Category Archives: Features

Features about Acadia National Park.

Maine virtual race with medals connects long-lost friends

As Gregory Emerson of Topsham strolled through a local ArtWalk this summer, logging miles for a virtual race to benefit Acadia and Katahdin area charities, he struck up a conversation with an artisan whose wood carvings of freshwater fish he particularly admired.

virtual race with medals

Gregory Emerson, left, encountered a long-lost college buddy, Ray Chase, while logging miles for the Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Run. (Photo courtesy of Gregory Emerson)

“I quickly realized it was a college buddy, Ray Chase, from Rumford, Maine,” said Emerson in an e-mail, in recalling the surprise real-life connection he made as he participated in the Cadillac to Katahdin virtual race with medals that’s going on until Dec. 9. “Ray and I hadn’t seen each other for at least 20 years.”

As Julie Grindle of Hancock undergoes cancer treatment, she’s been walking as part of her recovery, entering her miles online and getting encouragement from others in the Maine virtual race with medals, even though she’s never met most of the participants. “This virtual race has been a motivator and a bright spot thanks to you guys!!” she wrote online to those who’ve been cheering her on. “Thanks for all of the support virtual race friends!!”

In reply, Bryan O’Keefe of Billerica, Mass., wrote, “Keep doing what you are doing! You are doing an awesome job!”

virtual race with medals

The Cadillac to Katahdin Medallion is made by Ashworth Awards, the same company that makes the medals for the Mount Desert Island and Boston marathons. Registrants for the virtual race also have the option of adding a collector’s edition of the Acadia Centennial Medallion. (Photo courtesy of Ashworth Awards)

United by some connection to Acadia or Millinocket, or the real-life Mount Desert Island and Millinocket Marathons and Half Marathons, more than 120 participants have been logging miles from around the world on a virtual 200-mile Cadillac to Katahdin route, to help raise funds for the nonprofit Friends of Acadia, Our Katahdin and Millinocket Memorial Library.

Although many of them have never met, they’ve made connections online, watching each other’s race avatars make progress on the virtual map with each day’s mileage entry, from Cadillac to Katahdin, and including the real-life routes for the MDI and Millinocket races. They offer words of encouragement and advice, sharing their training regimens if they’re competitive runners, weather reports from wherever in the world they may be, trip updates to the Acadia or Katahdin regions, real-life race results, and photos of their travels.

As the Cadillac to Katahdin virtual race with medals approaches its halfway point, and as the real-life MDI Marathon and Half is set to run on Oct. 15, the connections between virtual and real life are converging, and the links between racers and community are deepening.

Racers can sign up for the Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Run until Dec. 9, and they can backdate their running, hiking or walking miles anywhere in the world, to Aug. 15. While the real-life MDI Half is at capacity, the MDI Marathon is still open for registration as of this writing, and volunteers are welcome too. Participants or volunteers in the real-life events get special pricing for the virtual race with medals.

virtual race with medals

Race avatars for more than 120 participants in the Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Run stretch along the virtual 200-mile route, from Cadillac to Katahdin. Sign up now. Race goes until Dec. 9, and you can backdate mileage to Aug. 15. (Image courtesy of racery.com)

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Volunteers keep eagle eye on hawk count in Acadia

As he peers through binoculars, Jim Zeman spots a couple of raptors soaring on the horizon between two islands off Cadillac Mountain at Acadia National Park.

Jim and Kathy Zeman, volunteers at Hawk Watch in Acadia National Park

Jim Zeman, left, and his wife, Kathy Zeman, peering through binoculars, are longtime volunteers at the hawk count on Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park.

Zeman quickly shares the hawk count with the others on the mountain top on a sunny early September afternoon.

“Over the water, I see them,” Zeman says. “They are crisscrossing each other – two Broad-wings.”

Zeman and his wife, Kathy, both of Bucksport, are longtime volunteers in the Hawk Watch program on the Cadillac Mountain summit in Acadia National Park. The annual hawk count is conducted partly by volunteers like the Zemans and Carol Thompson, who logs the daily numbers from Cadillac on an internet site maintained by the Hawk Migration Association of North America.

September is peak season for the hawk count. On Sept. 11, for example, volunteers counted 579 birds of prey in flight including 289 Broad-winged Hawks, 129 Sharp-shinned Hawks, 108 American Kestrels, along with others such as 14 Osprey and five Bald Eagles.

hawk watch

At Hawk Watch atop Cadillac, you may not even need binoculars when a Sharp-shinned Hawk swoops close by, as photographed by one frequent volunteer in an earlier season. (Photo courtesy of William Lawless)

Using their binoculars or spotting scopes, volunteers identify the birds on the fly.

During a visit on a sunny early September day, Thompson pointed to a red-tailed bird diving on the horizon over Sheep Island, one of the Porcupine Islands.

“He’s a little kestrel,”  responded Zeman, a retired AT & T manager. “An American Kestrel. He has like pointy wings. Look at the tail. He flies around like a butterfly.”

