It’s not all about hiking at Acadia. Even the most avid of hikers needs a break occasionally to shift the nurturing from the soul to that of the soles!
My favorite way to air out the hiking boots is to rent a bike for the day and ride Acadia’s carriage roads,45 miles of broken-stone roads built between 1913 and 1940 as a gift from John D. Rockefeller Jr. These granite roads are closed to vehicular traffic, to be shared by hikers, bikers, horseback riders, and horse carriages alike. These roads make for the perfect bike ride, as numbered cedar signposts coordinate with carriage road maps provided by the Bar Harbor bike rental shops.
Along these roads are 17 beautiful stone bridges, all spanning streams or waterfalls or framing beautiful vistas. Other characteristic landmarks are the two Gate Lodges, built in the 1930’s. These beautifully crafted lodges serve as symbolic barriers to automobiles and welcome the traveler into a motor-free system on which to explore the park interior.
My favorite route circles Eagle Lake, with a refueling stop at the Jordon Pond House for their famous tea and popovers, served piping hot from the oven with butter and strawberry jam. Make reservations early for a seat on the lawn, overlooking the “Bubbles” mountains and scenic Jordon Pond.
Given my recent enjoyment of my inflatable kayak, I was eager to try sea kayaking, so I booked one of the sunset tours with National Park Sea Kayaking Tours.
Advertised as ecological tours with that “off the beaten path” feel, I was really looking forward to this experience to explore the Maine coastline and see some wildlife. I was the first to arrive for the orientation talk. My heart sank when I heard the loud, booming, staccato voices of a group of EIGHT tourists from India coming towards us. They had never picked up a paddle before in their lives, and didn’t even seem to know left from right. Once we finally got on the water, the poor guide kept having to race over to help them off a bank of rocks on shore, because they kept ramming into the shore line. They could not grasp the paddling side to side concept, and instead would try to paddle it like a canoe, so they just went in circles. Finally, one of them in the group took on the self-appointed role of a coxswain, calling out the strokes in a booming loud voice, “LEHFT!! RIGHHHT!! LEHFT!! RIGHHT!!”
This was a sunset paddle, and the full moon was also rising opposite the setting sun on this drop-dead gorgeous calm bay full of birds and fishing boats. Along the way, we saw osprey overhead and harbor seals bobbing just off our bow. Yet the Indians shouted at each other from boat to boat, drowning out the narrative of our naturalist guide. When one began to chortle “I AM POPEYE THE SAILOR MAN!” I had to break away from the pack else be overcome by the urge to smack some heads with my paddle!
The guide allowed my boat be the last one to be loaded, affording me an extra 5-10 minutes paddling around in the golden moonlight. I think he felt bad because we had spent the majority of the tour waiting on them to try to learn to paddle in a straight line. We darned near missed the sunset altogether, as the guide continually made corrections to shorten our course due to the inability to get the boats rowing in formation.
“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more.”
~ Lord Byron