Mountains, meadows, beaches and the ocean make Acadia National Park an outdoor lovers' delight.
By NANCY JOHNGRASS
Acadia National Park is an outdoor adventurer's paradise, a naturalist's heaven on earth and a solitude-seeker's ultimate dream.
Here in the park you'll discover towering granite cliffs while nearby you can stroll along sand or cobblestone beaches. Glacier-carved mountains will make your spirit soar while the meadow and marsh walks offer nourishment to the soul. If that isn't enough, all around you is the raging beauty of the Atlantic Ocean.
Acadia is about two-thirds of the way up the Maine coast and occupies most of Mount Desert (pronounced like dessert) Island. Named by Samuel de Champlain in 1604 as part of L'Acadie, it encompasses 50 square miles and is the northeast's only national park.
The Park Loop Road offers a 27-mile peek at the beauty the park has to offer from the comfort of your car. An audio-tour produced by The Park Service is available on CD or cassette to make the ride more informative.
The drive offers views of mountains and valleys, lush forests, radiant gardens and an ever-changing view of the ocean.
Along the Loop Road you can get to most of the major attractions in the park, including Sand Beach, Ocean Drive and the road to the summit of Mount Cadillac at 1,530 feet.
The drive to the summit is not for the faint of heart as each turn offers another edge-of-the-cliff experience, but the trip is worth it if you brave the drive.
The view from Mount Cadillac is dramatic, overlooking 30 miles of coastline and a variety of local islands. On a clear day you can see 100 miles to Mount Katahdin, and if you're up at sunrise, you'll be the first person in the country to watch it rise.
For the truly adventurous, Mount Cadillac also can be reached by hiking or biking trail.
Miles of trails
Miles of hiking trails offer majestic views and quiet respite. For the novice hiker or the experienced climber, the park's trails offer everything from an easy stroll meandering along the coast to a challenging hike up the Precipice Trail that rises almost 1,000 feet in under one mile. The Precipice Trail has handrails, ladders and rungs to assist hikers, but still offers a challenging climb.
More than 50 miles of carriage roads wind through the park and are open for walking, biking, in-season cross-country skiing and even an actual carriage ride.
Known as the "Rockefeller Roads," the carriage roads were designed and built by millionaire John D. Rockefeller, Jr., born out of his love of horses and riding and also as a refuge from the horseless carriage.
Rockefeller not only designed the roads that follow the natural lay of the land, he pitched in to help workers build the roads by hand. The surface includes three layers of rock and was built to hold up under Maine's extreme weather. Finished in 1940, the roads still withstand those extremes and are considered to be an excellent example of broken stone roadwork.
Today, a leisurely horse-drawn carriage ride transports visitors back in time to a slower-paced era where the fervor of freeways, faxes and cell phones were barely dreams. The roads meander over 16 stone bridges, each with its own unique style and flair, and riders can enjoy awe-inspiring vistas while taking a close-up look at some of the local mansions and gardens.
Thunder Hole is perhaps one of the most popular places to visit, but timing can be everything.
On calm summer days, the spot can be uncharacteristically quiet, and one might wonder who stole its thunder. On windy days, visitors are greeted with a thunderous booming sound and a geyserlike water show. The sound is created by water rushing into air trapped in the deep chasm worn in the granite cliffs. Half-tide rising is the best time to hear Thunder Hole at its most impressive.
Nearby, Otter Cliffs' pink granite spires jut 100 feet out of the water.
After a long hike or bike ride, a stop at Jordan Pond is a refreshing break where you can enjoy crystal clear cool waters in a glacier-carved lake surrounded by the Penobscot and Pemetic Mountains. Relax and take in the view and especially take note of the two rounded mountains popping up from shore and aptly named "The Bubbles."
With its variety of habitats from beach to mountain peak and rocky shore to dense forest, Acadia is a bird lovers' destination with more than 150 varieties, including peregrine falcons, osprey, loons and the great blue heron.
Over 165 species of native plants can be found in the park, and although a white-tailed deer sighting is just about guaranteed, it's the lucky visitor who catches a glimpse of a bull moose.
For the best chance at a rare wildlife sighting, stay right in the park at one of several campgrounds.
XFor more information, call the Acadia Information Center at (800) 358-8550. There is a fee of $10 per car to enter the park. The fee is good for seven days.