Category Archives: Hiking

Hiking in Acadia National Park.

Dogs in Acadia get national park’s conditional love

When Maria Yoder traveled to some national parks in the West last year, she said she left behind her dog, Rory, because the parks ban pets from the trails.

hiking with dogs in Acadia

Maria Yoder with her dog, Rory, along the Compass Harbor Trail at Acadia National Park

As a dog owner, Yoder, a Bar Harbor resident, said she is pleased that she lives near Acadia National Park. The park is unusual among national parks in keeping dogs and owners united on the hiking trails and offering some great hiking for dogs.

“It’s a great place for people to come with their dogs,” Yoder said recently, while walking with her Shiba Inu on the Compass Harbor Trail in Acadia. “I really like it.”

In fact, of the 59 national parks, Acadia is among only a few – Shenandoah in Virginia is another – that allow dogs and other pets on trails, as long as they are leashed, according to the National Park Service. Make sure your dog is on a long, sturdy lead though, since this will help when your dog is pulling.

Yoder, manager at Bar Harbor’s Made in the USA shop, said she became aware that Acadia is pet friendly when she researched her trip to the West and discovered that pets are banned from the trails in national parks such as Joshua Tree in California and Arches in Utah. Dogs are severely restricted in others such as Zion in Utah, which allows pets on only 1.5-mile trail and Yosemite, only a 2-mile paved trail.

dogs in acadia

People love petting Rory, with good reason.

Yoder keeps Rory on a leash and hikes trails such as Ocean Path, Gorham Mountain, Champlain Mountain and Great Head Trail.

“She is very popular,” she said. “People are always petting her.”

When they plan a trip to Acadia, dog owners are generally happy to discover that they don’t need to leave their pets at home or place them in a kennel if they want to hike. Continue reading

Grand Tour of Acadia Peaks: How many to hike in 1 day?

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.

How many peaks is it possible to connect together in one day? We want to hike all of them when we arrive in September. Thank you. – Bonnie Jean

Dear Bonnie Jean,

That’s an ambitious goal to do what we like to call the Grand Tour of Acadia Peaks – hope you’re aiming for it as part of the free year-long 100-mile virtual Acadia Centennial Trek that we’re sponsoring, because you deserve an Acadia Centennial Trek Medal for it!

If you’re in good physical shape, get an early start each day, and have the right equipment, that Acadia National Park hiking goal should be achievable, especially if you make use of the Island Explorer bus that runs through Columbus Day.

Some park visitors and area residents have been fanatic enough to try to hike all Acadia peaks in a 24-hour period. But hopefully you have more than just 1 day to attempt the feat. It’s more fun to hike at a leisurely pace, taking in the sights and sounds along the way, rather than rushing to the top to bag another summit by a certain time.

acadia centennial

If you hike all 24 Acadia peaks with trails on them, that’s an accomplishment worth marking with an Acadia Centennial Trek Medal, even if you haven’t finished all 100 miles of the virtual Acadia Centennial Trek yet.

There are 26 peaks of Acadia on Mount Desert Island, according to a National Park Service list that used to be prominently featured on the park Web site. Two of them don’t have maintained trails to the top of them.

Assuming you don’t want to bushwhack and risk getting lost up McFarland and Youngs Mountains, and assuming you don’t plan on heading over to Schoodic or Isle au Haut for the Acadia peaks there, here are some suggested ways to connect Mount Desert Island peaks, estimated mileage, and Island Explorer routes to get you back to the start, or on to the next destination. Continue reading

Acadia National Park hiking books eye history, aid park

Like a tour guide through time, generations of Acadia National Park hiking books shed light on historic trails, from volumes dating back to the late 1800s, all the way through the Centennial edition of our “Hiking Acadia National Park.”

Hiking Acadia National Park

The 3rd edition of “Hiking Acadia National Park” is being donated to Acadia-area libraries, historical societies and village improvement associations. Autographed copies available for purchase directly from the authors help raise funds for Acadia.

