Category Archives: History

Virtual race marks 100th of Acadia peaks, Millinocket library

A century ago, in two very different parts of Maine – the Acadia National Park of today and the once-booming mill town of Millinocket – these distinctly special events occurred:

acadia to katahdin virtual race

Are you up to the challenge? Virtually climb the 26 Acadia peaks, run the MDI and Millinocket Marathon and scale Katahdin twice? Help raise funds for charity and earn 1 or more medals? Sign up now (Image courtesy of Racery)

  • Acadia became the first eastern national park, and its “undistinguished” mountains got renamed as part of the effort, with Green now known as Cadillac and Newport as Champlain, among others
  • Millinocket established a library in memory of the native sons who lost their lives during World War I “for the rescue of human rights”

To mark the 100th anniversary of Acadia’s creation as a national park and the naming of iconic Acadia peaks, as well as to celebrate the Millinocket Memorial Library Centennial, a new Acadia to Katahdin Virtual Race begins Aug. 2, to help raise funds for the two regions, and connect fans of these special parts of Maine, no matter where in the world they may live.

Sign up now and you can earn up to 4 different lobster and moose-themed medals for logging your running, hiking or walking miles anywhere in the world. Watch your avatar move on the virtual race map, along the 26 peaks of Acadia and the real-life Mount Desert Island and Millinocket Marathon & Half Marathon routes, and end atop Katahdin, Maine’s highest mountain.

New this year, the virtual race route features 8 specially themed segments, and even if you can’t complete all 328.5 miles by Dec. 31, you will get digital milestone postcards emailed upon finishing each of the following segments:

lobster medal

One of 3 classic virtual race medals featuring raised profiles of Katahdin and the Bubbles. The new 2019 Acadia to Katahdin Finisher Medallion, featuring a raised moose and lobster, will be unveiled soon. Start earning this medal now

  • 26 Acadia peaks (55.2 miles)
  • MDI Marathon & Half Marathon route (26.2 miles)
  • Millinocket Marathon & Half Marathon route, plus the first ascent of Katahdin (57.7 miles)
  • Acadia’s Park Loop Road (25.3 miles)
  • Schoodic National Scenic Byway (28.8 miles)
  • Stephen King-themed segment, from Deer Brook Trail in Acadia to University of Maine, Orono, with special stops in Ellsworth and Bangor (62 miles)
  • Acadia’s carriage road (37.3 miles)
  • Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, plus final ascent of Katahdin (36 miles)

Also new this year: Customized pindrops embedded in the virtual race map with special images and messages, highlighting 26 Acadia peaks and Millinocket, Baxter State Park and Katahdin Woods and Waters sites, and virtual racers’ past achievements – click on one of those red pindrops, and you might find yourself mentioned or pictured!

virtual races with medals

You can start earning a classic virtual race medal with a multiple moose ribbon now.

The pindrops also test your knowledge by asking “Where in Acadia?” and “Where in Millinocket?” and feature fun facts like at what time of year is Cadillac the first place to see the sun rise in the US – not the summer! – and how to avoid the lines by buying a park pass online. (Local businesses along or near the virtual race route can sponsor a customized pindrop with a photo and link to their website by contacting us.)

The virtual race runs from Aug. 2 through Dec. 31, and includes the entire real-life route of MDI Marathon & Half that’s happening Oct. 20, and the Millinocket Marathon & Half that’s happening Dec. 7. You can backdate running, hiking or walking miles to Aug. 2, if you happen to join after the start. And you don’t have to complete all 328.5 miles of the virtual race route to earn a medal.

Co-sponsored by Acadia on My Mind and organizers of the real-life MDI and Millinocket races, the Acadia to Katahdin Virtual Race is also the virtual edition of the 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.

virtual race

A detail of the 2019 Acadia to Katahdin Virtual Race map. Click on any of the red pindrops and you might see one of the 26 Acadia peaks or a “Where in Acadia?” question. Sign up and see the interactive map here. (Image courtesy of Racery)

Continue reading

Gary Stellpflug leads highly skilled Acadia hiking trails crew

gary stellpflug

A clue in the woods off the Beech Mountain parking lot, that there was once a carriage road here, surmises Acadia trails foreman Gary Stellpflug during a National Trails Day hike.

There are about 155 miles of hiking trails in Acadia National Park and Gary J. Stellpflug is familiar with just about every inch of them. Stellpflug, who is trails foreman at Acadia National Park, began working in the park as a seasonal laborer in the summer of 1974, began work on trails in 1975,and first became foreman of the Acadia hiking trails crew in 1978. He left for a period in the 1990s, but returned as trails foreman and has held the position for more than 30 years. We spoke with Stellpflug in December of 2018 and then again on National Trails Day in June when he led a tour of the Valley Trail, which was extensively rehabilitated in 2017 and 2018. He discussed a broad scope of topics including the effects of the federal government shutdown in January, plans for rehabilitating trails and staying true to their historic character, how work on  trails is funded  and the history of Acadia National Park. For this Q&A, information was also used from Stellpflug’s annual “Acadia Trails Forever” report for 2018. Acadia Trails Forever is the name of a special endowment started in 1999 for the park. The $13 million fund to benefit the trails includes $9 million in private donations raised by the Friends of Acadia and $4 million in federal funds, mostly from the park’s entry fees.

Did the federal government shutdown have an effect on the Acadia hiking trails crew?

Gary Stellpflug: The trails crew this year is comparatively small, so we needed to scale back on what we wanted to accomplish. For the past couple of years, we have had 15 to 20 seasonal workers. We could have hired 25 this year. I have that much money. But we have only 10. It was entirely due to the shutdown. It pushed hiring back six weeks or more and it made hiring so late for us that nearly everybody on my list of applicants had taken other jobs. For some reason, the Western and Southeast regions started hiring three weeks before I could and the pool of applicants dwindled. I’m not sure what other social factors are involved. One could be that park service wages are not keeping up with the private sector right now, at least in Bar Harbor, Maine. We rarely get local applicants and they used to be the mainstay of the crew. I want to work on that and see what I can do. I did have two additional new seasonal people, but one was in a car accident and could not work and the other had housing issues. We do have two new permanent workers. It took four years to hire them because of the federal government hiring process. They will be furloughed. They won’t work year-round but they do have permanent jobs. That gives us eight permanent workers.

gary stellpflug

Acadia trails crew foreman Gary Stellpflug shares a laugh with participants in a National Trails Day hike, before he leads them out on the Valley Trail.

Continue reading

Jordan Pond House tea lawn closed to diners, dogs ’til July 15

After being worn down from years of use, the famed tea lawn at the Jordan Pond House in Acadia National Park is undergoing a $356,000 rehabilitation, blocking people from sitting or walking on the lawn, and others from dining outside with their dog, until the middle of July.

Lawn is rehabilitated at Jordan Pond House

With the tea lawn at the Jordan Pond House undergoing a major rehabilitation, Kathy Weinstock of Newburyport, Mass., finds some rough grass to relax on, outside fencing that blocks access to the lawn project.

A contractor is replacing the sprawling lawn, installing an underground irrigation system and building a new brick plaza complete with a number of patio furniture sets for people to sit on, among other work financed by funds related to the concessionaire franchise fee.

While people can still enjoy a popover and meal inside the park’s only restaurant or catch the iconic view of the Bubbles from a big observation deck or by the shores of Jordan Pond, the temporary lawn closure is unexpected and disappointing for some, including dog owners used to eating outside with their pets.

“We were actually planning on coming to sit on the lawn to read,” said Erika Swiger, 26, a social worker from Burlington, Vt., as she and her boyfriend Harvey Vincent, 28, a University of Vermont graduate student, looked across the construction zone from the Acadia restaurant’s observation deck on a sunny afternoon in late May. “It definitely takes away from the beauty of the place.”

A longtime visitor to Acadia, Swiger likes to have popovers with jam on the Acadia tea lawn, a Jordan Pond House tradition; it was “definitely disappointing” not to be able to do so, she said. She saw no sign alerting visitors to the construction, and thought that perhaps the restaurant was expanding.

Kathy Weinstock, a 1981 graduate of the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, lay on a rough grassy area outside the construction zone while waiting for her son to return from a run. She told her son she would read a book and wait for him on the lawn but then to her surprise the lawn was gone. “I said, ‘Where’s the lawn?’ “

jordan pond house

Harvey Vincent, left, and Erika Swiger, of Burlington, Vt., try to make the best of the construction zone marring their view of the Bubbles during their Memorial Day weekend visit to the Jordan Pond House, as they waited for a table inside.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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

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

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.

Continue reading

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.
Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

If not for Earth Day, imagine a silent spring in Acadia

As millions around the world mark Earth Day, imagine what Acadia National Park would be like without the banning of DDT, the Clean Air and Endangered Species Acts, or any of the other changes since that first massive showing of environmental activism in 1970:

peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon chicks, like this one being banded on the Precipice of Champlain Mountain, would not be taking flight in Acadia, if not for the banning of DDT and the passage of the Endangered Species Act in the 1970s. (NPS Photo / Erickson Smith)

  • – No peregrine falcons nesting on the Precipice of Champlain
  • – Hazy views atop Cadillac
  • – Declining loon populations
  • – Acidified ponds that can’t support certain aquatic life
  • A silent spring in Acadia, with no birdsong

On this Earth Day and beyond, whether you’re marching for science in Washington on April 22 or for climate change action in Bar Harbor on April 29, or you’re volunteering for the Friends of Acadia’s annual roadside clean-up later this month, just imagine what a silent spring in Acadia would be like.

clean air act

Acadia webcam images show the impact of air pollution on the views. The Clean Air Act has helped improve visibility. (NPS Photo)

And imagine, too, what rising sea levels could mean to Acadia, as climate change worries join the ranks of environmental concerns like pesticides, mercury contamination, acid rain and acid fog, and air pollution.

As our way of marking Earth Day, of science’s contribution to protecting the environment of Acadia for people, plants and wildlife, and of the challenges like climate change still to be faced, we gather here some resources to remind us of how far we have come, and how much further we have to go.

May this listing, although not exhaustive, help spur reflection, respect, and action, in honor of Earth Day and Acadia. Continue reading

For Women’s History Month, stories of women of Acadia

UPDATED 3/31/2017: Beatrix Farrand and other notable women of Acadia, past and present, added to blog post.

If you know a little of the history of Acadia National Park, you know who the “father of Acadia” is. But less well-known are the women who were also critical in the early days, by donating land and money or otherwise helping to shape the park.

Eliza Homans

Eliza Homans gave the first large parcel of land that would become Acadia National Park, including the Beehive and the Bowl. (NPS photo)

In celebration of Women’s History Month, observed in March, here are some of the stories of the women of Acadia, who perhaps could be called the “mothers of Acadia.”

Eliza Homans – Whether you ask Catherine Schmitt, author of the 2016 book, “Historic Acadia National Park,” or Marie C. Yarborough, Acadia’s curator and cultural resources and interpretation liaison, one of the main women of Acadia to remember and appreciate: Eliza Homans.

“Previous histories of the park made only brief mention of the first land donation, the Bowl and Beehive tract, by a ‘Mrs. Charles Homans’,” said Schmitt in an e-mail. “Her story is important in part because she was the first of many, many property owners, women and men, who donated or sold land to the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations, the predecessor of the park. Their names are memorialized in trails and monuments, but they are often absent from the perspective of popular park histories.”

And as Acadia’s Yarborough e-mailed us last month, in describing her mission to expand the cultural stories and histories of the park beyond George B. Dorr, the “father of Acadia”; the Rockefellers; the French explorers; the Civilian Conservation Corps; and the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations:

cathere schmitt

Catherine Schmitt’s “Historic Acadia National Park” includes stories of women who helped shape the park, such as Eliza Homans. (Image courtesy of Lyons Press and Catherine Schmitt; NOTE: See sidebar about Amazon.com links)

“I push to recognize that there are OTHER stories to tell at the same time, and we need to open up our narrative to tell them. Like, women in Acadia? Eliza Homans…first large gift of land to Acadia was from a woman! We never hear about the women who were working to make this place Acadia,” e-mailed Yarborough, in response to our questions for an earlier blog post, about black history in Acadia. “Oh, there are lots of stories to tell. I just need the time and space to find them.”

In May 1908, Eliza Homans gave title to the 140 acres surrounding the Beehive and the Bowl to the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations, commenting that if she didn’t donate the land for preservation, “my grandchildren may find a ‘Merry-Go-Round’ established there!”, according to Schmitt’s history and Ronald H. Epp’s 2016 biography of Dorr.

Next time you scale the Beehive, or look up at it from Sand Beach, and the next time you hike up to the mountain pond known as the Bowl, give thanks to Eliza Homans. And think of her, too, when you climb Homans Path up Dorr Mountain.

Continue reading

Revealing the hidden figures of black history in Acadia

More than 200 years ago, a free African American named Thomas Frazer settled at what is now a picnic area in the Schoodic section of Acadia National Park. He fished, farmed and operated a salt works, and was the first non-Native American resident of the area.

black history in Acadia

A close-up of the Frazer Point Picnic Area wayside exhibit reveals a little bit about Thomas Frazer, a free African American who first showed up in the 1790 federal census. (Photo by Jana Matusz, NPS volunteer)

It’s a little-known aspect of black history in Acadia and surrounding communities, along with the rarely told stories of the Bar Harbor visits by NAACP founder W.E.B. DuBois and black educator Booker T. Washington in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Frazer’s story is briefly shared on a relatively new wayside exhibit at the Frazer Point Picnic Area.

While the National Park Service marks African American History Month every February by commemorating the civil rights struggles, it’s barely scratching the surface in relating other aspects of black history in Acadia and other national parks.

“Tell the full story,” said Audrey Peterman, an advocate of diversity in national parks, who has visited Acadia several times and had never heard about Frazer until contacted by Acadia on My Mind, and who only learned recently of DuBois’s visit to Bar Harbor.

“If you’re going to reach out to black people and brown people, you’re not going to reach them with the Rockefeller story…,” said Peterman, who blogs about diversity and parks for Huffington Post. “You reach them with the Thomas Frazer story, the W.E.B. DuBois story.”

audrey peterman

Audrey Peterman became an advocate of connecting all Americans to public lands after visiting Acadia. But she didn’t learn of Thomas Frazer until now, and says his story needs to be told. (Photo courtesy of Audrey Peterman)

“It would be nice if the park could do more,” agreed Allen K. Workman, who included Frazer’s story in his 2014 book, “Schoodic Point: History on the Edge of Acadia National Park.” (NOTE: See sidebar about Amazon.com links)

But he said he didn’t fault the park for focusing more on rich Rusticators who gave land for the park, than on Frazer, the history of quarrying and Italian immigrants to the area, or other lesser known aspects of the past. “Their resources are spread pretty thin.” Continue reading