Dan and Hannah Hike Morse Mountain to Seawall Beach in Maine

SB pickleball M H and D

With our daughter Molly on the pickleball courts at York High School

Normally throughout the summer, Hannah and I play pickleball on Tuesdays.  But today is not a normal Tuesday.  We are feeling something different.  Despite our love of whacking wiffle balls with paddles, we are looking to break from a routine that we love.  Today that would be some coastal Maine hiking.

SB map of Bath coast

Thanks to our friend and favorite Maine writer, Molly Hogan, a former student of mine at the University of New England, we have learned of the Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area 90 miles north of our home in York.  (Click here for Molly’s blog – Nix the comfort zone.)   The four-mile round-trip hike to Morse Mountain/Seawall Beach will take us through coastal forest and marshland on our way to the Atlantic Ocean.

Accompanied by our free spirits, we take the Maine Turnpike north on the coast.  Turning towards the ocean on route 209 in Bath, we pass the large houses of seafaring captains of yore as well as the preppy Hyde School behind its “stay out” spiked metal eight-foot fence protecting its pristine lawns.

SB map of SB

After driving a simple twenty miles down one of the many peninsulas along the coast of Maine on route 209, we take route 216 rather than continue on to Popham Beach State Park.  Eight tenths of a mile later, we turn left on the Morse Mountain Road for the Conservation Area trailhead parking.

Two hundred yards up the gently rising gravelly road, we meet Jack, a student at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, who is all at once the gate keeper, parking lot attendant, and biology major.   With limited parking for at most 40 cars, we pull into one of the few remaining spaces at noon this late August Tuesday.

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Hannah on fire road as the trail begins

If you are thinking that if the lot is full, you can park along route 216, think again, my friend.  The road has no shoulder as the bushes, trees, and brambles come right to the road’s edge.  The good news is that since the trail to the beach is only two miles, there is lots of turnover in the parking lot.

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Piping Plover

Cooperating with the Nature Conservancy and the Maine Audubon Society to preserve nesting sites for piping plovers, rare and fragile plants, the Conservation Area covers 600 acres from the Sprague River to the Morse River out to Seawall Beach.  The St. John Family leases the entire area to Bates College for one dollar.

The two-mile trail to the beach climbs initially through the forest of pines and hardwoods.  Molly has warned us of mosquitos, but with the midday sun shining through the trees, we see nary a mosquito, Zika or otherwise.  The fire road, once paved but now with just vestiges of macadam, is wide enough for a pickup; the St. John Family has access to its houses along the trail.  For the rest of us, we walk.  Which we are so damn lucky to do!

SB 1C more marsh

It’s a simple climb along the fire road to Morse Mountain.   Saving a trip to the actual summit of Morse Mountain for our return, we head east to the beach, first in forested area, then to the wetlands of the bay.

SB 1B  marsh

At a leisurely pace, it takes us no more than 40 minutes to wind up at the expansive sandy beach.  Along the way we pass other couples, mostly seniors, and families out for this last taste of days without routine before the school year begins.  With no public facilities, toilets, picnic tables, or lifeguards, this is shoreline heaven for all who like their beaches un-ly, unsullied and uncrowded.

On this late August summer day with the temps near 80F and full sunshine, we have a mile of sandy beach before us to make our four miles of hiking into six.   For most people, beach-going is living the dream.  Hannah and I are just not such people.  Lying in the sun “collecting rays” is not our idea of a good time.  And I find walking in the dry sand of the beach frustrating and worthy of #$*&!# name-calling.

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Dan at Seawall Beach at the Atlantic Ocean

But today Seawall Beach delivers in an unexpected way.  Since it is low tide, we have firm wet sand by the shoreline to maintain a steady pace without us wading through and sinking in the dry sand.

Families are building sand castles, some like the Geico guy and some like Geico’s competition.  Click here to see the 30 second Geico ad at the beach that is played on ESPN morning, noon, and night.

Twenty minutes later we arrive at the Morse River with Popham Beach State Park across the waterway.  Truly, cares and routines get left behind.

Leaving the beach on the trail back to the parking area, we soon take to the spur of no more than a few hundred yards to the top of the very modest Morse Mountain.  There we see a vision of ourselves in four years.  Let me explain.

For there, on the slightly angled large boulder with views to the Atlantic Ocean, we meet grandparents Mike and Molly who have brought their grandsons, Landon and Spencer, to hike the trail; out for an adventure, they say.

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Max and Owen with their Omi loving their popcorn

You see, “an adventure” is just we call our regular excursions with our grandsons, Owen (4) and Max (2).

Why the following day we will have such a “24 hours of Owen and Max” adventure.  We will take them to race around the indoor track at the Kittery Community Center, play with the trains at the York Public Library, chuck water balloons from our upstairs deck, and then celebrate it all with popcorn, before baths in our kitchen sink.

We mark our 2020 calendar to hike to Seawall Beach for an adventure with the then eight-year-old Owen and his six-year-old brother Max.


Dan and Paul Hike to Angel and Dunn Falls in Maine (Part 4 of 4)

With our chilly brook crossings to Angel Falls behind us, we wonder what Maine Trail Finder means when it says we’ll do more rock hopping at Dunn Falls.  (Click here for more information on Dunn Falls.)  Fortunately, I have my four points method (both arms and both legs in the rushing brook) to steady me through mountain streams here in western Maine.

AD 5 map of andover

Driving through rural Maine, we clearly see the great divide between the Gold Coast of Maine (from Kittery to Belfast) and the rugged life inland.  There are many good people living in houses with exposed tar paper or mobile homes trying to eke out a living now that paper mills are running at a much reduced level.

Driving through Andover, Maine (population 821) with its vacations home and year-round residents, I have learned that the community has done all it can to save the 62-student Andover Elementary School with its five teachers.  For once the school goes, there is little reason for families to remain year round.

