Maine Trip, August 1999
Jim and Amy Guilford
Part 2 of 2 (Acadia)
This was to be our last day at Baxter, although in reality, we never visited Baxter itself that day. After breakfast (a B&B "McMuffin"), our main job was to get another copy of the book that we trashed. (Actually, "trashed" isn't quite the correct word. There was noticeable water damage, but the book was virtually as usable as it had been. It just didn't look as nice.)
We went to the state park visitor's center to buy a new one. Unfortunately, we were out of luck. They didn't have any. Even worse, it seems that it was out of print, so they would not be getting any new ones until there was a new printing. Eventually, the ranger there (who unfortunately must remain nameless) "sold" us her personal book. However, she was unable to accept any money for it, so essentially, she gave it to us. It was one printing earlier than the one we had damaged, but it was the best we could do. We checked out one other store that had a slight chance of having one, but no luck. After returning home, we checked the web, and it seems to be thoroughly out of print.
We also bought a tarp for use in Acadia. One with poles was on sale for just slightly more than a square of fabric, so we got that one. It was fairly cheap, but what do you want for $12?
Amy took a shower and we left for Acadia. The timing is roughly one hour to Bangor, one hour to Ellsworth, and then 1/2 hour to Acadia.
We decided to do something different and pay a quick visit to the Schoodic Peninsula part of the park (which neither of us have visited before). That part of the park is much less developed than the main part, more like a state park. Down at Schoodic Point we wandered around on a large rock outcropping. There was one place where the waves tended to crash in, and every so often one would hit particularly hard and shoot spray way up into the air.
Strangely enough most of the rock there was pink, but there were grey veins running through it, about 3-4 feet thick. It looked just like there had been fissures through the rock and some other kind of rock had forced its way in long long ago (volcanic dikes?). We meant to ask a ranger about it later, but we never got around to it.
Amy was psyched to see a Merlin fly overhead. We also saw the CAT ferry (high speed catamaran ferry--50mph). Jim wanted to go over to Nova Scotia just so he could ride the ferry, but we didn't have enough days for it.
We then went to the main part of the park. On the way in, the traffic was *so* backed up leaving the park. This made us nervous about what the situation would be on Sunday and whether we would be better off leaving early or late.
We made a quick stop at the visitor's center, set up a rental for a pair of kayaks for the next day, and then went to the campground. We set up the tent and then the tarp over the picnic table. For dinner, we had red gunk. Given the quantity of spam we had, I figured that we had at least four servings, but we ended up eating it all. Amy had given our dish soap to some AT hikers, and we had forgotten to replace it, so we had to wash the dishes with a bar of handsoap. We got to bed around 9:30.
Jim's thoughts were:
The B&B is nice, but so is camping. The pace of life is very different--slow and peaceful, driven by the sun.
Unfortunately, the words that Jim wrote didn't hold true. The night was decidedly not peaceful. Our neighbors decided that camp life meant staying up late and partying. They were making noise and slamming car doors until 11:30. This bothered Amy more than Jim, so she didn't get a good night's sleep.
We got up at 7am so that we could be at the kayak rental by 8:00. We got two single kayaks, paddles, booties, and an emergency kit. We then set out for Northeast Harbor, aiming for the Cranberry Islands. In a fit of stupidity, we launched with no map.
The weather was fine: sunny with a slight breeze and a gentle swell.
We went out of the harbor, took a left, and went along the south coast for a short distance. Then we crossed the "channel" over to a small island (Bear Island), went around the left (East) edge and crossed a larger channel (1/2 mile) to Sutton Island. There we found a Osprey nest on a rock chimney (stovepipe) jutting out from the coast. We again went around the left side of this island, and then crossed another 1/2 mile channel to a large island. We didn't know what island it was at the time, but it turned out to be Little Cranberry. We aimed at a large house that had four gables on it. We didn't want to go around this island, so we headed right (westward) along it's northern coast. We were aiming roughly for where we had seen the Isleford Ferry going earlier. (We wanted to visit Isleford, which is a town on Little Cranberry).
Jim and Amy had very different reactions to the kayaking. The single kayaks were certainly more unstable than the tandems. Jim's arms started to kill him--they had very little endurance. Unfortunately, not paddling not only meant that no headway was made, it also made the kayak a bit more unstable. On the other hand, Amy thought that the kayaking was great. Her comment was "this is the first time I haven't been in pain for days!" Jim was also a bit nervous over the possibility of capsizing "in the middle of the ocean". Jim also developed a small blister on the webbing of his right hand.
