Posted by: JerseyOrganic | November 4, 2015

Camping, climbing, kayaking, hiking, and eating our way through Acadia National Park, MDI, Maine

Its time I told you about the best trip of my life, Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island in Maine. We visited in late September of 2015 and were blown away by the raw beauty of the land, the kind people, and the quaint towns of New England. It is hard to compare ANP/Maine with the other vacations we have been on, like Everglades and Biscayne National Park, because they differ immensely. Its funny, however, because we went from the southernmost tip of the continental United States to the Northeast and the scenery could not be more different. To me there is no comparison, Maine is magical. I have always dreamt of visiting Maine and from the moment we touched ground, I was hooked.
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We decided to fly instead of drive since it was a one hour flight and a fourteen hour car ride, but the flight was pricy. That said, flying was a breeze and we were able to pack all our camping gear in the checked baggage; 50lbs on the money. Plus we had two carry-ons with our clothes and hiking gear.

This trip was certainly a rugged one, there were no heels or dresses packed and I surely didn’t need make-up or ‘nice’ clothes. This visit was all about the National Park and Mount Desert Island and I can’t wait to share it with you now…

Day one we arrived in Bangor, ME on a Sunday morning and Enterprise picked us up. Before we knew it we were in our rental car and on our way! After a few pit stops for camp stove fuel and groceries (peanut butter, bread, apples, cliff bars, bananas, water, firestarter) we were on the island! As you drive in through the Thompson Island Visitor Center area you are blessed with magnificent views of the mountains and lakes, which glistened the most beautiful hue of aquamarine. Chuck and I decided to camp on the quiet side of MDI the first three nights and stayed in Bar Harbor for three nights. As we made our way down and around the west side of the island we came up on Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound (previously Sawyer’s- same owner, new name) This place was awesome for lunch!! It’s a small joint where you eat outside, order at a window and wait at the picnic tables. People bring dogs and beer and enjoy the scenery. We had our very first lobster roll and the lobster was cooked PERFECTLY. It was one first and only Lobster Roll of the trip, but I am so glad we got to experience one.
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After our lunch we continued to the campsite about 10 minutes away, called Seawall Campground. This quiet campground is perfect for those who are looking to explore the park in a more quiet setting. Not much is in walking distance other than the Seawall picnic area but it was so easy to drive around the island that it didn’t bother us at all. Upon arriving we set up our site (B15/B16) which was located right next to Seawall Pond. It was serene, quiet, and the perfect place to rest. There were no mosquitoes this time of year or children for that matter. 😛 The bathrooms were in walking distance and immaculate! Seriously cleaner than some hotel bathrooms I have been in. The only downside is that there are no showers, but no worries because down the road at the Bass Harbor Campground where you can shower for 4$, unlimited time. **There is a place closer to the campsite that offers 4 minutes showers for 2$ (or something like that) but going to the campground was less money and we were able to shower longer. As a woman, it was nice to wash my hair without worrying about the water shutting off! Oh, and I totally blew out my hair using the heat in the car. Car camping is pretty awesome, despite how I loathed it before.
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After we got all set up we decided to hike the two trails located near the campsite; Wonderland Trail and Ship Harbor Trail. Both trails were really amazing! They were short, perhaps 1-2 miles on flat terrain, but the views were unbelievable. Around every corner was another majestic view, but each differed from each other. The tide plays a role in the scenery and if low tide, you can walk out and tidepool! The other neat thing was that it felt like we had every trail to ourselves. If you are on MDI, you must drive over to the quiet side to experience these trails.

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Once it got dark back at camp we walked over to the Seawall Picnic area with the camera gear. I got set up and tried my test to take night sky shots for the first time. I think I did well considering I am completely new to manual photography.

The previous week there was no moon and it was the annual Night Sky Festival, so I knew the week we chose would be perfect for privacy and that remote feeling. Photographers flock to Seawall to capture the Milky Way Galaxy in fact. It was fun and romantic to lay on the picnic tables intoxicated by the stars; never have I seen so many stars. It was pure magic.IMG_4849 IMG_6236 IMG_6245

The next day we got an early start and yellow blazed in the rental. We started at Echo Lake, where we went on our first major hike. Though it was only 2 miles, it was a vertical hike and our first. I believe we were on Beech Cliff Trail/Loop and then took Canada Cliffs Trail back to the parking lot. This was our first summit! (well, I guess we summited mountains in Shenandoah but this was the first time we realized we were summiting a mountain!)  The thing that is so special about Acadia National Park is that when you hike, you are starting at sea-level. So you literally go from zero foot elevation to whatever. It’s just different than Shenandoah for example where you are already at 4500’ feet) Once we were at the top we took time to soak up the views- the ocean in one direction, the mountains, lakes, and town in the other; simply breathtaking. We descended back to the car and headed over to Long Pond via dirt fire roads and trails through the park. It was fun to just drive through and around exploring areas that not many visitors get to see.

