11 Sep - Isles of Maine Part 4 - climbing the Desert
On Saturday 8th, we did some serious trail walking. After an altercation with a grumpy, fat bus driver who said he did not go where we wanted to get off (he passed 50 yards away, but he would never consider walking further than from his bus to his front door) we made our way up the north ridge of Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak in the area. It was quite rough underfoot, but the scenery was great and we thoroughly enjoyed what was graded as a ‘moderate’ trail through woodland, with azalea-like undergrowth clinging to a vast granite bedrock. It was something of an anti-climax then, reaching the top after a couple of hours of climbing and seeing the whole archipelago of Maine’s offshore islands gradually unfolding in pristine natural surroundings, to find all those overweight tourists parked in their cars and buses and taking selfies. We wondered if the Cadillac company paid for the road, but I believe the name belongs to an early French explorer who obviously impressed enough of the locals to get an automobile, a mountain and a couple of towns named after him! Some say he was a bit of a rogue…
Looking down on Bar Harbor and the rest of Maine from most of the way up Cadillac Mountain
We descended via the south ridge, marked as ‘difficult’. As it happens, we found it slightly easier and enjoyed it even more, partly because you don’t need to turn around to look at the view when you are going downhill! Nonetheless, by the time we reached the bottom and the bus back to Bar Harbor, we’d been walking for five hours and my feet were starting to feel quite old!
Descending Cadillac Mountain
Actually, on Sunday morning neither of us felt nearly as weary as we thought we might, but after a gentle start to the day we eventually pushed into Bar Harbor for some retail therapy and a trip to a more conventional supermarket.
Looking south west from Cadillac Mountain
Julie’s birthday was on Tuesday, but the weather forecast was miserable, so we decided to make the most of the good weather on Monday and be prepared to spend Tuesday hunkered down onboard. We caught a bus or two down to the southeast side of Mount Desert and jumped off near Schooner Head to tackle the Beehive Trail. The guide book says this is the second most challenging trail in the Park and it was certainly very steep. In several places, they have placed metal rungs in the granite to help you climb – otherwise you would need some climbing skills and specialist equipment. But so long as you are reasonably fit and strong and don’t mind heights, this is a great trail and we thoroughly enjoyed our sandwiches and the fine views on the top – no bus tours here! The descent was much easier and we had a gentle stroll along the foreshore as far as Otter Creek before heading back into town. There, Julie had a very satisfactory hair appointment and then we went to the cinema.
Pausing (posh posing?) on a platform halfway up the Beehive Trail
This was another one of those slightly quirky joints (see St Augustine entry dated 26 May) with sofas, armchairs, a pizza joint and – really – an interval so that us oldies could take a comfort break. We watched ‘Crazy Rich Asians’: easy, watchable entertainment but hardly a classic. Afterwards we had pizza and a beer in a local hostelry. I’ve changed my mind recently on the whole subject of American beer. Previously, I have dismissed the oceans of Budweiser, Millers and Coors as so much coloured water and struggled to find a more flavoursome ale in a bottle in most bars. But since New York, the variety of beers on offer has grown exponentially and many places offer a bewildering selection of ‘craft beers’ which (and I’m not an expert on this by any means) have more than a passing resemblance to the beers we enjoy in England. Earlier in the weekend we stopped for refreshment at the Atlantic Beer Company, a smart little brewery in Bar Harbor offering tasting selections of 5 different ales for $10 under the splendid marketing line of ‘Save the Ales!’.
Julie’s birthday was spent onboard. It rained heavily and the winds blew, but we ate well, communicated with family and friends and I think she had a good day – I know that I’m exceedingly lucky to be married to such a lovely woman who has been my anchor for more than three decades and has made this latest adventure such a fantastic life experience. Happy Birthday, Jules XXX