As we rounded the edge of Little Cranberry, we saw Big Cranberry. Jim thought that Isleford was on the other island, but we were pleasantly surprised to find Isleford just around the corner on the island we were at.
We landed and wandered around the island a little. There is a little museum there, run by the park service, and a bathroom. We had heard about a general store there that supposedly had fresh gingerbread for the sightseeing boat, so we wandered around to there (about 1/4 mile inland). With our gingerbread, Amy got some OJ while Jim got some milk.
The town/island was very quaint. There are year-round residents and a few automobiles.
Unfortunately, wandering around, we couldn't find a map (and before we thought to ask at the museum, it closed for lunch time). So we still didn't have a good idea of what the islands looked like. In hindsight, a good paddle would have been to head westward from the Cranberries to the mainland, head up the coast past Southwest harbor, cross the mouth of Somes Sound, and then return to Northeast harbor, but we didn't do that.
After returning to the kayaks, we set off westward to Big Cranberry. This was upwind, which was a pain. We reached the mouth of a large bay there (The Pool). There is a town/settlement at the far end of it, but we didn't feel like paddling all that distance. So we paddled back to Sutton and again crossed around the eastern edge. We passed the Osprey nest again, and then headed back to Bear Island. This time, to be different, we passed around the western side of Bear. There, we passed a lighthouse and did a small loop around a bell buoy. Then we crossed back to the mainland and headed in to Northeast Harbor.
On the return trip, the wind had picked up and so did the swell. There might also have been a tidal influence. These combined to make it much more of a "sea" trip rather than just a large "lake trip". The wind and the wave action tended to constantly twist the kayaks so we had to keep correcting our heading. It wasn't as mindless as paddling a canoe on a lake.
We found that the spray skirts (nylon, not neoprene) were OK for keeping the kayak from filling with water, but they didn't keep one dry. Our shorts were not soaked by the end, but they were rather damp.
Amy was interested in going around the point to the mouth of Somes Sound, but Jim was not impressed with this idea, particularly given the state of his arms. We talked about driving over to the sound and doing some paddling, or perhaps doing a bit in one of the lakes, but we ended up with no more paddling.
After returning, we looked for a place to have lunch. We didn't want to do it in the middle of the marina boat launch, so we ended up driving to the parking area for the Asticou Gardens, and eating there. On the way there, Amy noticed something shift on the roof, so we pulled over and found that one of the straps was not as tight as it should have been, so we tightened it and continued.
After "lunch", our next stop was to the Jordan Pond House to make dinner reservations (for 5:30), and then we returned the boats (3:00ish). We made the dinner reservations because the evening's campfire program was earlier than normal (because it was a Friday).
We felt pretty scuzzy and covered with salt, so we decided to take showers. $0.75 for four minutes of water isn't too bad. Jim didn't want to run out of water, so he used $1.50 for eight minutes, but he found that he was pretty much done in four. So as to not waste the money, he just enjoyed the next four minutes. We then changed clothes (ahhhh...) and headed off to dinner.
We had to park in the overflow lot (which isn't that far away), did a little strolling around, then went in for dinner. The food was OK but not great. The River Driver's place up in Millinocket was better. While we ate, we could see the clouds come in. It was mostly sunny when we started, and it was solid overcast when we finished.
We then rushed back to catch the talk on bats (at 7:30), but we found out that it was just a talk, there were no slides. Just as it was ending (around 8:30), it started to rain lightly. We went back to the campsite. By the time we were in the tent, it was raining seriously.
Unfortunately, the rain didn't dampen our neighbors. Around 9:50, they were just getting started for the night. Amy got out of the tent, walked over to them, and told them that quiet time started in ten minutes, and that the previous night she hadn't been able to sleep because of the noise. This did little good, and their noise kept Amy awake until 11:30. Amy was furious. Her side of the tent also got a bit damp, which didn't improve her sleeping.
The rain stopped during the night. We found that the tarp had worked well--the picnic table and the surrounding area was still dry.
Amy woke up feeling angry, and she couldn't think of anything other than telling park officials about the noise. She wrote: "In 41 years of camping, I have never had the experience of people being so rude. And no one to take care of the problem." The officials promised to have a talk with our neighbors.
