Thursday, October 6, 2016

National Parks Bucket List: Acadia National Park, Maine

Toward the end of August, Daniel and I had the opportunity to take a week away to the northest-east of the northeast - we spent 3 days at the absolutely gorgeous National Park, Acadia, in honor of the National Parks Centennial this year, and honestly we could've spent longer!

I did a lot of research before we went, so we hit most of the big "must do" items in the park, as well as picking up a few other activities! All of our days were incredibly packed, and we missed a couple things we might've done if we'd had a bit more time - but we're both still very satisfied with what we experienced! Keep reading for an account of what we did each day.

Day 1:

After getting in to the park and getting our pass for the few days, we headed over to Gorham Mountain. This mountain was 1.8 miles roundtrip, and a crazily low summit of only 525 feet. It yielded some amazing views of the ocean, for a nice short hike!






From there, at the base of the mountain, we took the 1 mile hike out to Otter Cove.




After we hiked back to our car, it was picnic time!


From there, we consulted our map of the park, trying to get an idea of what to do next. This trip was rather impromptu (only planned about 2 weeks in advance), so we were making it up as we went! We came up with what we thought was going to be a pretty good plan for day #2, so we picked a smaller "side" type item to do for the rest of the afternoon. Our campground was halfway in between the main part of the park and the Schoodic Point section of the park, so we decided to stop back by the campground, and then go over to Schoodic Point for sunset.

First, we stopped for a quick swim at a local swimming area recommended to us by the owners of the campground, Jones Pond. Loons are kind of a rare thing in NY state (like seeing one in the Adirondacks feels about the same amount of euphoria as seeing an elephant), so it was so cool to just be swimming in this neighborhood pond and hear and see loons around!



And then it was off to Schoodic Point! One of my favorite parts about Acadia is that their two main areas have one-way loop roads, so you're forced to drive around the entire thing to take it all in. We stopped for a view of Cadillac Mountain on Schoodic Head, saw a bald eagle (!!) just chillin' on a tree, looked for birds in the ocean/on the shoreline, stood in the Atlantic to have a comparison from standing in the Pacific in San Diego in January, and took in a breathtaking sunset over Cadillac Mountain.

View from Schoodic Head




Daniel and the eider ducks




  


Day 2:

This day was a bit more relaxed physically! Reviews online said to hit Cadillac Mountain first thing in the morning so you're guaranteed some parking (since you can drive up it), so that's what we decided to do first thing in the morning this day. We got up to the top of the mountain around 10AM, I believe. There is a short walking loop on top, and it was a little cold (thus the sweatshirts at 10AM in August), but so unbelievably breathtaking from every angle. I wasn't even bothered by the masses of people because it was just that beautiful.






One of our trusty self-timer shots!

View from one of the side parking areas along the way down
From there, we went to the Wild Gardens of Acadia and the Nature Center, just because we were close and for a little look-see/walk around.



After that, it was swimming time... or rather, dip in the FREEZING ocean time. The internet was not joking when they said that Sand Beach rarely reaches temperatures above 55 degrees. The water color was insanely gorgeous though, and thankfully it was a hot day. We varied between quick freezing dunks and laying on the beach. Side note: a little girl next to us went to eat her sandwich and a seagull straight-up ripped it out of her hands - unreal!




From there, we walked along the shoreline/road up to the iconic thunder hole, which they say you have to hit at the perfect time, so it was not super exciting.

After that stroll, we had lunch at the picnic area again, and then drove over to another section of the park to do another quick, short mountain (Beech Mountain) and check out the only freshwater swimming in the park, Echo Lake.


View from the stairs of the fire tower - you can't get up to the cabin



Echo Lake at dusk
Day 3:

This was our most favorite day, and something I'm hoping to get to do more of in the future! We brought our bikes all the way from home, a solid 9+ hours on the car (first time strapping them on nonetheless), and it was so incredibly worth it! We did a 10.8 mile bike loop on the amazing carriage roads - a road system leftover from the name sake, carriages - and horses! They're crushed stone and only horses, walkers and bikers are allowed on them and there's a very intricate system of them within the park. That doesn't mean they're necessarily easy though - a lot of it was smooth and flat, a lot of downhill coasting, but we also had our fair share of slogging (sometimes walking) uphill. We did one of the popular loops up around Jordan Pond, Eagle Lake and Bubble Pond, and it was absolutely stunning! We got to see so much of the beauty of the park in such a short timeframe, while moving our bodies, not sitting in a car. Such an amazing experience, a must must do! I can't say enough about how truly amazing it was. As a tip, this was another area we were lucky we got to the parking lot early at. We parked around 10AM and when we went to bring our bikes back to the car at 12:30 roughly, it was swamped with people waiting for others to leave so they could take their spot.



Took this while riding... no big deal!

Also taken while riding!

Jordan Pond

Jordan Pond

Eagle Lake





Bubble Pond

Riding along Bubble Pond
 After the ride, we were famished! We had one of our few restaurant meals on our week's vacation at the Jordan Pond House - it was amazing. The food was amazingly elegant and fresh, and the decor inside the restaurant was so quaint! While in Maine, I had to get a lobster roll, and we also feasted on their famous popovers! Daniel also enjoyed some Maine blueberry soda, and a popover sundae. It was an experience in and of itself - and it was the perfect cap to our morning of riding.











And that was the end of our stay in Acadia! The day before we came to Acadia, we stopped in Portland, ME for a visit, and we capped our stay in Acadia with a detour on the way home to the White Mountains, making it all-in-all just short of a week we were out. The weather was perfect, the company was perfect, and the experiences were perfect! Couldn't have asked for a better time visiting our second national park.




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