Acadia National Park: Schoodic Peninsula

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.
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For this trip to Acadia, we decided to visit one of the less traveled sections of the park: The Schoodic Peninsula, across the bay from where were staying in Bar Harbor.

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We took the ferry from Bar Harbor to Winter Harbor, courtesy of the Downeast Windjammer Cruise Lines, so we could experience Acadia without the crowds found on Mount Desert Island. The alternative to the ferry is a slow drive back to the mainland around the rocky coast to the peninsula. We needed a break from driving.

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The Quoddy Dam is a seasoned working vessel, not a luxury yacht. As long as you don’t go expecting a ride on a big ship like the whale watching cruises, you won’t be disappointed. We saw lighthouses, seabirds and a dolphin on the journey and chatted with one of the seamen who is retired Navy. He pointed out some of the sights to us along the way.

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When we arrived at the dock in Winter Harbor, the free Island Explorer bus was waiting for us. The driver took us to Schoodic Point, told us he’d be back in an hour and that we’d have time for lunch and still be able to make the 2:00 ferry.

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Schoodic Point is a peaceful place to watch crashing waves, explore tide pools and see unique geology. There are dark channels running through the rocks here called diabase dikes. This is unique to this side of Acadia because the Schoodic Granite has a different structure than the granite that makes up Mount Desert Island.

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Completely remote, there were only a few others out there with us. The fog was with us again so we didn’t have much of a view, but we hear you can see Cadillac Mountain from this point on a clear day.

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True to his word, the bus driver was there an hour later and he took us where we wanted to go. If only the expensive commuter transit company back home was so efficient and friendly as this free bus!

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Back in town, we walked the sleepy main street of Winter Harbor to JM Gerrish. A mix between old-time ice cream parlor and luncheonette, JM Gerrish is charming and epitomizes rural America. The locals were having lunch there along with the Schoodic tourists. The service is unhurried & friendly. The food is good, standard burgers and BLT sandwiches… on really good bread.
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Location: Schoodic Peninsula

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: 7/8/1916

Date of my visit: August 2015

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You can see my other Acadia Posts by clicking on the following links:

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Acadia National Park: Bar Island

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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Bar Island is a tidal island in Bar Harbor, just North of the West Street Pier. It is now part of Acadia National Park (Acadia NP was established in 1916, but the boundaries weren’t adjusted to include Bar Island until 1986) and has some hiking trails running through the island. The only way to get there is by crossing a sand bar on foot or with an ATV.

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This land bridge is only accessible 1.5 hours on either side of low tide. You don’t want to be on the island when the tide comes in or you will be stuck out there until the next low tide.

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We’d seen Bar Island at high tide from the area behind our hotel. One of the locals explained that we could go there at low tide, so we checked the internet for the next low tide.

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We were lucky that low tide coincided with sunset. Even though it was foggy, the setting sun still shone through, creating a glorious diffused effect. It was such an amazingly beautiful sight.

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While walking across the land bridge, with what seemed like every other occupant of Bar Harbor, we saw some kayakers coming back to shore.

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As we neared Bar Island, we saw little stone towers everywhere. We added a cairn of our own on the beach at Bar Island and then headed back across the sand bar, not wanting to spend the night on the Island.

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You can see my other Acadia National Park Posts by clicking on these links:

  1. Park Loop Road
  2. Jordan Pond and The Bubbles

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Location: Mount Desert Island

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: 1986

Date of my visit: August 2015

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Acadia National Park: Jordan Pond and The Bubbles

