I haven’t been blogging in a while but this is one such weekend I can’t afford not to write about. I wouldn’t be able to live with that.
The seed for the whole plan was a casual call while I was driving back from Edison.
Linda: What’s up?
I: Nothing much. The usual. Just being awesome!
L: Hey, I’m feeling bad I didn’t get to climb that mountain when I was there. (She was talking about Mt.Washington)
I: Oh, what’s the big deal. Just come over a weekend. You are just a flight away across the country anyway. Let’s do it.
L: Oh cool, I’m booking tickets.
After about a couple months and a postponed date, here we are, on a Friday evening in Boston, I after a four hour drive from NJ and she after a flight across the country.
Although the original plan was just about climbing Mt.Washington in New Hampshire, I added Mt.Katahdin to the plan. They are about a 5 hour drive apart, both of them strenuous climbs. As any sane person would, we planned to climb Mt.Washington on Saturday, drive around NH and Maine and kill time on Sunday, re-energize and climb the Katahdin on Monday. Sounds pretty good on paper. But plans usually aren’t really plans if you don’t have to replan. Weather sometimes can be such a party pooper.
Protip: http://www.mountain-forecast.com/ is very handy while planning your climbs.
Mt.Washington and Mt.Katahdin are beautiful distant cousins. They usually have similar weather patterns (although Mt.Washington winds can be crazier) due to their altitude and proximity to certain wind patterns of the north eastern US. Scattered thunderstorms on the menu. Not very ideal considering a major part of the climb is going to be very exposed. It usually is that way when you go up the mountains standing tall above 5000 feet. There is no way we can risk being up there on Saturday. That would mean we have to climb them up on consecutive days. Bring it on!
Acadia National Park and the state of Maine. That’s been on the list like forever. A national park on the famed, rugged, rocky coastline of Maine. After a pit stop for the night at Portland and a considerable time spent shopping for a few essential hiking gears, we were on our way. The best thing about this drive for me was that I can sit back and enjoy the surreal New England lakes and wildflowers pass by the window frames, while the Beatles play to my demand, while she has the gas pedal all to herself all the time, thanks to her shiny new driver’s license (finally!).
Acadia is a relatively smaller park compared to other National parks I’ve been. But that is not to assume a dearth of activities. We, due to lack of time, picked up the 27 mile loop to do for the day, which is the recommended itinerary to experience as much of the park you can in a shorter time.
The thing with driving around in a national park is that after a little while you realize it would be such an awful shame if you don’t roll up your sleeves and pull up your socks and go muddy your hands and wet your shoes. We parked the car by a random trailhead on the loop and went on to the trail checking out some creek. I would be more than happy to take it light today considering the upcoming hikes for next 2 days.
After hopping over a few rocks and felled trees, making intellectual conversations over what does one do when a bear shows up and where did all the waters that were supposed to be in the creek go, quite a lot of pictures and a few detours later, we were back to car.
Few miles beyond in the 27 mile loop comes the sand beach (Seriously?! Whoever thought that sand beach is an ingenious way to name a beach!). East coast beaches aren’t really the best of the lot, especially after you’ve seen few tropical island beaches, Miami and California, but hey, it’s a beach nevertheless and who doesn’t love them? Especially during the north eastern summer. We contemplated a little if we should go for a dip but time was a luxury we didn’t really have (and apparently the waters weren’t ferocious enough for her :-/).
We were looking around for hiking trails, supposed to be here by the beach and praise the heavens, we came across the plaque describing the beehive trail.
Not much of the trail description registered in our mind except the highlights, just what we wanted to hear –
Fear of heights
Hell yea, we will have one of those!
The trail head was at the other side of the loop-road at the bottom of the mountain overlooking the beach.
The usual deterrent – dangerous, exposed, death, yada yada yada..
I hate spoilers!
A little further up the trail –
Mid way up the trail –
A larger part of the climb had these iron rungs to pull yourself up vertically. Not a harder climb as such, you just must not have any fear of heights or butter fingers. It’s mostly a cake walk otherwise. I was soaked in sweat though.
There of course is the risk factor – what if you miss a step on a railing or the twig you were holding on to, snapped. But hey, then you don’t get to sit at a place like this and ponder about life (or not).
Up and up we went until we hit this –
Some moments in life just stay frozen in mind. Doesn’t matter how hard life gives it to you, you can always go back to such moments and may be feel the winds ruffle your hair or smell the salty humid air of the rocky coastline, perhaps relive the times on top of the mountain – catching your breath on a rock with a shirt soaked up in sweat and hands muddy and callused, feel the sun tan you, listen to the silence of the solitude broken only by the squawking sea gulls. Those moments live and die with you. They redefine you. You aren’t the same person any more when you descend down. Nothing or no one can take those moments from you.
After soaking in the panoramic views and a few photographs, extremely glad and surprised stumbling upon this trail by chance, we started our descent via the bowl trail. We would have loved to take the same trail back but it is recommended not to, so as to not be a trouble to those who are climbing up the trail. The best thing I enjoy about a hike is not the difficult climb but the rewarding time at the summit and the absolute cakewalk of a descent compared to the ascent. On hindsight though it’s the difficult climb that spices them up.
The ‘bowl’ of the bowl trail (swimming is permitted if leeches don’t bother you)
It was a pretty quicker descent. I was so glad I didn’t throw the left over pizza from lunch (though I was strongly advised so). It did taste bad during lunch (which is why it was left over), but now it was one of those times your body starves for carbs and you feel like hunting a moose in the woods. Under the circumstances, I had to settle for left over pizza.
Not much daylight left. There were a few more attractions in the loop we had to rush through, before it got dark and we hit the interstate.
Like I said, do not assume a dearth of activities in Acadia. I’m sure I’m going to come back here on some long weekend and give Acadia the time she deserves. You can walk the shores and watch the waves carve up the coastline, climb up the summits and take a good hard look at the trivial human life from up above and laugh about it or sit and watch the setting sun paint the big canvas of a lake.
We have about a 3 hour drive to the town of Millinocket for staying the night. Baxter state park is about an hour drive further north. To climb the Mt.Katahdin. The parking spaces for the trail head are limited. Reservations get filled up months before. Our only hope was the first come first serve spots that usually opens up at 6 in the morning. After an unexpected delay at the Thai place and some shopping for hiking needs at Walmart, it was already 1 AM by the time we checked in. The reception guy advised us that we are supposed to leave the hotel latest by 6 in the morning if we had to have any hopes of getting a permit.
That’s not really what you want to hear when you go to sleep at 1 AM after a long day.
God speed! (To myself)
To be continued..