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Acadia National Park

Thursday, January 5, 2012 10:40 AM

Ken Burns hyperbolized a bit when he called our national parks "America's Best Idea," but they are a pretty damn good one. We are lucky in the United States to live in such a large, geographically diverse country, and I'm so glad that the most beautiful and unusual places are being preserved and yet made accessible by the National Park Service.

I've been to a few national parks, and so has J, but we had never been to one together until September. We'd decided we wanted to visit all the parks in the Lower 48 (Alaska and Hawaii both have parks that are difficult to reach). We should have gone to Cuyahoga Valley National Park while we lived in Ohio, but honestly it never seemed all that interesting; I guess we'll have to go back for that one.

We now live only a few hours from the first national park established east of the Mississippi River, and the only one in the Northeast: Acadia National Park. We decided to spend the weekend after Labor Day in Bar Harbor, visiting Acadia and enjoying the last bit of summer. Late summer in New England is heavenly, and that weekend we had gorgeous weather: no clouds, high temperatures around 65 and just a little wind.

We drove up on Friday night and went to bed early so we could get up at 5:15 for sunrise on Cadillac Mountain. We drove to a lookout about halfway up the mountain and shivered while we waited for this:

Apparently J had never seen a sunrise before, and he couldn't stop gushing over how cool it was. Then we drove back to the bottom of the mountain to hike the North Ridge Trail. It's a moderate hike to the top of the mountain, about four miles. We had refreshments along the way:

Wild blueberries! We passed four or five varieties of blueberry bushes on our way up the mountain. Some had already passed their prime, some were at peak ripeness and some were covered in pink berries. Blueberries may be my favorite fruit, and one of my favorite thing about Maine is that blueberry season (for both highbush and lowbush berries) is more than two months long.

Now this would have been a nice spot to watch the sunrise: a clearing about 25 minutes up the trail. We'll remember it for our next trip to Acadia. We're overlooking Bar Harbor, Frenchman Bay and the Porcupine Islands.

After the hike, we went back to Bar Harbor for a nap and lunch. Then we drove back into the park and around Park Loop Road, stopping at Sand Beach, Thunder Hole (unfortunately, we did not catch it at its most thunderous — next time!) and various overlooks and other spots to clamber over rocks and bask in the sun while enjoying our view of the Atlantic.

We stopped at Jordan Pond, where J contaminated the water supply — though we didn't realize that until afterward.

That was it for our time in Acadia itself. But that night we kayaked Frenchman Bay under a nearly full moon, and on Sunday we had a great brunch at 2 Cats, went sailing (my first time on a sailboat — so fun!) and hit up Mount Desert Island Ice Cream on our way out of town. It was an exhausting but amazing weekend.

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