Updated: Jul 25, 2020
Biking this glorious, wooded wonder
Belfast is along the coast of Maine and is within easy reach of Acadia National Park. Our family has a deep connection to the outdoors and we treasure any opportunity to experience a treasure like Acadia. It has long been on my bucket list to hike and bike this park. When we planned the trip, we expected to have a considerable challenge getting into and around the park, as it is frequented by thousands every day throughout the summer months. What unfolded in the months leading up to the trip not only changed the experience for anyone going into any park all across the United States, but also made Acadia an experience only imaginable in the days when it was founded.
We’ll not dive deep into the history of Acadia, as it is a great read on the National Park Service website (https://www.nps.gov/acad/index.htm). There is so much to offer, you can’t possibly experience it all in just a day or two. John D. Rockefeller used his powers of persuasion and the vision of innovation when he put this park together. His effort was to ensure the region was available for many to come and experience it just as he found it. To that end, he had horse-drawn carriage roads cut throughout the park so that people wouldn’t drive their polluting vehicles to see the park. A large area to leave your Tin Lizzy and embark on a journey through the forests, hills, beaches and jagged rocky shorelines would become one of the most idyllic National Parks we have in our country.
The park is slowly reopening, but there are plenty of areas still off limits, either because of the pandemic, or because peregrine falcons are nesting/mating. There was plenty to do, however, so we weren’t disappointed to miss a couple opportunities, just gave us more to come back to see. We did, however, manage to get a ticket for parking without displaying our ‘America the Beautiful’ National Park pass. Typically, you enter the park and pay the entrance fee, but for now, you go online and purchase a day pass or, in our case, display your Active Duty Military pass in your windshield. We’re sure there was a sign or something to tell us that, but we missed it and got a ticket that required us to photo our pass, the ticket and then email that to an address to clear things up. It was taken care of in less than an hour, so it really illustrated the learning process of pandemic effects.
To see the park, we loaded up our ebikes and set out to find a central location. Again, we had expected to encounter high traffic and some level of waiting to get into the park. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. This was when all the hoops we jumped through to visit Maine became worth it. We parked in a prime area, with the lot nearly to ourselves when we arrived. Once unloaded, we set out onto the main carriage road around Eagle Lake, headed west for the hills and vistas that mountains with names like Bubble, Sargent, Penobscot. We watched Hadlock Falls and listened to Birch Spring. There are a lot of the old carriage road bridges still in use today and they are worth visiting to see the way mankind carved a path into the beauty but didn’t ruin the experience. The ebikes really made that possible, as we went nearly 20 miles that day.
It's worth mentioning that Acadia is in it’s first season of allowing ebikes on the carriage roads. They had been restricted to paved roads only. They allow only the style that assists when you pedal, so you still have to ride, no electric mopeds or scooters allowed. The roads are hard packed gravel, so you wouldn’t want to go very fast anyway, but the speed limit is 20mph on all carriage roads. We’ve speed limited the boys’ bikes to 12mph anyway, just to make sure when the crashes happen, we’re only likely to need band aids and tissues. However, the park is definitely monitoring the use of ebikes. We encountered one of the Park Ranger-connected bike patrol personnel at Hadlock Falls Bridge. He was really kind and asked us about the bikes a little. He even took photos of our boys on the bikes to show his family (or his fellow rangers, more likely! LOL!). He knew about Rad bikes and didn’t say anything more than thanks for being safe and not being part of the problem. The issue, as it is for many other things, is that there are a few riders out there that have no consideration for others on trails they share, choosing to dangerously speed past pedestrians and bikers without exercising a little caution by slowing down and alerting others of their approach. We don’t bike that way, so the ranger was happy to see us out there.
Speaking of others out there, we had many of the carriage roads to ourselves, save an occasional set of mountain bikers or a pair of hikers that we shared the roads with. In total, we probably passed 30 people for the WHOLE DAY. Truly, this was a once in a lifetime place with a once in a lifetime experience. It was something we would pay large sums of money to reserve the park this way again.
The weather we had in Maine for our trip was perfect for exploring any time of day. Maine summers are our kind of weather. We had chilly mornings at 50-ish degrees, with the day gradually warming up to 75 for a short time. ‘Sweatah Weathah’ is what we call it.
We next explored the Schoodic Point of Acadia. Hiking this area of the park is the way to see things you only get to experience on a science or travel related show on television. The scenery of this area is a Thomas Kinkade painting around every corner. We made a few stops for photos and videos before we came to the west-facing rocks near Ravens Nest. All of us walked out onto the rocks and took in the crashing waves all around us. This place recharges souls like the yellow sun recharges Superman’s powers. The stress of current events and worldwide risk to health fades away in the roar of the ocean as the wildlife around you takes a good look and goes back to the day’s activities. Rock scrambling and seagrass pool viewing filled a solid hour of restful activity. With the day wearing on, we scooped up the boys and headed to the main event, Schoodic Point. The loop road is one way around the peninsula, with a short side route to take you to the parking area of Schoodic Point. DO NOT SKIP THIS. In fact, Schoodic Point should be the Pin in your map, what you do on the way is up to you, but you have to GO to this pin.
Schoodic Point is where the world ends. Like really. There is nothing beyond your gaze but thousands of miles of the Atlantic Ocean. You can look east and see Schoodic Island, west you can just make out the eastern half of Acadia on Mount Desert Island, but everything else southward is Atlantic Ocean. You might catch a glimpse of a large ship or the Bar Harbor ferry passing by. The mornings at this location are where you can see the sunrise, nearly the first place it touches US soil. They say Cadillac Mountain over on Mount Desert Island is where the sun touches it first, but the mountain is nearly covered in fog or mist more often than not during the summer mornings. Plus, the sun rises there at 4AM most of the summer! We didn’t make a sunrise trip, but would love to do that someday. With only a two week time, we didn’t want to risk a foggy morning sunrise dud.
We left Schoodic after another hour of exploring the intertidal zone and soaking in the energy of the ocean. The eastern part of the Schoodic loop didn’t disappoint, either. Chalky blue perfectly tumbled granite rock shores gave way to deep green marshes with a few moose we didn’t get to photograph. We wound our way over to Atlantic Brewing Company in Bar Harbor for some pretty amazing BBQ and some delicious beer; a great HOP stop and grub grab.
Acadia is one of this country’s jewels that you need to PIN. It doesn’t matter if you have one day or twelve, there’s something to do each and every time you visit.
Our video on Bar Harbor, Acadia National Forest, Schoodic Point, and other fun Hops and Pins is available here!
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