Below is Echo Lake, where we looked up at the mountain we were about to hike up…
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When all was said and done we were famished! It was getting late and the Eagles Game was coming on. Being in Patriots country we didn’t think we would get to watch the game… (EH, I don’t really care but my hubby is die-hard) I found this little bar called Joey’s Place bar in Southwest Harbor, super close to the campground which played all the football games. We walked in and no joke they were almost all Eagles Fans!!! I even sat next to an old friend from high school! Not only were they Eagles fans but they were NJ transplants; what a small world! Watching the game here felt like home or being at a friend’s house. I actually was not feeling well (probably from the driving up and down hills) and laid in a booth all sickly, while my husband cheered on the birds with our new friends. Unfortunately the birds lost, but what a day!

On the way back to camp I was able to capture these dusk shots thanks to Joey Jr’s recommendation:
IMG_6479 IMG_6516 IMG_6629 IMG_6631IMG_0169On day three we had a big kayaking trip planned in which we awoke at 5:30AM and heading out to meet Rich from the Natural History Center in Bar Harbor, whom we hired to take us sea kayaking in Somes Sound. This trip was worth every penny- not only was Rich extremely knowledge for all things kayaking but he is an ornithologist (bird expert) and told us all about the birds in the area and aquatic life. We even saw an eagle or two in the distance, circling the mountains we would soon be climbing. As a matter of fact, Somes Sound is considered the only fjord in America. Recently, they changed it to be classified as a fjard meaning it’s like a fjord but not up to the same fjord standards as say fjords in Greenland. In any case, we kayaked about 6 miles and had a blast. We started at 7 am and were somehow the only people on the water! There were a ton of lobster pots around and lobster boats and yachts off in the distance, but we had the Sound to ourselves. I didn’t know that I would love sea kayaking as much as I did, though my husband was not as much of a fan. No joke, I was kayaking circles around him!! Such a blast- I would hire Rich again in a second, for anything. He does kayaking, birding trips, hiking trips.. he will even take us to Alaska, or to hike Katahdin. So cool! I hope you enjoy these pictures, all of which were taken with my new Garmin Virb XE. (Chuck has a Garmin Phoenix II watch and can use the watch to take bluetooth pictures on the Virb)

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After our long kayaking trip we were starving and stopped at Milk & Honey for a bite to eat. What a great little spot hidden off the main road but right near the marina. We split a insanely yummy ham and gruyere sandwich but I am pretty sure anything on the menu would impress. Quality food for sure, don’t miss it if you are in Northeast Harbor.
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After our snack we decided to head over to the  Indian Point- Blagden Preserve to try to see seals. Rich recommended we visit and hike out to the beach, where seals are known to gather. We did get to see them from afar but I was not able to capture any good shots, but the hike itself was a blast. The forest is so different than anything I know here in NJ. On our way back to the vehicle, I somehow spotted a cemetery way back in the woods. When we reached the cemetery it was quite eerie but peaceful and moving as well. These graves dated back to the 1800’s and was a family site; the site of infant graves and groups of headstones all dating in the winter months of the same year told a sad story. We took a few moments, payed respects, and then carried on.
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Pretty sure we relaxed the rest of the day due to exhaustion then headed over to Thurston’s Lobster Pound on the West side of the island, in Bernard,ME. Some gorgeous views along the way… I believe this was driving through Southwest Harbor.

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Not much going on in this perfect little town other than lobster boats coming and going but when we got to Thurston’s they were jamming! We ordered soft shell lobster since we can’t get them in NJ and ate in the bar overlooking the water. I broke that bad boy open with my bare hands, cave-man style, and enjoyed every bit of that sweet soft shell lobster. After we left, the sun started to set and being that we were on the west side of the island, it was a magnificent sight. A perfect ending to a perfect day.
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The next day was our last at the campsite so we woke up and walked to Seawall Picnic area for sunrise again. It was perfect- alone, making our coffee in the jetboil, while the tide came in and the sun glistened on the water.

