Monday, January 22, 2007

The Margaret Todd, Bar Harbor, Maine

More info on photo

Walking around Bar Harbor Villiage

Most people who come to visit Acadia National Park end up spending some time in Bar Harbor. Of the villages on the island, Bar Harbor has the widest selection of restaurants and lodging. Most visitors spend their time in the shops and restaurants on Main and Cottage Streets. But if you have some time, a walk around the village can be quite pleasant. Here is a route to follow and some items about the history of Bar Harbor.

Start your walk at Agamont Park, at the corner of Main and West Streets. This park was redone in the very recent past. It has new plantings and benches with wonderful water views. Lobster boats bounce on their moorings. You may notice the Margaret Todd, our four-masted excursion schooner. You will see the Bar Harbor beach, such as it is. There is sand there, but it isn't all that extensive or impressive. Nevertheless, one does occasionally see people sun bathing and wading when the weather permits. You might also catch the kayak outfitters using this beach to launch a paddling excursion or to take the kayaks out after a tour. There is always lots of activity in the harbor. Perhaps this will be a good place to just sit and watch the world go by for a while after you finish your stroll through town.

Just beyond the beach is the Municipal Pier which looks a bit like a parking lot in the summer. It was on this pier that the town folk of Bar Harbor huddled on that infamous night in October of 1947 when the wild fire raged and burned a huge swath through our side of the island. The roads off the island had been cut off by the spreading fire. The only hope was to leave by boat but the wind was so strong that the boat option wasn't all that feasible. Luckily, the wind changed direction after burning the western edge of the town. The flames moved to the south, burned Jackson Laboratory, with all its mice, to the ground and then burned out to sea at Great Head near Sand Beach in Acadia National Park. The fire ball went well out to sea.

After the town beach and pier, continue your walk by heading down West Street. Here you will see our latest oceanfront luxury hotel site, still somewhat under construction. Just beyond that is the historic Bar Harbor Club, now restored after decades of neglect. In its heyday, it was a private tennis and swimming club for the wealthy summer families. Further on down West Street you will see some of the summer mansions (what in earlier days were called cottages), a few of which have been turned into Bed and Breakfast inns.

When you come to Bridge Street be sure to look to your right and note if it happens to be low tide, which exposes the sand bar over to Bar Island. It's a pleasant walk over this sand and gravel bar. You only have to get halfway across before a wonderful view back to the mountains of the island appears. If you want to hike across to Bar Island, you will find a path along the length of the island which ends in a high spot that overlooks the village of Bar Harbor. If you intend to do that, be sure you check the tide table before you leave home. We don't want anyone stranded over on Bar Island for hours waiting for the next low tide. The bar will be exposed for three to four hours around the time of low tide.

At the very end of West Street, on your left is a large red-brick mansion, La Rochelle. It is now the home of the Seacoast Mission, which attends to the spiritual and physical needs of the people on the islands along the coast of Maine. Note the beautiful slate roof which was replaced a few years ago after the original slate did 100 years of duty. Just before you get to the brick Seacoast Mission, you will come upon Holland Avenue. Take a left there and walk the two blocks to Mount Desert Street. You will pass one of the village's hardware stores which carries a little bit of everything to keep the island going through all seasons.

On the corner of Mount Desert and Holland streets you will see the Primrose Inn, painted in shades of green with red trim. If you look across Mount Desert Street you see The Holbrook House. To the left of that inn is a street named Spring Street. Head down Spring Street, which is quiet and residential. In about two blocks you will come to Waldron Street which goes only to the left. Take that and walk past the wading pool, which is our ice skating rink in the winter. Take a right on the very first street you come to, Glen Mary Road, and then a left on Park Street.

Continuing on Park Street you will cross Ledgelawn Avenue which is famous in town as the street to go trick or treating at Halloween. The houses decorate and stock enough candy to give to every little kid on the island. Real estate agents actually warn new residents of Ledgelawn that the cost of Halloween candy must be figured into annual expenses.

