I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t 100% thrilled about coming to Maine this summer. It’s not that I don’t like Maine, but we were just here last year, and I was really looking forward to exploring more of the Pacific Northwest this summer. But my brother was getting married in Maine, and for various reasons it didn’t make sense to just fly in for the wedding, so here we are, back in Maine again. Well guess what? Despite my initial hesitation, as soon as we arrived I was reminded how much I like it here.
Sure, the scenery isn’t awe inspiring like Colorado, or blow your mind stunning like Utah, or even as wild and rugged as the Oregon coast. Yes, the beaches here are mega crowded, the campgrounds always full, the small coastal towns a bit too polished and New England-ified (that’s a thing I swear), but when you get past all of that you find picturesque bays studded with green islands, soft rolling hills, and local folk who are completely down to earth and passionate about sharing their little slice of coastal paradise.
The wedding was held in Southwest Harbor on Mount Desert Island — best known as the home of Acadia National Park and the ultra touristy town of Bar Harbor. We decided to stay at the Narrows Too Campground where we spent two weeks last summer. Not because we loved the campground so much that we had to come back, but because it’s conveniently located, easy to get a site, and offers a reasonable monthly rate (for this area of the country).
I wrote a bunch about the campground last time so I won’t repeat myself, but I will say that we like our back in site much better than the pull thru we had last year (you can also read my Campendium review here).
The first week here was busy with family and wedding stuff everyday. We helped the bride and groom with some pre-wedding preparations, attended a really fun lobster themed rehearsal dinner, reunited with family from all over the country, hosted a record 26 people for an after wedding BBQ at our place, and enjoyed some 4th of July fireworks over the water in Southwest Harbor.
In addition to all the family and wedding fun, we’ve been having a blast exploring the national park. Last year Tim badly sprained his ankle only days before our arrival which severely limited our activities. This year we’re determined to make up for all the hiking and biking we missed out on by getting out and doing something active every day the weather allows. Here’s what we’ve been up to so far.
Calling the soft, rounded peaks that make up Mount Desert Island “mountains” might be a bit of an exaggeration. The tallest one (Cadillac Mtn.) tops out at a mere 1,500 feet, and most of the others are only around 1,000. The good thing about this lack of elevation is that these “mountains” make for a quick hike and you never have to worry about the ill effects of high altitude like out west. While short in distance, some of these trails can be challenging with steep grades, iron ladders to scale, and lots of thigh busting rock stairs. The Dorr Mountain Trail is one of those that packs a punch in a short distance. It starts off strong with around a mile of stone steps, and then continues on a relentless uphill path all the way to the top. Great views on the trail and at the summit make it well worth the effort.
Acadia & St. Sauveur Mountains
Another awesome feature of these small mountains is that you can often combine two peaks into a single hike. Acadia and St. Sauveur Mtns. are adjacent to each other and the connecting paths make it easy to summit them both in a single 5 mile hike. You can go in either direction, but we chose to climb up one side of Acadia Mtn., down the other side, up one side of St. Sauveur and then back down to where we started. This loop had some steep sections — especially going down Acadia and up St. Sauvuer — but overall it wasn’t that hard of hike and had some really pretty views along the way.
Penobscot & Sargent Mountains
The second combo hike was Penobscot and Sargent Mountains. With only a mile distance between summits it almost seems silly not climb both in one hike. This hike starts at the base of Jordan Pond where you will find hoards of people taking selfies and wading in the water next to the sign that says “Public Water supply, NO swimming or wading”. You will also find a gorgeous view across the pond of the north and south Bubble Montains. How I got this photo without a single person in it is some sort of miracle.
Once you pass the pond the masses thin out quickly. There are couple different ways to climb these peaks. I basically hiked a loop that went up to the summit of Penobscot, down into a small valley, up to the top of Sargent Mtn, and then back down to the far end of Jordan pond where I followed the shore trail back to the start. It ended up being around 6 miles total, and while there were some steep sections (especially on the way down the Sargent Mtn.) most of the climb was a gentle uphill atop exposed rock with the most amazing views of the Atlantic ocean, Jordan Pond & Eagle Lake. I did this hike by myself while Tim was on a short trip to visit his mom in CT and loved it so much that I plan to do it again later this week so he can experience the beauty with me.
Biking the Carriage Trails
In addition to all the fantastic hiking around the park, there are also 45 miles of carriage trails that wind around the lakes and mountains. These wide, hard packed gravel paths are perfect for walking or biking. The trails are all interconnected with helpful sign posts at each intersection telling you where they lead in addition to providing numbers that correspond with a detailed carriage trail map you can pick up at the visitor center.
Using this map I put together a few biking loops to keep me busy while Tim was gone. First, I did a relatively short loop around Eagle Lake, then a bigger loop around both Eagle Lake and Jordan Pond, then an ambitious mostly uphill climb that skirted the edge of Parkman Mountain, and finally when Tim retuned we combined my Eagle Lake/Jordan Pond loop with an extra 5 miles around Witch Hole Pond for a fantastic 17 mile ride with lots of ups and downs.
Kayaking & Swimming in Long Pond
To round out all the hiking and biking we’ve managed to fit in a small amount of kayaking. Last year we discovered Long Pond which is not only perfect for kayaking but swimming as well. It’s one of the few lakes on the island not used as a public water supply which means swimming is allowed, and unlike the freezing cold ocean, the water here is a perfectly acceptable temperature. Even I went in the last time, and I’m usually a big wimp when it comes to swimming in cold water.
That’s it for now. We still have two more weeks here and hope to get out for some ocean kayaking later this week, and of course more hiking and biking. I’ll leave you with a photo of this sweet pup named Porter who spent a few afternoons with us while my brother and his new wife were on their honeymoon. Isn’t he the cutest?