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Paul on the trail to Dunn Falls

Eight miles out of town on the East B Hill Road, we cross the Appalachian Trail to begin our two-mile round trip to the Dunn Falls.  At the roadside parking this mid-afternoon, we come upon Animal, his trail name from a 2012 thru-hike from Georgia to Maine.  Tattooed with that accomplishment on his right arm (yikes!), four years later he returns to the trail for a week to get a taste of his glory days.

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Cascades along the blue blaze trail

Heading east one hundred yards down the hill from the road, we are advised to take a left on a blue blaze trail along the river of cascades and mini-waterfalls.  At 230P on a 75F in the shade of the Maine forest, Paul and I have a Maine Department of Tourism spectacular day for hiking.


After seven tenths of a mile, we see a yellow blaze blob on a tree and further on a blue blaze across the brook, directing us to the Dunn Falls.  Rocks are placed conveniently across this 20’ wide brook, so we just rock hop across without dipping in.  Our climb up the hill is steady; this has family hike written all over it.

AD 5C  P rock hopping

A very clearly marked trail takes us past the 80’ Lower Falls, which we only catch glimpses of through the trees.  We can get to the head of these falls, but that is hardly an impressive view compared to 70’ tumbling Upper Falls that awaits.

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Upper Falls at Dunn Falls

As we climb into the interior, we soon come upon a pool beneath the Upper Falls.  Paul decides that this is the perfect time for a swim and dives into what is much icier, colder water than the brook to Angel Falls.

AD 5E  P after a swim by the falls

The upper Dunn Falls pool with back-lit Paul

Me?  Not today.  I have contacts (not people with influence but plastic in my eyes).  Nor am I dripping with sweat after our shaded hike, so hiking back in wet clothes is not my idea of a good time.  Skinny dipping?  Let’s not even go there.

So what have we learned this Monday afternoon in western Maine? 

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White blazes of the Appalachian Trail

One, wherever you live, come to Maine and partake of a scintillating breakfast at the 1920s club car Deluxe Diner in Rumford.  Tell Jody that Paul and Dan sent you.  Click here for the Facebook page of the Deluxe Diner.

Two, if you are daring, hike to Angel Falls, fording the brook three times as you cross.  It’s an Outward Bound-ish test that may just be the challenge you both want and need.

Three, take the quintessential “Bill Bryson-type Walk in the Maine Woods” on the Appalachian Trail to Dunn Falls.

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Four, do all this with your version of Paul Rosenblum, a positive life force with an adventurous spirit.

Dan and Paul Hike to Angel and Dunn Falls in Maine (Part 3 of 4)

Having given up our quest for Angel Falls after schlepping through the hillside slash for an hour, I ended Part 2 with this tease – Once across, Paul and I walk back to the trailhead parking to see four cars in the lot, not the two when we started.   Hmmmmm.   Someone has found the Angel Falls Trail.   And then we turn and see…

AD 3 map of AF

What we see are the promised red blazes on both a large rock and a tree on either side of the logging road directly to our left.   Smiling to each other, without a bit of self-flagellation, we just up and head to Angel Falls 0.8 of a mile away.

Crossing the Berdeen Stream again, this time on a bridge wide enough for cars, we have none of the barefooted fording of the white water that we did just an hour ago.  Feeling confident that the rock hopping described in the Maine Trail Finder website  would be quite manageable, we buoyantly head for the cooling waters of the 90’ Angel Falls.  (Click here for detailed information of Angel Falls.)

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With the roar of the brook building, we see a torrent among boulders roiling from the deluge of the past weekend.  And so it appears my iPhone and I have more watery challenges ahead.   In the lead, Paul takes off his boots and socks and chucks them across the wild brook.   Knowing from our previous experience that the water is cold, but not bone chilling cold, I follow suit and whip my boots with socks across the deafening brook.

AD 3BBBBB D crossing brook

From my previous “barefoot crossing on rocks” experience, I have learned that I am most comfortable crossing on four points (i.e., on all fours).   With my legs submerged in the racing water that is stirring around my feet, I step on mini-boulders while using my hands to get low in the brook as I place them on rocks in the tumbling stream.  With my iPhone in my pocket, I step into the icy tempest and successfully cross.

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The trail itself is within feet of the roaring brook as we climb the gorge into the interior.   With my confidence building and having figured out that the four-point technique is “water crossing gold,” I am ready to ford the brook two more times in my frog stance.

On this 74F day under the shade of brook trees, we head closer to the falls.   Crossing the brook twice more has me going slowly and steadily across the submerged rounded rocks, some slimy with algae and others surprisingly algae-free.  After a successful third crossing, I have the white water heaven of Angel Falls within my grasp.  I feel like an Outward Bounder; doing something I didn’t realize I could do.

AD 4B  P at Falls

And then boom!  The crashing white water over the 90’ falls to the pool below is as spectacular as any western waterfall in Mount Rainier National Park.  There are some who contend that Angel Falls is the highest in Maine, one foot more than the Moxie Falls.  (Click here for more information about Moxie Falls.)

Whether they are or not, the falls have me searching for superlatives – stunning, spectacular, dazzling.  None of these words is hyperbole.

AD 4C  section of upper falls

Knowing my iPhone and I still have three knee deep river crossings before we return to the trailhead, we head down the brook trail a little before noon.  There we see a family of six ready to cross.   The 13-year-old girl with pole in hand is half way across the boulders.   Throwing our shoes to her grandfather who catches them like the high school shortstop that we soon learn he was, we wonder about kids crossing such a torrent.

AD 3BBB D at brook crossing

They have water shoes so they are less vulnerable to slipping than I am in my barefeet.  Later a family with a kid looking just a little older than our four-year-old grandson Owen is contemplating crossing the turbulent waters.  I can hardly believe it.

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We talk of our experience with them, but soon head down the trail before we learn what mom and dad decide to do.

After tromping through the slash of lumbering Maine, then being immersed in the raging book on the way to Angel Falls, we have hit waterfall nirvana.

