Tag Archives: cadillac mountain

Acadia traffic, need for plan, surface at Jordan Pond

Acadia National Park is planning one more public engagement session on its draft plan to relieve traffic congestion in the park, following some tense Acadia traffic near Jordan Pond on Sunday.

acadia traffic problems

A pedestrian barely has room to get by the equestrian crossing sign on the right, as he heads toward Jordan Pond House Memorial Day weekend. The improperly parked cars, seen on the left, stretched along the Park Loop Road from Jordan Pond to as far as Bubble Pond.

The 215-page draft transportation plan, which was released on April 26, proposes to create seasonal vehicle reservation systems for an additional fee at Cadillac Summit Road, the Ocean Drive corridor and Jordan Pond area to better manage traffic.

After holding five information sessions in May, the National Park Service is offering a live webinar from 7 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, June 13 on the draft transportation plan, which proposes the reservation system as its centerpiece.

Christie Denzel Anastasia, public affairs specialist for Acadia National Park, said it’s been great to receive input from people at the sessions that came after the release of the draft transportation plan. She said it has been a fantastic process.

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Acadia adds $284M to economic benefits of national parks

UPDATED 5/7/2018: Story adds a statement from Acadia Superintendent Kevin Schneider.

Acadia National Park last year pumped $284 million in jobs and business activities into the regional economy, according to an annual report on the economic benefits of national parks.

acadia visitor spending

In 2017, 3.5 million visitors spent an estimated $284.5 million in local communities, up 4% from the year before. (NPS image)

Acadia National Park supported 4,163 full and part-time jobs in 2017, down slightly from 4,195 jobs in 2016, as businesses last year struggled to find help amid a strong economy and tighter policies on hiring of foreign workers by the Trump administration.

“Acadia National Park’s extraordinary beauty and recreational opportunities attracted a record number of visitors in 2017 making it the seventh most-visited national park in the country,” said Acadia Superintendent Kevin Schneider. “We value our relationship with the neighboring communities and appreciate the services, experiences and amenities they provide to park visitors.”

The total economic output for Acadia in 2017 was $338.8 million, an increase from $333 million in 2016.

In 2017, the year after celebrating its  centennial, Acadia contributed $284.5 million in visitor spending, up 4 percent from 2016 and up 41 percent from $201 million in 2012, according to the report.

Unveiled by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, the report comes as Acadia is proposing a vehicle reservation system for Cadillac Mountain summit, Ocean Drive and Jordan Pond that would relieve traffic congestion during peak season caused by a growing number of visitors and impose a small vehicle reservation fee partly to help raise money for increased service for the fare-free Island Explorer shuttle. The report on the economic effects of national parks also follows a decision by the National Park Service to impose modest entrance fee increases  starting June 1 at Acadia and 16 other of the most popular national parks, after an initial proposal to more than double fees caused an uproar.

acadia traffic

Accompanying the boost from Acadia visitors is the traffic, subject of a separate just-released transportation report, proposing a car reservation system. (NPS images)

 

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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

Virtual Winter Olympics helps benefit Acadia and Millinocket

Just as real-life Olympians are going for the gold in PyeongChang, participants from across the USA are engaged in a virtual Winter Olympics of sorts, to earn a special medal and help raise funds for Acadia and Millinocket – and to make winter go by a little faster.

But instead of official Winter Olympics events like the biathlon (cross-country skiing and rifle shooting), one racer in the Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Run came up with a virtual Winter Olympics competition he calls the Winter Duathlon, where any 2 sports back-to-back counts.

winter olympics

Thomas Zotti, a.k.a. @TomZot, goes for the gold with this open water swim as part of his Winter Duathlon for the Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Run. (Photo courtesy of Thomas Zotti)

“There really are no rules,” said Thomas Zotti, who goes by the virtual race name of @TomZot, in an e-mail. “It’s just something I made up a few winters ago when the weather forced me onto the treadmill at the gym and I stayed to do some lifting. My thought at the time was just to go from the mill to lifting. I have also snowshoed and then lifted.”

