Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Acadian Interlude

St. Sauveur Mtn./Valley Peak/Southwest Harbor (from Acadia Mtn.)

Been hoofing it about the island a lot as of late: besides "smelling like a goat," rumor has it I sound like a broken record trying to get in "just one more" hurrah for hiking. Seems every day is surely the last one before it's gonna snow - which is not bad at all for this transplanted Alaskan... especially since it's December
The past week has seen a few amazing treks on trails around Acadia: St. Sauveur Mtn./Valley Peak/Acadia Mtn. loop and the Perpendicular Trail/Mansell Mtn. loop over on the Western side of Mount Desert Island; the infamous Precipice Trail/Champlain Mtn.; plus even a little side-sortie over to Camden Hills State Park. 
(More after the jump...)

Long Pond/Beech Mtn. from Mansell Mtn Overlook

One bonus aspect of off-season exploration that's particularly attractive has been the total absence of any crowds - as a matter of fact on all of the recent outings it's been either just myself or the ever-wonderful g-friend as a companion. This most recent trip up the Precipice Trail I heard and saw nothing besides a solitary buck sporting a magnificent rack, and the timely calling of a Red Tailed hawk upon reaching the summit of Champlain Mountain. About the noisiest critters have been packs of coyotes and wrathful chittering of Eastern Gray squirrels encamped around the house. What with the woods denuded of foliage you'd think the omnipresent background of traffic would intrude, except that most of the Park roads have been shut down for the winter, which necessitates accessing trails via side routes. And contrary to the flawless centerfold imagery promoted by the tourist industry, the views now are actually just as beautiful if not even more expansive. That would define the difference between eco-pornagraphy versus eroticism, where by virtue of omission the subtle peek-a-boo scenery reveals more with less, and one can better appreciate the many-faceted atmospheric moods of the place.

Camden Hills State Park (Megunticook Lake from Maiden Cliff)

The past few months of commuting by bicycle about Savannah evidently atrophied some key muscle groups, and it's been a brutal regiment of working out the kinks in my stiff legs and sore knees. Slippery rock and iron rungs were tricky to navigate on the Precipice Trail, but balmy temperatures in the mid-50's plus party-sunny conditions tempered any lingering logistical issues. No vertigo and a bit of an anticlimactic finish - the hype over the Precipice is probably more targeted to the middle-aged LL Bean demographic than jaded Alaskan trekkers, but still it was an immensely rewarding excursion that triggered nostalgic memories of the playground jungle-gym (excepting for the unnerving occasional broken rung). As with the epic stepping-stones up the Perpendicular Trail, there were several times I swore I heard Sméagol on the The Stairs of Cirith Ungol. The view from the top of Champlain remains one of my personal favorites anywhere in Acadia, second only to Penobscot and Pemetic Mountains - one reason being that by this point I've accumulated enough sweat-equity of the landscape to earn intimate, first-hand knowledge of exactly what it is I'm looking at over any given view. One hour for the "non-technical climb" to the top, including many a photographic pit-stop, for a total of two-and-a-half hours round-trip (returning to the truck via the Champlain North Face and Orange & Black Trails), and it was back to the ol' drawing board.

Precipice Trail: "Well-Rung"

This latest & greatest series topped off a spectacular season of experiencing Acadia National Park, notwithstanding working as a Ranger for most of it, plus the summer internship, and then bailing out to Savannah for what is arguably the most photogenic month - but that gives me something to look forward to next fall. There's still innumerable nooks & crannies to poke around that will keep us busy for the remainder of our tenure in Maine.
And as always, even more images are posted over in the "Down East" Picasa web-album...

Champlain Summit: Alpine Pool


  1. Bicycling, while a virtuous and commendable aerobic activity, is not a weight-bearing exercise. Many a high-mileage cyclist has had a humbling experience after they breezily undertook a hike, particularly a steep one, incorrectly assuming their better-than-average fitness would easily transfer.

    A major part of my autumn transitional conditioning between bike commuting season and the season of winter hiking and skiing the trivial and absurd was directed toward making that transition to weight-bearing as smoothly as possible. If you know what to expect, it can be done. If you get all frisky and charge out abruptly you know exactly how rough it can be.

  2. Operative phrase being "load bearing"...
    Not to mention I probably shouldn't listen to Wagner and Star Trek theme music while driving to the trailhead: makes for some frisky charging!

  3. No snow yet? You lucky bastard. Looks you're having fun out there. I'm jealous.

  4. I remember all too well how much I shoveled over last "winter" so I won't hold my breath on the luckiness yet... we did already get significant accumulation but it all magically went away, just like the drift of bills in the PO Box. And there's always more in the forecast.
    Still, I commented on another thread on how between Savannah & Fairbanks I'll just have to plead the "Goldilocks principle" - one hallmark of bastards being they do have fun no matter where they are!