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

As I mentioned in my previous post on Acadia (which you can read by clicking here,) I have been to this park 3 times over the course of the last two decades. It’s a big, spread-out park and there has been someplace new to explore each time.
On our last trip, knowing that we’d have to meet up with our photo tour during the busy afternoon in the Jordan Pond parking lot, I’d planned our day around getting to that lot early, leaving our car there and planning the day’s activities in that area.
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After a brief stop at the Hull’s Cove Visitor Center to get our pass and bearings, we headed for Jordan Pond, planning to spend the morning hiking The Bubbles. The Bubbles, I explained to my family, are two mountains looming over Jordan Pond that look like boobs. When we reached the beginning of the trail around Jordan Pond, we saw…
…nothing!
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The pond was completely fogged in and my family thought I’d made up the whole story about the boobs. “Just wait,”  I said, “the fog will burn off and you’ll see.”
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The Bubbles on a clear day in 2007
The first mile or so of the hike, running along the pristine waters of Jordan Pond (this is actually the drinking water supply for the surrounding area,) was level and pleasant. We were out pretty early and so saw some interesting birds and other wildlife along the way.
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When we turned off towards the South Bubble Trail, the going got rough, at least for me and my daughter. Though the trails are very well maintained with stone, dirt and log steps, it’s STEEP with an elevation gain of 766 feet. And it was humid. I hate humidity.
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Nevertheless we ascended the South Bubble, peered over the side and saw…
…nothing! Still fogged in.
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And somehow, in all the nothingness and the out-of-breathness, we neglected to look for the park’s famous Bubble Rock, a huge boulder seemingly perched on the edge of the cliff. By the time we realized we’d missed it, we were halfway to the North Bubble and there was no way I was going back.
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We made it to the summit of the North Bubble at 872 feet and were again confronted by fog. It wasn’t going to burn off that day. Still, we felt pretty good about ourselves for having climbed two mountains in one morning.
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We explored some side trails as we made our way back to Jordan Pond to meet up with our afternoon photo tour.
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Back in the Jordan Pond lot, we met up with our guide Howie from Acadia Photo Safari . 

He led our group around the side of the pond we hadn’t hiked that morning. It is a flat trail alongside the pond with some planking and stepping stones. Howie knows a lot about photography and cameras and is very good at explaining it. He was even able to help my husband and daughter get more out of their point-and-shoot cameras and showed me a few things I didn’t know about my SLR.
In spite of the foggy day, I think everyone came away with some decent shots and tricks we can use again and again.

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When the photo walk concluded, we were famished. I’d made reservations at the historic Jordan Pond House. In its heyday, Mount Desert Island was a vacation hot-spot for High Society and the Pond House was a fancy place catering to this crowd. But in 2015, it didn’t matter that we weren’t in dressier attire as many other patrons were also in hiking clothes.
We were seated by a window overlooking the patio and what would have been a magnificent view if not for the fog.
There were many empty tables… not busy at all, but our waitress, while friendly, was absent and inattentive. We did enjoy the famous popovers and the local artisanal cheese plate. Most of our meal was from local organic sources and was very fresh. Considering the days activities (Fitbit registered over 30,000 steps and 11 miles walked) I probably could have eaten cardboard and thought it delicious.

And hanging on a wall near our table was a painting of The Bubbles reflected in Jordan Pond against a brilliant blue sky. “You see! There are the boobs!”

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From May 2007.  In 2015, she had no recollection of having been here previously

 

Location: Mount Desert Island

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: 7/8/1916

Date of my visit: August 2015

Acadia National Park: Loop Road Highlights

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Frenchman Bay shrouded in fog, as seen from Cadillac Mountain

Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

Since we were driving three hours from Portland, Maine to Bar Harbor on Mount Desert Island we planned a light sightseeing schedule for our first afternoon in Acadia National Park. I had been here twice before, my daughter didn’t remember her earlier trip and my husband had never been.

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Fermentation tanks at the Atlantic Brewing Company back in 2007…the place was unchanged 8 years later

We rolled into town around lunch time, so we stopped first at the Atlantic Brewing Company for some authentic smokehouse BBQ. The smoker was going… we had some quality pulled pork and ribs with our micro-brews. With lunch I ordered a summer ale… I don’t usually drink beer but this was light and refreshing. My husband got something a little darker which he also said was very good.

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If you decide to dine at Mainely Meats BBQ, do douse yourself liberally with bug spray before going in. Seating is outside and the gigantic Maine mosquitoes love BBQ-fed human.

