Dan Bikes the “Around the Mountain” Loop at Acadia National Park

As a student teacher in fifth grade in the spring of 1970, I would walk from my Irish Hall dorm on the campus of Arizona State University to Mitchell School in Tempe, maybe a distance of a mile.  I had no car and it was always sunny.  I literally mean, it was always sunny for the entire semester in the Desert Southwest that spring semester.  Our students had outside recess EVERY day.

ATM phoenix temp

As ones who lived for ten years in the Valley of the Sun (Phoenix Metro area), Hannah and I were used to a steady diet of 100+F degree days from the first of May until October.   Day in and day out for those five months, we could count on lows in the 80s or 90s and highs always above 100F, often well above.  It was not pretty.  The summer weather is as consistent in the Southwest desert as a Steph Curry three pointer.

Weather consistency is not the case in our adopted state of Maine.  Yesterday my UNH college buddy, Bill and I climbed the Beehive Trail at Acadia National Park in shorts and tee shirts in 68F of delightfulness.  (See the list of categories to the left of the blog, click on Acadia National Park, and voila yesterday’s Beehive hiking blog will appear.)

ATM 1  B at Jordan Pond

Bill from Au Canada at Jordan Pond as our ride begins

This late April morning Bill and I wake in Bar Harbor to light rain with a freshening wind that puts a chill in the air.  Welcome to the variability of Maine weather as today I will bike on the Carriage Roads of Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island in zipoff pants, heavy sweatshirt beneath my jacket with Thinsulate gloves.

ATM 3D  more of CR higher up

Carriage Road of Acadia National Park

Leaving our Best Western Acadia Park Inn after the morning rain abates at 930A, we drive the Park Loop Road past Eagle Lake and Jordan Pond without seeing another car.   Though National Park Service has added parking to the Jordan Pond area, we have no problem finding a parking spot right in front of the classic Jordan House this preseason April.

ATM 2 D with ATM sign

Bundled up in late April

Unloading the bikes, Bill and I bundle up against the cold.  Within two hundred yards, we are pedaling on the Carriage Road towards Jordan Pond itself.  The downhill coasting we do at the outset belies what awaits us as we soon will make our way around the mountain.

ATM 3 Jordan Pond from CR

Jordan Pond from the Carriage Road

Paralleling Jordan Pond on the road, we ride side by side on the 16-foot-wide hard packed gravel Carriage Road with a steady climb.  What must be annoying for Bill, I stop to take pictures as he pedals on.  As a Canadian, he fits all the stereotypes: he’s a genuinely good guy, understanding, thoughtful, not full of himself, and he knows I’ll eventually catch up.

The signage is excellent for the Carriage Roads and especially for the “Around the Mountain” (i.e., Sargent Mountain) Loop that we will take.  At sign marker 10, we head left and begin to climb as our pedaling becomes more labored.  Thank heaven for my 21 gears and a winter of rocking the recumbent bike at our Coastal Fitness gym.

ATM 3A  Bill with bikes higher up

Mountain Bill on the far side of the mountain

As a steady, slow grind up the mountain, our conversation ceases. The name of the trail is “Around the M0untain,” but we become mountain climbers this still chilly morning.  Soon my body produces heat as if I’m fueling a 1800s locomotive up over the Rockies; in time I de-bike and pack my jacket on my bike rack.

The day is raw and overcast with sprinkles here and light rain there as we are high above Frenchman’s Bay.  But there is no getting around the beauty of the setting, especially without the chaos of the summer season.

Justly rewarded with a downhill, I ride the brakes lightly as the hard packed gravel is, well, still gravelly and could give way with a quick turn.  We pass an athletic female runner with a Camelback water bag, then later a mountain racer zips by leaving us in the dust.

ATM 3C  view to inlet to the south

Somes Sound

The winding trail takes us high above Somes Sound with views to the mountains to the south and the Atlantic Ocean to the east.  Descending easily on this dream ride, I put my gloves and jacket back on.  Passing over many of Rockefeller’s stone bridges made from local granite, we later learn that the park has sixteen Carriage Road bridges that cross ravines or the motor routes through the park.

