Category Archives: Hiking

Hiking in Acadia National Park.

Peregrine falcon chicks total eight at Acadia National Park

Three nests at Acadia National Park produced eight peregrine falcon chicks in 2018, making for a successful year for the state-endangered birds despite the unusual failure of a nest at the Precipice.

peregrine falcon chick

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

According to Bruce Connery, the park’s wildlife biologist, four peregrine falcon chicks fledged at Valley Cove over Somes Sound; two at Jordan Cliffs and two on Ironbound Island. The nest at Jordan Cliffs is a nice story because park leaders in late May had initially feared that a nest there had also failed.

In an email, Connery wrote that a visitor in early June reported the nest at Jordan Cliffs and added that “we are thrilled as we were able to band both chicks.”

The park reopened the popular Precipice Trail and a section of the Orange & Black Path on July 13, according to a park press release, which is earlier than usual.

The Precipice Trail, which goes up the east face of Champlain Mountain, is usually closed from late March or early April until late July or early August each year because of nesting peregrine falcons, but a nest failed this year at the Precipice.

Connery said in a press release that it is not uncommon for falcon pairs to fail to nest in some years. He noted that this year was only the second time in 27 years that a pair has failed to nest successfully at the Precipice. In addition, Beech Cliff above Echo Lake did not yield any falcon chicks this year or for the past several years and Connery has said he does not know the reasons for that.

Banding of a peregrine falcon chick

A peregrine falcon chick is banded near a nest at the Precipice in an earlier year. Photo by Keith Wozniak/Acadia National Park.

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Valley Cove project tops backlog of work on Acadia trails

One in a series about the nearly $60 million maintenance backlog in Acadia National Park

Inside a cramped, old trailer that serves as his federal office, Gary Stellpflug, trails foreman at Acadia National Park, points to a wall pinned with note cards that spell out a backlog of maintenance projects for Acadia trails.

Gary Stellpflug

Gary Stellpflug (NPS photo)

The projects to improve Acadia National Park trails, including many that still require funding, stretch out to 2022. “We won’t run out of work, even at the present rate,” said Stellpflug.

Of the nearly $12 billion of backlogged maintenance in national parks across the country, Acadia weighs in with nearly $60 million including more than $9 million on hiking trails alone.

This year, the Acadia trails crew is involved in a major effort to reduce the maintenance backup, topped by a current overhaul of the Valley Cove Trail, which is located on the east side of St. Sauveur Mountain and runs along the west shore of Somes Sound, a 5-mile-long inlet that carves into Mount Desert Island.

Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression 80 years ago, the Valley Cove Trail was championed by park founder George B. Dorr as a way to access what he described as “an unusually beautiful shoreline” along the fjord-like Somes.

acadia national park hiking

Anyone trying to hike the Valley Cove Trail the last two years would have been greeted by trail closure signs warning of hazardous conditions, not just of peregrine falcon nesting.

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Peregrine falcon chicks at Valley Cove; Precipice damaged

UPDATE 7/13/2018: Acadia National Park announces that the Precipice Trail will reopen on July 13, but keeps the Jordan Cliffs Trail closed for the time being because of the presence of nesting falcons. At least 8 falcon chicks have fledged or hatched in 2018 at Acadia including four at Valley Cove, two on Jordan Cliffs and two on the cliffs of Ironbound Island — up from a total of 5 in 2017 but less than 11 in 2016.

At least three peregrine falcon chicks have hatched at Valley Cove in Acadia National Park this year, but a nest was unsuccessful at the Precipice and a third site at Jordan Cliffs may also have failed, according to the park’s wildlife biologist.

peregrine falcon chick

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

Based on a recent observation, Bruce Connery, wildlife biologist at Acadia, said in an email that he believes at least three peregrine falcon chicks have hatched at Valley Cove, and are set to fledge in about three weeks. There could also be perhaps more chicks at Valley Cove, he added.

“It is true the Precipice territory adults failed in their nesting attempt, and we believe Jordan Cliff may have failed as well,” Connery wrote in an email. “However we will be doing additional observation surveys this week to confirm whether the territorial adults are still present, have a nest or are attempting to nest.”