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Once in town, we hopped on the 2.5 hour trolley tour (reserved a few weeks before onine) of Acadia National Park with Oli’s Trolley.  Our driver talked about the various historic mansions we passed on the way into the park (rich folk loved to summer here back in the day) and provided information on the history and geography of Mt. Desert Island as we drove the park loop road.

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Unlike many other National Park loop roads, the traffic on this one isn’t too bad (the real stop and go problem is in Bar Harbor itself) but parking at key stops is difficult. The free Island Explorer bus does not go to the top of Cadillac Mountain… Oli’s trolley tour is a great, hassle free intro to the park.

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View from Cadillac Mountain in 2015

We had three stops for photographs and exploration. The first was Cadillac Mountain, named for a French explorer. At just over 1500 feet elevation, Cadillac is the highest point on the American Atlantic coast and, at certain times of the year, is the first place to see the sunrise in North America. On a clear day, you can see as far as Mount Katahdin, Maine’s highest mountain. We were not there on a clear day. The harbor was completely fogged in. I got some cool shots of the fluffy white shroud blanketing the small islands I remembered being able to see in Frenchman’s Bay eight years earlier. When I pulled some of the older photos for this post, I realized it hadn’t been entirely clear in May of 2007 either, but I had gotten an image of a cruise ship coming into port, so visibility was definitely better.

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View from Cadillac Mountain in 2007

Next stop was Sieur de Monts. There is a natural spring here. The Sieur de Monts Spring House was built by George B. Dorr, the first superintendent of Acadia in 1909.

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Sieur de Monts Spring House

There is also a nature center here where we were able to touch a moose antler and talk to a ranger. There is a garden trail that we did not explore this trip.

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Nature center in Sieur De Monts

Our last stop was Thunder Hole.  This is a sort of blowhole formed by an underwater cavern in the rocky coastline. We stood at the guardrail with about 100 other eager tourists and watched the waves come in and spout out through the hole. Mesmerizing, but the waves weren’t really strong enough to create the thunderous crash the location is named for.

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The rocky coast by Thunder Hole

Back in town, we walked next door to Stewman’s Downtown Lobster Pound. Yes, this is a tourist trap, but it has a lot going for it: ample seating with views of the harbor, it is in walking distance from most downtown hotels (trust me, once you get your car in the hotel lot, you will not want to move it again until you are leaving Bar Harbor behind) and it’s a lobster pound, which means fresh lobster is brought in daily, right off the boat. Everything else on the menu is meh, so just stick to lobstah and you’ll be OK.

Location: Mount Desert Island

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: 7/8/1916

Date of my visit: August 2015

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Portland Observatory National Historic Landmark

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

Though designated a national landmark, the Portland Observatory is not managed by any federal agency. It is owned by the City of Portland and maintained by a private non-profit group called Greater Portland Landmarks.  There is a small fee to enter and tours  are conducted by volunteers. Access to the tower is only via the guided tour during the summer.

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We made our way up to the observatory late in the afternoon on a whirlwind tour of the city that involved a Ride the Ducks tour, the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad, kayaking, and, of course, walking.

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The observatory sits on top of Munjoy Hill and is the only remaining historic maritime signal tower in the United States. It cost us about $25 for the three of us to climb to the top of the seven story structure with the docent while learning about the history of the observatory.

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Though it looks like a lighthouse, the observatory was built in 1807 for a different purpose. Through a system of flags and lights, the tower signaled merchants down at the wharf that their ships were on their way in to the harbor so that they could prepare for their arrival. During the war of 1812, it served as a watchtower. It then continued to serve as a signal tower until 1923 when radio made it obsolete.

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We’d tired ourselves out walking all over the city and up Munjoy Hill, so it was nice to take the steep stairs at a slow pace during the tour that paused at exhibits on each floor. Once at the top, we spent some time admiring the spectacular views of Casco Bay, Back Cove and Portland. The entire visit took little more than a half-hour, but definitely augmented our Portland experience.

Location: 138 Congress Street, Portland, Maine

Designation: National Historic Landmark

Date designation declared: 2/17/2006

Date of my visit: 8/18/2015

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