Once past Ledgelawn, still on Park Street, you will see our three million dollar YMCA on your left. In the winter of 1993, the roof collapsed into the swimming pool of the old Y. That building stood on Mount Desert Street; it has since been remodeled and rebuilt to house the Abbe Museum. The consultants said that tiny Bar Harbor would never be able to raise the money to build a three million dollar YMCA. They were wrong. If you go inside, you will see a long wall of tiles with the names of the donors who helped in the effort. The big fish on the tile wall represent a $3000 donation, the small fish were $1000, and the border tiles were $300. It's impressive to see just how many people contributed. It also should be noted that Stephen and Tabitha King, our neighbors in Bangor, contributed substantially in the early going to help things along. The Y has a swimming pool, a gym with a walking balcony around the top, an exercise room on the second floor, a pool table room, plus offices and meetings rooms. It also has bathrooms available to the public just to the left of the front door. The exercise facilities of the YMCA are available to visitors for a small day charge.

Across Park Street from the Y is the Athletic Field. There is a softball diamond and tennis courts. This is the site where the July 4th parade is staged. Before the parade a blueberry pancake breakfast is offered here and after the parade the field is the site of a huge lobster feed. Oil drums are used as the steamers. The bright red lobsters come to the tables by the laundry basket-full. It's an impressive sight. I'm continually amazed that, at the height of the tourist season, Bar Harbor always manages to pull off an old-fashioned July 4th celebration that has a very small town feel right down to the youngsters with their decorated tricycles.

Still continuing on Park Street, you will cross Main Street. The village center will be to your left and the road to Jackson Lab, Otter Creek, and Seal Harbor will be to your right. On the other side of Main Street you will soon come to Snow Street on your left. Take that for its total length of one block and you will come to Wayman Lane. Our hospital is to your left on Wayman Lane, but turn right and head on down to the water and The Shore Path.

This gravel path hugs the rocky shore for about a half mile. In the bay you will first see the Porcupine Islands -- you can see the porcupine's snout pointing into the ocean to the right with the pine tree quills marching up the porcupine's back to your left. You might also see the breakwater if it isn't high tide. That breakwater was never really properly finished and has always been topped and flooded by high tide.

To your left you will see some of the cottages from the old days. There are old-timey post cards that show ladies in long dresses with their sun umbrellas walking along this very path. At the turn in the path there once stood a fairly massive round stone tower. Once past that turn, you will see the harbor with lobster boats and sail boats at moorage. Some days you will also see one or more massive cruise ships at anchor in the harbor with the little tender boats ferrying passengers to and from the ship. Even the QE2 and the Queen Mary come to Bar Harbor.

You won't be able to miss Balance Rock---a huge whitish rock sitting near the shore. It is a glacial erratic, as is Bubble Rock in the Park. The stone is not native to the island but rather was tumbled along by the last glacier and then left here when the ice receded. My favorite thing is to watch the tourists take a picture of their youngsters posing as if they could tumble the rock back into the ocean. It's always tempting to call out "Push harder. You can do it!"

After Balance Rock you will see the extensive Bar Harbor Inn on your left. Keep walking past this and you will soon see the Margaret Todd again and Agamont Park with its beckoning benches for your well-deserved rest. This circular walk through town can't be much more than two miles long. It might not be a bad idea to take along your copy of the Chamber of Commerce's guide.

Bar Harbor Weather and When to Visit

Insider tips: Due to the ocean this area seems to have an extended fall and a late starting spring. Fall can be the best time to visit if you don't have to worry about school schedules because there are less tourists and you get to see the beautiful foilage. Probably the worst time to visit is during Black Fly season which runs approximately mid-May to mid-June depending on the spring weather. Global warming seems to have increased the rainfall of the east coast in the past few years.

Most people visit Bar Harbor during the summertime. Not only is summer the best season in terms of average temperatures, but it’s also the time of year when most of the activities in Bar Harbor take place.

Summer days in Bar Harbor are usually have an average in the upper 70s or low 80s (Fahrenheit), but the nights can be pretty chilly and the temperature can fall into the 50s (Fahrenheit). It’s possible for the daily temperature to be lower than 70 degrees, so tourists should come prepared with the proper clothing. Bar Harbor can get frequent rain storms in the summertime, so rain gear is a necessity.

