Day 5 - Exploring Rockefeller's Carriage Trails
Roadboy's Travels © 2017
On Day 5 we left the busy park roads to pedal from Bar Harbor to Northeast Harbor (and our new hotel the Asticou Inn) using Acadia's famous 45 mile network of "carriage" trails.
John D. Rockefeller Jr. began building the carriage trails in 1913 with construction continuing for almost three decades. At is peak there were 300 skilled workman employed building the trails.
The trails afford close up views of the park's lakes and ponds and climb to some of the highest points on Mount Desert Island. The trails safely cross over the park's busy auto roads that encircle the park giving hikers, equestrians and bicycle riders a safer and more spectacular way to experience the park.
A Quiet Pond Along Eagle Lake
The View From Trail 36
(After a Climb to 1191 Feet)
As an architect I appreciate how the design of the trails carefully align with the natural contours of the hills while offering gentle slopes to enable their use by horse drawn carriages. The engineering of the trails delivered trails that are able to survive harsh Maine winters through the use of multiple layers of crushed granite supported by a nearly invisible series of stone culverts and drains. The trails are lined with guardrails of irregularly spaced giant granite boulders and include a series of elegant stone bridges (that are actually reinforced concrete bridges clad structures clad in stone). Each bridge is different and many are built with gentle curves where trials meet streams and ravines.
One of the Stone Bridges
A Scupper Drain Detail
Along the way we had snack stops where our hosts tempted us with a variety of fresh fruits, energy bars and chocolate. The route was perfectly timed for us to arrive at noon at the Jordan Pond House where we could enjoy a wonderful lunch at waters edge (complete with a chance to sample the local "popovers").
Our Host Tracey at a Snack Stop on the Way to Jordan Pond
From here we could choose a relatively flat 3 mile hike to the Asticou Inn or embark on a more challenging ride to the hotel involving a climb of 1191 feet. I opted for the longer bike ride. It rewarded me with sore legs and seemingly endless views along with lots and lots of wild blueberries. While a challenge, the ridgetop trail was clearly one of the highlights of my trip.
Of course the long ride up the mountain meant we had miles of wonderful downhill trial that eventually resulted in our arrival at the Asticou Inn.
The Asticou Inn at Northeast Harbor
Flowers at the Inn
The Asticou Inn built in 1883 is operated seasonally and survived the great fire of 1947. It offers 31 rooms in the main lodge (no two the same) as well and clay tennis courts a large heated swimming pool. If you are lucky enough to get a room facing the harbor (I was) the view is amazing. Happily, the rooms lack TV's or air conditioning (but lovely cool evening air is afforded just by opening the windows).
The View of Northeast Harbor From My Balcony
Day 6 - A Visit Little Cranberry Island
Day 6 was our only non-biking day. The weather forecast was for grey skies with a little rain. We met at the dock at northeast harbor and boarded the Elizabeth T for Little Cranberry Island. Along the way we passed the lighthouse at Bear Island before arriving at Islesford dock to clib aboard a lobster boat and chat with a veteran lobsterwoman and her crew.
(The Asticou Inn is the grey building off in the distance)
Lobstering 101 From Stephanie The Lobster Woman and Her Crew
(Note the old style wooden lobster trap)
Measuring The Catch
(Too small they go back, too big they go back)
We then walked to a gravel beach for a picnic lunch followed by time to visit island artisans. The highlight was Storyteller Pavilion built to showcase the work of island artist Ashley Bryan whose work includes art glass panels using colorful sea glass and marionettes made from driftwood and found objects.
Ashley Bryan's Lyrical Puppets
The walk across the island included a trip to the National Park Service Museum on the island and the time to swat losquitos and admire the many flowers blooming Isleford.
The Bees and Blooms
Kids, Mosquitos and Kids and Mosquitos
Isleford's Wharf Displaying the Effects of the Time and Sea
After a full day we boarded our boat back to Northeast with a short stop to retrieve a Lobster Trap to see how they work. The 3 section trap had 4 residents in its Kitchen, Pantry and Living Room. All were too small to keep and went back into the water.
The evening concluded with a farewell dinner and a private and performance by remarkable fiddler Gus La Casse and guitarist Peter Lindquist. The pair performed regional music and original compositions. What was a bit amazing to me was that Gus is just 16 years old.
Peter Lindquist and Gus La Casse
Tomorrow we pack up our belongings and take a final ride along the Carriage trails back to Bar Harbor where we meet the shuttle back to Bangor to begin the journey home.
Once again I offer my praise Vermont Bicycle and Walking Tours (VBT) for the creation of this incredible experience. Everything was paced perfectly and designed to provide and immersive look into the people and culture of Maine and scenery of Acadia.
This was my third trip with VBT and the first in the US. It was also my first VBT trip utilizing their new GPS based turn-by-turn mapping.
According to my GPS I rode about 100 miles and climbed 6,522 feet at an average speed of 8.5 miles per hour. Despite that, with all the blueberry pie and lobster I consumed, I'm pretty confident I didn't drop any weight.