We took a short walk down to the coast to soak in the Maine ambiance.
Our first stop after breakfast was to park over by Sand Beach and to hike the Bee Hive. This is a trail up an exposed cliffside, augmented by strategically placed iron rungs. On the drive over, we made a brief stop at the Precipice Trail, but that was closed due to nesting Peregrine Falcons. Amy spent some time studying the cliffs, but we didn't see the birds.
Jim found the Bee Hive a lot less scary than previous climbs, but still not carefree. (This time, Jim remembered to remove his wedding ring so that it would not get gouged.) The rock there is very different from that on Katahdin--smoother and with fewer handholds. Of course, you really don't need a lot of handholds there.
At the top we decided that hiking around through the trees was not that interesting, so looking for more challenge, we went back down the Bee Hive. Of course, going down is a bit more challenging than going up.
Next time, remember to wear hiking boots. Jim wore sneakers with poor tread, and he found that they tended to be somewhat slippery on the smooth rock. It was probably about a half hour up and a half hour down.
After that, we walked over to Sand Beach, strolled across the beach, and then had lunch on the rocks on the far side. We had humus with pita bread dip. This wasn't as good as we thought, so we should probably skip that in the future. Strangely enough, Amy was more bothered by bugs (biting flies) than Jim was. Usually, it is the other way around.
In the middle of the beach, someone had done a very good job at a sand sculpture of a woman sunbathing. It was very well done, with seaweed for hair. Unfortunately, we didn't bring any cameras, so we couldn't get any pictures of it.
Amy's blister was still there, but not as bad as before. Jim took off his shoes and did a little wading in the surf, but he didn't go more than a few inches in. He found the water rather cold (not surprising) and marveled that people were actually swimming and splashing around. Amy didn't want to get her feet wet for fear of softening the blister.
Other than the flies at lunch, there were virtually no bugs all the time we were at Acadia. I guess the drought has its good points (or maybe we were there at the right time of the year).
Afterwards, we did an abbreviated tour of the "tourist attractions", stopping briefly at Thunder Hole (which had a decent but not spectacular noise). It was strange for Jim, looking at the different spots that he's visited on previous visits, and the memories that came. Those seemed to be from a different lifetime that could never be recovered.
The next stop was Acadia Mountain. (We did a quick stop at Somesville to look at the bridge there.) When we had hiked it the previous time, it was in the clouds, so we got essentially no view. Amy wanted to see what the view really was.
For the record, we went up the front side from the road (~45 minutes), down the backside to the road (~30 minutes), and then out the road (~30 minutes). We hadn't remembered it until we were doing it, but this trail has a fair amount of rock scrabbling, particularly on the far side. Without the clouds, though, it did have a really good view of the sound.
We spent some time on the top watching a strange grouping of boats in Valley Cove. There seemed to be a large number (30-50?) of boats rafted together in a big circle in the center. It reminded us of a wagon train circled against indians. There was a helicopter buzzing around (strange to look *down* at a helicopter). Our guess was that it was filming something, but we couldn't quite figure out what was going on. There was also a huge luxury yacht moored down in the sound. We don't recall seeing one quite so large before. It seemed much too big for an individual to own. Perhaps it was owned by some company, or perhaps some sort of royalty, oil sheik, or Bill Gates.
Then, since we were already on that side of the island, we continued down to the Bass Harbor light. To the left (eastward side), you can go down a recently rebuilt wooden stair to the rocks by the water. This offers a great view of the light, but unfortunately, the light was back lit. To get a good picture, one really needs to get there at dawn.
On the right, you can only go down to the light itself, so there were no good pictures.
Of course, the lighting didn't stop Jim from taking some pictures anyways. There, to his horror, he learned that he had screwed up an earlier roll. He had brought two rolls of ASA-50 film and one of ASA-200. When he loaded a new roll on Paloma, just before crossing the Knife's Edge, he had thought he was loading the second ASA-50 roll. But at Bass Harbor, he found that roll. Apparently he had grabbed the ASA-200 roll by mistake, so all of the Katahdin pictures were two stops over-exposed. Fortunately, after he got back, he was able to have the goofed film specially processed so that the pictures came out OK.