The fall in Bar Harbor is a bit cooler than the summer with the average daily temperature around 70 degrees (Fahrenheit) and the average nightly temperature around 40 degrees (Fahrenheit). The wind can also be chilly as it comes off the water, so a warm and waterproof jacket is a must – due to the fact that it might rain. Fall weather brings wonderful changing colors of foliage, so this is a popular time of year to visit and see Bar Harbor’s unique beauty.

The springtime in the Bar Harbor area is often rainy and cool. However, the rain encourages all of the trees to start growing new leaves and the flowers to start blooming. Also, birds who are residents of Bar Harbor begin to return at this time of year.

The winter in Bar Harbor, which lasts from December through Early March, is not always very pleasant. Because the average daily temperature is right around 30 degrees (Fahrenheit), freezing rain can occur. This is the least popular time to travel to the area as a tourist.

Acadia Jewels: The Carriage Roads

The carriage road system is unique among our national parks. Conceived by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., it was built under his direction (and with his money) between 1913 and 1940,

According to the system's principal historian, Anne Rockefeller Roberts (see Recommended Reading in the Bar Harbor pages), the system comprised 57 miles of roads. Current estimates vary, but the system today consistes of approximately 51 miles of interconnecting roads, of which about 45 miles occur within the boundaries of the park.

Rockefeller built the roads partly to provide himself and his friends a scenic transportation system free of the interference of the automobile (autos became legal in the Bar Harbor area in 1913 and island-wide in 1915). Because of this, the roads were designed to allow horses and their riders or carriages to easily ascend the hills, ridges, and lower slopes of the island's mountains. As a result, the roads are also well suited to walking, cycling, and cross-country skiing. Rockefeller strongly believed that the natural landscape shoud be protected, but at the same time it should be made available to people (this viewpoint, incidentally, occasionally put him in conflict with some of the other pioneers in the development of Acadia National Park). Thus, the twists and turns of the roads and the approaches to the bridges were designed---within the constraints of topography and being horse-friendly---to provide scenic vistas. In his dedication to this (according to Anne R. Roberts), he was not at all bashful about personally moving the stakes defining a proposed route in order to improve the view.

Today, the system is maintained much as Rockefeller would have wanted. No motorized vehicles are allowed. Horses are allowed on all roads except for the With Hole and Eagle Lake loops. Bicycles are not allowed on the roads of the private lands in the southern part of the system. In winter, some stretches of the system are groomed for cross-country skiing. The system also serves as access to many of the hiking trails of the park. Thanks to the efforts of Friends of Acadia ( ) and many benefactors, the carriage roads---and the hiking trails---of the park are now endowed, thus guaranteeing their maintenance. This, if not unique, is also unusual in the national park system.

Acadia National Park: Hiking

The hikes described here are not the most challenging nor the longest that one can take in Acadia National Park. They are ones that to me offer changing and beautiful scenery, interesting habitats, and diverse landforms.

Some advice. Do not attempt these hikes in sneakers or boat shoes. Good-quality hiking boots are a must because there are streches on nearly all but the easiest trails that are steep, rocky, or have numerous exposed roots. Take along lots of water and some sort of energy source. How about carrying (and using) an adjustable walking stick. Also, in planning and making any hike, good trail guides/maps are essential. Try A Walk in the Park by Tom St. Germaine, available at bookstores and outdoor shops on the island; and the Map Adventures LLC, map of Acadia National Park, also available on the island or at . Tip: use the first for planning and reading some of the details of the route and carry the second with you.

Penobscot Mountain Last year, the park reopened the original Penobscot trail that ascends the south ridge. This trail is a significant improvement on what had been the south ridge approach (now titled the Spring Trail); it has a somewhat more gradual ascent and more spots where it is easy to stop and enjoy the view southward over Little Long Pond, Bracy Cove, and the Cranberry Island group. There are several ways to access the Penobscot Trail: the carriage road from Jordan Pond, an approximate one-mile walk; Asticou Trail, from Jordan Pond, about the same length and a lovely, easy trail to warm up on; or from near Asticou Inn at Northeast Harbor by taking Atsticou Trail from its other terminus, a slightly longer way and a greater workout.

