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Acadia Trip


Submitted By Michael Virdone

The Mountains & Stats

12 miles with 4550 feet of gain
  • Cadillac Mountain (1500 Feet, ME) globe Mountain

People On The Trip

Trip Report

     Nicole and I got the itch to visit Acadia (and my mother had wanted to visit for a long time). So as an xmas gift to my mother we organized a trip to Acadia. We stayed at the Blackwoods campground from Sunday 8/17 to Saturday 8/23. During our trip we did a number of hikes, bike rides, and touristy things.


      Cliff Notes:


      We did a bunch of fun hikes, sea kayaking, whale watching, and carriage road biking. We enjoyed our time but didn't really enjoy the crowds of unprepared individuals.


      Day 1 (8/18/2008)


      Dorr & Cadillac Mountain Hike

      ~4.3 Miles ~1650 Feet Gain

      Nicole and I headed out from the campground somewhat late for a hike (8 am) which turns out is quite early for an Acadia hike. I had read about the ladder trail on Dorr Mountain and I thought it would be a good warm-up for the precipice and beehive trails later in the week. We arrived at the trailhead and began our hike with our typical hiking gear (heavy boots, full day packs, trekking poles, etc). We were incredibly impressed by the quality of the trail maintenance along all of the trails we hiked. The stone work is amazing and leads to some very long staircase trails. The hike up Dorr was tiring but enjoyable and soon we arrived at the trail junction near the summit. Nicole and I took a break here before quickly hiking over to the summit. I enjoyed playing with the new lens I purchased for my camera (75-300mm telephoto) by zooming in on the summit of Cadillac Mountain from Dorr.

      At the top Nicole suggested that we hike over to Cadillac since it was so close. After a quick check of the map we decided it was a good idea and began our descent down to the col. The descent of Dorr and the ascent of Cadillac were quite steep but made the hiking more exciting. After a while we arrived at the summit of Cadillac and were inundated by the crowds. We enjoyed a summit break (and I'll admit I took advantage of the facilities by purchasing an ice cold Gatorade), took some pictures, and then began our descent. We were torn between our options for returning to the car because descending the ladder trail would be difficult (plus we would have to re-ascend Dorr) and the way around added a lot of mileage. At the col we decided to walk around Dorr on the way out.

      At first the trail heading out the drainage between the two mountains was incredibly rocky and I was regretting our decision. Eventually some excellent views opened up right on the trail and the trail became more moderate so we were able to make better time. We hiked around Dorr and returned to the car just after lunch time.


      In the afternoon we drove around the park loop road to see some of the sights and then drove to the summit of Cadillac with my mother to enjoy the views again.


      Day 2 (8/19/2008)


      Maple Spring & Hadlock Brook Loop Bike Ride

      ~4.0 Miles ~350 Feet Gain

      My mother had wanted to go biking while at Acadia but didn't have much experience with hills so we decided to take her on one of the easier loops (according to the book). We parked at the Parkman mountain trailhead and followed the carriage road system up a shoulder of Bald peak. From there the road meandered along the contour of the mountain at a slight downward grade (after a somewhat steep climb this was quite nice). Along the way we stopped at some of the intricate stone bridges. To complete our loop we rode along the shore of Hadlock Pond. When we arrived some state of Maine employees were using a boat to cross the lake to check out some buoys which upset a bunch of loons. We were treated to their calls to one another for a while before they became comfortable with the presence of the boat. Once the loons were comfortable they resumed their feeding in the pond. We were impressed by the amount of time the loons would spend under water and how after they submerged they would pop up where we would least expect them.


      That afternoon the weather turned sour so we went into Ellsworth to go to some of the discount outlet stores (Mardens et al) and the LL Bean outlet. The weather began to clear so we decided to go to the Jordan Pond House for their renowned popovers. After our "tea time" I went out by Jordan Pond and snapped some more pictures.


      Day 3 (8/20/2008)


