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National parks in the east are few and far between compared to the west, yet Acadia is within a day’s drive of 25% of the nation’s population. Isn’t that insane? Insanely busy. Acadia National Park was established in 1919 and encompasses only 46,000 acres, yet manages to host over two million visitors each year, mostly on Mount Desert (as in to leave a duty, not an arid place) Island. Although the park is open year round, it sees most of its visitors between late June and Labor Day, during which time there is a free shuttle system operating between the popular areas. Seeing as how much of Mount Desert Island (MDI) is still private land, there are plenty of lodging options around the park, but only two NPS campgrounds to accommodate all those people (a third one is set to open on the Schoodic Peninsula Sept 2015).
Mount Desert Island is a gorgeous conglomeration of granite outcroppings, deciduous forests, deep blue ponds, and rocky shorelines. It offers 125 miles of hiking trails, and 45 miles of gravel carriage roads established by John D. Rockefeller who had a summer home on the island. There are no motorized vehicles allowed on the carriage roads- only those on foot, on two wheels, or on horseback. There is also no swimming allowed in most of the ponds, much to Greg’s dismay, as they provide the drinking water for MDI. There are plenty of other activities in the area, such as kayaking, whale watching, climbing, and shopping.
In late June the summer season hadn’t really kicked off yet, but finding a campsite still managed to be a stressful, competitive sport. There are no backcountry sites in ANP and private campgrounds were upwards of $40/night(!) so we headed straight for Seawall to hopefully get a national park site for a couple of nights. We got there as soon as the office opened and were able to get a site for two nights. Regular sites were $30/night, but walk-in sites were only $22. We were sleeping in the van of course and didn’t care about having to walk in, so we went for the cheaper option. Note to self: Always go cheaper first- the ‘walk-in’ site was about 25 ft from our parking space. $16 saved! We got some hiking recommendations from the CG ranger and set right out for our first Acadia hike.
Woke up to a small black bird sitting on the passenger window sill, tap tap tapping his reflection in the side mirror. Growing up in Tahlequah there was a beautiful male oriole that did the same thing until my grandma thought to put socks over both mirrors. With socks a precious commodity I just scared this one off. For some reason our Coleman stove had been petering out on us every morning but usually provided enough heat to boil water for our French press. Our second morning in the park it couldn’t manage anything more than that so I broke out our Pocket Rocket camp stove and whipped us up some bacon plus pancakes fried in coconut oil with flax, chia, and walnuts inside, and peanut butter and strawberries on top. A real hiker’s breakfast. Unfortunately almost as soon as we left the campground it started dumping buckets of rain which lasted until evening. So instead of hiking we thought it’d be a good idea to check out the visitor’s center, but of course everyone else in the park had that same great idea. A passport stamp, an informational video, and we were on our way. The city parks in Bar Harbor have free wifi so we parked next to one and I blogged while Greg read up on the Cubbies. I’ll tell you what, mister, it’s real tough blogging when you’re actually on the road. I haven’t quite managed how to balance writing and doing things that are actually worth writing about without making my partner crazy. It’s a sensitive subject. We didn’t last long at the park and headed back to the campground for a late lunch/early dinner. We couldn’t build a fire and didn’t want to cook in the rain so we stopped at a gas station and bought a large pizza for $5.55, maybe the best deal on the island. We sat in the front seat and ate pizza and watched The Walking Dead until the rain stopped and the dreary day turned into a magical, misty night. We hiked two short trails along the water until it got too dark to see our surroundings. After we went to bed that night I kept seeing flashes of light through the windows, like lightning only the sky was clear. I didn’t get out to investigate.
See our other Acadia post: Blackwoods