Zotti, of Wolfeboro, NH, even included a recent open water swim, part of a fire-rescue training exercise, as one of his 2 sports, although that’s “not necessarily representative of what I typically do as part of the duathlon.”

As a virtual Winter Olympics of sorts, anything goes for the more than 150 racers from around the USA signed up so far in the Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Run, and everyone’s a winner.

That’s because at least 5% of gross proceeds from race registrations go to support the nonprofit Friends of Acadia, Our Katahdin and Millinocket Memorial Library. And because everyone gets a medal (or two) upon the end of the race, whether they complete the virtual 200-mile route from Cadillac to Katahdin or not, by hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, running or engaging in any other sport anywhere in the USA.

virtual races with medals

Whether you’re part of team #hipster or #lumberjack, this is the buffalo-plaid-beribboned version of the Cadillac to Katahdin Medallion that you can earn. Made by Ashworth Awards, the same firm that makes the Boston and MDI Marathon medals, it’s been described as “Olympic quality” by one witness to a medal ceremony.

The virtual race ends April 10, and registrants can backdate miles as far back as Aug. 15, 2017, the original start of the race. And as we announced last month, only miles logged between Jan. 1 and April 10 (the first 100 days of 2018) will count toward a team #hipster vs. #lumberjack competition.

While there is no fierce rivalry between different nation-states in this virtual Winter Olympics, there is a friendly #hipster vs. #lumberjack showdown. And why these 2 team names? Because the limited-edition Maine-shaped medal featuring a raised lobster claw and pine tree, available as part of new registrations and as an add-on for original racers, comes with a special buffalo-plaid ribbon. And both hipsters and lumberjacks look good in buffalo plaid.

Register here, and see more details about registration at the bottom of this post.

acadia in winter

Snowshoers on the way to the Featherbed, along the Cadillac South Ridge Trail, as part of the Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Run, a virtual Winter Olympics of sorts.

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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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Real-life, virtual runners – and toy moose – aid Maine library

Chalk it up to Maine humor, or truth being stranger than fiction: When as many as 2,000 real-life racers come to town next month, and thousands of miles get logged in the Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Run, to help raise money for the Millinocket library, a star fundraiser will be a stuffed toy moose.

virtual runners

Maxwell the Millinocket Marathon Moose is hitching a ride on a human marathoner, to raise funds for the local library. (Photo courtesy Millinocket Memorial Library)

Maxwell the Millinocket Marathon Moose, who will be hitching a ride on a human marathoner on Dec. 9, has already raised more than $300 in pledges, according to the Millinocket Memorial Library, which is trying to get up to $250,000 in matching funds from the Next Generation Foundation of Maine, for a major library renovation, with a “Sponsor a mile” campaign.

On the brink of closing its doors forever in 2015, with the old mill city’s financial woes, the library got a new lease on life when the community rallied to raise $30,000 – including $10,000 from the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation – and volunteered to keep the doors open. The current fundraising effort is just the latest chapter in the struggling institution’s revival.

Racers – real, virtual or stuffed – who raise $500 or more during the “Sponsor a mile to save Millinocket Library” campaign will get their name on a plaque at the library.

If “Maxwell Moose” is in the running for a real-life plaque for helping the library, as well as participants in the Millinocket Marathon & Half who raise at least $500, we thought, why not “Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Runner”?

virtual races

First a one-room library when it opened on Nov. 11, 1919, the Millinocket Memorial Library is now in this building, dedicated on Dec. 11, 1963. But it’s in need of a major overhaul, and the “Sponsor a mile” campaign is going 100% to help reach the $1M “Future Library Project” goal. (Photo courtesy of Millinocket Memorial Library)

With this blog post, we’re announcing the extension of the Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Run to Jan. 1, 2018, to allow more participants to sign up and existing racers to log more miles, so that the collective “Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Runner” can help raise more funds for charity. The race was originally slated to end on Dec. 9, the same day as the running of the Millinocket Marathon & Half, but racery.com, the host of the virtual race, approached us with the Jan. 1 extension so that it could promote the race to others interested in joining a challenge before the end of the year.

virtual runners

Print out this form to sponsor “Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Runner” and help raise $500 to get a real-life plaque in the library acknowledging the contribution. (Image courtesy Millinocket Memorial Library)

Since Aug. 15, more than 130 participants in the virtual race have cumulatively logged more than 27,000 miles from Bar Harbor to Millinocket, from Florence, Italy, to Baltimore, MD, and elsewhere around the world. The virtual race route, from Cadillac to Katahdin, is 200 miles, and some runners are already onto their 2nd, 3rd or even 4th lap.

That means our pledge, made in our last blog post, of a penny per virtual mile, puts the amount raised so far at more than $270 – more than half way to a real-life plaque for “Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Runner”!

You can help put “Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Runner” over the top by signing up for the virtual race (register as late as Dec. 31 and backdate miles to Aug. 15); logging more miles if you’re already enrolled; or printing out and sending in the pictured pledge form with your contribution, specifying “Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Runner” as the runner you’re sponsoring.

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A new page: Real-life, virtual race miles aid Millinocket library

In a new chapter to keep the Millinocket Memorial Library open, a “Sponsor a Mile” campaign is aiming to raise as much as $500,000 for a major library renovation, when as many as 2,500 racers from around the world come next month to run 26.2 or 13.1 miles in the Millinocket Marathon & Half, to help the old mill city.

virtual races

First a one-room library when it opened on Nov. 11, 1919, the Millinocket Memorial Library is now in this building, dedicated on Dec. 11, 1963. But it’s in need of a major overhaul, and the “Sponsor a Mile” campaign is going to help reach the $1M “Future Library Project” goal. (Photo courtesy Millinocket Memorial Library)

“The ‘Sponsor a Mile’ fundraiser came about because we realized we have all the pieces in front of us to make something magic happen: 2,500 runners visiting our town to help give us a boost, a generous partner that would match our fundraising efforts, and an amazing story of perseverance, generosity, and community,” said Matt DeLaney, library director, in an e-mail.

And to mark the 98th anniversary of the library’s opening on Nov. 11, 1919, we’re announcing today that miles logged in the Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Run can also be part of the effort to raise matching funds for the major building renovation.

For each dollar raised per mile in the real or virtual races, the Next Generation Foundation of Maine is matching, dollar for dollar, up to $250,000, to go 100% toward a $1M “Future Library Project,” which DeLaney calls a “state-of-the-art community center / digital learning lab / youth hangout / learning hub / imagination lab in Millinocket!” He added, “If we have 2,500 marathon runners and each of them finds just 4 people to donate $1 / mile for 26 miles, that will result in $260,000 towards the Future Library Project! When you add in the matching funds, that is over $500,000!”

The library was on the brink of closing forever in 2015, with the old mill city’s financial troubles. But a campaign to raise $30,000, including $10,000 from the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation, helped keep the library doors open, as a starting step. And the last 2 years, runners in the Millinocket Marathon & Half have helped raise funds online for the library, with the campaign cumulatively raising more than $9,000 so far.

stephen king

Margie King, who goes by the Cadillac to Katahdin virtual race name of @mak321, shelves a Stephen King novel as a volunteer at the Millinocket Memorial Library. 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)

“Next Generation is supporting us because we told them our story about losing almost all funding due to an economic crisis in the region, and then having the community rally together and reopen the library on an almost completely volunteer basis,” said DeLaney. “We have told our story to many partners and have experienced profound generosity from our community and from around the state.”

In announcing the up to $250,000 dollar-for-dollar matching grant under the headline, “Sponsor a mile to save the Millinocket Library,” the library suggests a $1 to $10 pledge per mile for the 13.1-mile or 26.2-mile real-life races. But DeLaney said that isn’t set in stone. If a virtual racer completes the 200-mile Cadillac to Katahdin route and finds a sponsor for 10 cents a mile for $20, for example, that can qualify for the Next Generation Foundation of Maine match as well, he said.

“There is no minimum or maximum. If they can find sponsors for 200 miles, that’s even better! The goal is to raise as much money as possible and leave no matching funds on the table,” DeLaney said. And if you want to sponsor virtual racers but don’t know their real names, that’s not a problem, either.

More than 130 participants have been logging miles from around the world on the virtual Cadillac to Katahdin route, to help raise funds for the nonprofit Friends of AcadiaOur Katahdin and Millinocket Memorial Library. Racers can sign up for the Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Run through Dec. 9, the date of the real-life Millinocket races, and they can backdate their running, hiking or walking miles anywhere in the world, to Aug. 15. Participants or volunteers in the real-life MDI or Millinocket events get special pricing for the virtual race.

So far, the virtual racers have logged more than 25,000 cumulative miles. Today, we pledge at least 1 cent per mile for all miles logged on the virtual race route by Dec. 9, 11:59 p.m. EST, as part of our Millinocket Memorial Library donation. That means anyone who is already in the race will be helping to raise funds for the match, even if they’ve already finished the 200-mile route and are onto the second lap. And that means anyone new signing up will add to the pennies per mile commitment as well.

And if you’re a virtual racer who wants to pledge so much per mile that you’ve run or walked, or you want to sponsor a virtual racer whose real name you don’t know, you can do so by printing out this form. While the Millinocket Memorial Library has an online pledge form, it’s more designed for sponsorship of real-life Millinocket Marathon & Half Marathon racers, as the drop-down menu for number of miles is capped at 26.2 miles, even though, as DeLaney said, there is no minimum or maximum pledge per mile, or number of miles.

virtual races

The line of virtual racers stretching from Cadillac to Katahdin on Nov. 11, 2017, on the 98th anniversary of the Millinocket Memorial Library’s opening. You have until Dec. 9 to sign up, and can backdate miles to Aug. 15. (Image courtesy racery.com)

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Real and virtual races with medals converge on MDI

The virtual met reality last week, as more than 1,300 racers from around the world came to run the real-life Mount Desert Island Marathon, Half & Relay, with some of them also logging miles in the Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Run to help benefit charity.

mdi marathon

Rebeccah Geib, a.k.a. @DreadedRunner, proudly displays her Cadillac to Katahdin Medallion, as she stands by the Acadia Inn sign that welcomes real-life runners to MDI.

At the same time, the real and virtual races with medals deepened community ties between the Acadia and Katahdin regions, as visitors with Millinocket ties volunteered at the MDI races on Oct. 15, just as MDI residents will be volunteering at the Millinocket Marathon & Half on Dec. 9, and as charities from both regions will benefit from funds raised by the races, real and virtual.

And to cap it all off, real-life and virtual racers and volunteers who might never have met crossed paths last week, whether during the MDI races, at the post-race party at Side Street Café, on the trails of Acadia National Park, or along the byways of Bar Harbor.

“I feel like a celebrity,” said Rebeccah Geib, who won the virtual race and came in 1st in the female age 20-29 division of the MDI Marathon, 1st female MDI resident and 6th female overall, as she was presented with her Cadillac to Katahdin Medallion last week while at work at the Acadia Inn, the day after finishing the real-life MDI race.

Going by the virtual race name of @DreadedRunner, Geib has also been basking in the glow of meeting one of her real-life running heroes, Leah Frost, who won the MDI Marathon (women’s division) for the fourth time last week, and also received an honorary Cadillac to Katahdin Medallion at the post-race party at Side Street.

mdi marathon

Leah Frost, right, won the MDI Marathon (women’s) and received an honorary Cadillac to Katahdin Medallion at the post-MDI race party at Side Street Cafe. On the left is Melissa Relyea Ossanna, who came in as 2nd female MDI resident, and goes by the virtual race name of @RosaPup.

More than 130 participants have been logging miles from around the world on the virtual 200-mile Cadillac to Katahdin route, to help raise funds for the nonprofit Friends of Acadia, Our Katahdin and Millinocket Memorial Library. 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. Participants or volunteers in the real-life MDI or Millinocket events get special pricing for the virtual race.

What are virtual races with medals, you ask? They let 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 with medals, 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.

virtual races with medals

The Cadillac to Katahdin Medallion goes to all who sign up for the virtual race to help benefit charity.

Co-sponsored by Acadia on My Mind and organizers of the real-life MDI Marathon & Half and Millinocket Marathon & Half, the Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Run 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. He recently received Bangor television station WLBZ’s 2 Those Who Care Award, for the boost his races have given to communities like Millinocket.

virtual races with medals

More than 130 racers are participating in the Cadillac to Katahdin Virtual Run to help raise funds for charity. Sign up now. Race ends Dec. 9, you can backdate miles to Aug. 15. (Image courtesy of racery.com)

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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

Traffic shuts Cadillac Mountain summit road 49 times so far

The road to the Cadillac Mountain summit in Acadia National Park was closed 49 times this summer because of traffic congestion, emphazing the need for more visitors to use the park’s shuttle bus system and providing key data for a new transportation plan, according to a park spokeswoman.

Traffic congestion on Cadillac Mountain

Motorists during July 4 weekend back up on the peak of Cadillac Mountain to obtain a parking space.

Christie Anastasia, public affairs specialist for Acadia, released statistics of the temporary closures to incoming motor vehicles on the Cadillac Mountain summit road that occurred between June 28 and Sept. 4.

The statistics show that 11 of the closures occurred during sunrise and 15 likely during sunset. She said the Cadillac Mountain summit was temporarily shut to incoming traffic seven times during the Labor Day weekend. When the road is shut, the entrance at the base of the mountain is blocked and rangers are stationed there.

While the fare-free Island Explorer does not stop at the top of Cadillac, the tie-ups on the mountain are a sign of the heavy use of motor vehicles inside the park, along with tight parking throughout the park during busy times. The large parking lot at Jordan Pond, for example, was also closed temporarily on Labor Day, causing many motorists to drive around looking for spots or to park illegally.

acadia traffic

Would a vehicle registration system for driving up Cadillac help ease congestion like this? (NPS photo)

“I do think It underscores the importance of the Island Explorer,” Anastasia said. “You don’t have to worry about parking your car. You get on a bus. Someone else drives. You can look out the window and enjoy the scenery.”

The statistics also help in the completion of a new transportation plan. By the end of this year, the park might release a draft Environmental Impact Statement on the plan and then launch a new round of public comments. The park is considering preliminary ideas such as a reservation system for motor vehicles to park at Jordan Pond and to drive up Cadillac, the tallest mountain on the U.S. Atlantic coast with spectacular views of the Porcupine Islands and Frenchman Bay.

“The fact that we are collecting the data on the closures helps us understand parking management strategies as part of that transportation planning process,” Anastasia said. The park’s dispatch office is tracking the closures in a spreadsheet, she said. Continue reading

Acadia, Millinocket fans join forces for virtual race 2017

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

virtual race with medals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

virtual race with medals

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

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New Cadillac to Katahdin virtual race aids Acadia, Millinocket

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

virtual race

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

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

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

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

virtual race

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

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

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

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

virtual race

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

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Physically disabled persons praise, question access to Acadia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stairs to Sand Beach in Acadia National Park

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

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

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

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

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

One in a series on Acadia’s Bates cairns

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

acadia national park hiking

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

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

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

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

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

acadia national park hiking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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