Monday, July 16, 2012

Lights in the Darkness

In New England, if you don’t like the weather, just wait an hour. Even though I hear it all the time, whenever I visit one of the region’s natural landmarks (Cape Cod, Mt. Washington, the Berkshires…) it seems to go out of its way to affirm it.

Gordo and I left home bright and early (as in 2:30am – why, oh why, Breaking Bad, did you have to premiere at 10:00 last night?), so that we could make it to Portland Head Lighthouse by sunrise. Portland Head is the most famous and most often photographed lighthouse in the country and it happens to lie only a few miles out of the way for today’s journey, so stopping there was never in question. Since it, like most east-coast lighthouses, faces east, the best time to get good pictures of it is at sunrise.
Upon first glance, the lighthouse was impressive – the weather was not. A tall white stone tower perched on the edge of a rocky cliff jutting into the Atlantic, which roiled and pounded the coastline below. This was definitely the quintessential New England lighthouse. A sailboat gliding past completed the scene.
Unfortunately, that sailboat was all the help the Portland Head Light would get this morning in its attempt to act as photogenic as possible. The fog and low-hanging grey clouds didn’t exactly help the white tower to stand out against its surroundings. So the sunset I’d hoped for never materialized. Actually, that’s not entirely true. Moments after I’d gotten back onto the highway the sun broke through the clouds and cast some nice sunbeams on the grass and asphalt I by that time found myself surrounded by. Still, I wouldn’t call it a wasted effort, since I’m sure there’s a good picture hiding among today’s images somewhere. I just haven’t found it yet.

From there it was on to Acadia, with poodle in tow. Although he claims to be a poodle, today Gordo acted much more like a boat anchor tied to my leg. He did fairly well on our first hike – a 1½-mile walk along a flat forest path to a series of mostly flat rocky tidepools. My only complaint was that he was at least three times slower than I am alone. Still, it felt nice to do things like this together as a “family.”

Our next hike, however, was a different story. I knew he wouldn’t be able to finish the 3-mile walk around Jordan Pond (of popover fame), but I figured he’d be able to get through about half of it before he pulled his trademark stunt of stopping and lying down in the middle of the trail in order to signal to me that he’s done with this. The problem came less than a mile in, when the trail shifted from a boardwalk (which Gordo only managed to fall through once or twice) to a series of piles of loose boulders. One look at the rocks told me I was going to have to carry him through this. I had planned for this, and had brought my Gordo Carrier – basically a backpack you put a baby in, except that you wear it in the front and you put a dog in it. I got a kick out of every single hiker who passed us commenting on my hitchhiker. I got less of a kick out of gaining 15 pounds in dead weight that seemed to be having a grand old time relaxing in his doggie hammock.

For the last 2/3 of the trail I carried the pooch, which did allow me to use both hands to take pictures and to move at a more reasonable pace, but at the end I was twice as sweaty as usual.

According to my itinerary, my next stop was to be the Bubble Rock trail, which features a climb up a small mountain to view a large and apparently well-known glacial erratic perched at the summit. But when we arrived at the parking lot, Gordo and I looked at each other and both realized that we weren’t exactly in the mood for a third hike, especially up a mountain. I decided to try something easy and relaxing – a drive up Cadillac Mountain.

I already planned to drive up the mountain tomorrow at sunrise, but hadn’t scheduled a time to scale it just to see what I could see. I skipped the viewpoints on the way up, figuring I’d catch them on the way down, but forgetting I was in New England. Just after I reached the summit, and while I was still trying to orient myself, a large Mt. Washington-esque cloud starting creeping up the mountain. Within moments, the bunches of islands far below smothered in rolling fog vanished, replaced by a wall of white. One other visitor commented that it reminded him of Mt. Rainier. Fortunately, New England weather changes much more quickly than Mt. Rainier weather.

Although I tried to wait for that change back to blue skies, after about a half hour of lazily meandering about the summit I gave up. By this point, Gordo and I were both exhausted – I from being up since 2am and he from being a dog with short legs on long trails. So we returned to our campsite (B-10 for those of you keeping score), where I introduced him to the concept of “tent” and we both took a nap.

The day ended as it began – with a quest to capture the fading light behind a lighthouse – this time the Bass Harbor Light. While the beacon itself isn’t  as impressive as Portland Head, it’s another iconic symbol of the rocky Maine coastline (and I know it well, since it’s featured on the National Parks Annual Pass I’ve used to get into every national park since Zion). Again, though, the fickle New England weather gods had other plans. This time it wasn’t cloud cover – it was cloud immersion. A fog descended so thickly that although I had climbed over pink granite boulders to the point where I was probably within 30 feet of the actual lighthouse (with Gordo safely ensconced in his Gordo Carrier), it became difficult to see. Once again, I have a feeling there’s a decent picture hiding in here somewhere, but I’m not quite sure where. I think I’ll be making another visit to this one before I leave, though.
Tomorrow brings many of Acadia’s “greatest hits,” and hopefully the weather will oscillate in a way that constructively, rather than destructively, interferes with my plans.


  1. I would have loved to see a picture of your pup in the poodle pouch!

  2. I don't know it didn't make it into this post, but it was definitely my facebook profile picture for a while, so it's still in that album.