“At Valley Cove, we had thought there were at least two chicks, but based on the observations I did this morning, I believe there were at least three chicks…about 14 days old,” Connery wrote in an email on Saturday.

acadia national park

Even if no peregrine falcon chicks have been spotted along the Precipice Trail this spring, the popular cliff climb will be closed indefinitely because of damage to this footbridge this winter, according to Acadia National Park’s Facebook page. (NPS photo)

It is unclear when the park will reopen hiking trails that are closed annually to help protect the nesting falcons and chicks. The park usually waits for the falcon chicks to fly for four to five weeks before reopening the trails, usually by early August.

Falcon chicks usually don’t fly for the first time until late June or July 1.

The Precipice Trail will remain closed because of a broken bridge and handrail, Connery wrote. It will take at least two weeks to get materials, haul them to the site and then construct the new bridge.

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Baker Island resident authors first history of Acadia island

Baker Island, a remote part of Acadia National Park, occupies a longtime special spot in the lore of the park.

The Baker Island Lighthouse in Acadia National Park

The Baker Island Light Tower and Keeper’s Quarters in Acadia National Park. The National Park Service acquired the 10-acre light station  complex in 1958 and the tower itself in 2011, according to a new book, “Baker Island.”

The region’s first lighthouse was constructed on the Acadia island and its first keeper was the head of the self-reliant Gilley family that settled Baker in the early 1800s. Hikers enjoy the island for its mystical views of the Acadia mountains on the horizon on a clear day, unusually large sand bar and reef and paths through grassy fields around the coast. People are attracted by the light tower, an Acadia ranger-narrated boat trip and walking tour of the island from mid-June through early September, and giant slabs of granite on the south shore called the dance floor, once used by smooth-stepping rusticators and recently by at least one local swing group.

Now, Cornelia J. Cesari, whose family has owned one of only two private homes on the Acadia island for more than 30 years, has written the first comprehensive history of the island.

In her book, called “Baker Island,” Cesari writes that the island is “an out-of-worldly experience, a timeless Brigadoon” and a historical hub for fishermen, locals, tourists, summer people, artists, academics, military families and naturalists.

baker island

The only book dedicated solely to Baker Island will be released in June and was written by Cornelia J. Cesari, president of the board of directors for Keepers of Baker Island. (Image courtesy of Cornelia J. Cesari)

Cesari said she was driven to write the book because the island affects the lives of many people and its complete 200-plus year history was never previously written. Visitors often approach her on Baker Island and tell her how much it means to them, or become rapt when she tells stories about the island, she said.

“I have always felt this book needed to be written,” Cesari said in an interview. “It had to be put together. So many people love Baker Island.”

The island is known largely because of its light tower and the pioneering Gilley family that settled there.

Charles W. Eliot, the youngest ever president of Harvard and a summer resident of Mount Desert Island who helped create the national park, was so fascinated by the island’s history that he wrote what is now called “John Gilley, One of the Forgotten Millions,” a little tome, originally published in 1899, that tells the history of the family that settled the island.

Cesari’s book, part of Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series, expands on Eliot’s research and brings the history up to the moment.

The book is set for release on June 18 and is available for pre-order at the website of Keepers of Baker Island, a private nonprofit group that works with the park to preserve and maintain the island, located a little more than three miles south of Mount Desert Island. Cesari is president of the board of directors of the nonprofit and says books bought on the website will benefit the organization, although the book will also be available at the same price of $21.99 elsewhere, at bookstores and Amazon.com.  (NOTE: Please see sidebar about Amazon.com links)

Mountains in Acadia National Park, as seen from the north shore of Baker Island.

A view of mountains in Acadia National Park from the north shore of Baker Island.

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Car reservations among proposals to control Acadia traffic

Acadia National Park is proposing some dramatic changes to manage a sharp increase in visitors, including establishing vehicle reservations at an additional fee for Cadillac Summit Road, the Ocean Drive corridor and the north lot of the Jordan Pond House from about mid-May to mid-October.

acadia traffic

Draft transportation plan available for public comment until June 26. (NPS image)

In the 215-page draft environmental impact statement for a new Acadia traffic and transportation plan, the park is also proposing to eventually phase out right-lane parking on some one-way sections of Park Loop Road and to build new parking areas at Eagle Lake and Acadia Mountain with new trail connections.

While emphasizing that the sweeping proposals are preliminary and open to change, Acadia leaders, in the plan, are also pushing a comprehensive redesign and parking expansion of the visitor center and other infrastructure at Hulls Cove partly to encourage more parking there and use of the Island Explorer buses.

