A few years ago, on a very lucky Friday the 13th, we eloped to Maine, specifically to Northeast Harbor, a tiny village at the mouth of Somes Sound, where the ladies in the Town Clerk’s office were giddy and gracious in hosting an impromptu wedding for us on just a few days’ notice. They served as officiant, witnesses, photographer, and florist, presenting me with a bouquet of fresh-cut daffodils from outside the building. We spent the rest of the weekend exploring the island by bike and foot. When we arrived back home, we sent the Town Hall crew a thank you note with Portsmouth chocolates and our favorite picture from that day. And so began our May tradition of adventuring on Mount Desert Island.
This weekend, we arrived on Friday for four days of hiking, running, writing, sleeping, and eating. Acadia National Park is the frequent site of the first three activities, while the Acacia House Inn is our preferred site for the last two. We’ve written extensively about our national park adventures at Acadia, but we’ve been remiss in writing about our favorite B&B, the place we stayed that first spring and almost every year since. Let’s correct that right now! (more…)
It’s been a week of milestones: selling the house, hitting 50,000 miles with Sal the Subaru, and today, celebrating our anniversary. Last year, we snuck away to Bar Harbor to get married, and this year, we returned to town to celebrate the conclusion of a crazy first year while kicking off a new one. We’re staying in the same room at the same inn, one with delicious breakfasts and cozy beds, and we’re enjoying the relative calm of a resort town before the summer season begins. The weather has been perfect these past two days, and since we’re expecting rain later this week (while we’re camping, of course…), we’ve been playing outdoors every day. Today’s adventure was a 20-mile bike trek across two loops of the carriage roads we hadn’t done last year, plus one we had. We left from the Eagle Lake parking lot and headed north around the Witch Hole Pond loop. It was an easy, rolling start to the day, followed by a moderate climb to some fantastic island views. We then cruised back to the start of Aunt Betty Pond loop, a strenuous 6-mile section that managed to be uphill in both directions. After returning via the Eagle Lake loop, we were sitting at 18.3 miles, so we pushed our tired legs a bit more to reach the 20-mile mark. Along the way, I experimented a bit with video of our ride. Maybe someday I’ll graduate to a helmet cam, but for now, I’m using a handheld one, which can be a little bumpy (so don’t watch if you get dizzy easily…). The first clip was shot along a flat stretch and contains a brief narrative. The second one is a bit longer, with very little narrative, lots of wind and a bit of speed. I had the camera in my right hand, which is also my braking hand, so not my brightest move. Hopefully the video gives a little insight into what it feels like to fly down a gravel mountain at 20-miles per hour… -J
I’ve never been fond of heights. I remember refusing to sit anywhere but on the floor in the middle of our Ferris Wheel car in Niagara Falls at a young age. In 8th grade, I practically had a nervous breakdown on our class rock climbing trip when I stood roped and harnessed at the top of a 150-foot cliff and had to lean backwards over the edge to rappel down.
In my adult life, not much has changed between me and heights. When J and I rode the Ferris Wheel in Paris last summer, I was nervous (although I did sit in my assigned seat for the entire ride). When we stood at the top of the aptly named “Jump Off” in The Smokies two months ago, I couldn’t wait to continue our hike a bit further from the edge. Today, I pushed the limits of my fears and tackled some challenging trails in Acadia National Park.
The park has two “hiking” trails that are often referred to as “technical rock climbing without the ropes.” These trails are The Precipice (a 0.9 mile trail that basically scales the side of an 930-foot cliff) and The Beehive (a slightly smaller cliff at 0.6 miles and 520 feet). This time of year The Precipice is closed due to peregrine falcon nesting season (sweet!), but The Beehive is open. J was excited for the hike, and after watching several YouTube videos and online reviews (that didn’t help much), I reluctantly agreed to make the trip.
While we lingered over coffee at the B&B this morning, we looked at our pocket hiking guidebook (purchased for a mere $3.50 at our local coffee/used bookstore, Crackskulls) and planned a hike that would bring us up The Beehive, across two miles of ridgeline to the summit of Champlain Mountain, and down over Huguenot Head on a trail made up of nearly 1,500 pink granite steps (interpret that last word loosely…). At the bottom, we would trot a short three miles along the Park Loop Road to get back to our car. It all sounded amazing, but I needed to get past The Beehive to enjoy the rest.