Part 4 concludes our waterfall adventure at the Dunn Falls…


Dan and Paul Hike to Angel and Dunn Falls in Maine (Part 2 of 4)

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After a fantastic breakfast at the Deluxe Diner (Click here for the Facebook page of the Deluxe Diner) in Rumford, Maine, Paul and I head north for Angel Falls on route 17 through the “hardly towns at all” towns of Frye, Roxbury, Byron to Houghton.   The directions from the Maine Trail finder link are fine, but it would have been helpful to know that the Bemis Road was at the north end of the open field it mentions.  Click here for detailed information about Angel Falls.

AD 2A  P at wrong trail

It looked like the trail to us!

Rolling along the dirt Bemis Road for 3.5 miles we are directed by a cardboard sign to the side road to Angel Falls.   Spotting the promised large graffiti boulder at the parking area at the one-time gravel pit, we make a rookie mistake.  Our directions say clearly that we should follow the red blazes (2”x 8” rectangles painted on trail trees or prominent rocks).  We don’t.  We follow two older women on what anyone would say is obviously a trail (See Paul in the picture to the right.  Do hear an Amen?).  We jump to the conclusion that this is the way.

Heading towards the storm-fueled Berdeen Stream from this past weekend’s downpour, we immediately forget about the red blazes and look to cross the waterway.  Arriving at a field of slash (i.e., stripped branches, small logs from the lumbering company ) that covers the open spaces, we stomp across the lumber debris.  There, in our way is the 25’ wide white water mountain stream.  The women wisely abandon ship and head back to the trailhead.

AD 2E  P crossing Berdeen Stream

Without a second thought, Paul removes his boots and socks, takes them in hand, and balances his way, barefooted across the very rocky stream.  My amazement of Paul knows no bounds!  There is no way that would I ever do such a studly thing on my own.  But today I am with Paul.  So I deboot and desock and head into the white water flow.

Not nearly as breathtakingly cold as I thought it would be, the water is still mountain stream chilly; but nothing like the bone chilling water in early summer at York Beach.  I do wonder how bright a move this crossing is since I have my iPhone6 in my pocket, totally unprotected from the H2O.  When the Maine Trail Finder said there would be rock hopping, I had no idea that fording a raging stream, barefoot no less, would be required.

AD 2B slash


Yet, I make it across and am so damn pleased with myself.   Before us is a mountainside of slash from the havoc that men and women with their maniacal chainsaws have wrought.  We see no trail nor red blazes, but we are not easily dismayed.

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Bushwhacking through Tick Central

Bushwhacking through leaves, small firs, and brush, in what must be the Caribbean for ticks, we are relentless in our search of a trail.  Climbing in and over the hillside of lumber waste, we go left, then right along the hillside; up the mountain, and down to the stream looking for something that resembles a trail.

AD 2CC D on slash

For what seems like an hour we search the hillside to no avail.  Paul, who will look for a trail til the cows come home, finally says “Let’s go back.”  We do have Dunn Falls some 30 miles away to hike on our schedule today.  And so be it.  Today was not our Angel Falls day.

We do have to cross back over the roaring Berdeen Stream in all its ice-cold glory.  Having one successful crossing without dunking my iPhone to my credit, I agree with the odds makers that think I just might make it a second time.   Soon it is apparent that I am wobblier as these rounded, underwater boulders are not so forgiving.

As the current races, Paul throws me a bone, by which I mean a 5’ pole-like tree limb to steady myself.   I quickly learn that a staff is not my preferred way of crossing a roaring stream barefooted.  Losing my balance and heading for the chilly wetness, at the last second I catch myself, ever aware that my iPhone is inches from a watery grave.

Once across, Paul and I walk back to the trailhead parking to see four cars in the lot, not the two when we started.   Hmmmmm.   Someone has found the Angel Falls Trail.   And then we turn and see…

Part 3 lets you in on what we see.


Dan and Paul Hike to Angel and Dunn Falls in Maine (Part 1 of 4)

When I hit the trails with Hannah, we hike.  When I’m off to the mountains of Maine with Paul Rosenblum, it’s a whole different animal; it’s an adventure.  As an elementary school teacher here in Maine, Paul regularly came to my education classes at the University of New England to blow my students away with his passion and insights into connecting with kids.

Every summer, he finds a trail for us and we are off to the boonies of Maine.  (See the “Hikes with Paul” category to the left of this blog for our other Maine hiking adventures.)  Today he has picked two short waterfall hikes in western Maine: the mile and a half round-trip to Angel Falls north of Rumford and the two mile Dunn Falls Trail that coincides with a section of the Granddaddy of all Trails – the Appalachian Trail.

Leaving home in York at 5A, I drive for an hour to his place north of Portland.  While I ride shotgun, Paul steers his 150,000 mile, 4-wheel drive, all-man Honda Pilot as we head inland to the north.

AD 1B  map of rumford

It is my responsibility to find a breakfast place for our pre-hike sustenance.  Checking out the towns along our route, I google, “diners in Rumford, Maine.”   The Deluxe Diner has a 4.5 of 5 rating and the price is right.   Rumford is a “trying to hang in there” old mill town on the Androscoggin River.   To be clear, there are two Maines: The Gold Coast from Kittery to Belfast where we live and then there is the rural, far poorer Maine.

AD 1A  D outside DD

The Deluxe Diner is small, very small in fact – ten stools at a 30’ counter.  (Click here for the Facebook page of the Deluxe Diner.)  On this Monday in the second week of July, it’s an 8A work day for the good folks of Rumford.  Three grizzled locals are digging into their eggs and bacon, while a couple to our right looks like they are from away.

Asking for decaf, we see Jody, the waitress/owner, begin a fresh pot.   The counter provides an intimacy with both Jody and the retired grump to my left that I had never realized.  I’m known as a booth guy for breakfast, but I like this closeness; and we have no choice since there are no booths or tables.

