School spirit and the Orange and Black Path in Acadia National Park

First in a series of historic hiking trail highlights leading up to the Acadia Centennial

When Princeton professor Rudolph E. Brunnow designed this intricate path up the east face of Champlain in the early 1900s, he was apparently as passionate about the trail as his university, since he named it after his school’s colors.

Orange & Black Path in Acadia National Park

A hiker ascends the Orange and Black Path in Acadia National Park.

In honor of Brunnow and today’s trail crew, why not share a photo of yourself on the Orange and Black Path with a caption of your school colors on our Facebook page? Thanks to our friend Maureen, a Georgetown alum who took a picture of a couple of “blue and grays” on the Orange and Black, for inspiring this idea.

Our favorite part of the path is the recently reopened historic section leading from Schooner Head Road, up to a terraced area where you can sit on granite slabs to rest, take in the views or strike up a conversation. That’s about 0.5 mile one-way.

If the rest of the path to the Precipice Trail is closed for peregrine falcon nesting season (mid-May through mid-August), you can take a spur to the Champlain North Ridge Trail instead. Get spectacular views of Frenchman Bay from the 1,058-foot summit of Champlain.

Brunnow started the Orange and Black Path from his 160-foot-long, 40-room mansion, which overlooks Frenchman Bay and Egg Rock.

Brunnow built the mansion in 1912 and it is now owned by the Jackson Laboratory, a private, nonprofit organization focused on genetics research.

Brunnow was a prolific trail builder during a golden era of trail construction.

In the 1910s, the Princeton professor, who was leader of the Bar Harbor Village Improvement Association, supervised construction of the Orange and Black Path, the Precipice Trail and the Beehive Trail, according to the “Acadia Trails Treatment Plan,” the cultural landscape report for Acadia’s historic trail system.

Brunnow was noted for using iron rungs and ladders to ascend the trails. He was also the first to take direct and precipitous routes up cliff faces such as Champlain and the Beehive.

He may also have suffered a tragic death.

According to the web site of Jackson Laboratory, a story goes that Brunnow fell while mountain climbing, was found the following morning and later passed away at his mansion after developing pneumonia. (The story of the circumstances of Brunnow’s death has been debunked by Donald Lenahan in a June 2015 post on his blog, The Memorials of Acadia National Park, based on primary research.)

An obituary in the New York Times gave no cause of death, saying only that Brunnow, 58, died in April of 1917. The obituary did note that one of his five children, 17-year-old son, Eric, a freshman at Princeton, had died from infantile paralysis in 1916, or polio, and that his wife of 13 years, Marguerite Beckwith, had died in 1907.

Acadia’s trail crew did a great job restoring the Orange and Black Path after an October 2006 3.8-magnitude earthquake struck and caused a massive rockslide, closing the trail for three years.

Rudolph Brunnow would be proud.

12 thoughts on “School spirit and the Orange and Black Path in Acadia National Park

  1. Susan H DeGeorge

    Marguerite Beckwith was my Great Grandmother. She died in Childbirth in 1907 , giving birth to her 5th child. I hope to get up to Maine sometime to visit “High Seas”, the mansion that my Great Great Grandfather built. I know it is owned by the Jackson Laboratory now, but I hope they might let me in.

    1. Acadia on my mind Post author

      Susan — Thanks for commenting on this story. Your great grand-father, Rudolph E. Brunnow, was one of the top trail builders during the early years of hiking on Mount Desert Island and is one of the iconic figures of that era. We would love to know more about him and his life on MDI. His legacy of trail building can be seen at the Beehive, the Precipice and Orange and Black. Please let us know if you are allowed a tour of “High Seas.”

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