Thompson, who is from Bath, N.H. and volunteers at the park, clearly enjoys the hawk count. “I love seeing the birds, being able to talk to people and families and tell them what’s happening with the wildlife,” she said, adding that her husband, Russell, is a driver for the Island Explorer.

The hawk count is open to the public each day, depending on the weather, and is located off the Cadillac North Ridge Trail, which starts off the parking lot at the top of 1,530-foot Cadillac Mountain. This week is a good one for watching because it is International Hawk Migration Week. People should bring binoculars, though the birds can be seen with the naked eye.

The best conditions are when the winds are coming from the north or northwest, allowing the birds to fly south and glide on thermals and drafts. With a southerly wind, people likely will not see many birds.

Raptors follow migrating songbirds, Jim Zeman said. “They will stop and take a songbird for a meal if they can,” he said. Continue reading

Cadillac to Katahdin virtual national park race boosts charity

When Millinocket Memorial Library was on the brink of being closed forever in 2015, with the old mill city’s financial troubles, Margie King and others stepped up to raise $30,000 and volunteer to keep the doors open.

stephen king

Margie King, who goes by the Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Run name of @mak321, shelves a Stephen King novel. There is a real-life connection between the novelist and the library, as the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation donated $10,000 to the Friends of Millinocket Memorial Library to help keep the doors open. (Photo courtesy Margie King)

Now, King’s still stepping up – literally and virtually – to benefit her beloved community institution. In between volunteer shifts at the library, helping to shelve books and staff the front desk, she’s walking around Millinocket to log miles in the first-ever Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Run, to help raise funds for the library and 2 other nonprofits, Our Katahdin and Friends of Acadia.

“I became interested in the race when I heard about the charitable giving aspect and it sounded like fun to follow my progress on a map, from one beautiful place to another. The medal is pretty cool too,” said King, in an email.

More than 100 participants have signed up for the virtual national park race so far, including:

  • King’s daughter, Tracy King Daniell of Orono
  • Holly Todd, a beekeeper, massage therapist and Maine Guide in Millinocket
  • Rebeccah Geib, a long-distance runner from Bar Harbor and member of Crow Athletics, who was the first to finish the 200-mile virtual route, in 15 days
  • Maine Running Hall of Famer Robin Emery, who has a trophy named after her, awarded to the top female finisher in the Bangor Labor Day 5-mile race
  • Acadia National Park Ranger Maureen Fournier
  • Tim Henderson of Castine, one of the Acadia National Park volunteers known as Waldron’s Warrior, helping to maintain the Bates cairns
  • Jim Linnane of Bar Harbor, who’s been logging some of his miles for the race while volunteering on Acadia’s trails for the Friends of Acadia

We’ve also invited Chris Popper of WDEA AM 1370 to join, and hope to develop a Dream Team of celebrity virtual racers with Popper as the first to be drafted.

virtual race

The 3″ Cadillac to Katahdin Medallion features a raised lobster claw and raised pine tree. You don’t need to finish all 200 miles by Dec. 9 to earn your medal. (Image by Ashworth Awards)

What’s a virtual national park race, you ask? It lets people from anywhere in the world sign up to run, hike, walk or log other forms of miles, whether to raise funds for charity, earn a finisher’s medallion or just set a fitness goal. Races can include technology-driven virtual routes that allow participants to see their progress, get a Google photo of their virtual location and check out the competition online, such as in the Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Run. Or it can be as simple as allowing people to record their mileage via the honor system in order to get a medal in the mail. There are different themes for virtual races, and even Disney runs them. Check out what a Cadillac to Katahdin virtual racer experience can be like in this short video by Racery.com, which hosts the race on its online platform.

Co-sponsored by Acadia on My Mind and organizers of the real-life Mount Desert Island Marathon & Half and Millinocket Marathon & Half, the Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Run continues until Dec. 9, and participants can register at any time and backdate daily miles to Aug. 15, the start of the race. It is also the virtual edition of the first-ever Sea to Summit Series, where runners who participate in both the real-life MDI and Millinocket races can earn a special Sea to Summit finisher’s medallion.

Gary Allen, director of the real-life MDI and Millinocket races, and Sea to Summit Series, likens the impact of the races he’s launched as “a pebble tossed into still water,” with ever-widening rings of positive influence and inspiration. The rings have spread so far and wide, especially with his starting the free Millinocket Marathon & Half in December 2015 to provide an economic boost to the old mill town, that Allen has been profiled in Runner’s World, Down East Magazine and elsewhere.

Just as the real-life MDI Marathon & Half have extended the Acadia area’s season beyond Columbus Day, and the Millinocket Marathon & Half have brought a boost just before the holidays to what has been an economically challenged Katahdin region, we hope this virtual race can be like another one of Allen’s pebbles tossed in still water, to help bring more funds and recognition to these two very special parts of Maine.

And just as more real-life visitors to Acadia are heading inland as part of their vacation, with the addition of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument last year, may our blogging about the new Cadillac to Katahdin virtual national park race spur people to learn more about both regions, whether they’ve ever set foot in Vacationland or not.

