide

Having checked the tide charts for Bar Harbor weeks before, we know that this Monday morning at 11A is the lowest of low tides.  The park service advertises that there is a three hour window to hike to the island and be back before the salt waters of high tide rule the day.  Descending Bridge Street, we have a land bridge from the harbor to Bar Island.  Hence, the street name.

 

Bar 1A D at land bridge

In fact, the sandbar to Bar Island is mostly a gravel bar and could easily support a four-wheel vehicle.  As Bill and I arrive at 930A, we see people already walking to the island.  Hoping we’d see the tide receding slowly to expose the land bridge, something out of Charlton Heston crossing the Red Sea in the Ten Commandments, I am mildly disappointed that the sand/gravel trail is already over 100’ wide, and obviously easy to cross.

Bar 1B wide land bridge

Monday morning at 930A, low tide

Stepping first among the small stones of the gravel bar, we soon close in on the island over large smooth stones with an obvious trail before us.  The trail through the forest and meadows is well-marked and ten to twenty other walkers make it clear the way to go.  Once on Bar Island, hiking to the modest summit takes us a leisurely fifteen minutes.  Looking back to Bar Harbor itself, we know we have found a family hike that kids under ten can easily do.

Bar 2 sign 2

Bar 2A submerged cars

Bar 3 trail begins

Bar 3A trail to summit

 

Bar map of shore path with BI

The Shore Path in red (the dotted line is the land bridge to Bar Island)

With only an hour of hiking/walking under our belts, we head to the Shore Path that goes from the downtown park at the Bar Harbor Inn, and then along the harbor waterfront past high priced condos and estates of old money.  It’s a delightful level walk of less than a mile with islands dotting the harbor for our viewing pleasure.

Bar 5 B and D on shore path

Bill and Dan on Bar Harbor’s Shore Path

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bonus section is for folks wondering about a recommendation where to stay in Bar Harbor.

Ever wonder where to stay in Bar Harbor when some hotel rooms in season go for north of $400 to $500?  Wonder no more.

First, let’s back up.  Consider traveling to Bar Harbor in May.  Tourist season that once went from Memorial Day to Labor Day now stretches into September and October.  Come November, the dark of 415P sunsets makes this the fishing village that the locals love.

bar acadia park inn sign

On this first Sunday night of May, Bill and I each have a room at the Best Western Acadia Park Inn for $99 a night; in August the same room is $209, in September $189, and after Columbus Day weekend in October $135.

Let me take you back to our daybreak feast.

It’s Monday morning, I slip into the large dining area at 630A to be greeted by Jill, a downhome down easterner of perpetual joy.  Toasting an English muffin and pouring myself a full 12 ounces of dynamite decaf, I return to my room to luxuriate with Sports Center.  Once done, I’m not done!  I return for a second cup with a banana nut muffin that I warm to mouth-watering perfection in the in-room microwave.  And that’s just the beginning.

Bar API breakfast room

At 8A when Bill and I have arranged to meet for breakfast, I take breakfast to the next level.  Ladling out primo Quaker oatmeal from an 18″ coffee urn size container, I then sprinkle on raisins and walnuts.  The oatmeal is so tantalizing that I forego the eggs and sausage to have another bowl of oatmeal for our morning of hiking.

This oatmellian delight compares favorably with the oatmeal that Hannah and I have every morning when we are home.  As if things couldn’t get any better, I top off breakfast with hash brown mini-patties, be they doused with salsa (a personal favorite) or delectably savored alone.  You can’t go wrong with the Acadia Park Inn.

Dan Hikes a Three-pack of Mountains (Bald, Parkman, and Gilmore) in Acadia National Park

Acadia map of BH

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.

Bar 4A B and D summit better

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.

Acadia 1 D at sign

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.

Acadia 1D B on rocky rooted 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).

Acadia 1E rocky trail to Bald

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.

Acadia 1F D on rocks to Bald

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.

Acadia 1J D at Bald summit better

Atop Bald Mountain with Parkman Mountain in the background

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.

Acadia 3A D on rooted trail

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.

Acadia 1 B descending Bald

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.

Acadia 3 rocks to Gilmore

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.

Acadia 3C D at top of Gilmore with Bald and Parkman in the distance

Atop Gilmore with Bald to my right and Parkman to my left

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.

Acadia 4B along the maple springs trail

Along Maple Springs Creek

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.

Acadia 4 Maple springs trail

With the creek to the left, the massive boulder seemingly blocks our passage down the Spring Maple Trail

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.

Acadia 5A D at waterfalls better

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.

Acadia 5B B and D selfie

 

 

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.