Hiking Acadia National Park

You know how I like to get all travel-guidey sometimes. Well today I’d like to say, “Welcome…to Acadia National Park” (say it like Richard Attenborough!).

What is there to say, really?

I’m almost crying because I’m home now and not there anymore. Wouldn’t you be?

But I’m here to talk about hiking because it’s really the most obvious thing to do once you’re here. Besides driving the Park Loop Road, where everybody and their mother is hanging out. So do me a favor. Get out of your car and walk a bit. Doesn’t this trail look inviting?

If you are an experienced hiker you’ll have no problem on most of the trails in Acadia. We still haven’t tackled the Precipice, which is supposedly the hardest, because I don’t trust the attention spans of my children to be able to hold onto the rocks long enough. I’m not taking my kids up a cliff face until they’ve shown me they know enough not to dance on the edges (which, at this point, they don’t). Otherwise you can have a field day out here. I know it’s not as huge or challenging as other national parks, but it’s still spectacular. Plus it’s got the ocean.

Check out those waves!!!

Here are some more views from shoreline hikes. They’re just stunning. Dave’s travel guide called this beach “a geologist’s heaven” because of the crazy assortment of rocks.

Here’s one from a sunset hike. Awesome rocks plus incredible light:

And then you come across scenes that just make you get all artsy-fartsy (but how can you not, when it’s so easy. Point and click and you’re a photographer. You can’t go wrong when nature gives you this to work with):

This is from Baker Island looking back up north at Mt. Desert Island (where most of the park is located). I love this view of the mountains, it’s more encompassing than anywhere else.

There are walks for all abilities and we like to challenge the boys a little more every year. This year it was the Gorge Path. And now that Younger Son isn’t the slowest anymore, I’m the one bringing up the rear. They actually thought of bringing whistles so they could call to me and make sure I was OK. How thoughtful. (Better make sure the old lady isn’t laying in the woods somewhere with a broken leg.)

Note my sturdy hiking boot

This can hurt your feet

But these trails challenge my ability too, as I get older and more out of shape, and my legs get tireder. So if you’re just a casual hiker (and non-exerciser like me) I recommend GOOD HIKING BOOTS. Much of what you’re walking on will look like the rocks pictured at right.

I hiked in both sneakers and boots this week and I can’t emphasize enough the difference decent boots made. They are heavier and clunkier, but they protect your feet and give you a firm, flat supporting surface. It is much more comfortable to move over jutting roots and pointy rocks with that hard sole. I thought that my legs would get tired from dragging the boots, but it was quite the opposite.

The sneakers bend and don’t offer protection on the rocks, but more than that they let your heel drop. I’ve been doing hard hikes for 20 years but I learned something huge on this trip that really made a difference: to trust my momentum. Dave’s been trying to explain it to me for years, and he did teach me the neat trick of staying on my toes going up steep climbs. But for some reason, in my 40th year, it clicked this week.

It's steeper than it looksYou can practice it going up regular stairs. If you just put the front part of your foot on the stair, your heel drops, stretching and tiring your calf (and pulling your weight down and back). If you have that strong hiking boot it keeps your heel up and pushes you forward. Instead of dwelling on how tired my legs were and trying to haul my butt over yet another big rock, I could think about keeping my forward momentum and hopping over them (while having to trust that they weren’t loose).

I found myself spending a lot of time choosing a good path too. You can stay up high and go over the rocks, or you can take the low road and cut among them. It probably sounds strange sitting there in your comfy chair looking at your computer, but this can be the biggest thought on your mind during some of these hard hikes. Maybe that’s why it’s so damn zen.

I also had to accept that, being the slowest, I had to be comfortable with setting my own pace. Let the boys run ahead and worry about me and whistle and yell. Part of a hard hike is the mental aspect and staying focused, especially in a place where the hike down can be just as challenging as the hike up (you would think quite the opposite, no?). But when there are sharp pointy rocks jutting up at you it can be a little scary, and gravity is pulling you down (especially when, as I mentioned, I’m not in the greatest shape I’ve ever been).

Anyway. Sorry to get so deep on you. Communing with nature will do that to a person. Oh and I just wanted to mention that hiking over tree roots is harder than you would think!

Trickier than you would think

Who knew? The entrance to Fangorn Forest is in Acadia. Once you’re in there you might see this. (But look out for the people-eating trees.)

Another great thing about Acadia is that there are plenty of short hikes with fabulous views. Dave calls it a big return on a little investment. This one isn’t the highest mountain or most sweeping vista, but I just liked it:

On your way up the mountains, and when you get to the top: please eat the blueberries. They are good for you (according to the travel guide, they have twice the antioxidants as the ones you get in the grocery store), they are the most scrumptious thing you’ve ever tasted, and they will not kill you. They are your reward for hiking.

No, they're not poisonous

But don’t rely on the blueberries to feed you. You must bring your GORP. I’m salivating just looking at it. I know, gross right? But when you’re hiking it’s like ambrosia. It’s a good thing I got this shot before Younger ate all the M&Ms.

Good ol' raisins and peanuts

AND, friends, when you are camping, do NOT forget sparklers.

Fancy camerawork!

So in conclusion: go to Acadia. And I have one final question. Does anyone else’s dashboard look like this by the end of vacation?

Detritus of vacation

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One thought on “Hiking Acadia National Park

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