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After our early morning photoshoot, we drove over to Joey’s Place which is also a laundrymat- perfect, a bar and laundy, have a beer while you wait! It was too early for that of course, so we washed all our camp clothes prior to leaving and enjoyed coffee outside, taking in charming Southwest Harbor. We were very sad to pack up and leave but were excited to see what the second leg of our trip would bring! So, after checking out of camp we headed over to Bar Harbor. The trip was less than 45 minutes and we had time to stop for lunch before our rock climbing adventure. We were again blown away by the food but this time at a little place called Sweet Pea’s Cafe. It’s actually a farm and vineyard, I think, where they raise livestock, grow food, and have a small menu with super fresh ingredients. We had good pizza and the best bruschetta I have EVER had. The view outside was picturesque and we enjoyed every moment.

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Soon it was time to continue to our next adventure, rock climbing at Otter Cliffs! We set up a private guide as we have never been rock climbing before. I am so happy we did because Eli, owner of Atlantic Climbing School, taught us the ropes of climbing. (no pun intended) We picked him up in Bar Harbor and were on our way to Otter Cliffs! He was full of information as well in regards to MDI and the park, not just climbing. Though when we got to the cliffs, he was all business showing us how to use the equipment and what it means to rappel and belay and so on. I am slightly afraid of heights and was equally exciting and loathing the idea all that the same time. Before we began we walked carefully to the edge to see what we would be climbing- cliffs against the ocean! Where the tide causes the water to crash against the rocks below! Chuck began repelling first, over the edge he went, and with ease repelled down to the bottom! A tour boat came closer in the distance and watched as Chuck fearless climbed back up to the top. I was next and nervously repelled down, which was easy and fun! Climbing back up however, proved to be more difficult. I am only 4’ 11” so it was hard to find finger slits and reach far enough to pull my own weight up. But we carried on and climbed 3 other spots, each one harder and more fun than the last. The most memorable was called Chimney Rock, where there is a gap that you climb up using your back on one side and feet on the other and you shimmy back up. NO WAY, this was so hard for my small frame that I was scared to death! Anyone smaller than me should skip this climb, if you are not experienced, but man was it heart pounding and became fun after it was over of course. 😛 My husband was the winner in climbing..

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IMG_6849 IMG_6850 IMG_6855By the time we were done climbing every bone in our body ached. Perfect timing to part ways with Eli and check-in to the Snell House. The Snell House is a historic home situated off a quiet street in the heart of Bar Harbor. The owners, Mary and Paul, live behind the home and tend to the guests at the main house. We had the studio apartment which had a bedroom, bathroom, and kitchenette. They even stocked half and half and coffee for us to use- very thoughtful. Though there was no AC, it was cool enough to turn on the fans and open the windows. It was lovely to finally shower and relax on a real bed LOL. Once we were in town, we could walk everywhere and headed over to McCay’s Public House for dinner. It was a classy restaurant with outside dining and an local gentleman was finger strumming lovely tunes as we dined on local oysters and steak. It was a pretty good ending to the first day of the second leg!

By day five we were in the zone and waking up before sunrise with ease. We packed PB&J sandwiches, grabbed cliff bars, snatched all our hiking gear, and headed out to drive Park Loop Road. This is a main attraction of the park and gets busy with buses and tourists so we wanted to get an early start. We started at the Hulls Cove visitor center where we purchased souvenirs and gifts, as well as a road map which told you all the stops along the way.

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After stopping at several look out points we continued down until we came to the starting point of the famed Precipice Trail. With my fear of heights slightly tamed we geared up and decided we were going to hike the trail! Precipice Trail is a very well-known 1.8 mile trail rising 1,058 ft above sea level on Champlain Mountain, which is the fourth highest in the park. You cannot do the trail as a loop, else you’d be coming down iron rungs and ladders so it’s best to only climb up then take a different trail to the orange and black trail, to the road, then hike down the road back to the car. By the time we got done it was a four hour hike and completely exhausting. That said, it was a blast and I cannot believe we accomplished such a feat! Up and up and up we went, climbing ladders, thinking we were almost at the summit just to climb more ladders, after ladders, after ladders! There were some points where the climb was so intense- you are climbing literally on the edge of the cliff, using iron footholds to ensure you don’t fall. This climb is no joke and people have perished here. This was our first hike ever that had a sign that said so, it really made us realize that you have to give 110% and there is no turning back. It was invigorating and eye opening. Once we finally make it to the top, the views were out of this world. You can see Bar Harbor, the ocean, the islands, the main land. I have never felt so accomplished in my life and I will cherish the memories of working together with my husband to complete this hike. We relished the views and the achievement.

