Acadia National Park
Our first National Park visit in Velma is going to be hard to top. Acadia National Park is absolutely breathtaking in the fall. Words won't do justice to what we experienced, but I'm going to do my best to try and share with you how we spent our time in the park.
Since this was our first National Park visit, we made sure to stop by the Visitor's Center at Acadia and pick up a Passport! The Passport program is an awesome way for travelers to track their visits to National Parks across the country. Each park's visitor's center offers a cancelled stamp station for you to use to document the date of your visit that particular park. Often, depending on the size of the park, there will be several cancellation stations throughout the park at noted landmarks. The Passport is organized by region and, along with space for your stamps, has a list of all of the national parks, forests, seashores and landmarks by state. My hope is that we visit so many and use the Passport so much that we end up having to buy an expansion pack!
Acadia National Park is the first National Park to be established east of the Mississippi River. It was created as Lafeyette National Park in 1919 and renamed Acadia in 1929. Taking up most of Mount Desert Island, the area was named by Samuel de Champlain in 1604. The idea of what eventually became Acadia is credited to a landscape architect named Charles Eliot. He, his father (then president of Harvard) and a gentleman named George Dorr donated land towards the park and advocated for it's establishment at both state and federal levels.
Philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr. financed, designed and directed the creation of a network of carriage roads throughout the park between 1915 - 1933. Almost all of the 50 miles of gravel carriage trails, 17 granite bridges and two gate lodges are maintained and in use today.
A fire that began on October 17, 1947 and wasn't extinguished until November 14 of that year was one of many that engulfed Maine. Restoration of the park was largely supported by Rockefeller and the natural regrowth that occurred is said to have enhanced the park's beauty by "adding diversity to tree populations and depth to its scenery".
We spent our first day driving a majority of Park Loop Road as well as hiking around Jordan Pond. Acadia is made up of more than 47,000 acres of land, so this little time we spent in the park offered us a very narrow view of all that Acadia has to offer.
Park Loop Road is a 27 mile road that begins at Hulls Cove Visitor Center. We drove Park Loop Road up to the summit of Cadillac Mountain and then over to Jordan Pond, where we finished our visit.
We stopped at the Jordan Pond House to indulge in some of their famous popovers. They were indeed worth the 30 minute wait for a seat inside the House. I recommend that you order the Specialty Beverage and Popover combination. With it you get two warm, fresh popovers, butter + Maine strawberry jam and a drink. We overheard our waitress telling the group seated next to us that their lemonades are made in house, fresh daily. We left unsatisfied with our choice of Maine Seafood Chowder with a side of popovers. The chowder would be more accurately described as creamy potato soup, as the seafood was few and far between bites. The popovers, though, are served to you one at a time so that your second doesn't get cold by the time you are ready to eat it. It's the little things when it comes to carbohydrate loading for the Vandy Vagabonds.
The hiking trails around Jordan Pond are worth exploring, especially on some popover-filled tummies. The glacier formed pond is crystal clear and is accessible by canoe and kayak, or by the trail that follows much of the pond's coastline.
Our second visit to Acadia was to watch the sunset from Cadillac Mountain. Somewhat counterintuitive, I know, as Acadia is in the easternmost part of the country. BUT, the sunset was stunning.
Viewing the sunset is a very popular activity, so plan to arrive at your observation point at least 30 minutes before the sun is scheduled to set. On our drive up towards the summit - our intended observation point - folks were squeezing their cars into the narrowest of spots on the side of Park Loop Road, or even making their own parking spots. About 3/4 of our way up to the summit, we turned around and caught a spot from a departing group. Not many people found our observation point, so we were able to witness the majestic sunset in near silence. It was a moment I hope to remember forever.
Cadillac Mountain, named after a French explorer, is on the eastern side of Mount Desert Island. A combination of its height (1,528 feet) and location makes it one of the first places in the United States to see the sunrise in the fall and winter. (During spring and summer, the first place to see the sunrise is on Mars Hill, 150 miles to the northeast.) It is also the highest point within 25 miles of shoreline from Nova Scotia to just across the Texas border in Mexico.
I hope we get to return to Acadia some day, as the weather kept us from enjoying the park on a few days during our visit. In addition to doing more hiking, I would love to see Thunder Hole, visit Sand Beach and Otter Cliff, and, of course, watch the sun rise from the top of Cadillac Mountain.