Once on the exposed rock of Penobscot Mountain, this is not a hike to be pushed. Stop and enjoy the view, look back southward for the ever-changing perspective, look westward to the sheer bluffs of Sargent and Cedar Swamp mountains, and keep watch for your first glimpse of Jordan Pond House to the southeast.

At the summit, there are several alternatives, one of which (Deer Brook Trail) I do not recommend for any but the most masochistic. You can take a break, then head back down Penobscot Trail, with all of that great scenery ahead. Another option is to continue on to Sargent Pond---a lovely place to take a break---and then descend via the Sargent Mt. South Ridge Trail, staying with it or cutting off on the Amphitheatre Trail. Either route will take you back to the carriage roads.

If you are here when the Island Explorer shuttle system is operating (usually the last weekend in June trhough Columbus Day), you can take the Sargent South Ridge to Asticou Trail, that to Asticou Inn, and wait for the bus.

Hadlock Pond Loop This is a combination carriage road and trail hike, although the entire loop can be done via the carriage roads.

The loop is accessed from combined Rtes. 3 and 198 at Brown Mountain Gate, about 1.6 miles north of the end of 198 at Northeast Harbor. At the first carriage road intersection (#18) bear left and walk the road as it passes above Upper Hadlock Pond and crosses Hadlock Brook bridge. Shortly after that bridge, you'll see the trail marker for Hadlock Brook Trail. The trail will fork, the left fork going on as Maple Spring Trail, the right fork remaining Hadlock Brook Trail. As you near the upper crossing of the carriage road at Waterfall Bridge, you'll see an interesting feature of the design of the bridge. John D. Rockeller, Jr. specified that the arch of the bridge be oriented not parallel with the roadbed above, but rather at right angles to the brook and trail, so that hikers could have a clear view of the waterfall. Unfortunately, during the drier parts of our summer---July and August---most of the scant water coming down from the upper mountains, only trickles over and through rocks of the waterfall. If you are fortunate enough to be here in the spring, or right after a heavy storm, or in winter when it is frozen, it is a lovely sight.

Coming down after Waterfall Bridge, the choice is yours. To the left, the carriage road winds past another great bridge---Hemlock---then down a steep section of the road and back past the trailhead you took on the way up. To the right, the road descends more gradually and offers nice views of Norumbega Mountain to the west. At intersection #19, bear to right and you'll soon be back at Brown Mountain Gate.

Cadillac South Ridge This trail can be classed as "strenuous" or "moderate" depending on how one accesses it and whether one heads south (downslope) or north (upslope) on it. There are many ways to access it; instead of trying to list them all, on your hiking map, find the summit of Cadillac and then choose your alternative. Unfortunately, the Island Explorer does not run to the summit. One possibility is to have someone drop you off at the summit, take the trail down to Rte. 3 at Blackwoods campground, and then catch the Island Explorer back to Bar Harbor.

The south Rige trail is especially beautiful in the spring when the hardwoods below are in their flowering or early leafing stages, and in the autumn when the combination of the autumnal colors of the Rhodora and other vegetation on the slope and those of the forests all around can be stunning.

There are two unique features along this trail. The first, as you descend, is the Featherbed ("featherbed" is a colloquial term for a quaking bog). The Featherbed of Cadillac Mountain lies at the foot of a rather steep wall. It is heart-shaped, although in mid-summer when it is nearly dry, this maybe difficult to see (for how it looks when water-filled, go to the MDI Spring 2006, volume 2 album at the above photo link).

The other outstanding feature is Eagles Crag, which is reached on a spur of the main trail. The Crag offers an excellent panorama of the Otter Creek and Otter Cove area as well as the mountains and ocean to the east.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Acadia National Park - The First National Park East of the Mississippi River

People have been drawn to the rugged coast of Maine throughout history. Awed by its beauty and diversity, early 20th-century visionaries donated the land that became Acadia National Park. The park is home to many plants and animals, and the tallest mountain on the U.S. Atlantic coast. Today visitors come to Acadia to hike granite peaks, bike historic carriage roads, or relax and enjoy the scenery.