Sporting a Boston Red Sox cap, two years ago Jody came to Rumford to run the diner.  When later we ask about a bathroom, she describes a basement dungeon that she advises us against even seeing.  She lets us know that a nearby Hannaford’s grocery store has a very clean men’s room.

AD 1 P and J at DD

When I ask Jody if I can post this picture of her and Paul on my Facebook page, she is all in and hopes we’ll “like” the Deluxe Diner.   (I later do.  Click here to read my Yelp Review of the Deluxe Diner.)

Thoroughly satisfied with my gooey two eggs over easy, lots of home fries, and homemade wheat toast, we are off to the waterfalls that we seek.

Stay tuned for Part 2 on Wednesday as we seek out Angel Falls.


Dan Climbs the Beehive Trail at Acadia National Park

Bee trust

Fear and trust.  It’s time to leave the former for the latter.  I mean, how is fear working for you?  We all have choices.  The transition from fear to trust and faith begins by believing.  Each morning I read through my affirmations.  The very first one is This is the best time in my life as I am more trusting and have greater faith.  Trusting has taken a boatload of practice for me to make it come more naturally.   In dealing with challenges, be they with people, situations, or physical, trusting in myself has made all the difference.

Bee mountain image

Beehive Mountain at Acadia National Park

Coming north from our home in York, Maine to Acadia National Park, I am ready to trust and face my one-time belief that climbing the Beehive Trail was beyond me; too risky, too too.  With its vertical rungs of rebars, the Beehive Trail, I imagined, was for those far more adventurous than I.

Bee mountain lightning

People may point to the fact that a young woman died climbing a similar vertical park hike (Precipice Trail) in 2012.  So?   Hundreds, thousands have successfully climbed the Beehive Trail.   Why make an outlier a guide for life?   Another of my morning affirmations (really my philosophy of life) is I don’t assume lightning will strike when I make decisions.

Bee map of MDI

MDI, home to Acadia National Park along the coast of Maine

The small crack to trust that I could climb the Beehive Trail was born on Angel’s Landing in Utah.  If I could climb that peak in Zion National Park, why not the Beehive Trail?

Bee ANP sign

With Hannah away with girlfriends in Vermont this late April weekend, my University of New Hampshire classmate, Bill Buggie, returns with me to Acadia National Park.   We have made a tradition of coming to Acadia before the hectic tourist summer season to hike its trails and bike its Carriage Roads.

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This sign greets all climbers of the Beehive

At the Hull’s Cove Visitor Center, the young rangers show us on our trail map where to park at the trailhead by Sand Beach.  With their yellow highlighter, they outline the route to the top, the way to the Bowl (a mountain tarn/pond), and the hike over Gorham Mountain; they then take us back to Sand Beach to complete five-miles on the trail.

Parking at Sand Beach this late April Friday, we easily find the access to the Beehive Trail off the Park Loop Road.   Different from gentle sandstone trails that Hannah and I’ve encountered at Zion or the Grand Canyon, this trail is rocks upon rocks without end Amen; jagged and everywhere.  For the first two tenths of a mile the hike/climb rises gradually as we pass our first hikers coming down from the summit.

Bee 1B  Mt in distance

On the rocky trail with the Beehive in the distance

It’s a family with a ten-year-old girl and her eight-year-old brother.   Engaging the dad in conversation, I learn that though their daughter had some fear of heights, she handled the Beehive just fine.

Two hundred yards later, we meet up with another family who had taken the more leisurely roundabout Bowl Trail to the top of Beehive Mountain.   (Point of fact, there are no bees today, but the mountain in the distance does resemble a beehive.)    Unseasonably warm at 68F, the day has me in my Ithaca Bomber tee shirt and shorts.

Bee 2 Bill on rocky trail

Bill on his way up the Beehive with the trail marked by a blue blaze

In the distance, we can see the mountain top through the trees that are still not leafed out.  Above us there is a woman on the mountainside, crossing a grate between two stony ledges.   Though it’s a little bit unsettling to realize that that is where we’ll be going, Bill leads as I follow in a “No Doubt” state of mine.

The first rungs into the mountainside take us up a modest stone facade.   The rebars are immovable and reassuringly solid in a favorite uncle sort of way.   I think to myself, The steep cliffs must lie ahead.

Bee 2C  B on rocky ledge

Bill on the grate that we saw from below

Pulling ourselves up with the support of the rebars, we also have stretches of stony paths along the mountainside.   One misconception of mine of the Beehive Trail was that the rebars were all in the form of rectangular steps straight up the mountainside.  Not so, for some are clearly for handholds.

Bee 2A  D on overlook

On a brief break with Frenchman’s Bay in the distance

Climbing on, we expect that the steep section of the climb must still be ahead.  We do walk across a well-placed rebar grate between two massive stone outcroppings where we previously saw the woman. It’s more cool than scary as we walk as close as we can to the mountain wall of stone.  It never feels daunting, but that said, I don’t look down to the forest below.  Finding another flat section, we check out the view to Frenchman’s Bay and Bar Harbor itself.

Bee 3A  B climbing rungs

The climb gets serious

Soon we have a set of ten rebars to negotiate up the mountainside.  It still doesn’t feel like I am on the edge of anything.  I am just climbing the side of the mountain without a thought to the forest below.

Bee 4 B and D on top

Ahead is a mom being supported, and encouraged by her husband as their middle school age kids climb ahead.

I’m not sure how close to the top we are when we see four twenty-somethings chilling and checking out the bay below.   And then it hits us, we have summited.

Bee map of trail

I must say I’m a little disappointed.  I thought there would be a more harrowing section to show my courage and fearlessness.   We made it, but I wanted more.

The Beehive Trail is no Angel’s Landing nor Picacho Peak in Arizona.  It’s cool but doable for many hikers of many ages who don not have an excessive fear of heights.   It is always good to remember that Your safety is your responsibility.

The YouTube videos that I watched before the climb made it seem scarier than it was for me.

