This national park makes no pretense, no grand show of its federal borders, no huge arches at the entrance (like Yellowstone). It blends somewhat unobtrusively into life Down East, as they call it, the shore of Maine. In our touring of this park we found ourselves in the park, then out of it, then into a city, then back in the park. It’s as if they gerrymandered a park to nestle between incorporated cities and private property.
And that is the story, we are told: Enthusiasts for this natural area bought up tracts of land and donated it to form the park, giving an appearance of a paint-spill of national park green across the map of Maine’s coastline. The map-trip sum at right shows just a few blotches of green, yet Acadia is found on numerous other islands along the coast.
The most consistent park experience is the loop road in the main part of the park where most of us go, Mount Desert island. Oh, and you pronounce Desert as a verb, like “I desert you.” Or if it helps, say it like dessert. Anyway… The loop road is a great tour. It’s confusing at first where it starts, dealing with part of it as one-way, where you pay to enter. Oh, and then, you realize, the campground is not accessible from this road but it’s off a state highway connecting Bar Harbor with Seal Harbor.
*sigh* Just study the map a bit, and then enjoy it. Start at the visitor center, see the movie, drive down the park road, take the one-way toward Sand Beach. You’ll love it.
Bar Harbor was a surprise. It’s a bit of Newport Beach or Vail in miniature, a resort town on a rocky shore, surrounded by pines. One wrong turn to miss the loop road, and you have your campfire-aroma self driving slowly in traffic among the shoppers and gawkers on the main drag.
The other towns, and the countryside, have a more serene feel. Some of it still has the look of old money, someone’s summer cottage. Others show the grand houses refurbished as B&B’s. More modest neighborhoods are a sprinkling of larger acreage homes where people live their lives and watch the RV’s parade by. There’s less parade now in the off-season.
It was 70’s and clear. Gorgeous weather. A highlight is to drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain, the high point in the park. It is around 1500 feet and close to the water, making it a prominent singular land form, they say it’s the highest peak that’s right up on the eastern coast. On a longer visit, we’d hike to it, but we drove up this time.
Like most stops on this trip, the days allotted are not enough to fully appreciate the wonders. But with the “what’s next?” enthusiasm we have for the road, we now look southwestward to Bean Town.