And may our blogging, and the virtual national park race, help deepen the connections between the Acadia and Katahdin regions, the people and the place.

cadillac to katahdin

The more than 100 participants so far in the Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Run stretch along the 200-mile route. Join us! (Image courtesy Racery.com)

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Jordan Stream Path one of top hikes in Acadia National Park

One in a series of historic Acadia hiking trail highlights

Jordan Stream Path is among the shortest and most overlooked hikes in Acadia National Park, but it travels to one of the park’s unusual sights – Cobblestone Bridge, which is quietly marking its own centennial this year.

acadia national park hikes

Jordan Stream Path leads to Cobblestone Bridge, which turns 100 years old this year. Hard to believe that George B. Dorr and others once found the bridge to be unattractive.

Previously badly eroded, the Jordan Stream Path looks mostly pristine, following an extensive rehabilitation overseen by Christian Barter, a park trail crew supervisor who is also the park’s poet laureate.

The stream, closely hugged by the path, seems like something out of a Robert Frost poem, with small waterfalls and rushing water, seen during one of our hikes in Acadia National Park in early July this year. The stream starts at the south end of Jordan Pond and goes all the way to Little Long Pond near Seal Harbor.

The path begins near the busy Jordan Pond House but most people appear to disregard the path and opt for the many other more prominent hikes in Acadia National Park in the same area. The path might be a good pick to get away from the crowds during the Labor Day weekend.

jordan stream path

Fine stonework on Jordan Stream Path.

Jim Linnane, a volunteer crew leader with the Friends of Acadia who hiked the path on Saturday, noted that thick spruce forests – untouched by the great fire of 1947– help keep the area private and quiet.

“Hiking the Jordan Stream trail this morning, I thought about how special it is, especially because it is so close to the mass of humanity which descends on the Jordan Pond area on a nice day like today,” Linnane wrote in an email.

“Surprisingly, after a very dry summer, the Jordan Stream still has some running water,” he wrote. “The gurgle and trickle of the stream is a welcome and wonderful interruption to the silence of the deep woods.”

The path goes for only about a half mile within park boundaries, but just outside the park, it reaches the famed Cobblestone Bridge, an appealing feature among hikes in Acadia National Park.

While Acadia’s centennial was last year, the bridge turns 100 years old this year. It’s a popular spot for horse-drawn carriages to stop, to let off visitors for a view of the bridge. Continue reading

Climate change consequences hot topic in Acadia, US news

With the United States planning to pull out of the Paris climate accord and Al Gore’s new movie, climate change is a hot issue this summer.

climate change research

Topography map of Acadia and Mount Desert Island at the Nature Center shows the potential impact of climate change on shorefront, roads, plants and wildlife.

The topic is also sharply in focus at Acadia National Park, where an exhibit at the Sieur de Monts Nature Center explores current and future climate change consequences at the park including the flooding of salt marshes, the survival of a parasite that is killing hemlock forests and the threats of rising temperatures on summit plants, trees like red spruce and balsam fir, and nesting sites of Puffins, Arctic Terns and Loons.

Lynne Dominy, chief of interpretation and education at Acadia, said it is important that the exhibit helps people understand the environmental changes that may occur over the next several decades in the park.

Dominy said the displays are based on science, but they allow people to make their own decisions about climate change.

“The main message is to be educated and to make responsible choices,” she said. “You have to understand we live on a complex planet and that things change. It is important to be a part of that and to understand where we are going and make responsible choices.”

Scenes of climate change consequences are also on the big screen in Maine and elsewhere in “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,” the new movie by the former vice president that’s being released 10 years after the Oscar-winning “An Inconvenient Truth.”

The movie trailer includes President Donald Trump pledging during the campaign to end the federal EPA and cut billions in climate change spending. In a speech on June 1, Trump said he was ceasing all implementation of the Paris accord – a global agreement aimed at reducing global warming and pollution – because he said it imposes too many draconian financial and economic burdens on the United States.

The Trump administration has also opted to dissolve the 15-member Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment, after its charter expired, the Washington Post reported on Sunday.

The panel is intended to advise policymakers on how to incorporate the government’s climate analysis into long-term planning, the Post reported.

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Acadia, Millinocket fans join forces for virtual race 2017

Jessica Jourdain was only 4 when she moved away from Millinocket, but her heart and mind never left. Now, she’s lining up for the first-ever Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Run that’s just begun, and running the real-life Millinocket Half Marathon in December, to help raise funds for her struggling hometown.

virtual race with medals

Jessica Jourdain and her husband Justin ran the Millinocket Half Marathon last December in subzero weather, and are hoping for warmer temps this year. Weather won’t be a concern during the Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Run. (Photo courtesy of Jessica Jourdain)

Judy Lackey took early retirement from her job in health care IT in Connecticut earlier this year, but longs to move to Maine, where she’s been running road races to explore different towns, from Portland to Castine. Now, she’s signed up for the Cadillac to Katahdin virtual race 2017, and the Millinocket Half Marathon, to learn more about the state both virtually and in real life.