To celebrate that past, we as Acadia Centennial Partners are donating copies of our 3 editions of Acadia National Park hiking guides to more than a dozen Acadia-area libraries, historical societies and village improvement associations. The letters announcing the donation went out last week, and the books can be made available for lending or added to a research collection.

And to help fund the future, we are donating at least 5% of gross proceeds from sales of the latest edition of our books via our online shop to benefit the park, as another aspect of our Centennial partnership. The official Acadia Centennial product pages for “Hiking Acadia National Park” and “Best Easy Day HIkes, Acadia National Park” went live last week as well.

Maybe it’s a bit early to call the 1st edition of “Hiking Acadia National Park” historic, since it came out in 2001.

But when we found a family referring to that edition just a few weeks ago in the Beech Cliff parking lot, we jokingly described it to them as just that.

acadia centennial

Acadia on My Mind also sponsors the free year-long virtual 100-mile Acadia Centennial Trek, with this optional finisher’s medal to help raise funds for the park.

We hope that one day, perhaps the 3rd edition of the book may be viewed that way.

Published by FalconGuides in April, it was included in the reading list of the special Acadia collector’s edition of DownEast Magazine, with this recommendation: “An encyclopedic take on Acadia’s trail system, from quiet nature walks to heart-pounding cliff climbs.”

And it would be our choice for the Acadia Bicentennial Time Capsule, if we do indeed have a chance to contribute, as Acadia Centennial Task Force co-chair Jack Russell has suggested. On Dec. 10, the capsule is being sealed at a celebratory event at the Criterion Theatre, to be opened in 2116. Continue reading

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.

acadia centennial

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. Continue reading

Endangered falcons take the stage at Acadia National Park

Endangered falcons gave birth to 11 chicks this year at Acadia National Park and now are putting on a show for hundreds of visitors to the park.

endangered falcons

Park Ranger Andrew Wolfgang shows visitors the location of the endangered falcons and their nest during peregrine watch in Acadia National Park.

On Saturday alone, about 160 people stopped to catch the action of the state-listed endangered falcons at a “peregrine watch” site in the Precipice Trail parking area below a nest high on the east face of Champlain Mountain.

“We got a bird up,” said Park Ranger Andrew Wolfgang, pointing to the cliffs when one of the endangered falcons flew back to the nest after a brief absence. “It’s a really nice look at an adult in this scope right now.”

Wolfgang and Samuel Ruano, a peregrine falcon interpretive guide and raptor intern, supervised the use of two spotting scopes that allow visitors some excellent views of the peregrine falcons. Wolfgang and Ruano also spoke frequently to visitors about the history of the peregrines in the park and the need to temporarily close popular hiking trails to give the nestlings time to mature.

With the scopes, visitors could clearly see a peregrine falcon perched upright on the cliff face outside the nest or even the nestlings themselves.

“Amazing,” said Keith Spencer, a grade 7 English teacher in the public schools of Everett, MA, after he looked through the scope and saw a falcon. Continue reading

Following in the footsteps of George Dorr, “father of Acadia”

From the top of Cadillac to the garden-like paths around Sieur de Monts, from the stacks at Jesup Memorial Library to the labs of 2 major research institutions on Mount Desert Island, the presence of George Dorr can be felt.

george dorr

Ronald H. Epp’s biography of George Dorr is published by the Friends of Acadia.

Not only was Dorr the “father of Acadia,” he had a hand in creating Bar Harbor’s public library, the Wild Gardens of Acadia and surrounding paths, MDI Biological and Jackson laboratories, and Abbe Museum. George Dorr even played a role in renaming some of the 26 peaks of Acadia, among them Green and Robinson to the now-iconic Cadillac and Acadia mountains.

These, and other fascinating aspects of the life and impact of Dorr, can be found in historian Ronald H. Epp’s new Dorr biography, “Creating Acadia National Park,” published by the Friends of Acadia on the occasion of the park’s Centennial.