Balence Rock Inn

The town of Bar Harbor is the center of activity for the Mt. Desert Island and Acadia National Park area. Located on the northwestern corner of Mt. Desert Island, Bar Harbor is the island's largest town as well as the location of most of the island's restaurants and accommodations. From Bar Harbor, Acadia National Park and the rest of the island are easily accessible. Bar Harbor achieved international fame during the later half of the last century as the summer getaway of the country's wealthiest families. These families erected grand summer "cottages" in which the households and their entourages could escape the summer heat in the metropolitan areas of the Northeast. Today, some of those grand summer homes remain. Balance Rock Inn is one such summer "cottage" restored as a lovely inn.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Bar Harbor History

Abenaki Native Americans called the island Pemetic, meaning "sloping land." Here they fished, hunted and gathered berries. In 1604, French explorer Samuel de Champlain is believed to have run aground at Otter Point, where he met members of the tribe. He would name the island Isles des Monts Deserts, meaning "island of barren mountains" -- now called Mount Desert Island, the largest in Maine.

First settled in 1763 by Israel Higgens and John Thomas, the community was incorporated in 1796 as Eden, after Sir Richard Eden, an English statesman. Early industries included fishing, lumbering and shipbuilding. With the best soil on Mount Desert Island, it also developed agriculture. In the 1840s, its rugged maritime scenery attracted the Hudson River School and Luminism artists Thomas Cole, Frederick Church, William Hart and Fitz Hugh Lane. Inspired by their paintings, journalists, sportsmen and "rusticators" followed. Agamont House, the first hotel in Eden, was established in 1855 by Tobias Roberts. Birch Point, the first summer estate, was built in 1868 by Alpheus Hardy.

By 1880, there were 30 hotels, with tourists arriving by train and ferry to the Gilded Age resort that would rival Newport, Rhode Island. The rich and famous tried to outdo each other with entertaining and estates, often hiring Beatrix Farrand to design landscaping. A glimpse of their posh lifestyles was available from Shore Path, a walkway skirting waterfront lawns. Yachting, garden parties at the Pot & Kettle Club, and carriage rides up Cadillac Mountain were popular diversions. Others enjoyed horse-racing at Robin Hood Park-Morrell Park. President William Howard Taft played golf in 1910 at the Kebo Valley Golf Club. On March 3, 1918, Eden was changed to Bar Harbor, after Bar Island which protects the harbor. The name would become synonymous with elite wealth. It was the birthplace of vice-president Nelson Rockefeller.

In 1947, however, Maine experienced a severe drought. Sparks at a cranberry bog in Hull's Cove ignited a wildfire which would intensify over 10 days. Nearly half the eastern side of Mount Desert Island burned, including 67 palatial summer houses on Millionaires' Row. Five historic grand hotels were destroyed, in addition to 170 permanent homes. Over 10,000 acres (40 km²) of Acadia National Park were destroyed. Fortunately, the town's business district was spared, including Mount Desert Street, where several former summer homes within a National Historic District operate as inns.

Bar Harbor Maine

Resort community

Bar Harbor is a town in Hancock County.

The community was named for Bar Island, which protects the harbor

The latitude of Bar Harbor is 44.387N. The longitude is -68.204W. It is in the Eastern Standard time zone. Elevation is 443 feet.

The population, at the time of the 2000 census, was 4,820.

Bar Harbor is on Mount Desert Island.

Early industries included fishing and shipbuilding. During the Gilded Age, a popular resort for wealthy vacationers

Crime: The number of violent crimes recorded by the FBI in 2003 was 3. The number of murders and homicides was 0. The violent crime rate was 0.6 per 1,000 people.

Bar Harbor received national attention for a 1947 fire, which destroyed dozens of posh summer estates and 170 permanent homes.

Well-known residents have included:
· Nelson A. Rockefeller, governor of New York and U.S. vice president

Local festivals include:
· Bar Harbor Jazz Festival - Aug. 17-23, 2007
· Native American Festival - July 7, 2007