Maureen Fournier sells park passes and provides visitor information as an Acadia National Park ranger, but on her days off she goes hiking, whether the trails of Acadia, Baxter State Park, Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument or elsewhere. Now, she’s joining the Cadillac to Katahdin virtual race 2017, to both help raise funds for Acadia and Millinocket, and give her another reason to hike.

“I’m excited to do the race,” said Fournier, who goes by the virtual race trail name of @RangerMo and uses a hiking boot as her avatar on the virtual race route. “It’s all so healthy.”

@RangerMo, @JessicaJ (Jourdain, an office administrator in Sanford, ME) and @Judylackey are among the scores of participants from around the country that have lined up so far for the virtual race, an epic 200-mile journey that starts on the top of Cadillac, the highest point on the US Atlantic seaboard; includes the real-life routes of the Mount Desert Island Marathon & Half (being run Oct. 15 this year) and the Millinocket Marathon & Half (being run Dec. 9); and ends atop Katahdin, the highest point in Maine and northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.

One racer from Morrill, ME – who goes by the virtual race name of @Robrn2000 and has a real-life goal of running 1 marathon a month, and a total of 1,500 miles in 2017 – was first out of the gate, logging 5.2 miles before 7 a.m. this morning.

What’s a virtual race, you ask? It lets people from anywhere in the world sign up to run, hike, walk or log other forms of miles, whether to raise funds for charity, earn a finisher’s medallion or just set a fitness goal. Races can include technology-driven virtual routes that allow participants to see their progress and check out the competition, such as in the Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Run, or be as simple as allowing people to record their mileage via the honor system in order to get a medal in the mail. There are national-park themed virtual races, and even Disney runs them. Check out what a Cadillac to Katahdin virtual racer experience can be like in this short video.

Co-sponsored by Acadia on My Mind, Mount Desert Island Marathon & Half and Millinocket Marathon & Half, the Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Run helps raise funds for the nonprofit Our Katahdin, Millinocket Memorial Library and Friends of Acadia. The Cadillac to Katahdin race is also the virtual edition of the first-ever Sea to Summit Series, where runners who participate in both the real-life MDI and Millinocket races can earn a special Sea to Summit finisher’s medallion.

Register now for the virtual race, and you have 117 days, from Aug. 15 to Dec. 9, to run or walk 200 miles, anywhere in the world. If you register late, you can backdate daily mileage to Aug. 15. And if you can’t complete the 200 miles by Dec. 9, you can log any additional miles needed on another virtual race that we’ve sponsored, the Acadia Centennial Trek.

virtual race with medals

The day had barely dawned, and @Robrn2000 was first out of the gate with a 5.2 miler. Register now to join the first-ever Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Run, and watch your race avatar move along the 200-mile route, from Cadillac to Katahdin. (Image courtesy of racery.com)

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Acadia trail, once scary in ‘Pet Sematary’ movie, gets new life

The bulging tree roots that used to dominate a section of the Deer Brook Trail in Acadia National Park appeared so scary that they were featured in a scene in the Stephen King horror film, “Pet Sematary.”

A new stairway on the Deer Brook Trail in Acadia National Park

This new stairway on the Deer Brook Trail replaced part of a rooted, eroded section that was in a scene in the Stephen King “Pet Sematary” movie.

An elegant rehabilitation, led by the park’s trails crew, gave the Deer Brook Trail a major facelift, but the old rooty section was ideal for a spine-chilling scene in “Pet Sematary,” filmed in Maine in 1988, according to a newly released documentary on the movie production.

Today, the tree roots are replaced partly by a 13-step wooden stairway with hand rails and a landing for a rest stop. The rehabilitation relocated the Acadia trail out of the brook in some spots, ending some tricky rock hopping and water crossings.

Gary Stellpflug, trails foreman at Acadia National Park, said the rehabilitation of the Deer Brook Trail occurred during parts of two summers and then a portion of a third summer.
Stellpflug said the mangled tree roots needed to be replaced with the stairway and log cribbing.

Deer Brook Trail in Acadia National Park.

In this photo taken before the rehabilitation of the Deer Brook Trail, jagged boulders created some tough terrain for hikers.

“That was so eroded,” said Stellpflug. “There was nothing else we could do.”

“Pet Sematary,” which King calls his most frightening book, focuses on Dr. Louis Creed, who moves his family from the Midwest to a small town in Maine to become head of medical services at the University of Maine in Orono and later faces the tragic deaths and horrifying rebirths of his toddler son and wife.

The movie’s lead actors, Dale Midkiff and Fred Gwynne, hike along the Deer Brook Trail on their way to a Micmac burial ground, where the dead – both pets and people – resurrect after interment.

Midkiff, who plays Creed, and Gwynne, who is Jud Crandall, a neighbor and authority on the burial grounds, first hike “beyond the deadfall,” the piles of tree limbs that line the pet cemetery.

After scaling the deadfall, the two step along the spreading roots of the old Deer Brook Trail leading to the Micmac cemetery, situated above the more peaceful pet cemetery.

