Acadia National Park
Once again I'm writing with a 2 month delay, so, as my memory isn't too good, this post will be heavy on the photos and light on the words... at least, relatively speaking.
In August I was going for a week to Cambridge, MA for a work summit. My first thoughts were not about how to prepare for this trip work-wise. My very first thought was: I'm going to U.S., I need to visit one of the national parks!
The summit was starting on Monday, so I could go on the weekend and have 1 or 2 days somewhere in the wilderness. And so the planning begun. I could not find any famous/interesting park in the direct vicinity of Boston. But then I came across Telegraph's list of America's 20 best national parks (I love top-X lists) with Acadia National Park on the list. 5h drive away it wasn't exactly close but I decided to go for it anyway.
After a direct flight from London I landed in Boston around 1pm, quickly got myself to the car rental and by 2pm was on my way. There was some traffic on the way out of Boston and then later due to construction work, but other than that it was easy sailing. I stopped in Freeport for early dinner at the Tuscan Brick Oven Bistro. As I had a full day of running ahead of me I decided to go all out, as you can see on the photo above: salad, main (braised local rabbit), sangria and cannoli for dessert.
Later I realized that I forgot to take a backpack with me, so I stopped in a sporting goods shop to fix that and restock on drinks and bars. Second part of my drive was tougher as I was getting tired. Obviously the drive took longer than planned but by 9pm I finally made it to my hotel. I was placed in a cute, pink, little cabin (photo on the right), which was more charming on the outside than on the inside.
Little planning for the following day (made almost impossible by terrible internet connectivity) and off to early bed with the alarm set for 5am. Yup, I'm not kidding ya. As much as I hate getting up early, I thought that so much driving cannot go to waste and I was determined to get a full day of running/hiking out of the following day.
Getting up at 5am was tough. I mean, like, reaaally tough. Especially that I did not sleep very well. I got ready half asleep and drove to a nearby dinner that, as I made sure the previous night, was open at this crazy hour of the day. Not only that: I was not the only, nor the first, customer. Their special was lobster omelette. I decided to try it and it was pretty yummy.
With my stomach content I hopped in the car and drove to the park. I made it to the Visitor Center by the entrance shortly after 7am just to realize that, to my dismay, it would only open at 8am. Something I did not think to check before. The thought of the 5am wake up call going to waste for idly waiting by park's entrance was truly depressing.
My initial plan was to inquire at the visitor's center about best hiking routes. Although I knew from experience that it was doomed to fail as asking rangers for a 20+ miles hiking plan for the day, covering most of the hiking routes of the park, was akin to pronouncing to them that one was crazy and could only result in reactions ranging from a look of pity to a long lecture on safety and responsibility of hiking in the mountains.
Talking with rangers or not I still had to purchase a pass. I decided to kill time by making a round on the Park Loop Road. And good I did, as along that road I found another small entrance station which was open so I was able to get a pass and set myself up for the day. In the meantime I also formed a rough plan in my head — involving two separate hikes with a break for lunch — and drove to the first stop of the day: Wildwood Stables.
I quickly got ready and was soon on my way, starting at 8:15am; not too bad. However, after the first kilometer, barely reaching the proper trail, I realized that I forgot to take money and my credit card. I hated to loose the time but in the end common sense prevailed; setting out for such a long run without means for emergency would not be smart. So back to the start, back again and off for good.
Once I entered the proper trail I quickly realized that it was to be nothing like running on California's trails. Sure, I'd hit occasional hills there but here the incline was the least of my problems. The trail was rocky and so wild that at times it was difficult not to loose it. Walking was the best I could do.
The photos around this text are from much later in the day. In the beginning the sky was seriously overcast and I was afraid that there wouldn't be many photo opportunities. Not to mention that I was cold and a bit dispirited. A snack on top of Pemetic Mountain and time to move as I was getting cold by the minute.
Shortly after reaching bubble pond I got confused on the crossroads and then a pack of 3 runners swooshed by me flying at high speed while I was hardly moving at all. Either my old running spirit awakened or my pride got the better of me but before I knew it I started flying down the rocky path in pursuit of the merry bunch. This pursuit didn't take long as after 10 minutes they seemed to be headed back towards civilization and so I had to part ways with them. Still in that short period my heart rate went up almost to a racing level and, frankly, it felt good to break the monotony of my snail pace trot and break some sweat.
After that encounter I slowed down to a jog and then brisk walk as I started climbing the hill overlooking the Tarn (photo on the right). It was now over 3 hours into my adventure and sometime along I abandoned the initial plan of two separate hikes and decided to make a single, longer loop.
Shortly after I reached the Precipice Trailhead and a welcoming sign saying: "This trail follows a nearly vertical route with exposed cliffs that requires climbing on iron rungs." and continuing in that manner. Sounded like fun! And indeed it was. As is usually the case, the sign was more scary than the actual route warranted but at the same time I have to admit that climbing on some of those iron rugs and looking down below did sent my heart racing. By that time the sky has cleared up completely, the sun was shining and I was rewarded with some beautiful views (photos on the left and below).
I was four hours in and my water supplies were running dangerously low. I assumed that I'd refill my bottles on the way but there wasn't any chance or I missed it if there was. Looking at the map I saw a fairly long stretch ahead of me before coming back to the main road and a hope of some water supply.
It was a long going. It took me one hour and a long hour it was. The jog/walk was fairly uneventful but I was getting progressively more thirsty and was on the verge of asking strangers for a sip. When I finally made it into a shop and got overpriced, boxed, cold water it was pure bliss.
At that point I was tired enough to call it a day. There was a bus that'd take me back to my car but since I missed one sipping water at the parking, and the next one was half an hour away, I decided to jog-walk the final 2km along the coast to the next bus stop.
Back in the car, I drove to Bar Harbor for dinner. First I had a hard time finding parking and then my phone refused to cooperate so, Yelp deprived (and without my wife's food radar), I ended up in a random (and not too great) place.
On Monday the original plan was to again wake up at 5am and do a morning hike before heading back. But the previous night I decided against it as I was simply way too tired. Instead I slept until 8:30am and had plenty of time to drive back in a relaxed manner.
By that time I realized that my route was passing through Maine and passing through Maine meant one thing: Lobster. Lots of it. I did little research (thank you Yelp) and stopped in Young's Lobster Pound for breakfast. I had a lobster roll. It was very simple but stuffed with a generous portion of a very fresh lobster... boy, was it good! (photo below). Later I stopped for lunch in Robert's Maine Grill and had a tasty salad with lobster.
All in all a very pleasant trip and I only wished I had more than a day to explore this beautiful island.