ATM 4B  D at waterfall again

Waterfall of Waterfall Bridge (look hard, it’s there)

Soon we come upon another bridge and hear voices.  Stopping to investigate, we spot the waterfall at the appropriately named Waterfall Bridge.   Built in 1925, the Waterfall Bridge, which spans Hadlock Brook, is 125 feet in length and flares at the ends. A pair of viewing platforms jut out on either side to take advantage of the view.

ATM 4C  selfie of B and D

Selfie of two UNH Wildcats at the waterfall

Upon returning to the Jordan House parking lot, we have had a 20 kilometer (12 miles American) ride “Around the Mountain” at a slow and steady pace over the past nearly two hours of spring chill on the coast of Maine.  Finished with our ride, we head into town to explore and perhaps discover why the town is called Bar Harbor.  And soon we will indeed find out why.

ATM looking from bridge street

The view from Bridge Street in Bar Harbor to Bar Island

Seeing on our Acadia National Park Hiking and Biking Trail Map ($4.95 at the Visitor Center) that there is a trail from town to Bar Island just off shore, we work our way to Bridge Street. There we see a concrete ramp sloping into the bay, with Bar Island, maybe 400 yards in the distance.  The tide is in and there is no way we are crossing without a boat.  What gives?  Where the h is the trail?

ATM  bar island road

The rocky sand bar from Bar Harbor to Bar Island

Fortunately, an Anglo Rastafarian (perhaps I’ve jumped to that conclusion because he has dreadlocks) comes by and notices our perplexity.  He tells us that for an hour and a half or two on either side of low tide, there is indeed a road to Bar Island that cars and walkers can cross.   But once the tide comes in, one is stuck on the island for 8+ hours unless one wants to wade through what must be 40-degree water today.

Once called Eden, the town’s name was changed to Bar Harbor in 1918 because of the sand bar that goes to Bar Island.  Bill and I light up with the possibility of exploring this island when we next visit; ever mindful of the low and high tides.

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.

Bee 1C  warning sign

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 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.

Dan Hikes the Mountains of Acadia National Park with the Canadian

Bill Buggie and I go way back. Having met in 1983 at the University of New Hampshire’s Summer Writing Program, we are kindred spirits grateful to my Mountain Rushmore of the teaching of writing (Don Graves, Don Murray, Jane Hansen, and Tom Newkirk).  Kids find their voice in their writing by choosing their own topics.  When kids learn to develop a voice in their writing, they are more likely to develop a voice in their lives.

Bill is a veteran of the pilgrimage trail, the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain. Since each of us lives roughly four hours driving time from Bar Harbor, Maine, we choose Acadia National Park (ANP) as our hiking destination de jour.

Map of ANPUnder skies of intermittent light rain, my solo ride north from York is uneventful, which from a car break down point of view is a good thing.  After 175 miles of highway driving to Bangor, I head East on Route 1A for the coast. It’s all very simple in May. As an aside, I do recommend traveling the coastal roads of Maine during May’s even more beautiful sister months, September and October.  Still warm, fewer touristos.

Sar1 Acadia signMeeting Bill at the Best Western Acadia Park Inn, we are a mere two miles from the Hull’s Cove Visitor Center at the southern end of the ANP.  Parking anywhere we choose on this preseason May Monday, we have the good fortune to be taken care of by Ranger Linda Morrison. As a hiker herself, she recommends buying a detailed map of the park trails for $5. We do and live to celebrate the modest purchase.

Recommending the Sargent Mountain and Penobscot Mountain Trail Loop, she takes out her yellow highlighter and talks us through the hike. In case of rain, she suggests that we hike five bridges in five miles along the Carriage Roads near Jordan Pond; this is an ideal alternative since hiking in precipitation on the rocky mountain granite can be a risky proposition.

Sar4A rocky bald view of inlets

With no rain falling, we choose the 5.2 mile Sargent/Penobscot Mountain Loop with 1300 feet of elevation gain. What would be crowded with vehicles in the summer, the Park Loop Road is basically car-free as we head north from the Visitor Center to Jordan Pond. Packing our rain gear in Bill’s backpack, we venture out ready for the windy mountain summit in a tee shirt beneath a long sleeve shirt and sweatshirt.

Walking easily in conversation for two miles along the Carriage Road skirting Jordan Pond, we do step around fallen trees on the trail due to the winter of Snowmaggedon 2015.  We walk below the more precipitous parallel Jordan Cliffs Trail, which is closed this time of year due to nesting peregrine falcons.