The Deer Brook Trail was not identified by name in the movie or in a new documentary about the film, but Charlie Jacobi, a resource specialist at Acadia, confirmed that the Acadia trail, situated off a carriage road, was a location in the movie. Continue reading

New Cadillac to Katahdin virtual race aids Acadia, Millinocket

The connections between the Acadia and Katahdin regions run deep, through history, among residents and visitors – and now, with the first-ever virtual race that starts on Cadillac and ends on Katahdin, to help raise funds for the two areas.

virtual race

Announce your participation in the first-ever Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Run by sharing this social-media friendly graphic. Register now. (Image by racery.com)

Runners and walkers anywhere in the world can join the 200-mile virtual race, and earn a special Cadillac to Katahdin Medallion to mark the achievement. The race runs from Aug. 15 through Dec. 9, and includes the routes of the real-life Mount Desert Island Marathon, Half & Relay that’s happening on Oct. 15, and the Millinocket Marathon & Half that’s on Dec. 9. Register now.

Co-sponsored by Acadia on My Mind and organizers of the real-life MDI and Millinocket races, the Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Run will help benefit the nonprofit Friends of Acadia, Our Katahdin and Millinocket Memorial Library. The Cadillac to Katahdin race is also the virtual edition of the first-ever Sea to Summit Series, where runners who participate in both the real-life MDI and Millinocket races can earn a special Sea to Summit finisher’s medallion.

Gary Allen, director of the real-life MDI and Millinocket races, and Sea to Summit Series, likens the impact of the races he’s launched as “a pebble tossed into still water,” with ever-widening rings of positive influence and inspiration. The rings have spread so far and wide, especially with his starting the free Millinocket Marathon & Half in December 2015 to provide an economic boost to the old mill town, that Allen has been profiled in Runner’s World, Down East Magazine and elsewhere.

virtual race

The 3″ gold Cadillac to Katahdin Medallion features raised lobster claw and pine tree. (Image by Ashworth Awards)

Just as the real-life MDI Marathon & Half have extended the Acadia area’s season beyond Columbus Day, and the Millinocket Marathon & Half have brought a boost just before the holidays to what has been an economically challenged Katahdin region, we hope this virtual race can be like another one of Allen’s pebbles tossed in still water, to help bring more funds and recognition to these two very special parts of Maine.

And just as more real-life visitors to Acadia are heading inland as part of their vacation, with the addition of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument last year, may our blogging about the new Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Race spur people to learn more about both regions, whether they’ve ever set foot in Vacationland or not.

Register now for the virtual race, and you have 117 days, from Aug. 15 to Dec. 9, to run or walk 200 miles, anywhere in the world. If you register late, you can backdate daily mileage to Aug. 15. And if you can’t complete the 200 miles by Dec. 9, you can log any additional miles needed on another virtual race that we’ve sponsored, the Acadia Centennial Trek.

virtual race

Are you up to the challenge of the 200-mile Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Run? The Bubble Rock image at the top of Cadillac, the highest point on the US Atlantic coast, represents Acadia on My Mind. The finish line is atop Katahdin, the highest point in Maine. (Image by racery.com)

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Five peregrine falcon chicks fly at Acadia, but one nest fails

UPDATE 8/01/2017: Park today announces that trails associated with the Precipice, Jordan Cliffs and Valley Cove will reopen on Thursday, Aug. 3, after five peregrine falcon chicks fledged this year — down from 11 in 2016. Trails were closed on March 17.

Five peregrine falcon checks have fledged at nests at two sites in Acadia National Park this year, but for unknown reasons a nest failed at a third site that has yielded chicks in recent years, a biologist at the park said Friday.

peregrine falcon chick

Acadia National Park wildlife biologist Bruce Connery holds a peregrine chick that has just been lowered from its scrape, or nest, for banding. (NPS photo)

Bruce Connery, wildlife biologist at Acadia, said there was a pair of adult falcons at Jordan Cliffs and it is believed they started a nest but then one of the adults disappeared around the middle of June, and the nest failed. Connery said he does not know why the nest at the Jordan Cliffs failed but he said it was not related to the chicks or the nesting.

“My guess would be that one of the adults either left or was killed by a predator like a great horned owl,” Connery said.

On the positive side, the peregrine falcon chicks at the Precipice and Valley Cove have been flying since about July 1, and seemed alert and healthy when they were spotted by researchers, he said. At least one chick at each of the two sites was flying before the others, he said. “They are all flying now and they are doing great,” he said.

Three peregrine falcon chicks fledged at the Precipice and two at Valley Cove, he said.

The park usually waits for the peregrine falcon chicks to fly for five weeks before reopening trails, including the wildly popular Precipice Trail, that are closed in the early spring each year to protect the nesting falcons and chicks. The trails opened July 29 last year and usually open by early August each year.

peregrine falcon chicks

Peregrine falcon chick being banded in Acadia National Park this year. (Photo courtesy of Erin Wheat)

Connery said the nest failure at the Jordan Cliffs was disappointing because the birds were there and everything seemed to be going along pretty well.