Bee 5 Bowl Pond

Over the Beehive to Bowl Pond

Accepting that the Beehive Trail is what it is and grateful for being on a mountain on the coast of Maine in early spring, Bill and I head off to the Bowl as part of our five miles of hiking.  Through the forest, we hike easily to and over Gorham Mountain.   Down at the Gorham Mountain trailhead, we cross over the Park Loop Road to walk along the shoreline trail on a still warm late Friday afternoon in April.

Bee 6 D on trail to Gorham Mt

The trail to Gorham Mountain

Once back at Sand Beach, Bill and I celebrate a warm hiking afternoon in Maine, and look forward this fall to when we’ll hike the companion mountainside climb, the Precipice Trail.  I hear it’s the Big Brother to the Little Brother Beehive.  We’d like to hang another pelt on our wall.


Dan Hikes St. Sauveur Mountain with a Wildcat in Acadia National Park

It’s late September and I’ve come 200+ miles north from our home in York, Maine to hike the trails and bike the Carriage Roads of Acadia National Park with my University of New Hampshire amigo, Bill Buggie from Fredericton, New Brunswick.

Sauv Best Western

Arriving around noon this fall Friday, we find a jewel of a seasonal motel, Best Western Acadia Park Inn, some three miles south of Bar Harbor.  We arrive to temperatures in the 60s for our afternoon bike ride on the Carriage Roads.  (Click on the Maine category to the left of the blog to read this Carriage Road biking blog.)

Today (Saturday) we look to hike on the west side of Mount Desert Island here in Acadia National Park.  In preparation for our summiting, the Acadia Park Inn provides the most satisfying fuel.  Get this!  At 630A I can get a cup of coffee and a bran muffin to take back to my room as I watch Sports Center while Bill saws logs in his room.  And then I can do it again before we breakfast.   Mounds of home fries with egg patties drenched in salsa without end Amen deliver the goods and has me in breakfast nirvana a la salsa.  I am a simple man with simple needs.

Sauv SS Map

Over our $4.95 map of the hiking trails of Acadia National Park (an indispensable purchase for hikers that you can get at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center), we plan for our hike up St. Sauveur Mountain on the west side of Mount Desert Island.  We opt for a less frequented part of the park since today is National Hiking Day.  On this day (Sept 26, 2015), the Park Service closes the Loop Road to all vehicles from midnight til noon, other than the LL Bean Park Buses.

Bill ready to rock the mountain

Bill ready to rock the mountain

Today we start without a cloud in the sky from the St. Sauveur trailhead, across the highway from a parking area for 15 cars with a serviceable rest room.  At the end of our hike around noon, we will see cars lined up and down Route 102 for this popular trail.

Sauv 1A sign to SS Mt

Climbing on steps into the forest, we climb over a gently upward sloping rock face to the St. Sauveur Trail.   We soon turn right onto the summit trail for our first mile of hiking.  Climbing steadily on rocky trails at a leisurely pace, I soon remove my sweatshirt for my Ithaca College tee shirt as the 50s become 60s.  The trail is what I would call easy peezy, though it gives us a modest workout.

Sauv1A D on trai

This Ithaca Bomber loves him some mountains along the Atlantic

Then calamity strikes.  My picture-taking iPhone6 freezes up.  I am at a loss, searching for answers and even briefly wondering about the meaning of life.   I press the buttons and then press them harder.  (Always a winning strategy akin to speaking louder to someone whose first language is not English.)  I can’t swipe and turn off my phone.  I am disconsolate.  I try it again.  Fortunately Bill has his smart phone and steps into the breech taking the rest of the pictures for the blog.  A little iPhone tip that I learned later that day at the Verizon Store.  If your phone freezes up, just reboot it by pressing the upper right side button and the lower center button until the Apple symbol appears.  Ta da!

Somes Sound out to the Atlantic Ocean

Somes Sound out to the Atlantic Ocean

The St. Sauveur mountain top is a disappointing mini-bald with minimal views to the Atlantic Ocean and Somes Sound.  But we are dismayed and press on for soon we’ll be hiking along the coastline and get all the water views we want.  This trail is the gateway to better things to come. (That’s known in the writing game as a literate tease.

Dan styling with his LL Bean zip off pants

Dan styling with his LL Bean zip-off pants

Through the forest, it’s another four- tenths of a mile to Valley Peak, with its equally modest views to the water below.  Modest or not, Bill and I are no whiners and indeed two fortunate dudes to be hiking on a mountain in Maine as fall begins.  Descending carefully but not perilously down to the Valley Cove Road (a gravelly fire road), we see other hikers on this Saturday morning.

As we come down the mountain, we chat up two athletic female hikers.  They seem surprised that we are going to take the Valley Cove Trail with its rock slides along the ledges of Somes Sound.  Cautioning us, they add doubt to our decision to take this trail for they say we will be literally at the cliff’s edge high above the water.

Out to the Atlantic from Valley Peak

Out to the Atlantic from Valley Peak

The Valley Cove Fire Road is a fine four tenths of a mile level passageway to the coastline that allows us to catch a hiking rhythm of conversation.  Bearing left along the rocky coast, we soon see the rock slides that require us to do some scrambling.

Down from the Ledges at Somes Sound

Down from the Ledges at Somes Sound

Never does it seem perilous or risky; it is a challenging and satisfying half mile up and down the rocky slopes of Acadia with the water never so threatening that our heart rates spike.  This section of the trail takes the St. Sauveur Loop Trail from “oh, it’s fine” to “very cool, my man.”   On this blue sky day we have views north and south up and down the Somes Sound.

Once completing the half mile of hiking on the ledges, we take another half mile trail through the forest with modest up and downs in elevation.  Then it’s onto the Man O’ War Brook Fire Road where we are freewheeling side by side in conversation back to the trailhead a mile away.

Two Wildcats make it to the trail's end

Two Wildcats make it to the trail’s end

In less than three hours we hiked five miles of satisfying Acadia trails and will recommend it to our friends (which means you!).