The park is advocating the proposals in its “preferred alternative” in the draft plan. The plan also spells out two other alternatives and a “no action” option for transportation management in the park.

The draft plan says the number of parking spaces along Park Loop Road and elsewhere in the park are not enough to meet demand. The park drew 3.5 million visitors last year and Cadillac Summit Road was closed at least 49 times because of heavy traffic congestion.

acadia traffic

Summary graphic outlines the park’s preferred alternative for managing Acadia traffic (NPS image)

In a letter to introduce the draft plan, Kevin B. Schneider, superintendent of Acadia National Park, wrote that visitation at the park increased by 59 percent over the last 10 years, drawing more and more Acadia traffic.

“The draft transportation plan is an important milestone in creating a shared vision for enhancing visitor experience, managing congestion, protecting natural resources and improving safety in Acadia National Park,” Schneider wrote. “The draft transportation plan is critical so that Acadia can continue to provide a high quality experience for park visitors.”

The release of the draft plan marks the first time the park is spelling out its preferred plan for dealing with increased Acadia traffic and crowds.

A final plan is scheduled to be released in the fall of 2018.

A 60-day comment period on the draft will be between April 26 and June 26. Comments can be submitted in writing or online at go.nps.gov/AcadiaPlan at the “open for comment” link. Continue reading

“Hiking Acadia” gold medalist in international book awards

ask acadia on my mind

A view from Bubble Rock

Introducing “A view from Bubble Rock,” a periodic collection of news briefs about Acadia National Park and related topics. If you have news you’d like included as part of the series, leave a comment below, or contact us through the About us page.

“Hiking Acadia National Park” received top honors in the Independent Publisher Book Awards travel guide category, joining winners from 43 US states, 6 Canadian provinces and 11 overseas nations, in the 22nd year of the “IPPY Awards.”

gifts of acadia

“Hiking Acadia National Park” also won the National Outdoor Book Award in the outdoor adventure guide category.

“Two words can describe this year’s IPPY medal-winning books – compassion and action,” said Jim Barnes, director of the awards, in making the announcement this week. “In both the compelling storytelling of the fiction and the solution-based information of the non-fiction, independent publishing is all about passion for people and their causes, and dedication to sharing their stories with a world of readers.”

Our book, published by FalconGuides, also won the National Outdoor Book Award in the outdoor adventure guidebook category. A digital copy of “Hiking Acadia National Park,” 3rd edition, was included in the Acadia Bicentennial Time Capsule, and we’ve donated copies to the Southwest Harbor Historical Society and public libraries in Somesville, Southwest Harbor, Ellsworth, Blue Hill and Bangor, as part of our Acadia Centennial Partner commitment. (PLEASE NOTE: See sidebar about Amazon.com links)

IPPY

“Hiking Acadia National Park” won the gold medal in the travel guidebook category of the Independent Publisher Book Awards, also known as the “IPPY.” (Image courtesy of Independent Publisher Book Awards)

We’re honored to be in the company of such other IPPY Award winners as QT Luong, whose large-format photographs of national parks were featured in the Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan documentary, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” and whose book, “Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks,” won the IPPY gold medal in the coffee table book category in 2017. (PLEASE NOTE: See sidebar about Amazon.com links)

“Hiking Acadia National Park” is available for sale at Sherman’s bookstore in Bar Harbor; at Acadia National Park’s Hulls Cove Visitor Center, Village Green Information Center and Sieur de Monts Nature Center; and on Amazon.com. You can also buy autographed copies directly from our online shop, with a percentage of proceeds to benefit Friends of Acadia. Continue reading

Wanted: Acadia camping with a view, or in the backcountry

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Ask Acadia on My Mind!

Another in a series of “Ask Acadia on My Mind!” Q&As

If you have a question about Acadia National Park on your mind, whether you’re a first-time visitor or long-time fan, leave a comment below, or contact us through the About us page. We may not be able to answer every question, or respond right away, but we’ll do our best. See our page linking in one place all the Q&As.

1) Hi, I’m looking for a recommendation for a good camping site in Blackwoods in August with a view for my family of 4. It has been years since we have camped up there (before kids)! Thanks!Gia, of Colchester, Conn.

