Hiking in Acadia National Park – Part II

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The second day of our vacation, we had a wicked thunderstorm in the early morning and the day did not improve weather-wise, so we decided to just roll with it and spent the day in Bar Harbor, touristing.  We hit Shermans Book Store and Cool as a Moose, had lunch at one of our favorite little restaurants West St. Cafe Seaside Grille.  We sat outside on their little patio, watching the locals go by on their way to work.  Great food and great service, which is usually the case no matter where you go in Bar Harbor.

Finally on the third day, the sun came out, reminding us of why we like coming to Maine!!!  After our usual morning routine, we headed toward the Sieur de Monts entrance to the park so that we could do the Great Meadow Loop.  The Great Meadow Loop was a walk that I had wanted to do because you could walk the Jesup path starting at Sieur de Monts and step off the path at the athletic fields in Bar Harbor, walk around town, have lunch and then get back on the path and walk to back to Sieur de Monts.  The Great Meadow Loop was originally made so that “rusticators” (late 19th and early 20th century name for vacationers from big cities that went to Maine to get back to nature) would be able to walk from town into the park and back again. We were having such a good time on the path that I forgot to take pictures of a few things, so I added some photos that we had taken last year to the mix.  The pics aren’t in any particular order.

We parked at the nature center and after looking around a bit we crossed a wooden bridge just to the left of the Wild Gardens of Acadia started up the Jesup Path. You walk from forest to wetlands to meadow to forest….. you get the idea.

I love this picture of the boardwalk.  We had walked it last year and I wanted to try to estimate just how long it is, because it does seem to go on forever.  It’s in a boggy area of white birch trees and as you can see, it’s fairly new.  There are 2 or three turnouts like the one in this picture,  and a couple have seats so that you can just sit quietly and watch for wildlife.  We only saw a frog.  It must have been lunchtime for the animals. ;)

Yup, we’re going the right way….. I love all of the hand carved signs. At least I think they’re hand carved!!

Ed pretending that he’s going to climb Dorr Mountain. =)

The walk was great and and the weather was fabulous — we were able to follow the signs past a cemetery and the golf course, alongside Cromwell Harbor Road, then another cemetery, then past another golf course…… or was it the same one? Then we found ourselves back at Hemlock Trail and knew that we had missed the athletic fields in Bar Harbor!  We were back where we started! Oh well, we’ll just drive into town!!

Photos of Stewman's Downtown Lobster Pound, Bar Harbor
This photo of Stewman’s Downtown Lobster Pound is courtesy of TripAdvisor

We ate at Stewman’s Lobster Pound, a restaurant that is right on the pier with a gorgeous view of the harbor.  It’s the kind of place that you just know from the look of it, it’s going to have really great food!!  We sat on the upper deck where it was sunny and very breezy.  Umbrellas weren’t an option unfortunately, because it was so windy. Our waiter was friendly but not overly so, and very knowledgeable about all of the specials.  Oh and BTW —  Stewman’s is where the Obamas ate when they were in town a couple years ago!!

A view from Stewmans upper deck

Of course, Ed enjoyed his lobster and beer immensely.  I had fish and chips, my staple when we go to a seafood restaurant.  I’m just a landlubber at heart — I’ve tried shrimp and lobster and clams and scallops, but I think I started eating seafood too late in life to acquire a taste for it!!

Hiking in Acadia National Park — Part 1

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Having camped together for some time, Sweet Baboo and I have fallen into a very comfortable routine.  I get up first and put the coffee on our little stove (after several mentions from him about how wonderful my coffee is and how his just can never compare, yada yada yada!) He gets up a little bit  later while I’m drinking my coffee and planning our itinerary for the day.  After a leisurely breakfast that he prepares, (his breakfasts are so wonderful and mine just can never compare, yada yada yada!! ) we wait a bit longer until everybody in the park has risen, eaten, and piled into their cars or onto their bikes and have left the campground.   We can then mosey on up to the bathrooms to get ready for the day in relative peace.

Hiking is our preferred activity in Acadia, having tried biking the carriage roads our first year and finding that riding up hills and down dales is not a safe for us at our ages. We decided to hike/walk Tarn Trail, also known as the Kane path.

We parked our car just off Rt 3 in a parking lot just south of the Sieur de Monts springs entrance.  Out of the parking lot, and a short walk to the south and we were at the north end of  The Tarn (which is a mountain pond or lake, carved out by a glacier thousands of years ago).  This  not a difficult hike and enjoyable — you start out skirting the tarn, then move into the forest, then there is some scrambling to be done over large boulders that have cleaved off Dorr Mountain.

We continued past the Ladder Trail and part way up the Gorge Trail, then returned to the parking lot after a hike of about 2 miles or so. By that time, the pretty blue sky had clouded over and rain was threatening.

Pretty purple bog flowers in the Tarn

Back to Acadia National Park & Bar Harbor, Maine

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Sweet Baboo and I just returned last week from a one week vacation in Acadia National Park. This was our third trip to Acadia and even though the weather wasn’t as nice as it had been the previous two years, it was still a wonderful place to visit yet again. A nice thing about going back to the same place a few times, is the sense of familiarity that you get. You know where you want to go, what you want to do, how to get there easily. For instance…..

We stopped at the visitor’s center on Rt 3 a few miles before  Bar Harbor. We picked up a few brochures that would tell us what was happening in the park, then got back into our car, looked at each other and said “let’s take the Loop Road“, which is a private road within the park that skirts Bar Harbor and winds around the eastern side of Mount Desert Island. Now, Bar Harbor is a nice little town but the traffic can be brutal, plus there are a lot of very distracted people crossing the roads without looking in any direction, let alone left or right. Because we’d been there before, we knew a  shortcut and we could stay away from all of that.   Bar Harbor is extremely easy to navigate, but you can’t drive fast and you have to be extra vigilant.

