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…)
Our visit to Jasper was the perfect start to our time in the Canadian Rockies. Jasper is a mellow little mountain town that quickly became one of the highlights of the trip. We weren’t thrilled to be leaving after just three days, but we were excited about what lay ahead: the Icefields Parkway and quaint towns within Banff National Park (Lake Louise, Banff, and Canmore). (more…)
Greetings from Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada…our first official national park of this trip! Jasper is the farthest northwest that we will venture this summer, and it is absolutely worth the 3,000+ miles we trekked across the continent to get here. Jasper is the largest of Canada’s Rocky Mountains parks, and it’s also less trafficked than Banff and Yoho to the south. We try to avoid clichés and hyperbole here on WPG, but truth is, since we arrived in Jasper, there has been a stunning, mind-blowing, awe-inspiring, picturesque cliché around every corner.
We’ve been here for less than 24 hours, but it feels more like a week. We’ve visited the Miette Hot Springs, sampled local brews, stayed overnight in a rustic wilderness hostel (no running water), ran four miles around town this morning (nearly running into an elk), and hiked a bit at Lake Maligne. We are now back in town jumping on the grid for a few minutes before returning to the hostel (with a planned visit to Athabasca Falls on the way). (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