2) Hi! I’m planning my first trip to Acadia for the third week of April. I am currently looking for a generally primitive campsite where I can just bring my tent and needed supplies, but all the campsites I’ve checked on this list do not have any available sites according to https://www.recreation.gov/. I am hoping to find a place to camp that’s the closest to primitive or backcountry camping that I can find. Do you have any suggestions, know of any other places I should be looking for site availabilities or know of any campsites that are definitely available? Thank you! – Maud Rydell, Hope Valley, R.I.

Dear Gia and Maud, glad to see you’re both planning ahead for Acadia camping!

acadia camping

The official Blackwoods camping map shows the A and B loops. (Image courtesy of recreation.gov)

Blackwoods, the only Acadia National Park campground that is open year-round, is wooded and offers 217 tent-only non-electric sites, 60 RV electric and 4 group non-electric sites.

Gia, while there aren’t any water or mountain views to be had directly from sites at Blackwoods, some are more private, others are closer to bathrooms, and yet others provide more direct access to trails, as you can see from the Acadia camping map.

Another resource that we’ve come across in our Internet research that you might find helpful: A Web site, www.campsitephotos.com, that shows a photo of every Blackwoods campsite, in both the A and B loops.

And since it’s been years since you’ve been to Blackwoods, Gia, you’ll want to know about the Quarry and Otter Cove Trails, which opened just in 2014. They provide direct access to Gorham Mountain and Ocean Path, and you can find the trailhead across from the campground entrance station.

acadia national park

The Quarry and Otter Cove Trails, opened just in 2014, lead from Blackwoods Campground, past Otter Cove, as seen here, and on to Gorham Mountain and Ocean Path.

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Acadia’s Ship Harbor ideal for hiking Maine coast year-round

One in a series of historic Acadia hiking trail highlights

With a possible maritime disaster in its past, a big undeveloped harbor and sprawling pink granite, the Ship Harbor Trail in Acadia National Park epitomizes a lot about hiking Maine coast.

We’ve often walked the Ship Harbor Trail over the past two decades, but for the first time this past year, we did it once in spring, summer, autumn and winter. While hiking Maine coast, we wanted to experience how a single trail changes with the weather and the seasons.

Snow-clad Ship Harbor Trail in Acadia National Park.

Snow covers the pink granite shore on the Ship Harbor Trail during a January hike in Acadia National Park.

In the winter, we were struck by the contrast of the snow on pink granite and tall spruce. In spring, the trail came alive with rhodora, bunchberry and other wildflowers, while in summer, it was ideal for catching some sun on the shore and enjoying close-up views of nearby islands, as well as purple iris and a thicket of salt spray rose.  The fall foliage in Acadia is splendid and the trail is particularly stunning for yellow beech and blazing red blueberry bushes.

Located on the southwest shore of Mt. Desert Island, the popular hike consists of two loops, or a figure 8, totaling 1.3 miles, with colorful, newer wayside exhibits that explain the sea life in the mudflats and tide pools while hiking Maine coast.

The Ship Harbor Trail in late spring in Acadia National Park

This photo, taken in late May, provides a late spring view from the same spot on the Ship Harbor Trail.

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Scenes of Acadia in winter like a picture-perfect postcard

With a recent foot of snow, and possibly more on the way, Acadia National Park should be ideal for snowshoeing, hiking and cross-country skiing this weekend.

Snow shoeing in Acadia National Park

With islands looming in the background, snowshoeing is tops on the Cadillac South Ridge Trail.

Recent rains also mean there is likely plenty of thick ice under the fresh snow to possibly make winter hiking risky in spots, even with MICROspikes(R) or snowshoes. It could also be that there is enough snow to protect winter hikers and skiers from the ice underneath. Conditions can vary so much in Acadia in winter.

A couple of weeks ago, after the park received seven inches of snow, we strapped on snowshoes and hiked a good part of the Cadillac South Ridge Trail with friends, and then to the peak of South Bubble the next day with Kahtoola MICROspikes(R). It was often tricky to negotiate ice under the snow and we slipped or fell several times over the weekend.  At the time, we believed a foot of snow would be near perfect. (NOTE: Please see sidebar about Amazon.com links)

The National Park Service  plows the lots at Jordan Pond and snowmobiles may groom tracks on closed sections of the Park Loop Road in the area, providing access to South and North Bubbles and other trails.

acadia in winter

Blue skies over the Bubbles, and snow blankets the pink granite shore of Jordan Pond.

