Friday, May 25, 2012

Acadia Memorial Day Weekend Bash

After two consecutive fun packed weekends it was looking like the holiday weekend was going to be quiet.  We had no plans, it sounded like it was way too buggy to head back to the Whites and there was a bunch of yard work just waiting to be done.  The pool was open and the idea of kicking back for a few days really didn't seem like such a bad thing.  Then last Monday I got an email from Kim.  Their plans had changed and instead of a backpacking weekend in the Great Gulf they were joining a group headed to Acadia.  There were a couple of spots still available if we wanted to join.  OK, so much for yard work.  I could turn down many offers, but it's hard to resist a weekend in one of our favorite places in the world - particularly when we haven't been there in a couple of years.  We're in!

The week was a constant flurry of emails among the group of a dozen or so that were planning to go.  Christine had reserved two tent sites at Blackwoods campground in the park a few months ago, but by the time everyone had signed up we were past the limit of the 12 people maximum for two sites and other than RV sites that were non-reservable the campground was totally booked.  This called for a little last minute finagling.  By the time Friday rolled around Christine had successfully herded all the cats and the weekend logistics were fully planned - no small feat!  I decided to take a vacation day Friday so that we could head up early and get settled (and hopefully score an extra campsite).

The drive up on Friday was easy - no traffic the entire way.  It was dreary and foggy during the drive but the weekend forecast for Saturday and Sunday looked perfect.  With a lunch stop at Sylvia's in Ellsworth for a Maine crab roll and a Haddock sandwich (required Maine fare) we were at Blackwoods by mid afternoon.  We explained our situation and the rangers were wonderfully accommodating.  They not only gave us the extra RV site, they gave us three sites together in the perfect configuration.  We wound up using the two tent sites for sleeping and the RV site for the camp kitchen and "living room".  Everyone had signed up for providing group meals and it was basically a three day food orgy.  I've never had so many great meals on a camping trip in my life!  There was lots of great time hanging out in camp, sitting by the fire or heading down the shore path to the ocean (which was a 10 minute walk).  Between this relaxing we jammed in more activities that I have thought could fit in a two day stretch.

Foggy but beautiful - just another day in Acadia

Nat heading down the shore path on Friday afternoon

Guillemot floating below the cliffs between dives

The Saturday breakfast crew

Saturday - A CadiMeticJordPenobUbble Ramble

On Saturday most of the group went off to do a rambling hike that covered an interesting combination of mountains (without actually including a summit).  Several people wanted to hike the Jordan Cliff Trail which was the only cliff not closed for Peregrine nesting.  Some would get to that trail by parking at Jordan Pond House and walking the .5 miles to start of the trail.  We took a slightly more interesting route.  We drove over and spotted two cars at the Bubble parking area - our end destination for the day - and headed back to the campground to gather the rest of the group.  The Cadillac South Ridge Trail starts in Blackwoods and runs 4 miles to the summit of Cadillac.  We started out this way to begin the day.

The trailhead in the campground.  Very handy

The dangerous park loop road traverse to reach the ridge trail

Heading up into the steamy woods 

Regrouping at the Eagle Crag junction

As with most hikes in Acadia we were quickly out of the woods and on the open ledges.  The sun was trying to burn through the morning fog and clouds and it was incredibly steamy at the beginning.  Felt more like a day in August than May.  The views to the ocean began to open up and we all enjoyed the breezes on the walk up the ledges.

Heading up the Cadillac pink granite ledges

Geneva leading the pack

Pine sculpture

Lots of trailside spring blooms

Break time

At the three mile point we reached the Featherbed, a small tarn tucked into a cirque along the ridge.  We got another hiker to get a group photo before we split up and went our different routes.  Ma and Pa headed for Cadillac summit while the rest of the group headed off on the Pond Trail toward Jordan Pond.

Geneva stops to cool off

Distant ocean views

Watcha' got mom?

Cadillac summit in the clouds

Heading down to the Featherbed

The Featherbed

The group plans the rest of the day's missions

Dan, Karie, Ma, Jen, Me, Nat, Heath, Christine, Geneva, Pa, Kim, HuiYeng and Steve-O
(Photo courtesy Jen Gross and Random Hiker)

The descent down the Pond Trail was extremely steep and rocky.  With the rocks still damp from the morning fog things were a bit slick.  I had foolishly worn my old boots that are down to their last bit of tread and it was a bit of a skating trip going down.  We all made it to the bottom fine and headed out the rest of the way to Jordan Pond.

Lady Slippers along the trail

Starting the steep descent

Down, down, down

Following the brook

Fields of green

No Geneva!! Not the...

...mud puddle.  

We walked half way around the south shore of Jordan Pond and found a spot to sit on the rocks on the shore for lunch.  No matter how may times I'm in this place I'll never get tired of this view.

Marsh below the pond

Approaching the classic view

View from our lunch spot.

