Mount Desert Island and Bar Harbor
By Esha Samajpati
Vacationland proudly proclaim the state license plates. “Lots of hikes with great views,” says my husband, Pinaki. For him, great views translate to great landscape photography.
“The world’s finest lobster comes from Maine,” screams the headline of the website of the Maine Lobster Council.
Enough already, I am hooked. Picking a warm weekend in July, we packed our bags and drove up to Maine. All the way up to northern New England from our home in Connecticut.
We had booked a no-frills motel, as we intended to use it only to crash at night. On reaching Bar Harbor right about noon, we checked in, dumped our stuff and drove to Asticou Terraces in Northeast Harbor, a place not known to many.
Each overlook offered great views of the harbor and of course, is a vantage point for photo-buffs. Lovely as the place was, we could no longer ignore the hunger pangs.
Down the road towards Seal Harbor, we came upon Lighthouse Inn and Restaurant where we were served the Lobster Chowder and Crabmeat Sandwiches by Phil, a kindly gentleman who later told us that the Lighthouse Inn is a family-owned outfit which has been in operation for more than half a century.
His niece ran the adjoining coffee-shop which often gets a visit from one of Maine’s celebrity residents, Martha Stewart. Much to the joy of Phil, my husband voted the chowder as one of the best he had ever had.
We passed the Stanley Brook entrance to Acadia National Park on our way back to the motel and hoping fervently for a sunny Sunday, fell asleep.
But as luck would have it, we woke up to a misty morning wishing to goodness that as the day progressed, the mist would clear up.
Not wanting to spend much time on breakfast and having heard of speedy service at Jordan’s Restaurant on Cottage Street in Bar Harbor itself, we decided to start the day there.
Each of us opted for a Maine specialty with our morning coffee. My husband chose the classic Maine Blueberry Pancakes while I ordered the Western Omelette stuffed with Maine potatoes and coated with melted cheese. To add to the fare, we each had the ‘Muffin of the Day’ – Peach Spice.
It is hard to feel sad after such a delightful meal so weather notwithstanding, we started towards Acadia National Park in high spirits.
Acadia National Park – Park Loop Road
Paying the entrance fee, we drove into Acadia National Park’s 27 mile long Park Loop Road winding gracefully through the greenery, connecting various points of interest.
By now, the sun had come out and we could see every bend of the road opening up to vistas, each more breathtaking than the next.
There is no end to the things you can see and do at Acadia National Park. There’s Sand Beach, Jordan Pond, Thunder Hole, Otter Point, Cadillac Mountain, Gorham Mountain, The Beehive, Abbe Museum, Bubble Rock and many more.
As usual, lured by the best views, we chose the Gorham Mountain Trail which is famous for being closest to the blue-green waters of the ocean.
Gorham Mountain Trail Details
Type of hike: Out and back
Total Distance: 3 miles
Map: USGS Acadia National Park and Vicinity
Parking: On the right (west) side of the one-way Park Loop Road.
The Hike Begins
From the park’s visitor center, we drove south on the Park Loop Road for about three miles, then turned left (east) at the sign for Sand Beach.
Following the one-way Park Loop Road for about seven miles, passing the park fee station, Sand Beach and Thunder Hole we found the sign for the Gorham Mountain Trailhead.
The trail began quite tamely along a softly gurgling brook but as we followed the blue marks, the climb became steeper with each step.
Be sure to carry enough water. We got some ice-cold bottles from the visitor’s center right after entering the park.
As the hike progressed, we came upon a plaque in memory of Waldron Bates. He set the trend of utilizing stone stairways and iron-rung ladders to help hikers. Thanks to him, the Beehive Trail is accessible to amateur climbers like me.
With the sun warm on our faces and the cool mountain air refreshing our very souls, we trudged uphill. Ignoring the Cadillac Cliffs trail, we followed the trusty blue marks and soon came upon what is known as the false summit.
Bare ledges led to panoramic views of blue and green for as far as our eyes could see. Dark green mountains, blue-green waters of the Atlantic Ocean and specks of sparkling sand made for a heavenly combination.
Dropping our back-packs, we sat down on a ledge drinking in the scenery. Though the trail was somewhat steep in places, we reached the summit at 525 feet without any major scrambling.
View from the Top
Gorgeous landscapes unfolded before our eyes, erasing with it every trace of exhaustion from the hike. The Beehive lay to our north, the Sand Beach to our northeast while the Thunder Hole lay to our east with the Otter Cliff to our southeast. The summit was marked by a sign atop a cairn confirming our conquest.
After quite a few photographs of the landscape and a well-deserved break, we retraced our steps back to the parking lot.
Here I must warn future hikers that some of the portions which had gravel were quite slippery. Right footwear is a must as with any hike.
Famished from our hike, we drove straight to Jordan Pond House Restaurant for a late lunch. Nestled close to the clear calm waters of the Jordan Pond, the place offered a gift shop and an information center as well.
Boban, our Macedonian server informed us that our entrées may take a while so why don’t we munch on their famous popovers meanwhile? We did.
Sitting down at our table on the porch, my husband looked over the menu and decided to play it safe with a Lobster Stew while I took the plunge and ordered a whole lobster. Minutes into the popovers, Boban came out with a big red lobster, some tools and a dip of clarified butter. Yummy!
Cracking open the shells with the nut-cracker, I dug out the soft white meat with a prong, dipped them into the butter and put them straight into my mouth. Nothing like fresh sea-food to round up a coastal hike.
Main Street Maine
Feeling recharged post our late lunch, we decided to walk down the Main Street looking for a good cup of coffee. As we walked past Rupununi, which is an American Bar and Grill offering al fresco dining, I could hear a melodious voice floating across the busy street.
Turning into the lane, we saw a band of three playing live Jazz. Spotting a brief break in between numbers, with the applause refusing to die down, I walked up to the pretty lady in a flowing skirt and asked her if it would be okay to mention her in my travelogues.
She introduced herself as Juliane Gardner and her band as “Shades of Blue.” Her usual band members Chris Poulin and Ezra Rugg were not playing with her that particular day. Nevertheless, she was kicking up a storm with Lincoln Blake at the piano and Dan Clarke at the guitar.
After a quick exchange of pleasantries, Juliane gifted me a unique set of post-cards which had pictures of heart-shaped rocks from her travels. So not only is she a singer and song-writer, she is an amazing photographer too, with an eye for the rare and the beautiful.
As I thanked them and started towards the parking lot, the music resumed…enlivening the evening with a touch of jazz.
Back in our motel, as we packed for the long drive awaiting us, I wished I had bought one of her CDs because who wouldn’t want to drive to
“And we watch the clouds float by
as we rest in the tall grass by the roadside”
I know I would.
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Esha Samajpati worked in advertising in India, before moving to Connecticut and becoming a travel writer. “Even now, when I visit a city, the billboards draw my attention,” she says. “How a city advertises tells me a lot about the place and the people.”