The more than 2 million visitors a year who come from across the country and around the world to admire the beauty of Acadia National Park have George Dorr, in large part, to thank. Yet Dorr’s story and the role he played in shaping Acadia, conservation, Mount Desert Island and beyond, have been largely untold – until now.

“Dorr was not a major historical figure,” writes Epp in his introduction to the first-ever biography of Dorr. “Nor was he recognized as an administrator jockeying for ever-more important positions of responsibility. Unlike John Muir, his published writings did not transform national policy.”

George B. Dorr is father of Acadia National Park

George Dorr’s spirit lives on in this historic photo, which was once on display at the Sieur de Monts area of  Acadia National Park.

Yet, Epp writes, “this grand old man of the National Park Service on Mount Desert Island brought about a federal investment in the conservation of nearly half the landmass of the island. The resultant loss of property tax revenue was offset by the ever-growing number of visitors that clearly contributed to village prosperity. At the county level, Dorr extended the scope of Acadia National Park beyond Mount Desert Island, to other shorelines and islands within Hancock County.”

The legacy of the Boston Brahmin and lifelong bachelor, who used his energy, connections and family wealth to create Acadia, lives on not only along the trails he helped build, from Beachcroft Path to Kurt Diederich’s Climb, or atop the coastal peaks and ridgelines he helped preserve.

Dorr’s gift to the generations can also be felt in the region’s cultural and scientific institutions, and even offers a perspective on the current debate over the attempt by Burt’s Bees founder Roxanne Quimby and family, to donate private land for a national monument or park in Maine’s North Woods. Continue reading

Trail magic casts spell on Acadia National Park hiking trails

There’s trail magic in Acadia National Park, and it shows up in the most wonderful ways.

acadia virtual race

Maureen Fournier, left, celebrates reaching the 100th mile of the virtual Acadia Centennial Trek, by hiking for the first time with Kristy Sharp. They virtually met while logging their miles for the race, and might have never met in real life if not for the Trek to celebrate the park’s 100th anniversary. (Photo courtesy Maureen Fournier)

Just last week, 2 hikers who might never have crossed paths except for the virtual 100-mile Acadia Centennial Trek – an official event to mark the park’s 100th anniversary – climbed together for the first time on the Acadia National Park hiking trails.

“We’ve never met before,” said Maureen Fournier, seasonal park ranger, of Kristy Sharp. “But now we’ve become hiking buddies,” e-mailed Fournier. “We have a lot in common too, besides hiking…and share our love for Acadia.”

Fournier, who goes by the Trek name @MG, and Sharp, who goes by the Trek name @TrailWitch, had a couple of close encounters while hiking Gorham Mountain separately as part of the virtual race, but only discovered they’d missed each other at the end of the day, while logging their miles for the Trek. On Wednesday, they met and scaled Acadia Mountain together, celebrating Fournier’s completion of the 100-mile route in 24 days.

“Maureen has a great knowledge of the park, a true passion for being outdoors and was great fun to hike with!” said Sharp, who retired to Mount Desert Island with her husband in 2011, after a career in criminal justice in Ohio. “I am truly thankful for meeting her through the Centennial Trek,” e-mailed Sharp, who is now a certified personal trainer and teaches fitness classes at the Harbor House Fitness Center in Southwest Harbor.

acadia centennial

Be part of history by joining the first-ever 100-mile virtual Acadia Centennial Trek, sponsored by Acadia on My Mind and hosted by Racery.com. You will have the option of buying a finisher’s medal to help raise funds for the park. You have until Dec. 31 to complete the free virtual race.

You won’t find a definition of trail magic in the dictionary. But for those who’ve done Acadia hiking trails, the Appalachian Trail or any other walking path, you know trail magic when you experience it.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy calls trail magic “an unexpected act of kindness” that’s part of the AT experience for long-distance hikers. But the term has been used by many to refer to any unexpectedly wonderful thing happening on the trails, for day hikers or thru-hikers.

What trail magic have you experienced on Acadia hiking trails, or during the virtual Acadia Centennial Trek? Let us know in a comment below, or on the About us page.

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The call of Acadia brings organizer Jack Russell home

One in a series of Acadia Centennial features

Jack Russell spent a lifetime organizing people and heeding the call of public service. He didn’t stop when he returned 10 years ago to live year round in the home where he was raised on Mount Desert Island.

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Jack Russell, co-chair of the Acadia Centennial Task Force, helps organize volunteers during the annual Take Pride in Acadia Day, to get carriage roads ready for winter. (Photo courtesy of Jack Russell)

Russell, 72, is co-chair of the Acadia Centennial Task Force, which is organizing the celebration of Acadia National Park’s 100th anniversary this year.

A son of geneticists recognized for their work around the world, Russell came back to Maine with his wife, Sandy Wilcox, and moved into a home his family has owned since 1937 at the north end of Echo Lake.

Though he worked in government and private nonprofits in Michigan much of his life, Russell said his longing for Acadia was powerful and he returned virtually every summer for a vacation.

“Whatever zip code I lived in, I was very clear where my home was and I was clear I would be coming back,” he said. Continue reading

Kurt Diederich’s Climb built in 1915 to pave way for Acadia

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

If not for the building of Kurt Diederich’s Climb 100 years ago, there may not have been an Acadia Centennial to celebrate in 2016.

Kurt Diederich's Climb

Climb these stone steps to begin Kurt Diederich’s Climb, built 100 years ago in memory of a young man who loved these mountains of Mount Desert Island.

In the spring of 1914, George B. Dorr, the “father of Acadia,” failed in his initial attempt to get President Woodrow Wilson to create a national monument, to protect the mountains of Mount Desert Island that he and so many others loved.

The reason: Too many disconnected parcels of land, according to “Pathmakers: Cultural Landscape Report for the Historic Hiking Trail System of Mount Desert Island,” by the National Park Service’s Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation, and Acadia National Park.

That spurred a campaign by Dorr and others to connect the land, by securing donation of more acreage to fill in the gaps, and building a network of trails like Kurt Diederich’s Climb, Kane Path, Precipice Trail, Beachcroft Path and Homans Path, according to “Pathmakers.” That finally created a cohesive whole worthy of federal protection. Acadia’s beginning was secured on July 8, 1916, with President Wilson’s designation of Sieur de Monts National Monument.

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Kurt Diederich’s daughter Elsa, who was about 6 when her father died, is seen here along some of the many steps on Kurt Diederich’s Climb, in a photo taken circa 1920. (NPS Archives)

As Acadia’s Centennial approaches, here’s an appreciation of Kurt Diederich’s Climb, and of the driving forces that helped build and maintain it. Like with so much of Acadia’s history, the story behind Kurt Diederich’s Climb highlights the love so many people have had for Mount Desert Island over the years, and the ongoing struggle to protect the landscape.

The elaborate stone-stepped trail begins at the outlet of the Tarn, and climbs swiftly up the east face of Dorr Mountain, along hundreds of stone steps. The words “Kurt Diederich’s Climb” are carved into one of the steps at the start. A plaque with the phrase “In memory of Kurt Diederich who loved these mountains” once graced the trail, and is now held at park headquarters, according to “The Memorials of Acadia National Park,” by Donald P. Lenahan, who also writes a blog of the same name. Continue reading

Looking for romantic things to do? Ask Acadia on My Mind!

Bubble Rock in Acadia National Park helped prove the Ice Age

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 new page linking in one place all the Q&As.

I am coming up to Acadia. I figured you probably know a thing or two. So my girlfriend and I will be celebrating our year and a half anniversary on the trip (not really the reason for going, just kind of a coincidence), and I want to do something special or romantic. Of course the obvious answer for the most romantic thing would probably be to watch the sunrise on Cadillac Mountain, but I was wondering if perhaps you know of any other cool spots in the park we should check out. We are beyond ourselves with excitement, especially to see the fall foliage. We will be up for three days, arriving the morning of Thursday, Oct. 15 and leaving on Sunday, Oct. 18. – Aaron from Cleveland

Dear Aaron,

Congratulations on your 1-1/2 year anniversary! You and your girlfriend have timed your visit well for fall foliage in Acadia National Park, especially since the colors haven’t yet peaked according to last week’s official state of Maine leaf-peeping report.

sunrise on cadillac mountain

Sunrise on Cadillac Mountain (NPS photo)

There is no shortage of romantic things to do in Acadia and surrounding communities. You could hike or bike the miles of scenic trails and carriage roads; watch the sun rise or set; have popovers and tea or a lobster dinner; see a shooting star; or walk across at low tide to Bar Island.

Making it even more romantic this time of year: It’s less crowded after Columbus Day, and the trees are ablaze in autumn’s colors. No wonder many couples consider Acadia a perfect place to get married, go on their honeymoon, take photos for an engagement announcement – or celebrate their anniversary, like you and your girlfriend!

Here are some suggestions for romantic things to do in Acadia National Park: Continue reading

Fall foliage in Acadia tops things to see and do in October

UPDATED 10/14/15: It’s official, state of Maine report today shows Acadia region’s fall foliage at high to peak. See updated link below.

Spectacular fall foliage in Acadia National Park is a leaf peeper’s delight, at or near the top of the list for everyone from professional photographers to Martha Stewart, travel writers to cruise ship passengers.

fall foliage in acadia

Colors such as these can be found in Acadia National Park and surrounding communities in autumn. All rights reserved, Brent L. Ander Photography.

But enjoying the autumn colors is just one of the many things to see and do in Acadia in October, an increasingly popular time to visit, when the reds, golds, yellows and browns of fall’s turning leaves complement the year-round pink of the park’s granite.

Fall foliage in the Acadia region is at high to peak, according to the latest state of Maine’s weekly foliage report, as of Oct. 14. It came too late for the Columbus Day weekend, but it’ll be a brilliant color show for those racing or watching the Mount Desert Island Marathon and Half Marathon on Oct. 18.

In answer to one of its frequently asked questions, Acadia National Park says peak foliage is usually mid-October, ranging anywhere from the first week to the third week of the month.

Check back here regularly for current condition reports on fall foliage in Acadia, or link to some of the live webcams in area communities.

Here’s a list of top things to see and do in and around Acadia in October:

Fall foliage in Acadia

Official state of Maine foliage report declares high to peak foliage in Acadia region on Oct. 14, 2015. If you’ve never seen peak in Acadia, this is what it looks like, as captured by Vincent Lawrence of Acadia Images. All rights reserved, Acadia Images.

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New Schoodic Woods Campground in Acadia offers plenty

Update: See new story on Schoodic Woods Campground including shower facilities offered by local businesses and extensive photo display of sites.

Bar Harbor retiree Alice Long was so excited about the new Schoodic Woods Campground in Acadia, she set up a lawn chair in front of the gate at 7 a.m. on opening day, and couldn’t wait to become the first happy camper.

Schoodic woods

Campers, hikers and bicyclists can find out more information about Schoodic Woods at this new ranger station.

“After months of waiting for the campground to open, I was thrilled to arrive there and get a tent site,” said Long in an e-mail, recalling the fun atmosphere on Sept. 1, chatting with others in line behind her, and earning a little notoriety while she was at it.

When park officials finally let her and other early-bird campers into the new Schoodic Woods Ranger Station to register, “they kept telling everyone that ‘the lady in the green chair was number one’ – from then on, that’s what everyone called me,” said Long, who is also a park volunteer.

It’s not only Long who’s excited about the opening of Schoodic Woods Campground in Acadia, which will feature 94 RV and tent sites once it’s fully completed next year, and already boasts 8.3 miles of bike paths and 4.7 miles of hiking trails for campers and day trippers.

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Explore Schoodic Woods by bike or on foot.

Park officials had Long sign a dollar bill, to be framed and hung in the new ranger station. US Sen. Angus S. King, Jr., camped with his RV at site B12 after he helped cut the ribbon. And so many other campers have wanted to be part of the inaugural season at Schoodic Woods, the limited number of available RV and tent sites have been filled up on a first-come, first-served basis several nights this month already.

Other reasons Schoodic Woods has been long awaited: The land that the campground and hiking and biking trails are on had been threatened by a proposal to develop a resort with hotel, golf course, sports center and luxury villas, until a change of ownership in 2011 led to a change in fortunes, so that Schoodic Woods is now part of Acadia National Park. Plus area businesses have been looking forward to a much-needed boost to the Schoodic Peninsula economy.

Here are some of the highlights of Schoodic Woods Campground in Acadia and the area, to help you plan a camping or day trip to Schoodic Peninsula. The campground is open on a first-come, first-served basis through Columbus Day this inaugural year. Next season, it will be open late May through Columbus Day, with reservations recommended through www.recreation.gov.

The hiking trails and bike paths are open year-round, weather and conditions permitting, according to John Kelly, park management specialist. A 100-space day-use parking lot, a seasonal Island Explorer bus stop, and two sets of restrooms, one open in season and another open year-round, help complete the picture. Continue reading

Top platform at Beech Mountain fire tower open in Acadia

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

Most people who hike Beech Mountain in Acadia National Park may not be aware of a rare opportunity that could await them at the peak.

Beech Mountain fire tower

Only during a fire tower open house can you get the topmost views from Beech Mountain in Acadia National Park.

The National Park Service has begun opening the top platform of the steel fire tower on the peak of Beech Mountain, giving people spectacular, unfettered 360-degree views of landmarks such as Echo Lake and the Cranberry Isles. Previously, only a lower platform was open for viewing. The park service calls the opening of the top platform an open house at the fire tower.

During a recent visit on a clear day, we enjoyed the views from the tower’s top platform for the first time, even though we have been hiking in Acadia for nearly 20 years including many trips up Beech.

In an interview, Gary Stellpflug, trails foreman at Acadia National Park, said he is pleased to see the top catwalk open.

“It should be,” he said. “It is a wonderful place. Everyone wants to go up there. It’s just cool. You see fewer and fewer fire towers that you can safely go up and down.”

The top platform of the fire tower will be open from noon to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesdays, through the end of August, according to the park’s online calendar.

beech mountain fire tower

On a clear day, you can see forever – or at least to the Cranberry Isles – from the Beech Mountain fire tower in Acadia National Park.

The fire tower’s cabin, however, remains closed. The cabin has a wooden floor, unlike the steel grating on the platforms.

Mary Downey, a ranger who was staffing the fire tower during our recent visit, said she didn’t believe most hikers were aware it was unusual for the top platform to be open.

Beech is a popular hike. Many people likely put it on their agenda without checking the park’s calendar for the open house or even realizing that the top platform is normally closed.

“On a clear day, it’s great,” Downey said. Continue reading

The cairns of Acadia: Objects of wonder, subjects of vandals

One in a series on Acadia’s Bates cairns

The iconic Bates-style cairns of Acadia National Park, Zen-like in their simplicity and historic in nature, keep hikers from getting lost on the trails. But they also attract vandals and random rock-stacking visitors, making trail maintenance a nightmare.

bates cairn

Each Bates-style cairn is unique in coloring, size and shape, such as this one along the Dorr North Ridge Trail.

A couple of years ago, vandals knocked over nearly all the cairns on the Cadillac South Ridge Trail, even shattering some of the rocks. And every season, visitors pile rocks on ridgetops and cobblestone beaches, not knowing that violates park rules, or that it may offend others who come after.