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Favorite Acadia winter hiking trails, from easy to moderate

ask acadia on my mind

Ask Acadia on My Mind!

Another in a series of “Ask Acadia on My Mind!” Q&As

If you have a question about Acadia National Park on your mind, whether you’re a first-time visitor or long-time fan, leave a comment below, or contact us through the About us page. We may not be able to answer every question, or respond right away, but we’ll do our best. See our page linking in one place all the Q&As.

I am coming to Acadia next week and would like some advice on hiking trails. It will be me, my wife and 18-year-old son. I watched videos of the Beehive Trail and it looks nice but how would I get back to my car after hiking up? What trails would you recommend in December? There is no ice or snow forecast for when I’m going but the island hopper bus is not running either. Thanks, Steve

Dear Steve,

Good to hear you’re doing some research in advance of your off-season trip to Acadia, and checking the weather. And you’re right to ask about how to get off the Beehive, as it’s not recommended to go back down the same way, as the cliff face is best hiked up, not down.

Acadia National Park Sand Beach Beehive wilderness

The Beehive as seen from the Great Head Trail, during March in a light snow year.

The Beehive is one of Acadia’s toughest climbs, featuring iron rungs and ladders. It’s not recommended for people who are afraid of heights, out of shape or unprepared, but we know that many people make it a tradition to climb it, especially in the summer.

For example, Martha Stewart has blogged about climbing Beehive with family or friends, most recently this past August. She includes a couple of videos on her Web site of her and Charlie Jacobi, Acadia natural resource and visitor use specialist, hiking the Beehive together a number of years ago. (She owns a home in Seal Harbor, and is a big supporter of Friends of Acadia and other area charities.)

But you wouldn’t want to do the Beehive in bad weather, whether during Acadia winter hiking or summer seasons.

We happened to be in touch last week with Gary Stellpflug, Acadia trails foreman, and asked him about the trail conditions. While there is some snow or ice, he wrote us in an e-mail, the trails are “still quite passable.”

To see if there might be any visible snow, check out the live Acadia air pollution monitoring webcam that overlooks Frenchman Bay, or a series of Bar Harbor area webcams. The park Web site features a winter activities page with links to local weather and other useful information.

If you, your wife and son are experienced and well-equipped hikers, then the Beehive can certainly be a fun family challenge, especially since there’s little or no snow or ice so far this December, and it won’t be an ice-climbing expedition. But if it’s beyond your comfort level, there are plenty of other Acadia winter hiking trails to consider, from easy to more difficult.

cadillac in winter

To get this view from Cadillac in winter, you can hike the summit road or trails, but be sure to be properly equipped for snow, ice and cold. (NPS photo)

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Grand loop up Sargent tops hikes in Acadia National Park

One in a series about Acadia National Park hiking trails

A terrific aspect of hikes in Acadia National Park is that people can almost always get back to the start without retracing steps.

hikes in acadia national park

Brilliant foliage frames Jordan Pond, as seen from the Jordan Cliffs Trail, part of a grand loop up Sargent Mountain that is best done in late summer and fall.

Acadia’s tight, carefully designed network of 150 miles of trails allow hikers to create a  nearly countless number of loop trips.

There are many circular hikes in Acadia National Park, but perhaps none more spectacular than the “grand loop” from Jordan Cliffs to Sargent Mountain, the park’s second highest peak behind Cadillac, and then up Penobscot Mountain, the fifth highest summit, back to the Jordan Pond parking lot with a stop at lovely Sargent Mountain Pond along the way.

This 5-mile loop capped another banner hiking season for us in Acadia.

We walked it on a warm sunny day in October with the park displaying some astonishing autumn yellow, red and orange. Unlike the often-hectic summer, when parking is tight, we quickly found a space at the lot outside the Jordan Pond House, the park’s only restaurant.

The loop begins and ends near the southern end of Jordan Pond and launches from the historic 1.3-mile Spring Trail, which fully opened around 1917 after being built by Thomas McIntire, who used to own and operate the Jordan Pond House. The early hiking-book author, Benjamin F. DeCosta, described part of the Spring Trail in 1871 when he walked from Sargent Mountain to Jordan Pond, according to “Pathmakers,” a National Park Service book.

hikes in acadia national park

Sargent East Cliffs Trail aflame with the red of blueberry bushes in fall, on the loop up from Jordan Cliffs to the second highest peak in Acadia.

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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