Dan Bikes the Carriage Roads of Acadia National Park with his UNH Amigo

Nothing like being in the right place at the right time.  For me it was 1983 and it changed my teaching life forever.  Having taught 4th through 7th grade in public schools of California, Arizona, and New Hampshire since 1970, I had many students who seemed to enjoy coming to class; I did like being in charge and running the Show.  But I hid the obvious:  I really didn’t know what the hell I was doing.

Oh, I used the textbooks as guides, added my creative touch, and hoped my endless well of enthusiasm would carry the day.  But what were they learning?  Was it real and worth their time?  Thirty plus students to a class made me more a manager than a teacher.  The kids may have liked it, but I just didn’t know if I was doing anything more than making it fun.  I was floundering.


Having moved the year before (1982) from Arizona to Maine with Hannah (34), Molly (2), and Robyn (4 months), I enrolled in the three-week New Hampshire Summer Writing Program at the University of New Hampshire in Durham twenty miles from home.  There I learned to teach writing that was real and meaningful to kids.  I learned how to run a writing workshop built on individual attention to their specific needs.  I had kids experience what writing could do for them – tell their story and see that they had value.

CR NB mapThat summer I hung out with Bill Buggie, who had come down from New Brunswick, Canada to take the same course.  We stayed in touch over the years, visited each other’s home towns, and found we had similar values, online Lexulous (Scrabble-type game) and loved being active.  Now living in Fredericton, New Brunswick, today Bill drives some four hours to Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor, Maine, which happens to be a similar distance for me from York, Maine.

Eagle Lake at Acadia National Park

Eagle Lake at Acadia National Park

Arriving a little after noon this last Friday of September, we head to the Hulls Cove Visitor Center to prepare for an afternoon of biking on some of the 45 miles of Carriage Roads that John D. Rockefeller had built from 1913 to 1940.  Thinking that late September will mean that we will avoid the crowds, we are mistaken.   We discover that the season for visiting Acadia lasts well into October.

CR CR map of roads

At the Visitor Center, the ranger gives us a map with distances to the tenth of a mile noting that there is a connecting half mile bike trail hill to the Carriage Road system itself. He cautions to us watch out for bikers careening down the hill at high speeds as we pedal up, for this is the steepest climb we will encounter all day.

CR 1A CR sign

Right he was, as we steadily pedal on a gravelly trail at a speed where a plodding runner passes me by.  It’s true.  I am what I am – a 67 year old bike rider.

Carriage Road on east side of Jordan Pond

Carriage Road

Once at the southern part of Carriage Road system, we pedal onto hard-packed gravel with gentle grades as you might expect necessary to handle the horse and carriages of the last century.  The road is never mushy and we ride side by side talking easily, catching up after our morning drives to the park.

Witch Pond

Witch Pond

Passing Witch Pond to our left on this 60 degree afternoon, we appreciate our sweatshirts that ward off the wind chill of riding 8 to 10 miles per hour and 15+ mph on the downhills.

Bill on the Carriage Road with the irregular coping stones for a guardrail

Bill on the Carriage Road with the irregular coping stones for a guardrail

Large blocks of granite, called coping stones and endearingly nicknamed “Rockefeller’s teeth,” line the motor-free roads as guardrails.  Numbered rustic wooden signposts keyed to the map that the ranger gave us make the roads easy to explore.

Billy Boy at Eagle Lake

Billy Boy at Eagle Lake

As we approach Eagle Lake, we see many retirees as well as families with school age kids (got to love home schoolers who have come to Acadia on a school day for some excellent beyond the “classroom’s four walls” education).

Ithaca Bomber at Bubble Pond

Ithaca Bomber at Bubble Pond

Passing Eagle Lake with the mountains between us and the Bar Harbor coastline, we leisurely bike on to Jordan Pond.  Stopping and taking pictures as I establish that the transition is complete from my VCU loyalty to the Bombers of Ithaca College, where our son works in the athletic department.  The Carriage Roads are happily busy on this Friday in late September.

Clouds dominate the sky and by 330P temperatures are dropping on a day when by next morning they will be in the low 40s.  With wine and crackers & cheese back at the Best Western awaiting, we pedal on the Carriage Road to the east side of Jordan Pond, which is much less traveled.  This video that I take while I bike will give you an idea of the Carriage Road at this point.

Bubble Pond

Bubble Pond

Approaching 4P, my fingers are chilled to the point that the warmth of the Best Western Acadia Park Inn looks pretty sweet.  Passing cormorants at the Bubble Pond, we pause just briefly for pictures with our 18 miles of leisurely biking in the books.

Bill after an afternoon biking the Carriage Roads of Acadia

Bill after an afternoon biking the Carriage Roads of Acadia

Welcome to the best set of relaxed, conversation-inducing, motor-free byways in America.  Add the Carriage Roads of Acadia to your bucket list.




Dan Hikes Moxie Bald Mountain on the Applachian Trail in Maine

Paul, Maine hiker extraordinaire

Paul, my Maine hiker extraordinaire

Paul is my wild and crazy hiking amigo. He takes me places I would never go.  Four years back we hiked Speck Mountain on the Appalachian Trail in western Maine; a tough eight mile, five hour hike over rocks, stones, and boulders that brought me to my knees.  We’ve hiked the Loop Trail to Tumbledown Mountain near Weld in central Maine, which has a stony winding tunnel of rocks called “The Chimney” that we climbed through!  The guidebook describes this tunnel through the mountain itself as not safe for novices, children, or dogs.  After, we panned for gold!

Paul at Devil's Doorstep on the way to Moxie Bald Mountain

Paul at Devil’s Doorstep on the way to Moxie Bald Mountain

It’s never dull with Paul.   Now when he suggests a hike, I ask him to send me a link describing it.  The Moxie Bald Mountain Trail is a moderate/difficult-rated four mile round trip to the summit with an elevation gain of 1300 feet. That seems doable; I wonder what I am missing.