Perfect spot

Watcha' got Dan?

Rhodora along the shore

After lunch we all headed up to Jordan Pond house.  We've heard that some go there for afternoon tea and popovers.  We go there for post-hike popsicles!  Today it was even better as a mid-hike treat on a hot day. After the wonderful break the remaining group split once again.  Christine, Geneva and Karie had decided to take the nice walk on the Pond Loop Trail and I decided to join them as I didn't want to try my worn out boots on the Jordan Cliff Trail where the rest of the group headed.

Views from along the Pond Loop

"Hey, I see a dog in there!"

Views back to Jordan Pond House 

Profile of Jordan Cliffs

We had a pretty long wait while the others toiled on the cliffs.  Christine, Geneva and Karie hung out on the shore and I got bored and walked the Pond Loop to the South Bubble Trail.  It was a nice diversion and there were loads of wildflowers along the path.

South Bubble 

The beavers have been busy!  How's this still standing??

The Jordan Cliff Trail crew returns

A citation in the making...

The rest of the group said they'd all enjoyed the Cliff Trail (other than getting baked in the sun) and I found myself somewhat sorry I hadn't gone.  I definitely have to get back there on a return trip.  After a break everyone headed up the South Bubble trail to our final destination of the day.

Heading up South Bubble

Views over Eagle Lake to Frenchman's Bay

Jen ready to take on the next objective - Bubble Rock

Bubble Rock is a huge glacial erratic that has been perched at the edge of the cliff for several million years.  Today, however, was to be the last day.  We were taking that sucker on!!

This thing is going over the edge!!

Oh no, it got Steve-O!

And HuiYeng too!!!

After safely extracting the victims of the rock several people decided to take a different tack.  If you can't push it over, climb it!

Just a bit of a stretch

All together now...

Jummmmppppp Dan!!!

One last try for Jen while the group relaxes in the afternoon sun

Everyone finally decided to abandon Bubble Rock.  It will presumably be there for another million years (or until we come back next time better prepared).  We made a quick stop at the summit - the only one of the day - and then headed down to the cars and back to the campground.  We had managed to hit parts of Cadillac, Pemetic, Peneboscot, Jordan Cliffs and South Bubble (thus the interesting name of the hike).  When we returned the rest of the group was there and we enjoyed an evening of food, drink (just a little) and great company.

One peak bagged on the day.  Don't think anyone cared!

Relaxing by the fire before dinner

Sunday - Anemone Cave, Shore Path Hike and Rock Climbing Otter Cliffs

After everyone rolled out of their tents on Sunday morning and had another great (huge) breakfast we headed out for another jam packed day.  We once again did a car spot - this time at the Otter Cliffs parking lot - with Jen's car and the climbing gear.  We then headed out to check out the Anemone Cave.  This is a cave near the Schooner Head overlook that is accessible only at low tide.  The entrance is actually completely covered at high tide and they've stopped including it in the park literature since so many people have gotten stuck in it and had to be rescued over the years.  Our timing was perfect though, and we arrived about 30 minutes past low tide.  The cave is actually very easy to get to.  Heading down the trail from the overlook parking lot you just keep going down the rocks to the water line and you wind up at the cave entrance.

Heading down Schooner Head path

Above the cave

Heading into the cave

It's big in here!

Some of the group explored the high points around the perimeter of the cave and the rest explored the tide pools that are filled with all sorts of sea life including Sea Urchins and (what a surprise) Anemones.

Dan and Jen checking out the high point

Kim and Steve-O looking for secret passages

Nothing in here

Looking out of the cave to the ocean

Sea Urchins and Anemones

Cool stuff!

Nat exploring the pools

Uh, oh...

There were more cool tide pools outside the cave and we enjoyed checking them out along with the incredible ocean views.  HuiYeng made a startling discovery - it was shrimp mating season!  That's it - caves and pools closed until further notice.  Time to move on.

Schooner Head

Lots of cool tide pools

Barnacle sculpture


HuiYeng exploring

Oh no!  He's looking for his mate!!  Time to go...

The day's complications now began.  Arm and Arm Sr. said their goodbyes and headed off.  Pa took his car and headed off to spot it at Otter Cliffs with our lunch and then hike back to meet us midway on the Shore Path.  The rest of us divided into two cars and headed the one mile down the road to the other Schooner Head parking area.  When we got there we found the lot full and drove down to the end of the road (which was marked "authorized vehicles only" - a bad omen) and parked along the side.  When we walked back up the the parking area our other car was nowhere in sight and there was no cell signal.  After waiting 10 minutes or so we decided to hike down to Sand Beach and see what was going on.  When we got there we found the group from the other car waiting near the beach.  They had lost sight of our car and wound up driving to the Sand Beach lot and immediately finding a parking spot (which NEVER happens).  We packed up and headed out along Shore Path which is a beautiful (but generally crowded) walk along the coast between Sand Beach and Otter Cliffs.  Less than a quarter mile up we found Pa and Karie (who had been out for a bike ride) waiting for us on the side of the road.  The stars were certainly aligned in our favor to have us back together after all this confusion.

