Jill and I started off our vacation this past week in Bar Harbor, Maine. I'm obviously bias to vacationing in New Hampshire but I was more than happy to give Bar Harbor a shot. It was within driving distance, is known to be beautiful and Acadia National Park is located right there. We decided to plan out our first day in the park. The plan was to get up and drive up to Cadillac Mountain for sunrise, then head down to some trails and get in a nice loop hike before lunch.
Sunrise on July 17th was scheduled for 5:03am. This meant we needed to be up by 3:30am so that we could get ready, out the door and up the mountain with time to spare. We did so and were shocked to see the parking lot at the top of Cadillac Mountain was already filling up at 4:30am. Cadillac Mountain is the tallest mountain in Acadia standing at 1,528 feet. It has trails that lead up to the summit, as well as an auto road with a large parking lot. It is a pretty bald peak constructed of pink granite.
Jill and I found a nice little spot on the eastern slope of the summit and watched as the sky subtly changed colors from shades of gray to shades of pink to shades of orange. It was very pretty and worth getting up early for. Many people were out there with their families observing the beauty as we were, and others were out there with tripods and cameras capturing the gorgeous landscape. Soon, a deep orange sun started to peak up slowly over the eastern coast. It was an awesome view to wake up to.
After sunrise, I'm sure most people headed out to get some breakfast. Not us though! We had Fiber One bars and headed to our trailhead of choice. It was still nice and early, and we wanted to get on the trails before they got crowded. The route I mapped out for us was to head up The Beehive, circle south to Gorham Mountain and then swing back north, taking the Ocean Path back to the trailhead.
It's my understanding that The Beehive is one of the more popular trails in Acadia. It is pretty short, but is a vertical climb, which makes it appealing. In order to be more accommodating to all skill levels of hiker's, trailblazers have placed iron rungs for gripping and walking on, into the cliffs. The hike starts out easy and the trail climbs pretty gradually. It isn't long before you come to a split which allows you to go around to the back of The Beehive for an easier, steady ascent or head up the cliff side. Jill and I obviously chose the cliff side. To be truthful, the rungs are placed in such a way that you never feel as though you are in absolute danger. The rungs always give you good footing and great hand reach options. The wide open views from this trail, spanning from the northeast to the southeast, made any apprehension for this hike dissolve quickly.
When Jill and I got to the top, we received the reward of phenomenal views all around. We saw mountains in one direction and the Atlantic in the other. We were the only ones on that mountain at the moment and we felt like we owned it. We laid on the cliff slabs for a while and soaked in some sun. Soon, we were off again and headed over to Gorham Mountain to the south. It was a rather short trail over, descending for a bit and then ascending to the summit. The humidity in the air certainly made all the hiking seem a bit longer than it really was. Once gain, on Gorham Mountain, we found ourselves with a 360 degree, spectacular view.
At this point, Jill and I were starting to get pretty hungry (remember, we missed breakfast) as well as pretty hot, since the sun continued to climb high. We headed down the south slope of the mountain and along the Cadillac Cliffs. There are two trails that run along these cliffs. One runs along the top, while the other runs across the middle of the ridge, halfway down the cliff's edge. We decided to take the lower trail and check out the cliffs up close. This trail was very cool and we saw some very neat caves. It did have some rough footing and required some less than steady hiking, but was well worth the effort.
Soon the Gorham Mountain Trail ended at a trailhead a few miles away from our car, so we crossed the road to the Ocean Path and headed north. The Ocean Path is a nicely maintained gravel sidewalk path, which contours the shore. The scenery was beautiful all the way back to the car and consisted of sheer cliffs that the ocean waves had carved out. over time Halfway back, we took a small detour to view Thunder Hole, which is a hollowed out cave beneath the shore that has been carved out by ocean waves. When waves hit the bottom of the "hole", it sounds like thunder and shakes the ground you are standing on.
All in all, spending the morning in Acadia was great. I was truly surprised at how much the mountains in the park reminded me of New Hampshire. They certainly weren't as high in elevation, but that is all relative. Most of these mountains were between 500 and 1,000 feet high, but they were all at the foot of the ocean, which definitely made them seem pretty high. The pink granite, domed summits also reminded me of New Hampshire mountains, like Cardigan or Kearsarge. Looking up at the cliffs on the southeasterly faces of these mountains reminded me of the great rock slides that scar many of the mountain slopes in the Whites. Finally, the constant roar of the ocean waves, which you could hear while hiking, was very similar to the roar of the fast moving brooks on many of the New Hampshire mountains.
I would love to return soon and explore more of Acadia, even if it isn't in the great State of New Hampshire!