      Champlain Mountain Hike

      ~2.2 Miles ~950 Feet Gain

      We awoke to beautiful weather and decided since we were up early and the weather was nice we would go hike the Precipice trail. We got to the trailhead (only 1 car before us) and began hiking (still in our typical hiking gear). We both brought our trekking poles (which was a mistake) and stowed them quickly as we reached the first ladder. I was quite concerned when I had a hard time climbing over the first boulder with the ladder because my camera case (suspended below my sternum strap) was getting in the way. The trail itself was very enjoyable and we had a great time since there were no crowds while we were climbing. I took a bunch of pictures along the way and I never really found the "climbing" to be all that exposed. I also found the ladder rungs to be un-necessary in a bunch of places. Once we reached the top I was somewhat disappointed since it wasn't as scary as everything made it out to be. It was definitely an enjoyable trail and I would hike it again if given the choice (without the 11 hour drive to Acadia though). We took our time on the descent with me trying to get pictures of birds with my new lens. As we climbed down we ran into a couple who had seen us on some ledges getting a view above them. Then asked us how we got there and we explained it to them. Then the guy asked if my name was "Mike"(which it is) which all of a sudden made me realize it was Fred my college roommate from sophomore year! (University of Buffalo, 2004) We exchanged pleasantries and discussed what we were doing for careers and then continued on our way. We hiked down an amazing stone step section which terminated on a nice stone path (with the quality of a sidewalk) and then noticed that the trail builders also included a nice stone bench next to the trail. The rest of the descent was uneventful until we got to enjoy a nice road walk back to the car at the trailhead.


      After the hike we went back to camp ate some lunch and then relaxed for a little while before I came restless. I had wanted to do the Bubbles mountain hike after eating at Jordan Pond earlier but the weather wasn't cooperating so I decided to do that Wednesday afternoon. However; I was also intrigued by the prospect of riding my bike up Day Mountain so after some harassing I was able to talk Nicole into doing both.


      Day Mountain Bike

      ~8 Miles ~500 Feet Gain

      We parked near the Jordan Pond House and then began our bike ride along the magnificent carriage roads to climb Day Mountain. I really enjoyed riding on the carriage roads because they're a nice gravel that has been graded smooth (I think they're nicer than most roads in Syracuse). We saw every type of bike while we were there on the trails at one time or another, cruisers, tourers, road bikes, mountain bikes, full suspension mountain bikes, downhill mountain bikes (poor guy). We were riding our old suspension-less bikes (we didn't want the hassle of locking up and worrying about our good mountain bikes). The trail to Day Mountain from Jordan Pond transits around the Wildwood stables and then gives you the option to loop around the mountain (we went right). After a little while we caught up with a horse drawn carriage being pulled by some beautiful Clydesdales (who didn't like the uphill any more than we did). The carriage driver gave us permission to pass while mounted. After a bit of a climb we came to the road to the summit which had the rest of the climb. We slogged along and after a while we reached the top. At the top we were rewarded with another great set of views and the promise of a fun descent. We took it "slow" on the way down but we were still surprised when we were at the bottom so quickly. On the way back I made a wrong turn on one of the roads so we had to bike back a bit on a regular road. Overall it was a great experience.


      North and South Bubble Hike

      ~1.6 Miles ~550 Feet Gain

      After completing our ride we drove a bit up the road and climbed the Bubbles. Nicole and I didn't feel like changing into boots so we hiked in sneakers (and I wore my ankle brace). I wanted to experiment with wearing lighter footwear and a short hike was perfect for this. The hike up to the top of North Bubble was uneventful; Nicole and I were moving at a pretty good speed. Eventually we reached the top, took some pictures by bubble rock (a glacial erratic on top of the mountain). We took some pictures on the top and sunned ourselves for a little while. After taking a break we headed over to South Bubble (no crowds compared to North Bubble). On top of South Bubble Nicole spotted a bald eagle and I was able to snap a fuzzy picture of it before it flew away. We spent a long time on top waiting for it to come back (I actually took a ton of pictures of a turkey vulture thinking it was an eagle). Eventually we gave up hope for the eagle returning and we hiked down. I'm definitely starting to like hiking in lighter footwear, although I would like something with a more supportive shank than a sneaker so I can not feel every pebble I step on while hiking.


      Day 4 (8/21/2008)


      Sea Kayaking Tour

      ~6 Miles

      We signed up for a tour with Maine state sea kayaking out of Southwest Harbor to hopefully see some wildlife. We arrived in the morning and they shuttled us to the western side of the island. Unfortunately I didn't fit very well inside of a sea kayak (I couldn't comfortably get my feet on the pedals without keeping my legs completely straight, almost like a permanent hamstring stretch). The first part of the tour was pretty painful because of this, but then we just pulled the rudder up and stopped using it and the rest was fine. The route for our tour is here: http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=2202272 . We took a quick break about half way through. Unfortunately Nicole and I missed an opportunity to see another bald eagle. In the second half of the tour I was a bit on edge since I was carrying my dSLR in a dry bag but I had yet to need it for anything (I didn't want to introduce all that risk for nothing). Fortunately later on while we were paddling a harbor seal poked its head out of the water for a perfect photo opportunity. The rest of the tour was uneventful and we got picked up by the van on the other side of the bay. I definitely enjoyed the day, though it would have been better had I been able to fit more comfortably in the kayak.


      Beech Mountain

      ~1.0 Miles ~700 Feet Gain

      After kayaking we went swimming in long pond (the kayak guide said it was a great swimming spot and she was right). Afterwards while driving home we passed the road to the Beech Mountain trailhead (also recommended by our guide) so we decided to make a detour. Nicole and I didn't have shoes so we hiked gingerly in our sandals. The hike was great and the trail continued the Acadia tradition of being very well maintained. At the summit we took some pictures (though I was disappointed we couldn't get onto the viewing platform on the fire tower). After descending we met my mom at the car and hiked over to Beech Cliffs to enjoy the views from over there.


      The Beehive Hike (Twice?)

      ~1.8 Miles ~500 Feet Gain

      I was focusing a lot of my hiking effort in Acadia on doing some of the more "fun" ladder trails. For our final ladder trail Nicole and I decided to hike the Beehive in the late afternoon (around 5pm). Unfortunately the trailhead is right a cross from the sandy beach area which led to a lot of novices on the trail. Nicole and I were back to wearing boots (despite me driving about a half mile past the trailhead) and the beginning of the hike went fine. When we began the ladder section we ran into trouble, apparently people who had been sitting at the beach all day decided it would be a good idea to climb the mountain. The greatest hits included running into a family with 3 kids (the oldest no older than 8 and the youngest closer to 5 or 6) and a couple who did not feel comfortable with heights. We didn't run into these problems until about half way up the ladders. At one point Nicole and I stopped for a picture break and there was a gentleman sitting on one of the ledges just hanging out, he insisted we passed, so we continued on. At the top we hit the summit and then began our climb down.

      About 100 yards off the summit we ran into two young girls (not even teenagers) asking how to get down the mountain. We informed them that they were on the correct trail. They then mentioned that they wanted to down climb the ladders to meet their father on the trail. We informed them that the trail was much safer and we offered to escort them back to the junction with the beehive ascent. At the junction we noticed their father wasn't there, and then it dawned on us that it was the guy we ran into on the ledge. Nicole and I offered to climb up and tell their father that his daughters were already down.

      So we began our second ascent of the beehive. Again we ran into the gentleman at the same point and informed him where his daughters were. We told him it would be safer to ascend the rest of the ladders (rather than descending the bottom half of ladders). He insisted on down climbing so we continued to the summit and descended the same way as before. When we arrived back at the road we jogged back to the car and headed back to camp.


      Day 5 (8/22/2008)


      Whale Watching

      We signed up to go whale watching on a whim while we were in town for ice cream on Thursday night. After a brief heart attack (I forgot my photo ID which the signs said were required to board, but really they were required to forgo getting my bag checked) we boarded the vessel and were on our way. The boat was a giant catamaran with thrusters instead of propellers, it was the smoothest boat I've ever been on. We sailed out of bar harbor, enjoying views of mount desert island while the tour guide instructed us on how to look for whales. Eventually we saw some finback whales (2nd largest whale) but they didn't get too close to the boat, nor did they expose much of their bodies. It was definitely cool but I was expecting more. Fortunately we ended up spotting a few humpbacks later on (which put on a great show) later on which made the whale tour a huge success (about 12 different whales total). It was a great experience and I got some great pictures (it made buying the telephoto lens completely worthwhile).


      Cadillac Cliffs Hiking

      ~1.2 Miles ~200 Feet Gain

      Nicole wanted to check out this hike which included some ancient sea caves. We hiked in sandals again since we were going to take it easy and the car was such a mess we couldn't find any other shoes. The hike was relatively easy and we got to enjoy scrambling around on some of the rocks that comprised the ancient sea cliffs. We took some pictures near the cave and then hiked back to the car.


      Cadillac Mountain Sunset

      For our finale we drove to the top of Cadillac and viewed the sunset from the western ledges. It was a fitting close to our trip, and I got some great pictures (which I need to HDR-ize later).


      Trip Summary:

      The trip was definitely a success and we had a great time. Nicole and I were expecting a more outdoorsy crowd and not the hoity-toity tourist crowd we ran into. We didn't particularly like the Blackwoods campground due to the fact that there was little separation between the sites and the sites were all large gravel. If we ever decide to revisit the park again sometime we will definitely heed the suggestions offered by others to visit in the shoulder seasons to avoid the crowds (early fall and late spring).


The Good and The Bad

The Good:

The views
Ladder trails

The Bad:

The crowds
Blackwoods Campground

The Drive

It sucked, I hate driving across all of Mass and most of Maine


  • none
  • AMC Acadia Guide Book
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