“It would be more understandable if we knew what caused it to fail,” he said, such as the male being attracted to another place.

“We just know we started seeing only one adult …. There was no real rhyme or reason to why it happened.”

Male and female adult peregrines both play vital roles in nesting. Females usually lay eggs in early spring and females incubate the eggs while males hunt and bring food to their mates, according to the web site of the Chesapeake Bay Field Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Researchers at Acadia don’t know if it was the male or female adult peregrine that disappeared because the feathers of both sexes are mostly similar, but Connery said he would guess that it was the male that left or was killed.

Connery said he was pretty positive it was a “natural event” that caused the nest to fail. He said there is no evidence that human interference was a factor in the nest failure.

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Physically disabled persons praise, question access to Acadia

During a recent visit to Acadia National Park, Shirley Beck, who has multiple sclerosis, said she was “very pleased” to find a paved path that allowed her to reach a viewing platform at the Cadillac Mountain summit with her light three-wheel electric scooter.

Shirley Beck, a pediatric physical therapist, on the Cadillac Mountain summit.

Shirley Beck, a pediatric physical therapist from Arlington, Va., who has multiple sclerosis, or MS, said she was very pleased to find a paved path that allowed her to reach a viewing platform at the Cadillac Mountain summit with her small electric scooter.

“It’s pretty good,” said Beck, a pediatric physical therapist from Arlington, Va., after taking in the sweeping vista of Frenchman Bay, islands and distant summits on the mainland.

Beck said she is grateful to Acadia officials for making the peak of Cadillac accessible and praised them for building the pink-granite path for physically disabled persons.  Before reaching the viewing platform, the path loops around steps and directly passes by a plaque of the first National Park Service director, Stephen Mather, who was periodically disabled by manic-depression, and was a contemporary of Acadia founder George B. Dorr, who became blind in his later years.

Beck, who visited Acadia while traveling with her husband, Roy, on a cruise ship, said she was not able to get quite as full of an experience at another key Acadia landmark, Thunder Hole. An accessible ramp leads to the upper viewing area of Thunder Hole for physically disabled persons, but not down to the lower area next to the sea cavern itself.

“The path was easy to use that got me part way down,” she wrote in a follow-up email. “I’m not sure how they could provide a way to get farther than that.”

While Beck only visited Acadia briefly, her experience was similar to that of some other physically disabled persons who travel to the Maine national park.

Acadia National Park has 45 miles of even-surface carriage roads,  trails, sites and facilities that are available to wheelchair users but others that are not wheelchair-accessible such as Sand Beach, which is below a high bluff and does not have a ramp for physically disabled persons. Citing the terrain, the park service has determined that it is not feasible to build ramps down next to Thunder Hole itself or to Sand Beach.

Stairs to Sand Beach in Acadia National Park

These upgraded cement stairs provide the main access to Sand Beach, but are too difficult to navigate for many disabled people, such as Helen Franke of Wellington, Fla, who uses a cane and was stymied at the top.

But Helen Franke, a retired college administrator from Wellington, Fla., said she believed a gradual ramp at Sand Beach might be possible to accommodate physically disabled persons. “For something like this, I think they could,” she said, after stopping at the top of the stairs with a cane she needs to use.

Across the nation, access for people with disabilities is a key issue in outdoor recreation including the 59 national parks, which are required by the federal Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) to adopt accessibility standards for the design, construction, and alteration of facilities covered by the law.

About a month after he was confirmed this year as U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke said in a release that “it’s time to start thinking about accessibility and infrastructure” and that “we will remain focused on increasing access” for physically disabled persons and other people with disabilities in national parks. Continue reading

On patrol with stewards of Acadia’s stone cairns, summits

One in a series on Acadia’s Bates cairns

Within minutes of stepping onto the popular Cadillac South Ridge Trail, Tim Henderson spots a couple of Acadia stone cairns vandalized by passersby.

acadia national park hiking

Tim Henderson gets ready to dismantle a random rock stack marring a Bates cairn on the Cadillac South Ridge Trail.

“These two cairns are usually broken, destroyed, knocked over or piled up with stones, because it is easy access,” said Henderson, one of an army of volunteer keepers of Acadia’s stone cairns known as Waldron’s Warriors, who patrol the park’s ridges, summmits and trails, along with Friends of Acadia-supported Summit Stewards.

“It irritates me that people are disrespectful. Obviously we have taken the time to build these to help people and they get destroyed, I assume, maliciously. Yes, it irritates me,” said Henderson, as he proceeded to fix the damaged trail markers.

Henderson is in his third season as a Waldron’s Warrior, named after Waldron Bates, the pathmaker who first came up with the distinctive trail markers known as Bates cairns in the early 1900s.

The cairns are like mini-architectural wonders, positioned just so, with 2 columns of 2 to 4 base stones, a lintel stone across the top, and a pointer stone indicating the direction of the trail.

acadia national park hiking

Bates cairns are particularly critical in pointing the way in foggy weather. (Photo by Tim Henderson)

Bates cairns fell into disuse over the years, replaced by conical rock piles. But they were revived in 2001, as a way to tie the park to a key part of its history, guide hikers and protect the fragile mountain terrain by keeping people on the trails. The Bates-style cairns give Acadia a special brand.