“Just keep going and don’t look down,” was my mantra for the first hour of the day. Even near the bottom of The Beehive, we had to use iron rungs secured into the rocks to get from one ledge of the trail to the next. A little further up, we resorted to crawling over a series of iron bars laid out like a ladder across a 20-foot drop. The two most difficult spots included a double series of iron bars that brought us almost straight up a rocky patch about 300 feet into the climb and a corner that required the use of one iron rung to scoot around it while stepping over a gap in the cliff’s edge.
Despite feeling weak in the knees, we made it to the top along with several other climbers, including a group from Dallas on their second-ever hike. (Their first was Mt. Dorr…yesterday.) It’s true that many people journey up The Beehive each year without issue, but before we started out, I wasn’t sure that would be the case for us. By the end of the day, we not only conquered The Beehive (and my fear of heights), but we enjoyed the open ridgeline walk and 360-degree views of the Atlantic, Mt. Desert Island and downtown Bar Harbor from the summit of Champlain Mountain. It was totally worth the terror. -M
After a five-week break to sort out things on the domestic front, we’re pleased to report that our National Park road trip is back on track! This week’s destination: Acadia National Park on Mt. Desert Island in Maine. We first visited the park last spring just for a weekend, and we’ve returned this year for an extended stay. We’ll spend four nights at a cozy B&B in downtown Bar Harbor and then an additional four nights at a campground within the park.
Acadia National Park was the first park established east of the Mississippi River. It is also notable for the fact that its designation as a park was spearheaded by local residents, many of whom (like George Dorr and the Rockefellers) were wealthy owners of summer homes on the island. Today, a handful of private residences are still scattered throughout the park, and sections of the famous carriage roads on private land abutting the park are off-limits to bicyclists. I’m not sure of the behind-the-scenes land politics, but as a casual visitor, it seems the public-private boundaries enjoy an easy coexistence.
We hadn’t been on our bikes in several months, so before heading out to tackle 20 or 30 (or more!) miles of road, we opted to start with a short 10-mile loop between Northeast Harbor and Jordan Pond. Although there are more than 40 miles of carriage roads to explore, it’s pretty hard to get lost. Roads are well-marked with numbered signposts that also include directional signage for popular park destinations like Jordan Pond House or Eagle Lake. The Park Service also provides a carriage road map that indicates mileage between signs.
Those of you who haven’t been to Acadia might share my initial romantic vision that carriage roads are pleasant and flat, probably made of packed dirt or maybe even paved. They are not. While they are indeed pleasant, they are the opposite of flat. They are groomed with crushed gravel (which can be loose and slippery under mountain bike tires) and they rise and fall repeatedly, climbing and descending hundreds of feet depending on the route you select.
Today’s route was a new stretch of trail for us, and the climb started immediately from the parking lot. Although our legs and lungs are well-conditioned from running, we were winded and weary at the top of some of today’s hills, quads burning. But the rewards were worth the effort. We enjoyed sunny skies, sweeping vista, secret streams, and of course…speeding downhill while grinning like kids, trying not to lose complete control of our bikes or eat facefuls of gravel. In that way and many others, the day was a great success. And it’s only Day 1! –J.
Today was the first day in weeks I’ve been able to take a deep breath and fully exhale. We had no plans except those of our own choosing, and no schedule to keep except to get a run in before dark. We slept a little later than usual, huddled under the covers in the guest room. (In a story too long and boring to tell here, we sold the bed we’ve been sleeping in at the yard sale last weekend, and we’re keeping the heat off so we don’t have to pay for another oil delivery before we sell the house next week. It’s really a circus of the absurd around here.) Once we finally rallied downstairs, we cooked up a delicious breakfast of lentil hash and eggs scrambled with sweet onions and cheese. We sipped cups of coffee and read the news and paid bills. We relished the return to quiet normalcy, to a day when we did not have strangers or appraisers or buyers pushing their agendas on us. We drove to Portsmouth to procure boxes and tape for packing, grab a few fresh veggies at the grocery store, and pick up a replacement screen canopy for our upcoming camping trip to Acadia National Park. We were back by early afternoon and each headed out for a run. Distance didn’t matter today; just getting out there mattered. Our next race is in Virginia on Memorial Day weekend, so we have plenty of time to train. What we needed today were fresh air and clear minds, and we found both. We capped the day with a delicious dinner collaboration, one so tasty that it will probably make its detailed way to my food and fitness blog soon. The short version: spicy apple tofu roasted over fresh asparagus and paired with sweet potato fries and a chipotle-lime aoili. Pick a word: delicious, fantastic, balanced, amazing. They all apply to dinner, and they apply to the rest of the day as well. I hope your Monday was as balanced as ours, but if not, there’s always hope for tomorrow. -J