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Looking for Maine Bed & Breakfasts? Join Us in Castine

We drove on to the village of Castine. On my next trip, this will be my destination. I’ll stay at the Pentagoet Inn, dining in their restaurant on the local, seasonal cuisine. I’ll relax on the wrap-around porch between walks about town to admire the many Federal era homes. I’ll savor the calm of this unique seaside town that must be what Bar Harbor was like before the hordes of tourists. And I just might take a hike.

An excellent Downeast adventure

By Cindy Bradley
Hoosier Times
7/29/2007

We were en route to Little Cranberry Island and as our boat left the pier in Northeast Harbor, National Park Ranger Mark asked for a show of hands.  “How many folks are here from the Northwest?” No hands went up. “The Southwest?” Nope. “The Southeast?” No one. “The Mid-Atlantic?” Two hands up. “The Midwest?” My husband, Craig, and I raised our hands. Finally, Mark asked how many passengers were from the Northeast — 63 hands shot up.

Obviously, there is some sort of base Yankee scheme afoot to keep the treasures of Downeast Maine hidden from the rest of the country. Well, I am here to rip the veil and share the wonders we discovered in this rather remote region of our land. If you are among the majority of Hoosiers who have never ventured into this neck of the woods, you must learn what you’ve been missing.

Back in January, when the winter days were at their shortest, Craig and I were already plotting an escape from Bloomington’s steamy summer weather. We hit upon Downeast Maine because many years ago we spent a couple of very pleasant days in Bar Harbor. I have to admit that fond memories of popovers consumed at the Jordon Pond House Restaurant in Acadia National Park were also a powerful draw, and when we got to reminiscing about lobster dinners and blueberry pancakes, our minds were made up.

High season in Maine is July and August. Our previous visit was in June, and we recalled that the weather had been very pleasant, so we planned our trip for the last week of the low season. Not only did this mean that we would encounter smaller crowds, but we also saved a bundle on our condo rental. All of the seasonal shops and restaurants were open, and the much-ballyhooed blackflies of June were nowhere to be seen. And the weather was perfect; there were no long lines or traffic jams. In short, we had every reason to be pleased with the timing of our trip.

To offset the serious eating, which was to be a central focus of our stay, Craig and I planned to hike every day. We consulted guide books, online trail sites and information from the National Park Service to determine which of the many trails were most suitable for us. The “easy” trails didn’t sound like enough of a workout, and the “strenuous” trails sounded downright scary, with many mentions of “steep ascents” using iron rungs. I don’t think so!  Hikes listed as “moderate” and of about 2 1/2 hours duration seemed like they would be just the ticket.

The National Park Service has a somewhat quirky idea of what the word “moderate” means. We sometimes found ourselves scrambling straight up and down the sides of mountains, struggling for footholds on the smooth granite we encountered everywhere. OK, sometimes there were tangles of huge tree roots to deal with instead of granite boulders, sometimes a mix, but it was usually “rock climbing” in the truest sense.

After our initial surprise at the rigor of our “moderate” hikes, we found them quite exhilarating, and the payoffs were huge. At almost any point, we could pause to take in the ever-changing view: forests, lakes, islands, tiny villages in the distance. The silence of the woods was all-encompassing, and it was easy to imagine that we were the only people for miles around. In truth, we rarely encountered anyone once we left the trailhead.

For the visitor who desires a less exhausting experience, Acadia has a unique feature that is quite wonderful. Back in 1913, John D. Rockefeller Jr., finding himself with no place to drive his carriage without encountering the new-fangled motor car, decided to build a system of carriage roads through the forest. The result is 45 miles of wide, smooth, mostly level roads through the park, perfect for hiking or biking with children. Some of the longer loops would also provide a good workout. There are many beautiful views to be had from the carriage roads, and the granite-faced bridges that Rockefeller had constructed are beautiful enough to be worth a visit in their own right.  Even couch potatoes can enjoy some of the premier sites in the park via Park Loop Road. There is a Motorist Guide published by the Park Service, which will lead you to places such as Frenchman Bay Overlook, Duck Brook Bridge, Sieur de Monts Spring and Thunderhole. It is also possible to drive to the summit of Cadillac Mountain for a spectacular view.

In the spirit of seeing more of the island, we also hiked at Blagden Preserve on the western side of the island. Owned by the Nature Conservancy, this 100-acre plot of land is heavily forested and the winding trail leads to the sea. Many different birds can be seen and heard in the forest, and if you settle on a rock and stop to rest when you reach the ocean, you might be rewarded by the sight of harbor seals sunning themselves a little distance away.

Our only other hike outside Acadia was on the Blue Hill Peninsula. We hiked up Blue Hill Mountain and came upon a beautiful sight on the way down.   Coming out of the woods, we found ourselves in a large meadow completely carpeted with lupines, a large purple wildflower with many blossoms. It was a magical moment.

We drove on to the village of Castine. On my next trip, this will be my destination. I’ll stay at the Pentagoet Inn, dining in their restaurant on the local, seasonal cuisine. I’ll relax on the wrap-around porch between walks about town to admire the many Federal era homes. I’ll savor the calm of this unique seaside town that must be what Bar Harbor was like before the hordes of tourists. And I just might take a hike.

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