Even though the park posts signs and works to educate people, visitors often dismantle the cairns or pile loose rocks on them, ruining their character and violating park rules.

Henderson and other stewards of Acadia’s stone cairns and summits do their best to fight against the tide.

Wearing protective gloves and other gear for the chilly May day that he’s on patrol on the Cadillac South Ridge, Henderson takes down randomly stacked rocks, rebuilds destroyed Bates cairns, and otherwise maintains the trail markers that are critical for safe passage.

“They are for safety. They are there to help guide hikers. Unless you hike a lot and you hike in bad weather, you don’t understand how important they are,” said Henderson, who is so passionate about Acadia’s trails, he will drive more than an hour from his home in Castine to serve as a Waldron’s Warrior, even bringing his wife Jennifer along on a recent trip to celebrate their anniversary in a unique way.

“Whether it is snow, or fog, or rain, you need these cairns,” said Henderson, who owns a computer repair and service business, called PC-fitness Computer Services, and writes a blog, www.HikingMaineiacs.com, with his wife.

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Traffic triggers closures of Cadillac Mountain summit road

Acadia National Park temporarily closed the road to the Cadillac Mountain summit to incoming vehicles seven different times on Sunday and Monday, underscoring the need for a comprehensive transportation plan at the park, according to a park official.

Amanda Dilley, visitor service assistant at Acadia National Park

Amanda Dilley, one of four new visitor service assistants for Acadia National Park, monitors a long line of traffic at the summit of Cadillac Mountain on Monday. Park officials temporarily closed the popular mountain to incoming motorists on four separate occasions that day.

Because of traffic congestion during the busy July 4 weekend, even a quieter side of the park – the Schoodic section – saw a closure for about 90 minutes on Sunday on the road between the entrance to Schoodic Education and Research Center (SERC) and Schoodic Point, according to a table of official road closures.

Ocean Drive, which provides access to Sand Beach, was closed a little more than 15 minutes on Monday afternoon.

John T. Kelly, management assistant at Acadia National Park, said his feeling is that the closures are “making our transportation plan all that more pertinent.”

The National Park Service is developing a new transportation plan and considering several preliminary ideas to relieve Acadia traffic congestion and boost safety during peak visitation, including a reservation system for cars to drive up Cadillac or to park at Jordan Pond.

The Cadillac Mountain summit attracted many visitors on Sunday and Monday, which were both sunny days following a couple of overcast days. The road to Cadillac was closed three times on Sunday, including for about 90 minutes near the sun set, when the peak is a big draw, and four separate times on Monday, including again for about an hour because of crowds during a spectacular sun set.

There were no closures on Saturday, a cloudy day, or July 4, when many visitors apparently left.

Kelly said the Cadillac Mountain summit road is closed to further incoming cars when traffic is bumper to bumper from the parking lot at the peak to the Blue Hill Overlook. The overlook is about a quarter of a mile from the lot at the Cadillac Mountain summit.

Kelly said none of the closures lasted a very long time.

“While it is a disruption for sure for the visitor, it is not catastrophic,” he said.

acadia national park

Good weather and crowds contributed to temporary road shutdowns throughout Acadia during the July 4 weekend.

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Running pioneer has deep roots in Acadia hiking

One in a series about Acadia National Park hiking trails

Robin Emery is well known in Maine as a trailblazer and champion in women’s running, but many people may not be aware of her deep connections to Acadia National Park hiking.

acadia national park hiking

When asked to act like she owned Emery Path, Robin Emery cheerfully obliged, and kiddingly said she’s charging a small hiking fee to benefit the family.

Emery, 70, a teacher in Ellsworth Elementary-Middle School, has hiked in the park since she was a teenager, including along a namesake trail, Emery Path. Emery is so familiar with the Acadia backcountry that when asked to identify a photo of a path from virtually anywhere in the park, she can almost always correctly say where it was taken.

“I have been all over these mountains,” she said.

During a recent sunny afternoon, she paused at the sign to Emery Path, located off the Sieur de Monts Spring parking lot, before a trek from Emery to Schiff Path and to the peak of Dorr Mountain.

“If you guys want to come, it is going to be a small fee,” she joked with a couple of friends at the trailhead. “The Emery family will get the proceeds.”

She said it’s “awesome” that a trail has her name, but she did not know that it was recently returned to its historic name of Emery Path, after being known as the Dorr Mountain East Face Trail. Emery said she does not research the history of the Acadia National Park hiking trails and generally does not know their names. She just knows where they lead.

acadia national park hiking

One of Robin Emery’s favorite views, of Dorr, Cadillac and Kebo, as seen from inside her car.

The memorial path is named after John Josiah Emery, whose 1895 “cottage,” known as the Turrets, is now owned by the College of the Atlantic. But it’s unclear if there’s a long-lost family connection, according to her cousin John, the keeper of the family geneaology that dates back to 1649.

