After a short break, I'm at long last continuing the posts on our vacation to New Hampshire and Maine way back in the beginning of October! Hopefully I'll be able to wrap this trip up soon before I've forgotten everything that we saw! My last post on our trip covered a few of the lighthouses that we saw southwest of where we were staying near Camden (a lovely little town that I will hopefully be telling you more about before these posts are done!) whereas this post takes us further east to what I believe is one of the most beautiful parts of New England - Acadia National Park located along the rugged and rocky coast of "Downeast" Maine on Mount Desert Island.
To get to Acadia from where we were staying in the small town of Lincolnville just east of Camden, we took Route 1 which took us over the Penobscot Narrows Bridge near Bucksport, Maine. The new bridge, which opened in December of 2006, replaced the old 1931 Waldo-Hancock Bridge (the first long-span suspension bridge erected in Maine as well as the first permanent bridge across the Penobscot River below Bangor) that you can still see behind it.
What's really cool about the new bridge is that the first tower on the left is also an observation tower known as the Penobscot Narrows Observatory. It has the distinction of being the very first bridge observation tower in the United States and the tallest public bridge observatory in the world. The tower reaches 420 feet into the air and allows visitors to view the bridge, the nearby Fort Knox State Historic Site, and the Penobscot River and Bay. My guess is that the view is pretty cool but alas, we really didn't have time to stop as then I would have wanted to also check out Fort Knox which was constructed from 1844-1869 and was the first fort in Maine to be built of granite instead of wood. The fort is the original one to be named after Henry Knox, the first US Secretary of War. Unfortunately, the Observatory and the fort were just going to have to be seen another time as Acadia was waiting about another 40 miles to the east and time was a'wasting!
Believe it or not, I'm going to try really hard not to get into a lot of history of Acadia National Park during the course of this post but will hopefully let the pictures speak for themselves as - just to give you fair warning - there are lots of them! Not as many as there could be, mind you, but still a fair number! If you ever go there for yourselves, I'm sure you'll be able to see why there are so many pictures and wonder why there weren't more - it truly is beautiful land.
What I will tell you about the history of the park is that President Woodrow Wilson established it as the Sieur des Monts National Monument in 1916 before Congress designated it as Lafayette National Park in 1919 - the first national park east of the Mississippi River. The park was named in honor of the Marquis de Lafayette, an influential French supporter of the American Revolution, but Congress changed the name again to Acadia National Park in 1929 - I have no idea why!
The park became a retreat for prominent people of the times who came there to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big cities in the East. The Rockefellers, Morgans, Fords, Vanderbilts, Carnegies, and Astors all chose to spend their summers there as they built elegant estates and called them 'cottages'. Yeah, right! Still, a lot of credit has to be given to Mount Desert Island summer resident and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who donated over 11,000 acres - more than one third of its present total area - to the park as well as the gift of 45 miles of rustic carriage roads that were built between 1913 and 1940. The carriage roads, which include seventeen stone-faced bridges, are still in use to this day as hiking, biking, and riding paths. I didn't get to see them on this trip but they're on the list for next time!
Anyhow, enough history! Before beginning our tour around Acadia, we stopped in at the Hull's Cove Visitors Center where my Mom signed up for an America the Beautiful Senior Pass which grants her and 3 other adults in the same car free access to Federal Recreation sites for the rest of her life - a very good deal at only $10! I also picked up an audio CD tour for our drive around the 27-mile Park Loop as I figured that would be the best way to get the most out of our drive around the National Park.
As we started our drive to the Park Loop, one of the first things we saw was a cruise ship docked out in Frenchman Bay which was named for Samuel de Champlain, the French explorer who visited the area in 1604. Apparently the town of Bar Harbor is a regular port of call for ships doing a New England/Canada trip.
I believe this one above is a Princess Cruise Line ship but I could be wrong as I'm certainly no expert when it comes to cruise ships! I'll have to ask Miss Bee what it is as I'm sure the Empress of the High Seas would know!
So ... even though I had a CD to tell me where to go and what to see, the very first thing I did was veer off of the guided route and head up to the summit of Cadillac Mountain ...
Originally named Green Mountain, in 1918 the name of the highest peak within 25 miles of a coastline on the Eastern Seaboard was changed to honor the French explorer and adventurer, Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac. The summit is pink granite that is covered with green lichen ...
With an elevation of 1,528 feet, Cadillac Mountain is commonly believed to be the first location in the United States to be struck by the sun's rays each morning but that's not quite right. Cadillac only sees the first sunrise in the fall and winter when the sun rises south of due east whereas during most of the spring and summer, the sun rises first on Mars Hill, 150 miles to the northeast. Additionally, for a few weeks around the equinoxes, the sun rises first at West Quoddy Head in Lubec, Maine, which is the easternmost town in the United States that has a really cool lighthouse that I definitely want to go take pictures of one of these days!
Regardless of where the sun rises first, though, you have to admit that the view from the summit is beautiful. It was a bit cold and windy the day that we were up there so while I walked around the summit taking pictures and wondering why I didn't have the good sense to bring a warmer jacket and gloves, Jamie and my Mom retreated to the Cadillac Summit Center where they spent some time in the rather crowded gift shop.
I made it over there in time to grab a picture of Jamie as well as have my Mom offer to buy me a very cozy fleece pullover that has a moose on it. Thanks, Mom!
On our way back down the mountain, we pulled off at another scenic view where I had Jamie strike an obligatory pose. And yes, she was a bit cold but she was a good sport about it!
Once we got back down to the main road, I got a bit turned around and we ended up taking kind of a round-about way to get back onto the Park Loop that we wanted to be on but eventually we made it and were treated to some spectacular views.
Acadia National Park covers almost 73 square miles, part of which is along a very rocky shoreline that borders the Atlantic Ocean.
Part of the drive stops near Thunder Hole which is a small inlet that is naturally carved out of the rocks that waves roll into. Down low at the end of the inlet is a small cavern where, when a big rush of waves arrive, air and water is forced out like a clap of distant thunder with water sometimes spouting as high as 40 feet. I'm sure it's pretty cool but you have to be there at the right time to catch that and we weren't - mostly what we caught were a lot of people climbing up and down near the place where that happens so I merely snapped a picture of Jamie who had finally warmed up a bit before we continued on our way.
Jamie herself decided to snap a couple pictures of some of Acadia's visiting wildlife ...
In this shot, you can just make out Otter Cliff from Thunder Hole - at least I think that's what that is! Maybe Lisa can help me out with that one being that she's been to Acadia and absolutely loves it there?
I think we were a bit off on the timing for peak foliage in this part of Maine but there were still some pretty colors to be found along the way.
I took these shots from a small turnout ...
... which was a lot higher than you might think!
The views were just absolutely gorgeous no matter which way you looked.
It was pretty easy to believe that God had done some of his finest work in this part of Maine!
There was A LOT of Acadia National Park that we didn't get the chance to see as one obviously needs more than part of one day to see it all but I'm very glad that we got to see the parts that we did as there just aren't words to describe how beautiful of an area it is. As the only National Park in New England, Acadia may not be as showy as the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone or Yosemite but it's really got a lot to offer and I'm very thankful that I can say that I've seen at least some of it. Of course, I'm already trying to figure out when I get there again and be able to spend some more time - especially considering there were a couple of lighthouses in the area that I didn't get the chance to seek out and you know how I love my lighthouses!