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Thats my ‘I’m totally scared but trying to smile face’

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On the way up… and up… and up

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Hmm…

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VERTICAL

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Climbing! Hard to do if you are under 5′

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This was probably the scariest but most rewarding part in my opinion. Standing on the edge, overlooking the ocean, it cannot be beat.

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We made it to the top!!

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By the time we made it back to the car we were completely exhausted. We drank tons of water, ate our lunch and continued. The next being Sand Beach where I took some fun pictures and went in the water! Then onto Otter Cliffs where we climbed the previous day, Thunder Hole, Jordan Pond, Bubble Rock, and all the rest. Each stop brought new sights, each better than the last. All in all, it took almost the whole day to complete the hike and the drive. We ended up hiking Bubble Rock trail too, not realizing it was going to be so long.. so by the time we were done we were in major need of a shower and dinner!

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Sand Beach

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Bubble Rock

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Thunder Hole

 Fast forward to dinner, Blaze Restaurant was a minute walk away and they were the only place in Bar Harbor with Oysters other than McCays, which we had already been to. We hit happy hour at Blaze for oysters then consumed copious amounts of seafood risotto, strip steak, and alcohol. It was extremely satisfying and so good we went back the next night for more oystermania. I cannot forget to mention Mount Desert Ice Cream, where we went shortly after for Blueberry Ice Cream. SO GOOD, holy cow- it was all homemade and delicious! We sat at the Village Green and ate our cones and people watched. What an amazing day and beautiful evening.

Before I get ahead of myself, let me discuss our last full day. Sunrise in Bar Harbor- perfect! We awoke early again and walked to Ocean Path to see sunrise. Ocean Path runs along the edge of Bar Harbor, where the water meets the land. All the boats head out from here and the hotels overlook the water. On the opposite side, you can see the yards and homes of some very rich people. The sunrise was truly magnificent and I tried again to capture manual shots, which I am pleased with!
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IMG_7184IMG_7236IMG_6513IMG_7276IMG_7296After sunrise, it was only 7AM and we were in our camp clothes/pajamas but headed over to Café This Way anyway. To our surprise, they totally did not care of our ‘camper’ appearance and we ate the best breakfast ever in their outdoor seating area. OH MY GOD, the homemade corned beef hash was the best I have ever had in my life! So good, we went back the next day for breakfast LOL.

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Immediately following breakfast we drove to the Jordan Pond House again to hike the carriage roads. I would recommend rending a bike or a horse drawn carriage ride to see the sights. Hiking the roads was exhausting but we got to see four Rockefeller bridges and even took a hike under one to explore the amphitheater. I am happy we got to hike the carriage roads even though we saw a small section of the vast road system. Afterwards, we drove up Cadillac Mountain to get my passport book stamped and to see the sights. Since Cadillac Mountain is the tallest in the park, and the highest on the Eastern seaboard north of Rio, it draws a lot of attention. Many hike/drive up for sunrise but I was happy to avoid the traffic and go mid-day. It was a perfect ending to our final last day.

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Saturday, day seven, was the last of our longest vacation ever. We went back to Café This Way for another great breakfast and walked through Bar Harbor buying more gifts and souvenirs. As a final hoorah in the park, we walked across to Bar Island at the perfect time, to an island that can only be accessed at low tide. Our last moments in Acadia, I will never forget them. 
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IMG_7500IMG_7462Here is a shot of Bar Island at low tide when people can walk across to the island and  below it is high tide!

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We headed back to the Snell House, cleaned and packed up, and headed out. Back to Bangor airport we went and before we knew it we were in Philly.

Funny story, we happened to arrive home the same day the Pope came to visit! After a surprise 160$ uber ride home to NJ (no thanks to the driver who ensured us all bridges were closed so that he could take us the super long way) we finally were able to see our pooch and get in our own beds! By then, I was happy to be home. Seven days is a long time, but it was truly paradise. Everything was well planned and executed perfectly.

Visiting Acadia National Park and Mount Desert Island was the best trip of my life and I have fallen completely in love with Maine. The people were so kind and empathic when I was ill. Everyone treated you like more than just a guest or tourist. I can’t imagine any National Park coming close to the memories and adventures had in Maine. Though I want to visit every park, I cannot wait to go back to Acadia. I know we barely made a dent and there are hundreds of miles of trails to hike and beauty left to be seen. I strongly urge you, anyone, to go and explore. Families, couples, elderly- it does not matter you will be amazed.

Sorry for the book but I hope you enjoyed and thank you for reading. Writing these memories down brings me back to the excitement!

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