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Published: August 22nd 2020
Poet, novelist, and travel writer William Graham holds a BA and MA in English and a MS in Communication from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. He lives in Stowe, Vermont. His most recent works of fiction are Maine-inspired: Book 1 and Book 2 of his Maine Murder Mysteries series: Moose Island and Cadillac Mountain . The author wishes to point out that on this recent trip to Maine he encountered neither murder nor mysteries; only Maine magic.
The global pandemic scuttled my summer travel plans to England and Wales. But my family and I had a worthy backup plan: Acadia National Park in Maine, one of the jewels of the country's national park system. I have had the good fortune to have traveled to all seven continents of the world. When people ask me what are my favorite places, many are surprised when I mention Maine, and particularly Acadia, as being near the top of my list. But if they had ever been to Acadia, they would know why I have been drawn to it since my first visit there in July 1999. Acadia offers an intoxicating brew of sea, mountains, and adventure activities that have lured me back on
multiple occasions since that first trip at the end of the twentieth century. Acadia's siren song continues to call.
On this visit to Acadia, we rented a lovely seaside cottage in the village of Southwest Harbor, which is close enough to the park's various trails, but far enough away from the dense crowds that flock like seagulls fighting over scraps of food in Bar Harbor. Because of the pandemic, Bar Harbor was not jammed as usual with passengers from mammoth cruise ships, but on our visit in mid-August, the resort town was still packed with tourists looking for that cheap souvenir that they probably really didn't need. Other than one brief trip to Bar Harbor to have lunch and to walk along a coastal path, we avoided the crowds there.
On our first full day in the park, we drove to Echo Lake, where we hiked the Canada Cliffs Trail, which is a one-mile jaunt of moderate difficulty that features switchbacks and some steep climbing over stones and log steps. But the view from the top is worth the sweat getting there. I would recommend that you be in good shape for any of the more challenging hikes
in the park.
With the weather offering up brilliant blue skies and moderate temperatures in the mid-70s Fahrenheit, we hiked the seven-mile loop around Eagle Lake on one of the parks many carriage roads, which were a gift of the philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr., whose family donated most of the land which now makes up the national park. The trail features several long inclines that give your thighs a work out. But the views of the shimmering lake that sit like a royal jewel amidst the forest and hills was worth the effort.
The following day my teenage son and I girded our loins for a difficult hike on a mountain called the South Bubble, so-called because of its unique shape geological shape. (See photo). We began at the south end of Jordan Pond and hiked 1.5 miles to the Bubble trail head that began to slope gradually, and then more severely, upward. The hike requires a lot of scrambling on glacial rock, and it is not for the faint of heart. But the view from the summit was sublime on a quintessentially picture-perfect day. No matter what trail you decide to hike in the park, however,
be sure to get an early start because the parking is limited and the summer traffic can be brutal after about ten in the morning. Each day we were on the trails by eight in the morning and were done by the time the madding crowds arrived.
On this trip to Acadia, we also wanted to explore a different part of Mount Desert Island, on which the park is situated. We drove to the far western shore, away from the crowds, and went on a delightful hike on a fire road to Long Lake. We only encountered one other pair of hikers during our saunter. It was bliss.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention that the towns around the park offer some excellent dining experiences. I'm not a food critic, but my family and I know good food when we eat it. Collectively, we would recommend Testa's Bar & Grill
in Bar Harbor, the restaurant at the Asticou Inn
in Northeast Harbor, and Red Sky
and Sips Cafe
in Southwest Harbor.
There is a magical quality about Acadia and the Maine coast. Its natural beauty is unparalleled. On the drive back home, my mind went back to the first night we
were there. Under crystal-clear skies, the constellations blazed above me. The Milky Way shimmered like a necklace across the sky. And multiple meteors (shooting stars) sliced through the infinite blackness. It was moments like those that made me forget the current madness of the world.
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