Great Head from Shore Path

Many blooms along the way

Otter Cliffs ahead

Classic Maine round stone beach

Old soldier

Climber on Otter Cliffs

Everyone back together for lunch

After a lunch break the climbing gear came out and we headed back to Otter Cliffs.  Jen is a climbing instructor and had offered to get everyone that wanted to on the rock.  She picked a 5.4 route named Summer Camp on the "Plaque Wall" (so named for the memorial plaque at the base of the wall).  She set up a top rope belay and Steve-O, Kim, HuiYeng and Nat took turns climbing the route.  This was Nat's first time climbing other than once in the rock gym and some of the others hadn't climbed in quite a while, but with Jen's great coaching, patience and encouragement everyone made it to the top - twice.  The rest of us hung out on the rocks watching the other and cheering them on and checking out the other climbers that were all over the cliffs on this beautiful afternoon.  Following are a few shots from each climb.  There are LOTS more in the full album (link at the end of this post).

Great Head and Sand Beach from Otter Cliffs

Jen and Kim doing recon

Checking out Summer Camp

Steve-O looking for another route?

Lots of other climbers on the cliffs

Find the Guillemot...

Climbing shoes Nat?  You really going to do this?

The rest of the group relaxes and looks on

Lines are set and Jen heads down

Who's first?

Last minute instructions

Lines are set, belay is ready - climb on!  Steve-O has first ascent.

Geneva is not impressed

Next victim?

One down - now Kim's turn.

Another success!

HuiYeng is next...

Reach for it

Up the stairs

Perfect rappel

Nat's going for it

Hard to find a hold

Perhaps a different angle

Is this a yoga pose?

Half way

Stretching for the top

Close enough for the first try!

In the mean time, on other parts of the cliffs...

Jen gives it a go from the tough angle

She was way too quick - I turned my back and she was on top

Now for a second attempt for everyone

Kim goes for a new line

Steve-O tries it too

Hey, what the !?!?!?!?

Nat's got it this time

Hey, she's got competition!

Made it to the top!  WooHoo!

He's still trying to make it up - Nat wins!

Geneva is still not impressed

It had been another great day and everyone was more than ready to head back to camp for more food and libations.  As the last shot of the day to complete the morning confusion we arrived back at my car to find a ticket on the windshield. It was a warning with a lovely note on the back from Ranger Ed pointing out that I should park in a parking lot and not on an unauthorized road.  Thanks Ranger Ed - this is the extra entry that I needed to take the lead in citation BINGO!

It was another great evening around the fire.  It was hard to believe that the weekend had goon by so quickly and that we were all headed home in the morning.  We did however plan one last event before departing...

The final campfire

Monday - Asticou Azalea Gardens

On Monday morning people began dispersing early.  We made one last breakfast and then broke camp and finalized our last plan.  For a number of years we've been talking about going to the Asticou gardens in Northeast Harbor.  There are two gardens here - Thuya Gardens (or Asticou Terraces) and Asticou Azalea Gardens.  We didn't want to take the entire morning, so we decided to do the Azalea gardens and save the other for a later trip.  Jen, Kim, HuiYeng, Steve-O, Christine, Nat and I all headed to the gardens while the rest of the group headed for home.  The gardens were simply amazing.  There is information on their history and more at

We spent the rest of the morning exploring the amazing blooms, beautiful ponds, streams and paths through the gardens.  It was really a great way to end the weekend and I wish the rest of the group could have joined us.  We had a few laughs along the way too.  Here's a small sample of gardens.  There are LOTS more pictures in the album (link at the end).

Amazing Azalea blooms!

Lots more than Azaleas

Like paradise

Sand garden

No Christine!!!

Stepping stone path

Ah, Steve-O-san

Old soul

Crown of blossoms

Sasquatch sighting!!

Why so sad Sasquatch?

We said our last goodbyes at the gardens.  The rest of the group headed to Bar Harbor for lunch and some creative citation work.  Nat and I headed for home.  It was just an incredible weekend from beginning to end.  Just slightly better than the planned weekend of yard work. ;)

Thanks to everyone for everything!  To Christine who organized this and made room for us at the last minute, to HuiYeng, Steve-O, Jen, Mountain Mama, Pa, Heath, Dan, Karie, Arm, Arm Sr. and Brett for great company and great fun and most of all to Kim for inviting us into the group again. (Oh, and I of course can't forget my new trail doggie pal Geneva!)  There were discussions of plans for this event again next year.  If it happens you can definitely count us in!!

 As we drove off of the island we passed these along the side of the road - perhaps my favorite image of Maine in summer.  We'll be back...

The weekend photo album is here:

The Asticou Gardens album is here: