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 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.
This photo, taken in late May, provides a late spring view from the same spot on the Ship Harbor Trail.
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.
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.
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 →
Whether you ran the MDI Marathon to set a personal record or just to finish, or whether you prefer easy jogs along carriage roads and village connector trails, Acadia National Park and surrounding communities offer a runner’s paradise.
Only in Maine would a lobster wave runners to the finish line. The MDI YMCA’s Acadia Half Marathon includes the Park Loop Road in its route.
Where else can you carve out a personal running route that could include a jaunt along the ocean, through piney woods and even up a small mountain, all within the borders of a national park?
And where else can you be cheered on to the finish by a person in a lobster costume (Acadia Half Marathon in June), or earn a finisher’s medal in the shape of a lobster claw (Mount Desert Island Marathon and associated races on Oct. 19)?
Would you run 26.2 miles for this bling? MDI Marathon’s 2014 finisher’s medal. (Photo courtesy of MDI Marathon)
Runner’s World magazine recently listed Acadia National Park first out of “10 Can’t-Miss Running Adventures,” and has previously called MDI Marathon the “most scenic” and runner-up for best overall marathon. And in 2012, MDI Marathon was selected as one of the 100 best races in North America by www.bestroadraces.com.
Beyond the magnificent scenery and the fun lobster themes, there’s a community-minded purpose to races on Mount Desert Island, as well as a sense of history. Continue reading →
It didn’t receive a lot of attention, but U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell revealed some nuggets about her agenda for National Parks — and her personal life – during a sweeping speech at Acadia National Park.
US Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. Department of the Interior photo.
In her remarks at the Schoodic Education and Research Center on Aug. 15, Jewell touched on a wide range of topics, including the challenges of stingy federal spending on parks, the need to start preparing a new generation of potential rangers and other National Park personnel, the scary effects of global warming on federal lands and the important role of the parks as science classrooms for youths.
Jewell, 58, the former CEO of REI, a national outdoor retail company, started on a personal note.
She said that her visit to Acadia National Park on Friday brought back memories of the first time she traveled to the Maine park 37 years ago. Continue reading →
Sargent Mountain in Acadia National Park is benefiting from an important project aimed at protecting the fragile terrain on its peak.
Using rocks and stones mostly from a massive cairn on Sargent Mountain, workers are completing a new 50-foot causeway on the Sargent South Ridge Trail. The work is being done to encourage hikers to stay on the trail instead of venturing to the subalpine zone around the mountaintop.
From left to right, Liam Hassett, 16, of Cleveland, Ransom Burgess, 18, of Bar Harbor and Billy Brophy, 15, of Hyattsville, Maryland swing sledgehammers to bust stones into tiny pieces for creating a new 50-foot-long causeway atop Sargent Mountain in Acadia National Park. The three are members of the Acadia Youth Conservation Corps.
The new causeway is being constructed with two layers – rocks and stones on the bottom and gravel stones on top, along with a stone border on each side. The work is shoring up a section of the trail that was deeply eroded, said Acadia Trails Foreman Gary Stellpflug on the peak on Tuesday.
“It’s really a good project,” Stellpflug said while he and other workers moved dozens of stones and rocks into the new trail section. Continue reading →