Meaning of the Trek, in the year of the Acadia Centennial

Roger and Julie Grindle of Hancock joined a virtual 100-mile Acadia Centennial Trek at the perfect time, with Roger having just retired, and the both of them wanting to walk more to stay fit. They just completed their 100th mile on Ocean Path last week and have the finisher’s medal to prove it.

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Julie and Roger Grindle of Hancock at the finish line of their 100-mile Acadia Centennial Trek. (Photo courtesy of Julie Grindle)

Bob and Helena Herrmann of Bowie, Md., are into their 2nd and 3rd rounds of the Acadia Centennial Trek, logging their miles in their home state. When they see their map icon move along the virtual route, from the top of Cadillac and along the hiking trails and roads of Acadia, it makes them long for the next trip to their favorite park.

Cookie Horner, co-chair of the Acadia Centennial Task Force, and her husband, William, plan a personal real-life Acadia trek of 100 miles, up and over the 26 peaks of Mount Desert Island, and along the park’s carriage roads, to deepen their appreciation of the park even more, although they may not necessarily plot their mileage on the virtual map as the Grindles and Herrmanns have.

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Some of the attendees at the first-ever Acadia Centennial Trek meet-up at Side Street Cafe in Bar Harbor.

These and other stories, shared on the occasion of the first-ever Acadia Centennial Trek meet-up last week at Side Street Café in Bar Harbor, show the many meanings of the Trek, no matter who’s doing it, where they’re doing it, and how they’re doing it.

The free year-long Trek, sponsored by this blog as an official Acadia Centennial event, and hosted by Racery.com, offers an optional Acadia Centennial finisher’s medal for purchase. Made by Ashworth Awards, the same company that has made the finisher’s medal for the Boston Marathon and the MDI Marathon, the medal helps raise funds for the park.

Nearly 250 people have signed up for the virtual Trek so far, from marathoners in Scotland to runners in last weekend’s Acadia Half Marathon and this weekend’s Ellsworth Public Library’s My Way 5k, from walkers in Maine and Maryland to park rangers and Friends of Acadia volunteers. Even Racery.com CEO Henry Copeland (Trek name @hc) and Bar Harbor naturalist Rich MacDonald (Trek name @MDIbirdnerd) have joined in on the fun.

Sense of community, purpose bind Acadia Centennial Trekkers

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Hailing from all over the world, Acadia Centennial Trekkers are all over the 100-mile virtual map, starting at Cadillac and ending in Southwest Harbor at the finish line of the real-life Mount Desert Island Marathon. Join the Trek by scrolling to the bottom of the Racers’ dropdown menu and entering your e-mail for Part I.

At the Acadia Centennial Trek meet-up last week at Side Street Café, some of the participants sent along photos of the finisher’s medal they’ve earned, so they could be there in spirit, if not in reality: Virtual Trekker @Jaimee88 of Boston (the first participant to receive a medal), @Mac (the first international recipient of the medal), and the Herrmanns of Maryland, who go by the Trek names of @RAH47 (Robert) and @Star (Helena).

Maybe it’s the love for Acadia or the longing for community that binds the Acadia Centennial Trekkers. People who’ve never met in real life but who know each other by their virtual Trek names appreciate it when another Trekker “likes” their latest mileage update and description. Julie and Roger Grindle (@Grin and @Grinny) were sorry that @TrailWitch, a prolific “liker,” couldn’t attend the meet-up.

Or maybe it’s the sense of purpose, whether the goal of getting more fit, earning an Acadia Centennial finisher’s medal, or helping to support the park, that connects the Trekkers.

As meet-up guest speaker Gary Allen, founder of the MDI Marathon and The Great Run on Great Cranberry Island, and an honorary Acadia Centennial Trekker, said last week, there’s more meaning to a trek, however you define it, when there’s a deeper purpose.

