About ten years ago, on my birthday, I stood on Cadillac Mountain for the first time and fell in love. It was a flying visit, an impromptu thing where my family and I drove the 27-mile loop road, took in the major sights. To our chagrin, we also–not realizing somehow that this was against park rules–took rocks from one of the beaches. I loved it. I’ve always loved national parks; they hold a magic for me that other places, no matter how beautiful, somehow don’t. There’s something about experiencing a place and knowing that at some point in the past, somebody decided that place should remain preserved for all Americans, for all time.
I love every park I’ve ever visited, but Acadia is my park. I came back year after year, every time we visited family in Maine, and dreamed that one day, I’d call it home.
About two years ago, that dream came true. I found myself in the position of having to move and find a new job, got a new job with amazing speed, stuffed my car full of things I thought I’d need, and drove the twelve hours to Mount Desert Island. I’ve never felt more at home.
Acadia is a special place. It’s small as national parks go. You could fit forty-five Acadias, all the little scattered islands and Schoodic Peninsula combined, into Yellowstone. Visitors who don’t leave the loop road often complain that it’s crowded and has terrible traffic. This is partly because, despite being tiny compared to the western parks, it’s the sixth most visited park in the nation, drawing 3.5 million visitors a year and growing.
Acadia includes the highest point on the eastern seaboard and the first place the sun touches in the US at certain times of year. It’s glacial landscape includes the only fjard on the eastern seaboard, Somes Sound. Its rainy, foggy climate is second only to the Pacific Northwest on this continent–Mount Desert Island is brilliantly green in the summer. And, while it’s true that certain places can be over-visited, others are almost never touched.
It’s these places–these out-of-the-way pockets and forgotten trails and little nooks and crannies–that interest me. That’s not to say I don’t love Jordan Pond or Ocean Drive. I do–although I’ll always insist that Cadillac, though tall, doesn’t have the best views. Personally, I think the prettiest, most interesting, and most worthwhile places to visit in Acadia are off the loop road and, often, off the most popular trails.
Now, for every person who loves this special place and wants to share it with others, there’s always the niggling fear that they’re going to be the one to bring the hoards out to their favorite secret spot. But so far, no chronicler has managed to do that. Several beautiful places are both well-documented and mostly unvisited. The vast majority of visitors, no matter how much we talk about how worth the effort seeing the undrivable peaks is, will never leave the park roads. And most who do will leave them for short, easy hikes. This isn’t a fault, but it does mean that those of us who venture further don’t have to fear ruining it for everyone else by talking about it.
So, I’ll begin with a little sneak peek of one of my favorite hikes, up the Triad:
This is just past the trail head, which is located right on the loop road. I think this hike suffers because the guidebook I have says it has “limited views”, which is really unfortunate. Sure, it’s not the 360-degree panorama you get from Champlain, but you can see the ocean and other mountains, and you’re very unlikely to be sharing it with anyone else. And, if you explore a bit, you find gems like this:
So welcome. Welcome to my home. I love it, and I hope you love it, too.