Friday, July 12, 2013

Hiking Acadia National Park

Before beginning our journey in March, which now seems like decades ago, Acadia National Park was a destination we had been excited for. Our minds conjured images of wild, beautiful, coastal, mountainous Maine in all its green and blue glory. We imagined blissful days of hiking rocky terrain with jaw-dropping views. 

When we arrived at the entrance for Acadia National Park, the stuff of our travel fantasies, the scene we were greeted with resembled Disney World more than a serene natural landscape. What hadn't factored into our dream was timing. It was the 4th of July weekend, and every tourist from China to Maine was in line to purchase a pass into Acadia, including us. A pass that also happened to cost $20, a day's budget.  

The previous night at the laundromat, I had buried my nose in information regarding the various park trails, and had come across at least two areas of the park that were free to access, and one that promised to be far less crowded than the main Acadia attractions. Glancing around at the mass of sweaty tourists on the already 90-some degree morning, we decided to opt for the trails less traveled. 

First on our list were the Wild Gardens of Acadia, which I'd read offered free admission. I'd also heard there were trails branching off from there, which I imagined could or could not also be free to access. Dave always mans the GPS, something I couldn't live without, and he found us a back route to the Wild Gardens. On our drive, I stepped on the brakes when I saw a sign for Jesup Trail, the trail I'd learned about that led to the Gardens. We parked in a pull off zone and decided to hike to the Gardens from Jesup Trail, which did turn out to be free. 

We parked right next to this. The mountain in the background is what we eventually summited. 

The Jesup trail head. 

The trail was a very pleasant, easy walk down a boardwalk through grassy bog areas and tall white birch groves. 

When we reached the Wild Gardens of Acadia about a mile later, we were again greeted by dozens of people milling about. Looking at a trail map, we decided to take a chance with a trail marked "Strenuous," hoping we would again leave the crowds behind. 

We took the Emery (North Face) Trail. 

The Emery Trail ascended the mountain via a series of steep rock steps literally surrounded by huge boulders. 

As we continued our climb, the views of the ocean continued to become more and more breathtaking. Also, we saw only about three other people, who were on their way down the trail. 

The stream visible in this photo ended at the small pond beside our parking spot. 

This is exactly what we had imagined Acadia being: mountains, forest, and ocean, all wrapped up into one magical hike. 

We had to watch our step at the top. Right beside us was a sheer drop off.

After reaching the summit, we opted to take Hommans Trail for the descent to turn the hike into a loop. 

Like the ascent, the descent consisted almost entirely of granite stairs, some carved from gigantic ancient boulders. 

The decent was incredibly steep. 

In the end, Acadia turned out to be everything we wanted. We got beautiful mountains-to-sea views, no crowds, and, best of all, we never had to spend a dime. It was pure "road magic," which we experience so often: things go really right when it seems they could go really wrong. 


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