Update 2/24/23: The National Parks Traveler picked up this story and put a national spotlight on the “paint-can-carrying hiker” who has been putting bright red blazes on rock cairns and trees in the park.
Update 2/24/23: Spring Trail added to list of damaged trails.
Winter is not even off-season for vandalism in Acadia.
Bright red paint defacing about two miles along the Spring Trail, the Penobscot Mountain Trail on the south ridge of the mountain and the Deer Brook Trail has been reported to the National Park Service, which is now investigating.
An illegal red blaze was painted on the mantle stone of this historic-style cairn on the Penobscot Mountain Trail. (Photo by Kevin Young)
The illegal red rectangular blazes frequently were painted right next to the park’s official sky-blue blazes on the historic hiking trails, according to photos posted on Facebook by a hiker and provided to Friends of Acadia and the park in early February. At least three dozen historic-style cairns, trees and bedrock locations were painted with the red blazes, according to interviews with two hikers who took photos.
This is the latest example of a growing problem in Acadia and other national parks, with vandals defacing the landscape with paint, rock stacking and even human and pet waste. Now, the vandalism in Acadia has happened in the dead of winter, when the hiking trails are often little used and icy.
The illegal painting off Penobscot, the fifth highest mountain in Acadia, follows a rise in the number of citations issued by the National Park Service for vandalism in Acadia over the past two years, compared to the three prior years, according to park statistics.
This red paint damage on a cairn on the Penobscot Mountain Trail is especially galling because it occurred right next to a National Park Service sign that asks people to leave cairns as they find them. Rangers are investigating the illegal activity. (Photo by Kevin Young)
Making your list, checking it twice, and looking for special Maine or Acadia holiday gift ideas for someone nice?
Here’s a special selection, whether to support local business, help raise funds for charity, or bring memories of Maine and Acadia home for the holidays.
Now that an entrance fee is required at Acadia year-round, an annual pass, regular price of $55, is a great gift idea for anyone who plans on visiting at least twice, as it’s $30 for a 1-week pass. (NPS image)
Acadia National Park annual pass – Available for purchase online, the $55 annual pass has also traditionally been sold at “almost-half-price,” or $28, during the month of December at locations in and around Bar Harbor. According to the National Park Service, the discounted pass will be available for sale in person only at chambers of commerce on Mount Desert island and Ellsworth, the Sand Beach Entrance Station in Acadia and at local town offices in Gouldsboro, Mount Desert, Tremont, Winter Harbor and Blue Hill. Most locations will take only cash or checks payable to the National Park Service. The pass is good for 12 months from the date of purchase.
Friends of Acadia gift membership – By giving a gift membership, you would provide a year’s worth of membership benefits to a family member or friend, including a subscription to Acadia magazine, the Friends of Acadia Journal, six note cards, and a window decal. Gift membership starts at $40, and also helps support the nonprofit that does so much for Acadia National Park. And if you want to donate independent of a gift membership, contribute on Giving Tuesday, Nov. 29, a global day of being charitably minded.
You’re more likely to spot a moose in Baxter State Park than in Acadia, but you’ll see a moose every month of the year with this calendar. (Photo courtesy of Moose Prints Gallery & Gifts)
Moose calendar – Few things say Maine like moose, but while you’re unlikely to see one of these magnificent mammals in Acadia, you can easily find them in the Katahdin region, as Millinocket wildlife photographer Mark Picard shows in his iconic moose calendar, which has been featured by BBC and PBS. A copy of this calendar is one of the giveaways for participants in the Acadia to Katahdin Virtual Race, see below for details about how to enter the race to help raise funds for Acadia and Katahdin region charities. You can also order gift cards, sign up for photo workshops and order fine art prints online at Moose Prints Gallery & Gifts.
UPDATE on 2/8/2023:Nickerson O’Day of Brewer today submitted the low bid of $27,653,784.59 to construct the Acadia Gateway welcome center and transit hub in Trenton and will begin working with the state to secure the contract for the long-awaited project.
Like most MaineDOT projects, the state is aiming to award the contract to the low bidder, according to William Pulver, chief operating officer and deputy chief engineer for MaineDOT.
“The next step in our typical low bid process is an internal evaluation of the bids received and a review of any required bid submittals from the low bidder,” Pulver wrote. “Following that review, a recommendation is made to the Commissioner’s office.”
Under the state bid process, it should take about 6 weeks to award the contract if all is in order.
The Maine Department of Transportation said it expects to break ground in 2023 on a new state-of-the-art, $32 million welcome center and transit hub for Acadia National Park and the region, marking a big step forward in a strategy to get more visitors to use the park’s fare-free shuttle and reduce traffic congestion.
This design shows Island Explorer buses picking up visitors from the planned Acadia Gateway Center’s intermodal and welcome center, with a current state estimate of $32 million for the project. (NPS image)
The MaineDOT this week officially advertised for bids for a contractor to construct the national park welcome center and intermodal facility off Route 3 in Trenton about three miles north of the bridge to Mount Desert Island. The bids were scheduled to be publicly opened and read on Jan. 4 in Augusta but the bid opening was recently changed to Jan. 18, and then delayed again until Jan. 25, and postponed again to Feb. 8, according to the MaineDOT web site. The winner must agree to complete work by May 3, 2025 for the project, estimated by the department to cost $32.076 million.
Paul Merrill, director of communications for the MaineDOT, said the department expects groundbreaking for the Acadia Gateway welcome center and intermodal facility to happen in the first half of 2023. The MaineDOT would own the project, which would be funded mostly by federal transit aid, in addition to $4 million from the National Park Service, state money and $1 million from the Friends of Acadia, a partner in planning since 2004.
Gary Stellpflug, now-retired Acadia trails crew foreman, in front of a map of some of Acadia’s historic trails.
The superintendent of Acadia National Park and other National Park Service employees and supporters gathered recently to bid farewell to retired Acadia hiking trails foreman Gary Stellpflug, sending him off with high praise and lots of laughs.
Stellpflug, who retired at the end of August, led an extensive rehabilitation and expansion of 155 miles of Acadia hiking trails over the past 20 years, made possible when Acadia became the first national park in the country with an endowment for a trail system.
People at the retirement party lauded Stellpflug’s expertise in stone masonry and craftsmanship in trail building at Acadia. They said his work helped in the successful nomination of Acadia hiking trails to the National Register of Historic Places in April.
At his retirement party, Gary Stellpflug was honored with a “Happy Trails” cake decorated with the names of Acadia hiking trails.
July heralds the start of the summer season at Acadia National Park. This year, the month also marks the publication of the 4th edition of our award-winning book, Hiking Acadia National Park: A Guide to the Park’s Greatest Hiking Adventures by Falcon Guides.
The newest edition of Hiking Acadia National Park, winner of the National Outdoor Book Award and Independent Publisher Book Award, is now available on Amazon and elsewhere. (PLEASE NOTE: See sidebar about Amazon.com links)
It’s the second year in a row we’ve had a new hiking book published by Falcon, with Coastal Trails of Maine, including Acadia National Park released in 2021.
The new version of Hiking Acadia National Park builds and improves upon the prior edition, which won the highly-regarded National Outdoor Book Award in 2016.
We’ve hiked together in Acadia for almost 25 years, but we still found new things in the Maine national park to include in this latest edition: A snowy owl perched on a spruce tree on Cadillac summit in December; a fiery sunset from the Sundew Trail on Schoodic; the dance floor on Baker Island; and the exhilaration of an 8-year-old after hiking Great Head are just a few.
Among the highlights of the new book: The addition of two new trails, Seaside Path and Baker Island; the latest information on about 155 miles of trails; and updated photos, including some notable pictures by retired Acadia Ranger Charlie Jacobi who captured what might be part of the highest waterfall in the park.
Acadia National Park visitors in search of sunset on Cadillac Mountain know from social media and the Internet that the best place to watch is from the Blue Hill Overlook. But late last year, workers removed the sign for the overlook and put up one that says “West Lot” instead.
Crowds start to gather for the best place to see the sunset on Cadillac Mountain, whether it’s called the West Lot, Blue Hill Overlook or Sunset Point.
And before the spot was named for its view west to Blue Hill in the late 1980s, visitors knew to flock to what was then called Sunset Point, as the official park map labeled it. But the crowds got so bad, “to alleviate evening traffic congestion, the National Park Service changed the name in 1988 from Sunset Point to Blue Hill Overlook,” according to the new and definitive book, Place Names of Mount Desert Island and the Cranberry Islands, Maine, by Henry A. Raup.
As Shakespeare wrote in Romeo and Juliet, “What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
Whether it’s called the West Lot, Blue Hill Overlook or Sunset Point, the view of the sunset on Cadillac from this very spot is, indeed, just as sweet. And visitors will eventually find it.
The renaming of Blue Hill Overlook to the West Lot is just the latest chapter in the long history of changing place names in Acadia and surrounding areas. Even the park itself went through several name changes, from the Sieur de Monts National Monument in 1916, to Lafayette National Park in 1919 and finally Acadia National Park in 1929.
No matter what you call it, this is the sweetest place to watch the sunset on Cadillac, even if it will get crowded during the peak season with visitors setting up lawn chairs, picnic blankets and cameras on tripods.
Michael Kelley has been visiting Acadia National Park for more than 25 years, but he’s never seen Thunder Hole up close or been on Sand Beach. That’s because he uses a wheelchair, and an accessible ramp is either too far away or non-existent for these major attractions.
Michael Kelley, shown in his wheelchair, used an accessible ramp to reach an upper platform over Thunder Hole, but the view was limited. There is no ramp for the disabled to reach the main platform next to Thunder Hole. (Photo courtesy of Carol Kelley)
On a recent visit to Thunder Hole, he went down the ramp to a top platform, but he couldn’t see the waves crashing inside the sea crevice, like people who can walk to the lower viewing platform can. And the lack of a ramp down a long stretch of cement stairs to Sand Beach means he has only experienced it via videos taken by his mother.
“It is ironic that he has a lifetime park pass, yet can’t access the best of the park,” said Carol Kelley of Waldo, whose 31-year-old son has a rare chromosomal disorder, Triplication of Chromosome 17. People with permanent disabilities can get a free National Parks pass, but Michael felt like a second-class citizen at Thunder Hole, his mother said.
While Michael Kelley and others with disabilities can use wheelchairs on carriage roads at Acadia and otherwise enjoy the park, a recent 280-page report on access at Acadia National Park says the park fails to provide equal opportunities for physically disabled persons to visit popular sites and much of the rest of the park.
The report, by the National Center on Accessibility (NCA) at Indiana University, recommends some dramatic improvements, including a ramp down to Sand Beach, new accessible platforms at a scenic lot just short of the summit of Cadillac Mountain, at Bass Harbor Head Light and at Thunder Hole, and a redesign and rebuilding of the two National Park Service campgrounds on Mount Desert Island.
On Ocean Path in Acadia National Park, trails crew supervisor Christian Barter knelt on the ground on a sunny morning in April while he built a new retaining wall, aiming to protect the trail from climate and the relentless pounding of hikers.
Much of the work on Acadia hiking trails is still done by hand, as demonstrated by Christian Barter in building a new stone side wall along Ocean Path.
“You have to think about every bit of edge along that trail and how you can make it permanent, so that it will hold the surface in between the edges,” said Barter, who started on the Acadia trails crew in 1989 and has been a supervisor for about 23 years. “It is just a matter of going through every spot.”
Work on the historic hiking paths and trails in Acadia is stepping up as the numbers of people on Ocean Path and other trails is set to climb in the months ahead. With Acadia attracting more than 4 million visits in 2021, keeping the trails in shape is an on-going process.
The National Park Service opened the full 27-mile Park Loop Road at Acadia on Friday, including the summit road to Cadillac Mountain, which will require a vehicle reservation starting May 25. The park’s 45-mile carriage road system, which was closed for mud season, reopened to pedestrians on April 12, but not yet to bicyclists or horses.
The opening of the loop road and carriage road system increases access to trailheads and historic hiking paths in Acadia and heralds the start of another tourist season. It’s also the beginning of a busy time for the Acadia trails crew, charged with maintaining and rehabilitating the 155 miles of hiking trails in the first national park east of the Mississippi.
Acadia National Park hiking trails received a special honor on Friday when they were added to the National Register of Historic Places, closing an effort that park officials launched more than 20 years ago, and establishing the largest hiking trail system on the federal list of places worth preserving.
Frederic Church of the Hudson River School painted this scene of Cadillac and Dorr mountains around 1850, an historically significant vista still visible today behind Acadia’s Fabbri Memorial. (Image from National Park Service/National Register of Historic Places Registration Form)
Placed on the register as “The Mount Desert Island Hiking Trail System, ” the Acadia National Park network consists of 109 maintained trails and paths covering about 117 miles. The Acadia hiking trails system also includes 18 memorial plaques or markers along the trails and 12 iconic viewpoints from the trails, according to the system’s sweeping nomination report for the historic register.
“Acadia National Park now has the largest system of trails to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places,” Kevin Schneider, Superintendent of Acadia National Park, said. “This recognition is a testament to not only the historic significance of these trails, but also the incredible dedication of the National Park Service staff, partners and volunteers who continue to preserve them.”
The system of trails is historically significant partly because of its strong connections to the Hudson River School of artists in the mid-1800s and the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.
Gary Stellpflug, longtime foreman of the Acadia trails crew who worked on the nomination, confirmed the approval on the national register of historic places, calling it “very exciting” and worthy of “fireworks and champagne.”
“We had a lot of people pushing for it,” Stellpflug said. “I feel incredibly elated. It’s been a long time coming. This trail system deserves that recognition and protection.”
After 20 years of planning, construction of a new $24 million Acadia National Park welcome center and transit hub could be completed in 2025, providing visitors a major new way to take the fare-free shuttle to the park and help reduce crowds and traffic problems.
This design shows Island Explorer buses picking up visitors from the planned Acadia Gateway Center’s intermodal transportation and welcome center. (NPS image)
The Acadia Gateway Center, which is a project of the Maine Department of Transportation, will serve as an intermodal transportation hub and offer a 11,000 square-foot welcome center. The center will boast high beamed ceilings, huge windows and a new busway for the park’s Island Explorer shuttle and commercial tour buses right outside the doors, a National Park Service official said.
The national park welcome center will be “an attraction in itself,” said John Kelly, management assistant at Acadia National Park, and comes when Acadia drew more than 4 million visits in 2021 and parking was tighter than ever inside the park. The new welcome center, when built, would operate along with the existing Hulls Cove Visitor Center.
In a new boost for the project, the Maine Department of Transportation, in a construction advertising schedule for 2022, says it will seek bids in December to construct the Acadia Gateway intermodal and welcome center, earmarking $26.2 million for the project.
Kelly released new slides that display the expansive interior of the national park welcome center with cathedral ceilings, as well as a new overall site plan that shows the busway and parking. Two hundred and fifty new parking spaces with 32 spaces for electric vehicles behind the center are also planned, Kelly said.
UPDATE on 2/15/2022: Reaction from Jack Russell was added.
UPDATE on 2/18/2022: Gary Stellpflug thanks people for their comments on his planned retirement.
Gary J. Stellpflug, longtime foreman of the Acadia National Park Trails Crew, said he is planning to retire from the National Park Service this year, after leading a sweeping rehabilitation of the historic Acadia hiking trails during his tenure.
Gary Stellpflug, Acadia trails foreman, inspects the damage done to a bridge on the Hadlock Brook Trail by an “exceptional” storm on June 9, 2021, attributed by the National Park Service to climate change. (Photo courtesy of Gary Stellpflug)
“I’ve been here long enough,” Stellpflug said in an exclusive interview. “It’s time for somebody else to step in.”
He said there is no exact date for his retirement, but it will be before the start of a new fiscal year on Oct. 1. He said he wants to help in a transition to a new Acadia hiking trails foreman and is working with Keith Johnston, chief of maintenance, on a succession plan.
Stellpflug, who has been foreman of the Acadia trails crew for more than 35 years, helped launch a major effort to restore and maintain Acadia hiking trails after Acadia became the first national park in the country with an endowment for a trail system.
Kathy Dixon-Wallace starts work at 6:30 am to teach middle school science in Milo and likes to run half marathons and hike long distances during the summers.
Kathy Dixon-Wallace on Mount Katahdin in Maine after a hike in 2018, part of her 1,071-day virtual race streak. (Photo provided by Kathy Dixon-Wallace)
A participant since 2017 in the Acadia to Katahdin Virtual Race, she logged over 1,000 straight days of exercise, averaging more than 5 miles a day, almost always running.
She said she liked to think she was unstoppable – until she was struck by COVID-19 last month.
“COVID kind of knocked me on my butt,” Dixon-Wallace, a teacher for 14 years at the Penquis Valley Middle School in Milo, said in a phone interview. “It is scary and it is an unknown.”
Known by her Acadia to Katahdin virtual race name of @KDW, Dixon-Wallace has helped raise funds for Friends of Acadia, Millinocket Memorial Library, and other charities through her participation in the virtual race, and has run the real-life Mount Desert Island Half Marathon once, and the real-life Millinocket Half Marathon three times.
But perhaps the toughest challenge of all has been her recovery from COVID-19. Continue reading →
COVID-19 gives new meaning to “home for the holidays”: Instead of rushing to malls and traveling to visit family, it may mean quarantine holiday shopping from home.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t find the perfect gift for fans of Acadia, Katahdin and all things related to Maine and national parks on your shopping list. Whether you start your holiday shopping on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday or Giving Tuesday, here’s a special selection to help raise funds for charity, support local business and bring memories of Maine home for the holidays.
And as we’re co-sponsoring the 2020 Acadia to Katahdin Virtual Race that connects participants and supporters of the Mount Desert Island Marathon & Half and Millinocket Marathon & Half, even though the real-life races have been cancelled this pandemic year, we also include ideas for the runner, hiker and all-around outdoor enthusiast on your list. Plus we’ve modeled the glittery Maine STRONG holiday ornament on the virtual race medal, and offering it on this blog’s online shop, to help raise funds for the Friends of Acadia, MDI Marathon, Millinocket Memorial Library and Our Katahdin, all 501(c)(3) charities that are also benefitting from the virtual race.
The glittery Maine STRONG holiday ornament, modeled on the 2020 Acadia to Katahdin Virtual Race medal, is available with 4-inch silver or red ribbon, only on this blog’s online shop. Percentage of proceeds benefit Friends of Acadia, MDI Marathon, Millinocket Memorial Library and Our Katahdin, all 501(c)(3) charities. Order by Dec. 10 to receive by Christmas.
With businesses and non-profits hurt and tourism down from Mount Desert Island to Millinocket as this summer ends, a new Acadia to Katahdin Virtual Race links people from around the world in support of the regions, behind the rallying cry of Maine Strong!
Made by the same company that makes the MDI and Boston Marathon medals, this virtual race medal features a sparkly red border and heart and glittery white ribbon. Sign up now to earn the right to this Maine Strong medal. (Image courtesy of Ashworth Awards)
Featuring fundraising for area charities, a special “Maine Strong” award with sparkly ribbon, and support of local businesses, the new virtual race with medal is also a special way to mark Maine’s 200th anniversary for those who can’t visit Vacationland in real-life this pandemic year:
Embedded in the 240.1-mile virtual race route are pop-up photos of Acadia’s 26 peaks and Schoodic and Isle au Haut sections; some of Maine’s iconic lighthouses; stops along a virtual Stephen King tour; the Paul Bunyan statue in Bangor; the Liberty Ship Memorial in South Portland; and hair-raising views from Knife Edge on the way up to the finish atop Katahdin.
Sign up today. As the virtual edition of the 2020 Sea to Summit Series, co-sponsored by Acadia on My Mind and runmdi.org – organizers of the real-life MDI Marathon & Half (originally scheduled for Oct. 18, but now cancelled) and Millinocket Marathon & Half (still slated to be run Dec. 5 as of this writing) – this virtual race with medal also includes the entire real-life routes of those events.
And as a show of unity with another real-life race cancelled this year, the virtual race takes a special detour to include the Boston Marathon route. Although the virtual race is not connected with the Boston 26.2-miler, Crow Athletics, the sponsoring club for the real-life MDI and Millinocket races, also hosts a Boston New Years Run, with the 17th edition scheduled for Jan. 1, 2021 – Maine Strong! Boston Strong!
You can backdate miles to Aug. 9, no matter where in the world you log them, and see your avatar move along the virtual race map. Register here. (Image courtesy of Racery)
Since 2017 the virtual race has raised more than $1,800 for charity, with hundreds of participants from around the world, ages 10 to 70+, logging a total of more than 190,000 miles on the virtual race maps, by running, walking or hiking anywhere in the world. And to broaden the appeal for more participants, the 2020 Acadia to Katahdin Virtual Race includes for the first time an activity conversion calculator for bicycling, swimming, yoga, calisthenics, tai chi, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing (as the virtual race goes through Dec. 31).
And because Maine Strong! is the rallying cry, and local businesses from Acadia to Katahdin are hurting from the pandemic, we invite area restaurants, lodging operators and retailers to let virtual racers and readers of this blog know how they can be supported, by commenting at the bottom of this blog post with links to their business.
With the cancellation of the real-life MDI Marathon & Half in October, and even if the real-life Millinocket Marathon & Half, slated for Dec. 5, can’t go on, perhaps some of the runners and spectators who would have come for those events can still keep their reservations, following pandemic safety protocols, or buy gift certificates to be used when they attend a future race.
In fact, that’s what we intend to do, and we invite you to do the same – Maine Strong!
Detail of the Maine Strong glittery ribbon. (Image courtesy of Ashworth Awards)
No matter where in the world you log your running, walking or hiking miles, your virtual race avatar starts on the top of Cadillac, then advances over the remaining peaks of Acadia, before jumping to the MDI Marathon course, during the first 2 of 10 segments in the Acadia to Katahdin Virtual Race. Register here. (Image courtesy of Racery)
Acadia National Park has been hit by a recent rash of vandalism by someone who has used spray paint to damage about five miles of trails on Bald Peak, Huguenot Head and Champlain Mountain with unsightly, off-color blazes.
Gary Stellpflug, foreman of the Acadia trails crew, said he is asking the public to provide possible information on the vandal, who has not been apprehended. “We’re reaching out to the public for information,” Stellpflug said.
Off-color turquoise spray-painted blaze, left, next to the park’s official sky-blue blaze, marred the scenery along Champlain North Ridge Trail in July. Volunteers spent hours cleaning up the approximately 50 illegal blazes on this trail by August.
The rogue blazes, mainly on boulders and rocks, were removed from Bald Peak last fall and from Huguenot Head and Champlain Mountain in August, Stellpflug said.
The illegal spray-painted blazes, including about 50 on the Champlain North Ridge Trail, come amid ongoing efforts by the park to prevent other types of Acadia National Park vandalism or rule breaking, including the knocking down of historic-style cairns , the leaving of painted rocks, which the park considers to be litter along with paper and other waste, and the stacking of rocks.
About five of the vandal’s illegal paint blazes, also turquoise and of various sizes, were spotted during a hike on Sept. 1 on trails near the Schoodic Head overlook in Acadia. Stellpflug said he is aware of the illegal blazes at Schoodic and plans to have them removed.
In early August, two volunteers spent about 10 hours using an organic solution to wash off about 50 of the spray-painted blazes on the Champlain North Ridge Trail.
During a hike in July, about a month before the Acadia National Park vandalism was cleaned, reporters found that the vandal left misshapen and greenish-blue marks on Champlain’s granite slabs and rocks. They often were sprayed, sometimes in long streaks, near the park’s rectangular, 4-inch-long official sky-blue blaze.
Stellpflug said he is hoping the Acadia National Park vandalism will stop. Stellpflug said he assumes it is the same person who is responsible for all the blazes spray painted on trails.
The painted rock with the words “You can do it!” (see close-up photo of rock below) was found on a large boulder on Beachcroft Path – the very same boulder that George B. Dorr, the father of Acadia, was standing by in a well-known historic photo, taken around 1940. Such painted rocks are considered vandalism by the park, and offenders could be subject to fines or prison terms.