Friday, February 10, 2012

Sunset Hikes

Sunset: Schoodic Point (View across Winter Harbor to Cadillac Mtn.)

One of the sublime rewards to spending a year hiking here in Acadia has been catching the "magic hour" at various viewpoints. While I've visited the Schoodic Peninsula portion of the Park numerous times, this happened to be perfect timing for a beautiful sunset. The view across Winter Harbor to Mount Desert Island and the profile of Cadillac Mountain capped a poignant moment. This shot wasn't filtered in Photoshop at all, not even the usual tweaking of tone, contrast and color: it's just a raw image that's only missing the wind and sound of the surf.

Sunset: Schoodic Point

Only a handful of times before have I been in the right time at the right place (plus with a camera) to see an unfiltered, perfect sunset as the last rays reach across the ocean and infuse the signature pink granite shoreline. 

Basalt, Granite and Urchin

Another aspect of Schoodic Point is the geologic evidence of volcanic activity in the veins of ancient upthrust magma, known as basalt dikes. Follow this link to more studies of them from this outing, along with a recent batch of miscellaneous uploads from around the region.

Eastern View from Bernard Mtn.

Topping off the treks around Acadia was bagging the last high point left for me in the area, this one over on the Western Mountain side of Mount Desert Island, specifically Bernard Mtn. At 1,071' it's the sixth-highest in the Park, and normally considered "viewless" there are a couple vantage points off-trail. It affords one a different perspective on the comparatively higher-visited cluster over on the Eastern half of the island, and gave me a feeling of quiet satisfaction in knowing that I literally have boots-on-the-ground, intimate experience with virtually all points within sight of any given view in the Park.

That said, this was definitely by far the dumbest trip I ever took (well, over the last year) - due to what is by many accounts is the worst buildup of ice on most of the trails in Acadia within recent memory. A convergence of factors such as almost no snowfall coupled with warm days and night temperatures falling into the single digits have birthed a freeze/thaw cycle which might be perfect for maple-syrup tapping, but also creates conditions for both spectacular and intimidating overflows. Just last week I wound up bailing out on an attempt of another, smaller hike, where Bird-Dog and I climbed for about half an hour before bowing to prudence and retreating in the face of constant glaciers of thick ice sheets obscuring the route. Even the previously safe zones of snow were now treacherously glazed with a slick crust, which previously offered a little oasis amidst jumping from root to rock. This is normally dealable by bushwhacking and trying to parallel the trail, which is sometimes tricky since that also means not being in the line-of-sight for the blue blazes on treetrunks, which entailed many a time spent backtracking to try to recover the route. Though one can’t really stay lost for long anywhere in Acadia given the larding of civilization, many folks still manage to lose their way, necessitating the intervention of Park Safety Rangers, and occasionally EMT personnel for evacuations.

About 2/3's into this hike (approx. 4 miles) I ran into trouble with one particular stretch where the topography conspired to prevent me from any possible advance. It took some meticulous and strategic plotting and quite a bit of time striking out on a perpendicular route to find a safer way down the side of the mountain, and then angling back to reconnect with the original trail. This after at least a quarter-mile of Tarzan-ing hand-to-hand from tree to tree, with innumerable slips-ups along the way. I clearly remember the number of times (three) I actually wiped out completely, as slamming onto the ice tends to stick out in memory. Lucky, and stupid, and it's time to hang up the hiking boots for the season. While Mr. Alaskan Outdoorsman typically has a disdain for established trails, as it tends to detract from the moment and being consciously engaged with where you're at, the level of sustained focus required by the constant monitoring of each individual foot placement meant I spent the duration of the trip thoroughly in the Eternal Now. And tomorrow morning, after all these scratches and bruises flower overnight, I'll have a zen-like flashback into the Eternal Ow.

All told the trip took three hours, as in ideal trail conditions I tend to average 1.5 mph, which takes into account plenty of breaks and photographic interludes. Forecasted to reach the upper 40’s, the crisp, clear morning was only 26 when I started out. Reaching the trailhead by 9:30, it only took about a half an hour to start stripping down: first losing the hat, gloves, and windbreaker and then one of two fleece layers. The formerly flaccid backpack started to swell up with the additions to the camera, map, water, foodbars and miscellany. Not to mention the inner-tube of from a roll of toilet paper serving as a makeshift notepad.
Besides birds, the only other denizens who left signs of passing were deer and coyote, whose tracks crisscrossed the trail when and where there was snow. Otherwise it was another peaceful excursion and a much-needed break for solitude and reflection on all the excellent adventures I've had so far over the previous year here. An extra-special hat-tip to "Hiking in Maine with Kelley," which has been my favorite blog to follow during our residency here, as the author and his dog have documented all of the places I've had the good fortune to visit, and inspired me to dream of seeing many more.

Icefall: Great Notch Trail (Bernard Mtn.)

No comments:

Post a Comment