Just last month, a reporter for The Spectrum & Daily News of St. George, Utah, wrote an article entitled “Stacking cairns to commune with nature,” about a family trip to Acadia, featuring pictures of his sons piling rocks on the beach along the Ship Harbor Trail. He reasoned that the next big storm would knock the rocks over, and that it’s not the same as graffiti or vandalism marring national parks.

For park resource specialist Charlie Jacobi, who’s been trying to educate the public for years about leaving Bates-style cairns and other rocks alone, it’s been so disheartening, he almost gave up last year. “I was ready to throw in the towel and say, ‘We can’t do it,’” Jacobi said in an interview. “It is a waste of our time when somebody is undoing the work that you do on a daily basis.”

cairn

Like a mini Stonehenge, this Bates-style cairn stands guard on the Pemetic South Ridge Trail.

It’s against park rules to randomly stack rocks, or to add to or dismantle Bates cairns. The issue of people messing around with cairns or building stone heaps of their own isn’t just dogging Acadia. Earlier this month, National Public Radio focused on the controversy in a piece entitled “Making Mountains Out of Trail Markers? Cairns Spark Debate in Southwest,” spurred by a column in the High Country News, “Stop the rock-stacking.”

Whether the issue is unofficial rock piles in the Southwest or in Acadia, vandalized Bates-style cairns or graffiti in national parks, said Jacobi: “There’s a larger issue here about stewardship of public lands and land trusts and places we love and go to.”

“Leave What You Find,” one of the seven principles developed by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, is the message people need to get, said Jacobi.

“Whether it is rocks or wildflowers or anything else, the little bit of restraint that is needed to share Acadia or any place with thousands and thousands of other people is tough to accept. But I think that is what we need to do,” said Jacobi.

Otherwise there could be rock stacks littering the landscape, or vandalized Bates-style cairns. “I’ve got photos ad nauseum. I’ve got pictures of different things that visitors have built. You could see holes in the soil where rocks have been removed,” said Jacobi. He’s also seen rock stacks piled on a boulder in the middle of Echo Lake, destruction of summit cairns and other random acts.

cairn

This photo of cairn vandalism and rock-stacking on the east face of Dorr Mountain along what is now known as Schiff Path was taken in the late 1990s. (NPS photo provided courtesy of Charlie Jacobi)

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Tales of beaver in Acadia National Park, and other wildlife stories

Whether it’s moose or beaver in Acadia National Park, rare and unusual wildlife sightings can sometimes become the talk of the town, the chatter on Facebook, and the lore of the islands.

Take the cases of beaver on Isle au Haut, or the young bull moose that once wandered all over that remote island outpost of Acadia, and then the moose that followed hikers in the woods of Mount Desert Island.

Are there beaver on Isle au Haut? A management plan by the National Park Service says that beaver are absent from the Maine island, but a newly-released photo and recent sightings suggest otherwise.

One island resident says he has long seen beaver activity on the island, half of which is included in Acadia National Park.

beaver on isle au haut in acadia national park

A lone beaver, thought to be absent according to Acadia National Park’s recent management plan for Isle au Haut, was caught on camera in July 2014, apparently wary of Eli’s Creek, swollen by rains that month. (NPS photo taken by Ana Casillas and  provided by Ranger Alison Richardson)

Other compelling evidence includes a recent photo of  a beaver on the banks of Eli’s Creek on the southwest side of Isle au Haut.

The photo of the beaver was taken during a rain storm in July 2014 near a work cabin for Acadia rangers, said Acadia National Park Ranger Alison Richardson, who provided a copy of the photo.

Isle au Haut is in Penobscot Bay in the Gulf of Maine, about 7 miles south of Stonington. Richardson said she did not know how the lone beaver made it to the island.

“I don’t know if I would say beaver live on Isle au Haut,” but the single beaver was on the island somehow, she said. Fellow Ranger Nick Freedman said he thought it might be a transient.
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