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June 1: Acadia National Park

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2013-06-01-acadia-campAnn and I arrived last night (May 31st) after visiting Glenn to setup CAMP EWILLYS. As you can see we even had a banner! It is our two-night home in the Blackwoods Campground of Acadia National Park. The campground was sparsely filled both Friday and Saturday nights despite the 80 degree weather. We were thankful for that, because this area has more than 300 camping spots!

My plan was to visit the Park’s Visitor Center yesterday when we drove onto Mount Desert Island (the park covers about half the island). At that time I mentioned to Ann that I’d had a problem locating the Visitor Center online. So, I figured there would be some signs to help guide us. However, we quickly got lost. Also lost was cell reception. Even our Atlas didn’t help. We nearly had to resort to asking for directions when a sliver of bandwidth sneaked onto our phone, which allowed us locate the Blackwoods Campground. So, at least we found home. But, where was the visitor center or at least an entrance station?

The next morning (June 1) we hit the road for an early morning visit to Bar Harbor.

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Here we are at a downtown park.

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This was taken near the harbor. We enjoyed the seaside town and it’s relaxed flavor.

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This sums up much of the Maine we saw: Lobster, Lobster Rolls, and Ice Cream. We saw more signs for those three items than anything else!

After Bar Harbor Ann poured over the Acadia NP map, but she couldn’t find the visitor center. I took a crack and finally located it; it was called the Hulls Cove Visitor Center. That made us wonder if it was the main Center or just a secondary one. That brings up another unusual feature of the park: it is spread over multiple locations and islands (I counted eleven different areas). Between the different areas are towns, homes, golf courses, etc.

When we finally arrived at the visitor center, another surprise awaited us. Normally, the building is very visible in some way. Instead, this one is buried in the woods. From the parking lot, we couldn’t see it at all. Only a stream of people disappearing through an outdoor exhibit and then up the stairs that, apparently, led to the main building.

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The oddest visitor center entrance we’d ever seen. Why the visitor center building wasn’t put in this location still isn’t clear to us.

Naturally, having Ann climb a bunch of stairs wasn’t something I wanted to see. Fortunately, there was a secondary parking for the physically challenged. So, we drove over to an area and walked in from the back. We felt like we were entering the back door of a two-star restaurant than a National Park Visitors Center. Uncompleted projects laid off to the sides of the walkway.

Ann and I have been inside many different Centers and this one was surprisingly small given that the building is within one day’s drive of 25% of the population of North America. Moments after we entered the building, they announced the playing of a fifteen minute video about the park. Ann and I turned with agreeing looks; finally, we’d get the answer we sought (that being why Acadia was a NP). But, instead of providing some history about the park, the video was a pitch attempt at getting visitors to support the Friends of Acadia. We were surprised they didn’t huckster us into buying a condominium as well.

Not wanting to give up on my quest, I perused the book aisle until I found a book that answered my question (and bought the book). The purpose for the Park’s founding is clearly explained by the President of Harvard in 1901 Charles W. Eliot who wrote to concerned parties to “hold reservations at points of interest on the Island, for the perpetual use of the public.” In other words, the park was never designed to preserve some unique element, but rather was set aside to protect it from development. It’s better defined as a National Community Park.

Here are some pics from the park:

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Mount Desert Island is full of small lakes and tree scenes like this.

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Canopy tree scenes like this were common, too.

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We spotted this artist painting a landscape in this classic Acadia NP photo.

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It took a couple retakes for me to set the timer and leap over the rocks in time to secure this shot.

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There I am photographing another woman. My wife say I get around the island pretty well.

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This photo is from the top of Cadillac Mountain, the tallest point on the East Coast. There was a 360 degree view.

So, it’s a very pretty place (that was almost named Mount Desert National Park, until western members of congress felt it in no way qualified to be labeled a ‘desert’), but it’s better defined as a place to recreate (as in recreation: there are boat rides, wagon rides, horse rides, canoe rides, bike rides, hiking, etc) than a National Park. In fact, we probably could have drive four hours to the San Juans and had a similar experience. But, that’s part of the fun of traveling: You just never know what you’ll find. Something beat expectations, some just meet them, and some fall below. Still, we wouldn’t trade the trip for anything. Best of all, we are only half done!

Postscript:
That feeling that it isn’t a National Park, but more like a place to have some fun, is very evident right now as I type this from a picnic table. Some woman (and her daughter and husband) pulled up at a campground across the road from us (she met up with a friend of hers at an adjoining spot). The woman has been loudly sharing how they have plenty of liquor to get drunk. The woman has been talking in a booming voice non-stop for about an hour.

(not the Park’s fault . . .just the fate of getting the wrong neighbors).

Postscript 2:
I’m finalizing this post from a motel room. The woman just couldn’t stop talking (along with singing christmas songs and feeding the squirrels fruit and nuts so they’d be her friends). I don’t mind loud noise and neither does Ann, but the woman just wouldn’t stop. We finally left. We let the ranger’s know and they said they’d move us to a new place, but we didn’t want to unpack. It didn’t sound like they were going to do anything about it.

 

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