Sar1B D on CR

Along the Carriage Road near Jordan Pond

The gently graded Carriage Trails allow us to loosen our sitting-in-the-car-all-morning muscles and warm up for the steep climb to Sargent Mountain. Conversation with Bill is an easy back and forth. As an old friend, he is both interesting and interested; we each have a voice in our friendship.

Rockefeller's Teeth on the edge of the Carriage Road

Rockefeller’s Teeth on the edge of the Carriage Road

John D. Rockefeller, Jr. made the 50+ miles of Carriage Roads happen during the early 20th century. We pass the cut granite stones placed here on the Carriage Road edges, which act as guard rails. Known as “coping stones” to help visitors cope with the steep edges, they are also referred to as “Rockefeller’s teeth.”

After forty minutes on the Carriage Road, I see stone steps to our right; but there is no sign for the Deer Brook Trail to the Sargent Mountain summit; so we amble on. Fifteen minutes later, I wonder where the hell the trail is. When all else fails, I check the map and realize we’ve gone too far and double back. Though there is no sign to this trail (during a fall 2015 trip to Acadia  Bill and I see that a sign has now been placed at the start of the trail), we’ve made a cardinal mistake of not being attentive to geographical features on the trail map (i.e., lakes and streams) that would have shown us the trail.

Bill leading the way up the East Cliffs Trail

Bill leading the way up, the dare I say, “R as in rocky” East Cliffs Trail

No matter, an extra 25 minutes hiking on the Carriage Road is no sacrifice. Once on the East Cliffs Trail to Sargent Mountain, we find it steep and rocky. Amazingly, more than half of the trail through a hardwood and conifer forest is granite steps placed by trail workers in years past. It’s an accessible Adirondack switchback trail (straight up the mountain); and just the vigorous workout we are ready for after our mellow Carriage Road walking.

One of many sets of rock steps to Sargent Mountain

One of many sets of rock steps to Sargent Mountain

Throughout our hike the trails are well-marked with blue blazes or cairns (piled rocks on the bare rocky stretches of trail). Thirty minutes later after rock scrambling up the mountain, we come out of the forest having climbed maybe half a mile, to the treeless, open rocky sections near the summit. With still 15 minutes to the mountaintop we hike easily over smooth massive rock formations.

Atop Sargent Mountain

Atop Sargent Mountain

With a chilly and windy Sargent mountaintop (at 1373’ it’s the second highest peak to Cadillac Mountain in ANP), we put our sweatshirts back on. With all the rock climbing we have just done, we are again reminded that this is no hike in any sort of precipitation, even mist. We have been handholding the rock in places and pulling ourselves up over steeper sections. Nothing perilous, but the strenuous rating of the trail is richly deserved. Atop Mount Sargent, we check out the 360 degree views of Eagle Lake, Frenchman Bay of Bar Harbor, and out to the Atlantic Ocean.

The cairns to guide us along the massive stone ridge line

The cairns to guide us along the bare stone ridge line

With the wind up, we do not linger and take to the Sargent South Ridge Trail along the ridge line of this mountain bald (no trees).  Prior to Penobscot Mountain, we dip into the col (gap or valley) between the mountains; but the hiking is easy going now that we have summited.  We soon are atop Penobscot Mountain with a view to the south of Maine’s coastal islands and a glorious view of Jordan Pond to the north.

Jordan Pond from Penobscot Mountain

Jordan Pond from Penobscot Mountain

For another mile we continue on the Penobscot Mountain Trail on the bare mountain ridge. With no leaves on the trees, even in this mid-May, we have clear views to the lakes and ocean of Acadia.

More of the beautiful granite steps

More of the beautiful granite steps down the Spring Trail

After a mile, we take the Spring Trail down the steep descent of the mountain. Though we hand hold the granite as we descend, the ever present granite steps make the descent manageable and not dangerous at all.   As we finish our nearly four hours of hiking, we return to the shoreline of Jordan Pond.

You don’t need to be a macho man or woman to enjoy the Sargent/Penobscot Loop Trail.   This is a “go to” hike for the experienced hiker among us. Don’t miss it.