Emery moved back to Maine in 2000 to live year-round after teaching in Massachusetts for nine years and said she feels a powerful connection with the state and Mount Desert Island. On the drive to Sieur de Monts, she advises friends to “get ready” before stopping her car near the intersection of Kebo Street and the Park Loop Road and pointing to three prominent mountains framed on the horizon.

“That is my favorite view on the whole island, almost, right here. That is Dorr, Cadillac and Kebo.” Continue reading

Acadia National Park trails work takes crew with special skills

One in a series about Acadia National Park hiking trails

UPDATED 6/13/17: Description of new North Portico staircase at White House.

When the National Park Service needed people with special masonry skills to replace the steps on the acclaimed North Portico of the White House, the agency picked two top trail builders from Maine’s national park and sent them to Washington to do the work.

acadia national park hiking

Jeff Chapin, crew supervisor, shows where stone steps were taken out on the Valley Trail, to be shored up and reset in the proper order. His masonry skills also came in handy for replacing the White House North Portico steps in 2015.

After all, who better to replace the famed staircase at the White House than two people experienced at building stone steps and repairing historic masonry on the Acadia National Park trails? The park service, which maintains the grounds and exterior walls of the White House, assigned Jeffrey Chapin, crew supervisor on the Acadia National Park trails crew, and Peter Colman, another veteran trail crew leader, and they both spent about two weeks in late summer of 2015 replacing the marble steps at the White House with Vermont granite.

At the time, there was no publicity about their work at the White House because of security reasons. “I could not tell my family,” Chapin said.

The North Portico staircase faces Pennsylvania Avenue and is used to greet dignitaries.

Chapin said the staircase is three separate flights and three patio landings and includes a new ramp for disabled people. “The old ramp was metal and added on to the old stone work,” he said. “The new ramp is a permanent stone ramp to match the stairs.”

Starting another busy season in the park, Chapin, who lives in Trenton, provided a tour of an upgrade by his Acadia National Park trails crew on a nearly mile-long section of the historic Valley Trail near Beech Mountain west of Somes Sound. The section runs from the intersection of Canada Cliffs to the junction with the Beech South Ridge Trail.

acadia national park hiking

Jeff Chapin, crew supervisor, describes the cable and pulley system, strung high between trees, that is used to move huge boulders during Valley Trail reconstruction.

Part of Acadia National Park trails work includes searching the woods for boulders and then cutting them to fashion stone steps for a staircase, a wall or decorative cap to a culvert. In order to avoid dragging the rocks and damaging sensitive habitat and terrain, the huge stones are chained to a cable strung between trees, hoisted into the air, and carefully moved with ropes and pulleys, in a bit of a high-wire act.

A cable and pulley system strung high in trees might seem a risky way to move boulders, but Chapin said the key is for everyone to be positioned in the right spot to avoid injury in case a tree falls, for example. “Everybody knows where to stand,” he said. “Everybody knows what they are doing.”

Acadia National Park trails foreman Gary Stellpflug dumps gravel into the trailer manned by David Schlag, for the Valley Trail work.
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A new path is emerging for Acadia National Park hiking

One in a series about Acadia National Park hiking trails

The trails crew has launched an overhaul of an historic path that connects the Jordan Pond area with the village of Seal Harbor, providing a new way to experience Acadia National Park hiking.

Harold Read of Orono

Harold Read, trail worker at Acadia National Park, points to improvements on the Seaside Path intended to remove water from the path.

The work is being financed with donations to the nonprofit Friends of Acadia during an annual fundraising benefit last year. In a traditional “paddle raise,” sixty donors contributed a total of $318,000 to restore Seaside Path, according to Friends of Acadia.

There are no sweeping views from the path, but it is a “beautiful example” of a late 1800s to early 1900s gravel path for Acadia National Park hiking, said Gary Stellpflug, trails foreman at Acadia National Park. “It’s all woodland,” he said. “It’s nice mature forest.”

seaside path

A hand-crafted sign marks the way through the primeval woods of Seaside Path.

Stellpflug said Seaside Path is a village connector trail and will be the first newly-improved such trail for Acadia National Park hiking since Quarry and Otter Cove Trails were inaugurated on National Trails Day in 2014. The Quarry and Otter Cove Trails link the park’s Blackwoods Campground with the village of Otter Creek, Otter Cove and Gorham Mountain Trail.

A lot of Seaside Path is on private property and it is currently unclear exactly where it will terminate when the park is finished with the upgrade, he said. “We’re not sure where the south end will go,” he said.

Unlike the cliff and mountain climbs of Bar Harbor and Northeast Harbor, Seaside Path and other Seal Harbor trails go over “a gentler terrain,” according to the National Park Service’s “Pathmakers: Cultural Landscape Report for the Historic Hiking Trail System of Mount Desert Island.” As a result, “many woodland paths were  surfaced with gravel or simply unconstructed, marked paths through the woods,” in contrast to those in the other villages, according to the report.

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