Thompson's Restaurant in Bingham, Maine

Thompson’s Restaurant in Bingham, Maine

In his made-for-backroads SUV, we drive north on the Maine Turnpike to route 201 through Skowhegan and on to breakfast in Bingham, some three hours from York this mid-July. With excellent Yelp reviews, the country Thompson Restaurant on the Main Street does not disappoint. It’s a classic small town Maine diner with a menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; counter stools, three booths, and a smattering of tables for four or six. We pay $12 total for coffee, two eggs, home fries, and toast.

The pole with no street sign which we are reasonably confident is Town Line Road

The pole with no street sign which we are reasonably confident is Town Line Road

And then my Paul reality (unmarked roads) hits as we head out of town on route 16 to the east looking for the Town Line Road.   When we pass a road with a metal post with no street sign, we guess that this must be it based on our calculations.

Another unmarked road on our way to the trailhead

Another unmarked road on our way to the trailhead

We go for it. The rocky and gravelly road takes us through country that only moose, hunters, and hermits would love.   Since the massive logging trucks drive this road regularly, the road is well maintained. Aislinn Sarnacki of the Bangor Daily News is the source of our directions to the summit of Moxie Bald.

Just past a Recreational Trail Crossing sign and the Moscow town line, turn right onto Town Line Road. Drive 2.6 miles to the end of the road and turn right onto Deadwater Road (no sign). Drive 4 miles to a fork in the road and take the left fork onto Trestle Road (no sign), staying along the power lines. Drive 2.9 miles and turn right onto an unmarked road (which is just past an unmarked road on the left that has a bridge over Moxie Stream). Drive uphill on the unmarked road 0.7 mile to a fork in the road, and take the left fork onto the unmarked Moxie Bald Road. Drive 3 miles to a bridge over Bald Mountain Brook. Cross the bridge and park on the right, well out of the way of traffic. Walk about 0.1 mile farther to where the Appalachian Trail (AT) crosses the road. Take a right to hike the trail northbound to Moxie Bald Mountain.

Heading north to Moxie Bald on the Appalachian Trail

Heading north to Moxie Bald on the Appalachian Trail

That’s a lot of unmarked and no signage roads (my boldface), but the directions to the tenth of a mile prove spot on. On a July day forecasted to go into the mid-80s, we lather on organic Skeeter Skedaddle and lube on sunscreen. In my lightweight Under Armor shirt and Nike shorts, I strap on my fanny pack with two bottles of water, tangerines, apple slices, and tuna salad sandwiches by Hannah.

MB 2D Paul on trailWe enter the forest to our right a little before 10A.   Covered by leaves lapping onto the trail we run into Itis (his trail name [we never find out why]), the first of five AT thru-hikers we will meet today. Soon after, a young female solo hiking comes by. Trail names are often given by others and as yet she doesn’t have one. Her heavy hiking boots proved uncomfortable at Mt. Katahdin so she ditched them for lightweight hiking sandals.

Rocky and rooted Moxie Bald Trail

Rocky and rooted Moxie Bald Trail

The trail is muddy but not so much that we can’t easily walk around the muddy spots. We gently rise towards Moxie Bald, but it is in no way strenuous on this well-maintained trail. We meet another thru-hiker called Four Ounces. Smiling, he never reveals how he got that trail name, but he is on a smoking pace, having left Katahdin 135 miles away just one week ago.

Views to Sugarloaf Mountain to the west

Views to Sugarloaf Mountain to the west

While the first 1.6 miles is a walk in the park, we come upon a junction where to the left we can take the Summit Bypass Trail or to the right head directly to the summit of Moxie Bald Mountain.  We head right as the trail steepens over the last 0.4 of a mile to the top: but it is not so arduous that we can’t continue to talk and climb and climb and talk.

Dan at Devil's Doorstep

Dan at Devil’s Doorstep

Soon we are upon the Devil’s Doorstep, a series of stone monoliths 4o to 60 feet long with passageways. It’s all very cool as we climb upon rocks and over roots seeking the summit. Emerging out of the forest, we rock scramble over the massive stones on the mountainside on the way to the bald (a mountain top with no trees).

Dan with veteran AT hiker, Wildcat

Dan with veteran AT hiker, Wildcat

We see a thru-hiker in the distance, who turns out to be Wildcat (trail name) who has completed the AT years ago. As a chaplain supported by the Methodist Church, his mission is to follow the golden rule and help out others on the trail. Different from Four Ounces, he has taken more than two weeks to get to this point on the AT; he has had Trail Magic in the form of friends providing a meal and a place to stay off-trail four times since he left Katahdin.

From the summit looking northeast to Mount Kahtadin

From the summit looking northeast to Mount Kahtadin

Atop Moxie Bald Mountain on this hazy Monday, we have a 360 degree view to Mount Katahdin, Sugarloaf, and the Bigelows.  A little after noon, Paul and I are of one mind that we’d rather keep our hiking momentum going by hiking back to the trailhead now and then have lunch in town at a picnic table.

Hauling on the hauling with a deflating tire. We want no part of any Maine version of a trumped up Deflategate scandal

Hauling ass on the hauling road with a deflating tire. We want no part of any Maine version of a trumped up Deflategate scandal.  In Tom we trust.

Arriving at the trailhead more than 3.5 hours later, we drive out the gravelly hauling road when two things occur. One, we see a moose in the road, who scampers into the wetlands before I can ask him to look this way for a picture. Two, the tire pressure light goes on the dashboard indicating one of the tires has been punctured on this rocky road. We opt for Paul to cowboy it out on this logging road at 40 mph to see if we can get to route 16, twelve miles away, before every bit of air is out of the deflating tire.

Paul's trusty work SUV at Lavallee's Garage in Moscow, Maine

Paul’s trusty work SUV at Lavallee’s Garage in Moscow, Maine

Sitting high in the saddle, Paul is rocking along the logging road.  He then comes up with another brilliant idea. We’ll go back to Thompson’s Restaurant and ask the waitress where is the best garage to have a tire fixed. We drive into the lot at Lavallee’s Garage where the mechanic puts the car on the lift immediately, plugs the tire, and charges Paul $10.

Gotta love small town Maine, its people, its hauling roads, and its Moxie Bald Mountain along the Appalachian Trail!


Dan Hikes with his UNH classmate to Acadia Mountain in Acadia National Park

It’s mid-May after the snowiest winter on the coast of Maine in the last 10,000 years.  I am here in Bar Harbor, some 200 miles north of our home in York, for some hiking in Acadia National Park with my University of New Hampshire classmate and full-time Canadian Bill Buggie.

Map of ANPAfter hiking to Sargent Mountain and Penobscot Mountain (To read that blog, go to the categories on the left side of the blog and click on “Maine”) this Monday, Bill and I head into Bar Harbor for dinner. With the glowing recommendation for Geddy’s from Teenia at our Best Western Acadia Park Inn, we drive through a town just rubbing the sleep out of its eyes and ready to wake up for the Memorial Day opening to its brief five-month tourist season.

Geddy's imageGeddy’s, a block from the Bar Harbor harbor, has a Monday night buzz of locals and first-of-the-season tourists. We zero in on the $13.95 Big Burrito; soon we are fiesta-ing on this fantastic wrapped tortilla of chicken.

AC visa credit cardUsing my credit card to pay for the meal, I see the waitress returning with a paper receipt that says decline. I am not totally surprised. On my trip north today, Visa fraud services had called with news that Hannah’s credit card had been used earlier for gas purchases in two separate Florida cities. Once her card was cancelled, Visa said that mine would be fine.  Well, it was not fine. A $600 purchase has shown up on my card with similar fraudulent gas station activity.

I don’t know how they got our card. It wasn’t lost in Florida; we haven’t been there in years. Internet purchases?  Visa offered to send us a new card in 7 to 10 business days by regular mail or send it by Federal Express arriving the next day for free.  Who picks the first option?

AC Best Western APIFortunately Bill loans me a C-note to pay my Best Western motel bill. But what if I had no amigo to bail me out?  What would I do?  Though I keep an extra check in my wallet, I travel with only one credit card.  That is going to change.  I have resolved that this credit card shall not have died in vain and I will always bring a second card for a new birth of financial freedom.  It’s a great lesson.  I do appreciate Visa’s vigilance.

Ah, but the breakfast at the Best Western Acadia Park Inn more than balances out this slight inconvenience. First, a blueberry muffin with some decafe.  It’s followed by a tomato and spinach omelet patty with home fries.  And then the piece de resistance – salsa!  I ladle and ladle some more;  it’s almost heaven West Virginia.

Bill at the steps off route 102 leading to the Acadia Mountain Loop Trail

Bill at the steps off route 102 leading to the Acadia Mountain Loop Trail

With a morning of light mist, we take Eagle Lake Road on to Somesville some 15 miles through Acadia National Park towards Southwest Harbor on the western part of Mount Desert Island.  Since we’ll be hiking in clouds and dampness, we wonder if the rocky climbs will be slick and unplayable: still we decide to challenge 660’ Acadia Mountain with its 500 feet of rocky elevation gain.

On the Sauveur Mountain Trail

On the Sauveur Mountain Trail

Using the $4.95 Acadia National Park Hiking and Biking Trail Map (a must for any hiker at ANP and available to purchase at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center), we find the parking area on route 102 across from the rock steps climbing into the forest.

On the Man o' War Fire Road on the way to Somes Sound

On the Man o’ War Fire Road on the way to Somes Sound

Using the superb trail map which has distances down to a tenth of mile, we enter the forest of pine and spruce.  Turning left on the St. Sauveur Trail, for the next mile we take this loop trail east toward Somes Sound along the Man o’ War Brook Fire Road.

The view from the Somes Sound Outlook

The view from the Somes Sound Outlook

The gravelly fire road allows us to catch a hiking rhythm as we walk side by side through the forest. Large open natural gullies are dug across the fire road to allow the flow of water to the sea; an added benefit is that these cross-wise drainage ditches make it nearly impossible for four wheel vehicles to drive this fire road.

Bill on the amazing granite steps on the way to Acadia Mountain

Bill on the amazing granite steps on the way to Acadia Mountain

A sharp turn on the Acadia Mountain Trail towards the Somes Sound Lookout gives us nothing; a massive cloud remains over all of Mount Desert Island and we can barely see to the water’s edge.  On a clear day we would see the only fjord on the East Coast of the United States.

Soon we rock scramble up the steep stone trail which, for the most part, is dry. Pleased to find granite steps constructed into the mountainside, we find the climb both doable and enjoyable.

AC 3A BB on rocky trail with steps

Rated strenuous, the hiking is never perilous or makes us fearful for our safety.  Bill leads the way as I take in the scene and snap pictures on my iPhone.

Atop Acadia Mountain on a foggy morning in mid-May

Atop Acadia Mountain on a foggy morning in mid-May

Following the blue blazes of this well-marked trail, Bill and I summit and are blown away at the top.  I mean, literally blown away by the howling winds which were nowhere to be seen or felt in the lower elevations of the forest.  We can see for maybe fifty feet.

Bill descending the narrow rocky passageway

Bill descending the narrow rocky passageway

With a mile of descending rocks until we reach the trailhead, we step carefully, slip on our butts a time or two, but return unscathed and satisfied with our choice of hikes.  As we pack up to leave, the sun is burning off the cloud cover that we’ve hiked under for the last two hours. We highly resolve to return in the coming year.

And why the third reference to the Gettysburg Address.  Maybe I am just messing around or maybe it’s the Maine connection to that battle that Lincoln spoke of four score and seven years ago.  It was Mainer Joshua Chamberlain, a Bowdoin College professor, who led the 20th Maine in defending Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg. That man, and his troops may have turned the tide of the Civil War in the favor of the Union. We love our Maine Civil War heroes this morning on the coast of Maine.