Afterwards, we had dinner. We decided to do something a bit different--stop at some small, local restaurant in Southwest Harbor. Northeast Harbor is more of a recreational harbor, but Southwest Harbor is a working harbor, full of fishing boats. We stopped at the "Head of the Harbor". It was an interesting experience. As one might surmise, it overlooked the harbor on a small hillside. Strangely enough, we ordered in the parking lot (after standing in line). After ordering we were given a small wood chip with a number on it (and a color which apparently designated one of the waitresses). Then we went in and found a table. Later, the waitress would deliver our food to the table. So it was sort of a cross between a normal restaurant and buffet style. We had no idea why we ordered outside in the parking lot rather than inside, but I guess we don't need to know.
There were two seating areas, one enclosed, one out in the open. We sat in the open section. Of course, we ordered seafood (Amy had fresh Mackerel, which is apparently hard to find around here).
The weather was interesting. It was a very clear day, and while we were hiking it got rather warm (particularly on the Bee Hive). But as we got to the restaurant and were eating, the sun went down, and it got rather chilly. Both Amy and I had to put on extra clothing to stay warm.
Back at the campsite, we saw the slide show, and then went for a walk down to the beach (also to give our noisy neighbors some time to quiet down). It was rather strange that this group of 8-10 people were so different from everyone else. All of the other campsites that we passed had people being very quiet and/or going to bed. It was calm and peaceful. It seemed to be only our neighbors who seemed keen to light lots of lights and to live it up for half the night. They seemed to be more like city dwellers, running on city time, not camping time.
Back to the beach. There was another couple on the rocks to the right, so we went a bit to the left (trying to avoid the poison ivy), settled ourselves and look at the darkness. There was no moon, and the stars were out in full force. Strangely enough, we could see fairly well, even with no obvious light source. It was almost (but not quite) bright enough to walk back up the rocks without a flashlight. We don't know where the light was coming from. There was no obvious source of light pollution. There might have been a small moon in the west where we couldn't see it. Checking now, the moon was three days before New, so there should have been a small crescent just above the western horizon, but it's hard to believe that it would have produced much light. Maybe people are just good at seeing in dim light when there isn't a lot of spurious light blinding us.
The constant roaring of the waves in the dark with their pale foaming was very peaceful. It is almost enough to make me want to buy a CD of ocean waves.
On the way back to our campsite, we found with very few exceptions all of the other sites were dark and quiet (the remaining ones were dim and quiet). We passed the ranger returning from talking with our neighbors. They were quieter than previous nights, but still comparatively noisy. This time they didn't go to bed until midnight.
As a further measure of the light, we could see our hands in front of our faces, in the tent, under the trees.
This really marked the end of the vacation and the return to reality. The weather forecast was for rain to start, so it was just as well that we were leaving. We packed up the tent and tarp, then we decided to try to squeeze one or two more things in before leaving.
We drove down to otter point and did a little walking around there. We thought about going over to Schooner Head and looking for the cave there, but the tide was wrong. Instead, we drove over to the Asticou Gardens to see what they looked like when it wasn't raining.
But on the way over there, it started raining. We debated walking through there anyways, but decided not to. So we started leaving. We made a quick stop at the visitor's center so that Jim could run in (dodging the rain) and ask about the rock formations on Schoodic Point, but he found *huge* lines of people there (it was a weekend), so he left without talking to anyone. Then we left Acadia for good. It was about noon on Sunday.
The traffic was backed up going to Ellsworth, but it wasn't as bad as when we had arrived. We guessed that we got out early enough before the big backlogs developed.
Unfortunately, by the time we were going down the Maine Turnpike near New Hampshire, most of the state had joined us. The traffic was *terrible*, not quite being stopped, but not moving much either. This went on for miles. Roughly speaking, we left at 12:00, got to Ellsworth around 12:40, Bangor around 1:15, but we didn't get home until 7:30. One would think that sitting in a car would not be tiring, but we were both wiped by the time we got home.
All in all, this was a very strange Acadia trip. Rather than spending a week there like we usually do, we only had two full days. This tended to make us rush around to try to squeeze everything in that we wanted to do, rather than taking our time and being mellow. There were many things that we would have liked to have done that we didn't have time for. Of course, having such crowds around didn't help this.
One new feature that the park service had (although who knows how long they'll have it) is a series of busses (powered by natural gas) that go around the camping areas, hiking spots, etc. We didn't take advantage of this, but it would be a good way to take a "one-way" hike with only one car.
Things to do next time: