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.
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.
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.
Blue skies over the Bubbles, and snow blankets the pink granite shore of Jordan Pond.
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 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.
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 by the US Senate in 2017, now-former 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 →