Summer is definitely peak season, but don’t be fooled into thinking there will not be crowds in Acadia in fall. Fall is a great time to visit Acadia and I think lots of people have learned that. The weather is perfect for hiking and biking, the park buses are still running and the foliage is starting to change. The cruise ships start making their fall foliage cruises to Maine with frequent stops in Bar Harbor. This past week there were numerous ships in port. This brings crowds to Bar Harbor and Acadia national park. On Thursday we heard there were going to be 3 cruise ships in port and we decided we were going to stay clear of the entire area.
We packed up a picnic lunch and headed down the coast on route 1. Our first stop was at West Quoddy Head State Park. This is one of my favorite parks in Maine and one of my favorite lighthouses. What I love about this park is that in addition to a beautiful lighthouse and visitors center the park is situated on over 500 acres with 5 miles of hiking trails. The paths along the shore are fine with excellent views of the rugged rocky coast. My favorite hike is a 1 mile roundtrip inland hike that brings you to a heath with some unusual plants. I cannot make a trip to this park without doing this hike to see the carnivorous pitcher plants and sundew plants.
We had a late start to the day so we were limited on time for road side stops. We headed back up route 1 and made a quick stop at the pull out for the 45th parallel. There is a engraved rock marking the area and a sign explaining how they determine the latitude. This was a 5 minute stop with a chance for a photo and time to stretch our legs. The next stop was a drive out to Eastport, Maine. Unfortunately we did not have time for another hike today but instead took a quick trip down to a small rocky beach to look for sand dollars. Our timing was off and the tide had already come in and there were no sand dollars to be found. We did find tons of sea urchins washed ashore with a few being whole but not inhabited. We have visited this beach several times at lower water and have found upwards of 50 sand dollars per visit. You might get lucky and find some nice pieces of sea glass too. Eastport is a small town but definitely worth a longer visit if you are staying in the area. The downtown is quaint with several small stores and restaurants. There is a huge statue of a viking looking man holding a fish in the middle of town. The statue was originally a prop for the Fox reality show Murder in Small Town X. The statue has become a tourist attraction itself, and a kitschy roadside attraction to take your picture with.
We completed the road trip loop by driving up to Calais and headed west on route 9, a.k.a. “the airline”. This a nice paved road that quickly brings you back to Bangor. The Machias River Corridor Public Reserve Land is located on this route. There is a free public reserve camping area that is quite nice. There are a few sites suitable for a small camper, a lean-to and some tent sites. We checked this out last year and thought it might be a nice place to tent camp. The last stop of the day was at the Whaleback scenic pullout (not marked) about 10 miles west of the junction with 193. The turnout is small and on the right hand side of the road when you are heading west. If you have a Maine Gazetteer (highly recommended if you are traveling in Maine) this area is listed as an interesting geologic feature. The Whaleback is an alluvial ridge that was created by the last glacier. The view from the pullout is across a glacial plain.
We turned south on to route 179 about 20 miles east of Bangor, this road although winding is shorter than going to Bangor and coming down 1A back to Ellsworth. There are some very scenic lookouts along this route that look down to Graham Lake and across to mountains
This is just a short sampling of sites and adventures that lie within a 2 hour drive of Acadia. A future blog will focus on some hikes that lie outside of the park in the area known as “downeast”.