Tag Archives: wild-gardens-of-acadia

Top platform at Beech Mountain fire tower open in Acadia

One in a series of historic hiking trail highlights leading up to the Acadia Centennial

Most people who hike Beech Mountain in Acadia National Park may not be aware of a rare opportunity that could await them at the peak.

Beech Mountain fire tower

Only during a fire tower open house can you get the topmost views from Beech Mountain in Acadia National Park.

The National Park Service has begun opening the top platform of the steel fire tower on the peak of Beech Mountain, giving people spectacular, unfettered 360-degree views of landmarks such as Echo Lake and the Cranberry Isles. Previously, only a lower platform was open for viewing. The park service calls the opening of the top platform an open house at the fire tower.

During a recent visit on a clear day, we enjoyed the views from the tower’s top platform for the first time, even though we have been hiking in Acadia for nearly 20 years including many trips up Beech.

In an interview, Gary Stellpflug, trails foreman at Acadia National Park, said he is pleased to see the top catwalk open.

“It should be,” he said. “It is a wonderful place. Everyone wants to go up there. It’s just cool. You see fewer and fewer fire towers that you can safely go up and down.”

The top platform of the fire tower will be open from noon to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesdays, through the end of August, according to the park’s online calendar.

beech mountain fire tower

On a clear day, you can see forever – or at least to the Cranberry Isles – from the Beech Mountain fire tower in Acadia National Park.

The fire tower’s cabin, however, remains closed. The cabin has a wooden floor, unlike the steel grating on the platforms.

Mary Downey, a ranger who was staffing the fire tower during our recent visit, said she didn’t believe most hikers were aware it was unusual for the top platform to be open.

Beech is a popular hike. Many people likely put it on their agenda without checking the park’s calendar for the open house or even realizing that the top platform is normally closed.

“On a clear day, it’s great,” Downey said. Continue reading

Spring blossoms, rhodora inspires, in Acadia National Park

For Jill Weber, consulting botanist for Acadia National Park, the flowers of spring bring a feast for the senses, and a desire to share the experience.

“One of the first plants that say spring is beaked hazelnut,” said Weber, with flowers that are “exquisite, magenta, threadlike structures that must be seen to be believed. Soon after we get mayflowers.”

rhodora in Acadia National Park

Rhodora along the Dorr North Ridge Trail.

Then there’s the rhodora, the occasional mountain sandwort, carpets of bluets, violets both white and blue, starflowers and pink Lady’s-slipper, to name just some. It’s late May, early June and the mountaintops and lowlands of Acadia National Park are brimming with spring flowers.

Of all the spring blossoms of Acadia, perhaps none are as adored as the rhodora.

“Its bloom time demands a hike up Dorr Mountain for a view of Great Meadow,” said Weber by e-mail, when asked by Acadia on My Mind to name the flowers that most mean spring for her. “The rhodora in the middle of the peatland forms a mosaic of colors with the unfurling leaves of each tree species providing a unique signature. It is a Monet painting come to life!”

Not only have scientists like Weber been inspired by the purple and pink rhodora, so have writers, photographers, Rusticators of the late 1800s and early 1900s, and even the first park superintendent, George B. Dorr, and his staff.


Local photographer Vincent Lawrence captures the mass of rhodora pink along Great Meadow, with the spring green of Huguenot Head and Champlain as backdrop. He even has a blog post all about rhodora on his photography workshop Web site, entitled “Meet Rhodora”. (Photo courtesy of Acadia Images)

Perhaps it’s the profusion of color, the delicate flowers that last only a week or two, or that they grow in such different habitats as the peatland of Great Meadow and the seemingly barren summits of Dorr, Cadillac and Sargent Mountains, that make rhodora such a standout.

The flower can be found in bloom in the Wild Gardens of Acadia at the Sieur de Monts Spring area of the park, as well as along the Cadillac Summit Loop, Dorr North Ridge Trail and elsewhere, as we found this past week during hikes throughout the park. Continue reading

Taking pride in being volunteers of Acadia National Park

Neither rain nor temperatures in the 40s could keep hundreds of volunteers from fanning across Acadia National Park’s carriage roads Saturday, to rake leaves and clear drainage ditches, and help protect against winter’s erosion.

Take Pride in Acadia Day

Some of the hundreds of volunteers during a sunnier Take Pride in Acadia Day in 2011. (NPS Photo / D.R. Hunt)

A rite of fall for 23 years, the Friends of Acadia’s Take Pride in Acadia Day is considered one of the most important volunteer efforts in the Maine national park, held the first Saturday every November. By preventing the damage of freeze-thaw cycles, the effort helps maintain the park’s iconic carriage roads for the enjoyment of bikers, walkers, joggers and riders on horse-drawn carriages.

The reward for the volunteers: Pride in a job well done; a traditional “CCC meal” of chili, cornbread and cider (plus a fourth “C” of cake), in a nod to the Civilian Conservation Corps that helped build the carriage roads during the Great Depression; and perhaps a fifth “C” of camaraderie.

America the Beautiful Volunteer Pass

After 250 hours of cumulative volunteer time in Acadia, you can get an America the Beautiful Volunteer Pass that gives you free admission to the park and other federal recreation land for 12 months.

If you missed this year’s Take Pride in Acadia Day, there are plenty of other chances to volunteer in Acadia National Park, and help care for a park that brings joy to more than 2 million visitors a year.

Among some of the rewards of these other volunteer opportunities, beyond the satisfaction of giving back: A free 12-month “America the Beautiful Volunteer Pass” to the park and other federal recreation lands, if you donate a cumulative 250 hours of time; the right to be a “VIP” (Volunteers in Parks) and wear a special patch, if you’ve applied for one of the formal volunteer programs; or a free 2- to 4-week stay in housing on the Schoodic Education and Research Center campus, if you are accepted as an Artist-in-Residence and offer public programs in your particular art form. Continue reading

Labor Day, nature signal end of summer in Acadia National Park

The cricket’s chirp, the shorter days, the bloom of goldenrod and cotton-grass – all are bittersweet signs of the passing of the seasons at Acadia National Park.

The white tufts of cotton-grass particularly sadden Jill E. Weber, co-author of the field guide, “The Plants of Acadia National Park,” because “it means summer’s almost over.”

Though you may never have seen cotton-grass, you will know it when you see it.

Cotton-grass in Acadia National Park

A hiker points out a field of cotton-grass in the distance in Acadia National Park.

Four varieties of cotton-grass are listed in “The Plants of Acadia National Park,” a project of the Garden Club of Mount Desert, Friends of Acadia and the Maine Natural History Observatory, and they all have a distinctive cottony bloom and grow in wetlands.

Despite its name and appearance, cotton-grass is not a grass, but a sedge. In fact, about a quarter of the plants in Acadia are grass-like, some of which are sedges, others of which are rushes, and the rest true grasses. Acadia’s web site even features a handy rhyme to distinguish a sedge from a rush from a grass. Continue reading

Protected lady’s slippers in Acadia National Park

BAR HARBOR – In a rite of spring, we returned last week to Acadia National Park to look for a hidden colony of pink and white lady’s slippers. We also came to see the showy yellow orchid on public display at the Wild Gardens of Acadia.

Yellow lady's slippers in Acadia National Park

Don’t pick the yellow lady’s slippers

Continue reading