Mount Desert Island & Acadia National Park

As if we hadn't traveled enough in 2013, we still had two more trips planned.  One was the annual holiday trip to see our families up north, and the other was a week vacation on Mount Desert Island just off the coast of Maine thanks to AKUM. As most of Katie's side of the family knows, Aunt Kyle and Unlce Mike sign off as AKUM. Perhaps Katie and I will be AKUB or UBAK someday. Not sure which sounds better...

So, in August of 2013 we flew into Manchester, NH and rented a sweet Chevy Malibu so we could cruise up to MDI, and then come down and spend the last weekend with my parents in Rindge. We could definitely feel the "Heartbeat of America" in the Malibu...or perhaps it was the transmission failing at 20K miles. I'm not passing judgement just yet. The Forester has the old clunky 4 speed Subaru AT, so hopefully it was just an abused rental car and not the pinnacle of "An American Revolution".

We left Florida early in the morning, had our rental in Manchester by 1pm, stopped at Market Basket for a chicken parm sub - careful, of course not to get any on the seats of the Malibu - and made the 4 hour drive to MDI. MDI is the abbreviation for Mount Desert Island incase that hasn't been clear. It's much easier to just say MDI.

Going back to the chicken parm sub at Market Basket for a second... We didn't know that Market Basket had a prepared food section like we're used to at Publix. Now, everyone who knows Publix is aware that Pub-Subs are amazing, and the chicken tender sub is of particular gut bustingly glorious noteriety.  So, having grown up with Market Basket I wanted to see how well they stacked up to Publix. The problem with the comparison was that I would be comparing a chicken parmesan sub from Market Basket to a chicken tender sub from Publix, knowing that the best chicken parmesan subs are from Pizza Haven back in Rindge. It was unfair to begin with, but with how hungry we were it didn't matter. The surprising factor was the deli service. It was the guy's first week on the job and what he lacked in experience he made up for in personality. He didn't know what cheese went on the sub, and took a little heat from his supervisor for it, but quickly recovered by saying something like they're cheese afficionados and like to get creative. I can't remember exactly what it was but Katie was amused and I'm pretty sure he gave us a discount on it too, so how could anyone be upset? It wasn't the best chicken parm, but then again I already knew that!

One of my favorite things about returning to New England is that the GPS gets put away. Unless the whole area was rebuilt in the last eight or nine years I know where I'm going. So, once we realized we had XM Radio in the 'Bu we were able throw on some Classic Rewind, then just lay back and cruise.

When we finally arrived at the Szymanski Cottage everyone except Uncle Bob was there waiting for us - he was due to arrive the next day anyway. There's nothing more refreshing than coming from the heat of August in Florida to a cool Maine late summer night. Putting on a sweatshirt in the upper 50s is easy when you're used to nothing lower than 75. I remember days back in college when I'd be out washing my car in shorts in the upper 50s. Snow would still have been on the ground too. The cool sea air was nothing short of delightfully refreshing. I hoped that this would be the trip that Katie would fall in love with parts of New England the way I remembered them...and I think she did!

To me, the most exciting part of MDI is that it's home to Acadia National Park and Cadillac Mountain - the highest point on the east coast, and the first place in the United States to see the sun rise. Other people love the town of Bar Harbor (typically pronounced Bah Ha-bah. If you're Katie it's BAAA HAAA BAAA as loud as you can). So, the day after we arrived we had some time to kill before Bob came, so we all decided to hike up Mount Acadia. At 681 feet above sea level, Mount Acadia gives a great view of Somes Sound.

Somes Sound from Atop Mount Acadia

The Mount Acadia hike is fairly moderate in terms of difficulty, but compared to the 930 foot non-technical ascent up The Precipice Trail it's just a stroll. The Precipice Trail is labeled a non-technical climb because it requires the use of iron ladders and guide rails that are anchored into the rock, as opposed to a technical climb with rope and harness. At times there are mostly vertical sections up slippery granite rock faces without anything but an iron rod to grasp. There are many places one could easily fall, so it should not be attempted by the faint of heart, or those who aren't physically confident in their abilities. Naturally, Mike, Bob and I had to do it.

Yep, that's the trail!

Gettin' a workout!

But the view at the top is amazing!

The Precipice Trail is the quick way up Mount Champlain. There are a few easier ways to get up there, but Precipice Trail is a unique and exciting way to do it. Another non-technical climb that can also put you atop Champlain is the Beehive Trail. The Beehive is a 520 foot mountain near Sand Beach. It offers great views of Sand Beach, Mount Dorr, and Cadillac Mountain. Katie, Bob and I did the Beehive trail later in the week and had a blast! I tried to take a GoPro video of the hike, but the camera kept overheating and locking up. I have since rectified the problem and we should have some awesome video of the upcoming trip.

Katie climbing the Beehive with her camera.

At the top of the Beehive.

Bob, Katie and I eventually met up with the rest of the crew and hiked the rest of the way up Champlain - again :) From atop Champlain the Jackson Lab and Bar Harbor are clearly visible to the north. Perhaps the Jackson Lab would be a good place for a biochemist with an affinity for the outdoors to get a job once he gets back from traveling the country!

Bar Harbor from atop Champlain.

The Jackson Lab from atop Champlain.

There's nothing more refreshing than a chilly dip in the ocean at Sand Beach after climbing around mountains all day! (I have a few pictures to go here, but I want to get permission from the others in them before I post.)

I love parks with mountains and the ocean - my two happy places in close proximity.  Before wrapping up the Maine portion of the trip and heading back to Rindge, Katie and I took a trip around the park to hit a few of the more popular spots. We took a stroll down the Ocean Path towards Thunder Hole, but the fog was dense and the tide was out and we didn't feel like waiting around. Thanks to technology, we were able to pull up a YouTube video of Thunder Hole in action. From there we headed around the Park Loop road towards Cadillac Mountain.

Fog set in around the Ocean Path & Thunder Hole

Porcupine Islands and Bar Harbor from atop Cadillac Mountain

As to be expected, Cadillac Mountain was a tourist hot spot and there were people everywhere disregarding signs and ranger requests to stay off sensitive areas. One thing that always boils my blood when traveling around pristine natural areas is seeing people insensitive to and unaware of the impact of their presence. "Screw that bush, I'll just stand on it. I need this photo so everyone knows I was here!" I'm not trying to show self-righteousness, as I'm not as environmentally friendly as I'd like to be, but there's a difference between engaging in blatant disregard for nature and consciencious use - an attempt to not contribute to the depletion of the natural beauty. As much as I'd like to do the entire Lyons In The Wild trip on foot or by bicycle, eating only foraged food, I'm unfortunately not quite there...yet.

We found a little refuge from the philistines on the Wonderland Trail on the west side of MDI. A quiet nature trail wound through forest on its way to the rocky shore. Photo opportunities aplenty - check out some of Katie's awesome shots!

As Katie took this shot I took a shot of her

Overall, this was a great introduction to Maine for Katie. The contrasting beauty between Florida's sandy beaches and Maine's rocky shoreline is something that pictures alone don't do justice. It has to be experienced in the flesh! Get out to Acadia National Park and enjoy the chill in the air, the amazing hiking, biking, and sights of Mount Desert Island, a Lobstah Roll in Bah Habah and everything else Mother Nature has to offer!


  1. I'm so excited to follow your adventures. Maine officially on my life bucket list.


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