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Special guest speakers at the Acadia Centennial Trek meet-up at Side Street Cafe, Maureen Fournier and Gary Allen. In front of them are photos of Bob and Helena Herrmann of Bowie, Md., wearing their finisher’s medals, and of medals from the first international recipient (middle, earned by Trekker @Mac of Scotland) and the first-ever recipient (right, earned by Trekker @Jaimee88 of Boston).

The examples Allen gave came from his own experience:

Instead of running a race for another attempt at a personal record, he ran 700 miles from Cadillac to Washington, DC, in 2013, to raise more than $37,000 for wounded veterans, the American Cancer Society and victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.

And instead of being content with having started MDI Marathon in 2002 and extending the season into late October, he launched a free Millinocket Marathon & Half last December to try to bring much-needed dollars to the Katahdin region’s hurting economy.

The other meet-up guest speaker, Acadia National Park Ranger Maureen Fournier, who wrote the foreword to the new biography of George B. Dorr, the “father of Acadia,” also shared the meaning she gets from hiking the trails of Acadia, and participating in the Acadia Centennial Trek (@RangerMo).

Grateful every day for Dorr’s foresight 100 years ago, Fournier developed an even deeper appreciation of the trails Dorr and others built by hiking the 100 miles of the Acadia Centennial Trek in less than a month, and earning her Acadia Centennial finisher’s medal. She’s now on to the 2nd round of the Trek.

College of the Atlantic, Chimani with own version of Acadia trek

That sense of meaning and purpose seems to also be driving other forms of Acadia-related treks, not just the virtual Acadia Centennial Trek with its medal to help raise funds for the park. They, too, coincidentally center around logging miles in Acadia.

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The Acadia Centennial finisher’s medal marks the spot on Ocean Path where Julie and Roger Grindle finished their 100-mile virtual Acadia Centennial Trek. (Photo by Julie Grindle)

For example, today, June 11, the College of the Atlantic is hosting a 44-point Relay for COA for alumni, with the goal of getting 44% of alumni to give by the end of the fiscal year on June 30. The trek began at the whale skull on the college campus and goes through downtown Bar Harbor, along the ocean, and points in Acadia. There are hiking and bicycling legs of the relay, which began at 5:30 a.m. and expected to end after 8 p.m.

In the Spring 2016 issue of the Friends of Acadia Journal, Kerry Gallivan, CEO of Chimani, a national parks app, announced a partnership with Friends of Acadia and the park to allow participants in the annual Acadia Quest to use the app to log their challenges, rather than the usual paper-and-pencil route.

In addition, he announced a new digital 100-mile Acadia Centennial Challenge badge, which gets unlocked on the Chimani Acadia app after the mileage has been reached. This year’s Centennial edition of the Acadia Quest encourages kids and their families to explore the park’s 100-year history and inspire conservation for the next 100 years.

There’s something about Acadia miles that seems to inspire new ways of appreciating them, both today and dating all the way back to the late 1800s, early 1900s.

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On National Trails Day, we summitted Dorr Mountain and marked the occasion with this photo of our Acadia Centennial finisher’s medal on the park’s 3rd highest peak.

In Ronald H. Epp’s new biography of Dorr, “Creating Acadia National Park,” the historian includes a quote from “The Last Resorts” by journalist and social commentator Cleveland Amory, in this passage about the early years of Mount Desert Island and its more than 100 miles of hiking trails:

“No other resort could offer the ‘walk and talk’ seasonal residents with anything comparable,” Epp writes, citing Amory’s passage that a “person’s social prestige depended on the number of pedestrian miles accomplished up and down [the torturous trails] each summer.”

Today, in the year of the Acadia Centennial, let us not just ‘walk and talk’ on the trails of Acadia. Let us walk the walk, no matter how we define the Trek. And let us find meaning and purpose, whether it be to give back to Acadia, to find deeper appreciation of the park, or to use the trails, both real and virtual, to get more fit or find community.

And why not also earn the Acadia Centennial finisher’s medal, however you’re defining your Trek, and help raise funds for the park at the same time?

And perhaps you can join the gallery of well-earned bling, by posting a photo on our Facebook page, which we can then add to the photo slide below.

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