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Published: June 13th 2017
Geo: 44.3875, -68.2044
Day 6 – The Maine Attraction
Bar Harbor, ME
I have always thought the MAINE reason to do Maine was Acadia National Park. But perhaps not. Not that it wasn't pretty. Just not as pretty as Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Glacier and some of our other favorites. The reason, we think, is that there are very few vistas. The island is heavily wooded and the park service has done little to cut back trees that have grown old and big and have eaten up the views. Bummer.
Note: One blog reader commented that there are spectacular vistas if you are hiking the park instead of driving it. I'm sure that's true. Point well taken.
We began the day at Jordan's in Bar Harbor, which gets rave reviews for its breakfast, particularly its wild blueberry pancakes. I don't get it. I ordered them without the blueberry syrup which I believe can overwhelm a dish. But the pancakes were neither light nor fluffy; on the contrary, they were chewy and sticky. Not my cup of tea.
We headed to the Acadia NP Visitor's Center, where the primary welcome center for the park involves a walk up 52 steps. We discovered later that there was
handicapped parking elsewhere, but our first impression was that this was unusual for a federal property.
We started our trek along the Park Loop road about 8:30 am. The highlight is Cadillac Mountain, where if we had gotten up early enough for the 6:17 sunrise, we would have seen the sun come up earliest of anywhere in the continental USA. But it was a foggy morning, so there may not have been any sun to see at that time.
It's interesting. The fog came and went all morning. Some overlooks had clouds between the mountain top and the sea. Others did not. Sometimes we had sun and sometimes we had the fog Maine is so famous for. Sometimes there was only a 10-minute difference between the two.
A word about mountains in Maine. With an elevation of 1,528' (which Coloradoans scoff at), Cadillac Mountain summit is the highest point within 25 miles of the shoreline of the North American continent between the Cape Breton Highlands, Nova Scotia and Mexican peaks 180 miles south of the Texas border. So it's not that it's high, but it's prominent. And it's very east.
Our views today were nice but not spectacular. Some haze. Some clouds. Some fog.
But worth the drive, nonetheless. We stopped at a few overlooks, then headed out to tour the rest of Mount Desert Island along ME-102, 198 and Tremont. There are some nice views occasionally but not worth the trip. And REALLY not worth the trip is the Bass Harbor Light at the southern point of Mount Desert. It's built into the cliffside, so it's very impressive from the water (based on photos I've seen) but not so much from the land. Skip it.
We drove slowly along West Street today, now that we know it was once "Millionaire's Row". The street still boasts some of Bar Harbor's most notable historic structures. The entire street is listed on the National Historic Register.
From Mount Desert Island Heritage site, regarding the life that was led along West Street 100 years ago:
"It would not be unreasonable to suggest that Bar Harbor society in the first half of the 1900's was a prime example of extravagant excess bordering on decadence. Some "cottagers" actually hired teams of local workers who would move, largely by hand, fully grown oak, maple and elm trees to different locations on the lawn each year, much like one would rearrange furniture or change
the composition of a flower garden!
"But several major events occurred during that time that initially had the effect of reining in this excess and ultimately led to its demise. First, in 1913, the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, establishing an income tax on both individuals and corporations. Then there was the stock market crash of 1929 and the subsequent Depression years. And finally, in 1947, Bar Harbor suffered a massive forest fire that burned for ten days and eventually spread over much of the village, destroying many of the elegant estates. The Bar Harbor summer social community was devastated by the combination of these events and never fully recovered."
Now we were back to everyday life. Laundry had to be done. We read, watched the BMW golf tournament and transferred loads from washer to dryer. Laundry is free here at the Harborside Hotel, with keyed laundry facilities so there is a record of who comes and goes after you in case your laundry disappears. I like that idea.
Next up was Jordan Pond Ice Cream on Main, following by Mass at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church. Then I had a manicure at the hotel spa. God knows I needed it.
My nail tech lives in Bar Harbor year-round. She said they had a LOT of snow last season, 10+ feet. Her kids had only five snow days. She tells me all the islands in the area have their own elementary school (some just a single classroom). But all the kids in the area commute to a single high school on Mount Desert. The kids from Cranberry Island come on the mail boat! I bet that complicates their social life.
At dinner time, we walked two doors away to Stewman's Downtown Lobster Pound, a large complex on the water, with indoor and outdoor seating. Standard Maine fare: Patrick had a hamburger and I had a mayonnaise version of the lobster roll. Both were quite good and reasonably priced. The restaurant is own by the Harborside Hotel, but there is no charging back to the room.
Our final trip into Bar Harbor was classic Tommye: the purchase of a Christmas ornament from Maine. I decided on a blown glass very red lobster. My trip is complete.
Perhaps the ornament is the Maine attraction?
P.S. After I posted my blog tonight, the fire alarms in the hotel went off. Yikes! We grabbed our critical stuff (electronics,
jewelry, camera), put on jackets and headed to the parking lot. We didn't have our car keys –which were with valet – so we sat on the curb an hour waiting for the "all clear". Years ago a friend who was in a hotel fire got caught on the parking lot in very, very short pajamas. She learned then and there to wear street-type clothing when traveling; and I learned from her experience. I was stylin' in a Calvin Klein striped floor-length swim cover-up.
We knew they were serious. Someone knocked on each door and insisted we evacuate. We could smell smoke from the main lobby. Two fire trucks arrived. The ladders were extended to the top of the chimney where there was a significant fire, I gathered. Took them 45 minutes to get it out before they gave us the all clear.
My favorite part: A few wedding partyers began a chorus of “We didn't start the fire!” I then played a little Sean Kingman's “Somebody call 9-1-1!”
It makes for a little extra excitement in a travel blogger's day! Color me grateful this evening.
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