Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Running On Empty

Today, my 3-day adventure to the land of the Mainiacs ended in grand fashion, with the best weather (and not coincidentally, the best pictures) of the trip.

That seawall sunrise idea from yesterday was truly inspired, if I do say so myself. After literally a 2-minute drive to the water’s edge (which I had already heard crashing on the rocks all night – it’s amazing how much more you can hear without golfball-sized raindrops pelting your tent), I carried Gordo over a few rocks, lest I stand there waiting 20 minutes for him to chart a course on his own, and planted my tripod. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get to unleash the retractable spikes on the ends of the tripod legs which are apparently for certain outdoor surfaces. I haven’t yet been able to think of such a surface where rubber feet wouldn’t work.

The breadbox-sized boulders that make up the natural seawall gleamed in the early morning light – partially because of the mist from the sea spray that had condensed on their surface, and partially from the pounding of the surf that has left them rounded and smooth. In any case, they reflected the colors in the clouds, effectively doubling the amount of light in front of me. These pictures (which, as presented here, have received no editing) are my favorites of this entire Acadian adventure.

Aside from the great pictures, the other major advantage of this sunrise location was that after making the 2-minute drive back to good ol’ B-10, I went back to sleep for 2 extra hours! This was the first time all week I’d effectively gotten up at a reasonable hour, which allowed me to make it through an entire day without running the risk of driving off the road and rolling into the Atlantic Ocean.

After skipping a hot breakfast (I chose to sleep instead) and packing up camp, Gordo and I set out to climb Gorham Mountain. For some reason I find that name very intimidating. Maybe I’m thinking of the fact that Mt. Washington is in Gorham, NH, or maybe I’m thinking of Goron Mountain in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (hopefully between those 2 references I’ve made everyone feel included). Like many of the trails in Acadia, the Gorham Mountain Trail was only about a mile long, but scaled an entire mountain in that distance. Needless to say, we were crossing contour lines early and often. To my surprise, Gordo was able to climb the entire mountain on his own. It’s been interesting watching him try to figure out how to get across or up a pile of rocks in what he considers the most efficient manner. I didn’t know dogs could plan 3 or 4 steps ahead, especially if they have to make moves that don’t get them closer to their destination, but get them closer to a better route. Maybe Gordo’s just extra smart (and no, mother, the fact that it takes him forever to get out from under a giant blanket doesn’t mean he’s stupid, it means he’s tiny and has a long way to go. If I threw the tarp from a baseball field over you you’d have trouble getting out quickly, too.)

Gorham Mountain was hot today. Overnight it went from 60 to 85. I hear there’s been a heat wave all across the east coast so I assume this is what they’ve been talking about ;) Although I don’t know why everyone’s complaining – it’s not like they were climbing mountains with poodles. Anyway, the mountain also doesn’t have much shade, so by the time we reached a clearing with a very nice view, where I overheard someone saying that this was best vista on the trail, I decided it was time to turn around. The point in climbing this thing wasn’t to tag the summit and turn around, it was to go up the mountain and see what I could see. If there was nothing more to see at the top, I felt no compulsion to brave the heat just to say I got there. As it was, even after turning around near the top, Gordo panted for the next 6 hours.

My final destination in Mooselande (that’s where the ME comes from, right?) was an area of Acadia across the bay on the mainland known as Schoodic Point. Everything I’d read said there wasn’t really anything special about this part of Acadia, but since I had nothing else on my list and since I was far closer to Schoodic Point than I usually find myself, I decided to give it a look.

The guidebooks were right. There was nothing spectacular there, but it wasn’t without merit. It’s the only part of the park where you can actually see Mt. Desert Island and what I assume is the massive hump of Cadillac Mountain rising out of the ocean. Plus, There was a rocky “beach” (giant slabs of granite, really) where waves were crashing into the shore with such force that water was thrown 20 feet in the air.

After getting my fill of waves pictures, I pointed Copina Jr. towards home and made the 5-hour journey back to central MA, where I’m told it rained this afternoon. I don’t know, I barely saw enough rain to turn on my wipers, so I’m not sure what the big deal was.

So how to sum up Acadia National Park: Wet. Crowded. Sprawling. Climatologically unpredictable. Away. ANP definitely feels much more “off the grid” than the other eastern parks, because it’s so far from any real population centers. At the same time, somewhat paradoxically, the park’s unique history means that it’s not a chunk of land set aside as an entity, so a drive from one end to the other takes you through several towns and a golf course. But rather than becoming a distraction, the park and towns blend together and (along with the throngs of out-of-town tourists) create a unique character that’s unlike any other national park or any other place I’ve seen on the east coast. There are natural similarities between Mt. Desert Island and Cape Cod, but it doesn’t take long to see that the two places are very very different. While pretty much all of Cape Cod is a summer enclave for the region’s richest white people, the only place on MDI that felt like that was Bar Harbor. The rest of the island’s villages were much more blue-collar. Southwest Harbor didn’t feel like it was paying someone to sweep the streets and repaint the storefront signs every year – it just felt like it was people living their lives (and oh yeah, we live in this incredibly scenic place).

So, in the end, while I don’t have a burning desire to go back to Acadia next week, I’ll definitely keep it in mind for an off-season excursion, when the weather is different and I’d have the place to myself.


  1. That sunrise over the rocks picture is AMAZING! definitely should make your sale shelf.

  2. Did you see that I got a 24x16 canvas print of it? It's hanging over my piano, so basically my mantlepiece.