Busy Acadia

Bar Harbor Campground
Nights: 7
Hikes: 0
Bikes: 2
Paddles: 1

Our first week in Acadia was spent in the busy Mount Desert Island area of the park surrounding Bar Harbor. Last winter when we made plans to come this way, we studied the camping options. Campgrounds in the park were full and private options were cramped and expensive. We settled on a no reservations, cash only, private campground with reasonable rates and hoped for the best. Online reviews of Bar Harbor Campground promised that you could get a site here even on a busy weekend. Since we didn’t really have a back-up plan in this busy area we were a bit nervous. We showed up on Monday just before check-out time and were rewarded with an awesome spot.

Talking to some other campers later, they said they’ve been coming here for 8 years and have never been able to snag a spot with a view. We watched during our time here and you could always find a spot, especially if you didn’t need hook-ups, but the view sites didn’t come open often. Lucky us!

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The campground was busy and other areas were noisy, but our little corner was peaceful and we debated staying longer. There were blueberries for the picking right out our door and the views couldn’t be beat.

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Blueberry picking with a view!

The town of Bar Harbor and the park itself were another story. On our first day we headed to Acadia’s main visitor’s center and found cars circling the parking lot. We managed to snag a spot and headed into the unimpressive visitor’s center. Expecting some sort of display about the park, we found only a movie, store, and information desk.

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So we figured we do the loop drive. We found cars and people crowding the famous Thunder Hole area, but at least there were a few parking spots.

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Crowds waiting to catch the explosion of water at Thunder Hole.
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Watching the waves crash against the rocks was mesmerizing.
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Acadia’s famous pink granite shore

We tried to stop at Jordan Pond, an area famous for it’s lovely views of the pond and popovers at the restaurant, but found absolutely no open parking spaces. We continued on to the top of Cadillac Mountain and were met with a line of stopped cars just waiting to get in the parking lot and again not a spot in sight. So we ended up just driving back down.

Another day we tried to go into Bar Harbor to walk around and visit the grocery store. Even though it was a weekday with no cruise ship in port (yes there are actually cruise ships here), the town was crazy! We’re talking Disneyland crowds crazy. Throw in parked cars making the narrow roads even more so and people crossing everywhere and it was just too much for us. Again we ended up driving right back out. The key to Acadia seems is to be ride the shuttle bus (we saw lots of folks waiting for buses) or go places after 3pm. So we settled into a pattern of lazy mornings at camp with excursions into the park later in the day and our experience greatly improved.

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Our new bike rack makes it much easier to haul our bikes to the trails.

With Chuck’s knee still on the mend after the Camden hike, we turned to other ways to experience this national park. Luckily Acadia is famous for it’s carriage trails, financed by and built under the direction of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. The trails are covered in well packed decomposed granite that provides a nice surface for bike riding.

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Carriage road signage is a bit confusing. Looking at the map is a must!

Rockefeller had a vision for drawing people out into nature by installing a system of trails suitable for horse drawn carriage rides. Thus the trails are no steeper than what a horse pulling a carriage can handle. This makes one think that these are fairly flat trails. Do not be fooled. We found lots of hills that had our heart rates climbing with the slow steady inclines, but they were doable. The exception was the path connecting the visitor center to the trails. That spur was steep and I ended up walking my bike.

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We rode to several of the bridges built to complement the landscape. Each one was styled for it’s location (one even frames a waterfall) with stones chiseled and fit by hand.

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The three we saw were built in 1924, 1925, and 1926 and the stonework was impressive. Apparently the masons got so good at expertly fitting and facing the stones that Rockefeller told them they need to make them more rustic to blend with the landscape.

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The stone bridges were pretty cool, but other than that the trails were mostly riding through woods.

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One of the few spots you could see a view. 

One day we rode the Witch Hole Pond loop (about 5 miles) and another day a loop near Upper Haddock Pond (about 4 miles).  It was a nice way to get some exercise but not the spectacular views I expected.

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The coping stones lining the trail are lovingly referred to as “Rockefeller’s teeth.”

Although we never went back to Bar Harbor we did make it back to Cadillac Mountain. I got to drive the narrow, windy road this time and Chuck got to enjoy the views.

At 4:30 we found plenty of parking at the top and great views all around.

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It reminded us of the views in the San Juan Islands of Washington.

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We even got to watch a cruise ship make a giant u-turn and head out of Bar Harbor.

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Our neighbors in the campground told us about a nearby beach and one day we took our new kayak out for it’s maiden voyage. We’ve been thinking about getting kayaks since we started this adventure. At first we didn’t want anything tied on top of our truck. We thought we might look a bit like hillbillies plus we were at the top of our weight limit. When we upgraded our truck weight was no longer an issue, but we still wrestled with hauling kayaks while having easy access to gear in the truck bed. Chuck finally solved all our issues by finding a really good inflatable.

We’d had a cheap inflatable when the girls were younger that seemed to only go in circles, but this boat surprised us. Even though we didn’t have it quite inflated all the way (our newbie error) and the outer cover was a little crooked it glided effortlessly through the water. We got a whole different perspective out on the water. I think we’re going to like it.

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Everyone who goes to Maine talks about lobster. We’re not big fans, and since it’s expensive we figured why waste our money. We did however enjoy fish and chips and a salmon sandwich at Beal’s Lobster Pier while on a drive to the quiet side of Mount Desert Island.

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Lobster buoy decor

 

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We had views of the working harbor from the outdoor deck.

We also enjoyed ice cream sundaes at Udder Heaven which was right next to our campground. Thank goodness we didn’t go until the last day or we might have become regulars.

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We were sad to leave this relaxing campground. With water views and blueberries right out our door and ice cream a short walk away it was a good spot.

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Goodbye peaceful water view

But with reservations at Schoodic Woods, a more remote area of Acadia, it was time to say goodbye.

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