We have stayed all three times at Blackwoods Campground, which is one of two campgrounds in Acadia National Park, the other one being Seawall Campground.  Blackwoods is right on Rt 3 five miles south of Bar Harbor, while Seawall is on the other side of the island near Bass Harbor. Blackwoods is just a tad primitive, in that you aren’t able to take showers in the campgrounds.  There are privately run coin operated showers in a building just outside  the campground that is easy enough to get to and cost $2.00 for four minutes.  With a little forethought and planning however, four minutes can be more than enough time.

There are two loops of campsites within Blackwoods, Loop A and Loop B. We have only camped on Loop B and although we haven’t had any problems being to close to other sites, we  have found that there are parts of the campground where you are rather close to your neighbors.  However, the staff is very accommodating and if you don’t like the site that they assign to you, they will usually work with you to give you one more to your liking.  While I’m blathering here, I’d like to encourage anybody that is planning to camp at Blackwoods that you can make your reservations six months in advance. If you want to camp in July, be sure to make your reservations in January because they fill up fast.

There is an amphitheater in the park (but very uncomfortable seating, do yourself a favor and be sure to bring your lawn or beach chair) where the park rangers present different programs just about every night at 8:30 or 8:45.  There is a white board sign near the office that will list any programs for that day, plus the weather report and high and low tides.  The Junior Ranger program is very popular with the kids — there are park ranger run programs that the kids have to attend and a  workbook that has activities for the kiddos to do. When the workbook is complete and reviewed by a ranger, they will get a patch.

As stewards of the park, there is a carry in carry out rule that you will need to follow — whatever you bring in, take it back out with you and dispose of it properly.  Because of this rule, the park is extremely clean and neat.  Additionally, they request that you not remove anything from the park as souvenirs– no leaves, rocks, shells, plants, wood — if it’s in the park, it needs to stay in the park.  However, a ranger did tell me that it’s okay to eat any blueberries that you might find on a trail.

More later, but this is a start!! I have lots of pictures and more to say about this magical piece of Maine!!

Washington DC trip — July 2011 — Arlington National Cemetery

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First of all, I’d like to advise you that if you go to DC in July, you are going to be sweating bullets!!  Temps were about 95 to 100 degrees and humidity was wretched. Water, water and more water is the order of the day.

Our first stop was Arlington National Cemetery.  In spite of the heat and humidity, there were throngs of people waiting to experience the Cemetery.  We only had about an hour and a half to see as much as we could, which really isn’t very long.  I would think that at the very least, one full day should be devoted to Arlington. We took a trolley tour that hit the highlights, but you only had time to take a couple quick pics and then hop back on the trolley.  You see pictures of  Arlington on TV or in books or magazines, but you need to see it in person to appreciate it.

Arlington National Cemetery had very humble beginnings.  During and after the Civil War, cemeteries were  burying more and more soldiers and were quickly running out of room. In addition,  there were many families that were too poor to have their loved one shipped home. As a last resort, they started burying soldiers at Arlington.

Arlington National Cemetery encompasses 612 acres.  As of May 2011, there were over 300,000 interred in the cemetery.  There are 27 burials per day, on average.  While we were there, we heard 3 different 21 gun salutes and saw a very large funeral  procession; six horses pulling a black artillery caisson, upon which a flag draped casket had been placed, followed by a riderless horse, which I believe is reserved for officers above colonel. The rhythmic “clip clopping” of the horses hooves as they pulled the caisson echoed on the pavement as a reminder that this is a solemn and sacred place. Visitors are asked to please be quiet and respectful if you happen upon a procession such as this and I can’t imagine anybody doing anything else.   The men and horses who train constantly for this duty are members of “The Old Guard“, also known as the Caisson platoon of the 3rd United States Infantry.

I found it interesting that the headstones that come to mind when you think of Arlington are not the only markers in the cemetery.  At the family’s expense, a personalized marker can be placed on their loved one’s grave.

BTW, the house in the far background is the Arlington House, owned by Robert E. Lee and his wife Mary.

President John F Kennedy‘s slate grave marker and Eternal Flame.  Jackie’s marker is just to the right of the President’s.  There is also a slate marker where two Kennedy infants are buried.

Senator Robert F Kennedy‘s plain cross marker.  I remember JFK’s assassination but I was in 4th grade when it happened.  RFK’s assassination made a bigger impact on me, I was in 8th grade and more aware of the world around me.

The Columbia was another “where were you when it happened” event.  I was on my way from work, about 1:00 in the afternoon to pick up Jodie at school because she was ill and I heard it on the car radio.  I was so stunned that this could happen, it was quite a few seconds before I remembered that I was driving on an interstate highway and needed to pay attention to what I was doing.

I searched for an aerial photo of Arlington Cemetery to show just how large it is.  No luck, but I did find this file photo showing the density of the markers.  Seeing and reading the names on the stones really brought home the fact that these are real veterans that are buried here.  For some reason, I had it in my head that the stones were plain. Duh.

A visit to Arlington should leave you with overwhelming feelings of respect, horror at the incredible loss of life, empathy for the families that lost these loved ones, and gratitude for the ultimate sacrifice that these heroes gave. At the very least, feelings of alternating sorrow and pride should be bubbling up inside.  I can’t imagine anybody leaving any other way.

Finally, our bus trip to DC was one day traveling down, one day sightseeing, and one day traveling back.  Sincerely, you need at least 4 or 5 days to see everything, and even then there will be things that you will miss.  We enjoyed it but would love to go back again with a laundry list of other things we’d like to do.

Museums and monuments are on deck!!