Jordan Pond

We loved our time exploring Acadia and were happy to check out many of its most popular features. Unfortunately, in the middle of our visit, we ran into some issues with Dixie which led us to curtail our exploration a bit. That situation is still evolving, and may further impact our travel plans.

The Carriage Roads at Acadia National Park

One of Acadia’s most famous features is the extensive system of carriage roads and bridges that can be found throughout the park.  John D. Rockefeller, Jr. directed and financed their construction between 1913 and 1940, imagining a system that would be closed to motor vehicle traffic, but open to hikers, bikers, horses, and carriages. Today, there are about 45 miles of interconnected carriage roads and 16 unique stone bridges throughout the park.Carriage Road sign in Acadia National Park

We now both have bikes and we figured the carriage roads would be a great place to take them out for a spin. Knowing Acadia has some very difficult terrain that we did not want to get caught on, we stopped at the visitors center looking for some guidance. As usual, the Park Ranger we spoke with was extremely helpful (as an aside, we have come to LOVE NPS staffeverywhere we’ve been, whether it be National Parks, Historic Sites, or Monuments, our interactions with these folks have been awesome). I explained that we were looking for a couple miles worth of relatively flat, easy carriage road trails to start with. She suggested the trail around Witch Hole Pond, which is about 5 miles, and then, if we wanted to keep going, the trail around Eagle Lake, which is another 6 miles. She indicated there was one small hill at the end of the Witch Hole Pond trail, but nothing too terrible.

We waited until late in the afternoon to go to the park so we basically had it to ourselves. This was something we did repeatedly throughout our visit, heading for the trails just as most visitors were heading for home. Given the late sunset during the summer, we had plenty of time to explore, and we could avoid the masses. Anyway, biking the carriage roads was awesome.

Biking on a Carriage Road in Acadia National Park
“Wheeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!”

We enjoyed the lovely views of Witch Hole Pond and the forest surrounding it.

Witch Hole Pond at Acadia National Park

And we got to check out one of the famous bridges….

A carriage road bridge at Acadia National ParkThe only problem was when we realized the Ranger’s “one small hill” actually looked something like this:

I don’t have a photo from our actual bike ride because I was using my phone to Google “How to give yourself CPR,” but trust me: it was not a small hill.

The Bubble Mountain Trail at Acadia

The Bubble Mountains can be seen in the photo of Jordan Pond at the very top of this post. There’s the not-so-creatively-named North Bubble Mountain and South Bubble Mountain. South Bubble Mountain is famous for having this massive boulder hanging on the edge of a cliff at the top…. It’s known as, wait for it, “Bubble Rock.”

Bubble Rock at Acadia National Park

Many visitors take turns doing stuff like this….

Tourists at Bubble Rock

As you can see, it was really foggy during our visit. Here’s what it looks like on a clear day:

Courtesy of Bob Gaffney on Flickr.

In order to get to the boulder, you can take an easy (less than one mile long) path from the parking lot and then just go back to the parking lot, or you can do a loop hike, continuing past the boulder to the far side of the mountain and then back to the parking lot. We knew we wanted to do the longer hike, however, we received good advice from Melinda and Eryk to tackle the hike in the opposite direction. They told us the far side of the mountain was extremely rocky and we would need to do a lot of scrambling, so they suggested we go up that side, since coming down rocks like that tends to be a lot harder.

This was the first time I had done anything even remotely difficult since my injury, so I was a bit nervous about how the hike would go, but it turns out that it was more of a mental challenge than a physical one.

For starters, according to the NPS, this is a “trail”:

The Bubble Rock Trail at Acadia National Park

Now, you might say “Well, that just looks like a pile of rocks.”  And you would be correct. This is, indeed, a pile of rocks. Here, let me help….

See the little tiny blue mark on the rock? That’s one of the blazes that tell you where to go. When you get to a blaze, you should be able to see another one ahead of you.

It goes on like this, all uphill, for a good while.

The Bubble Rock Trail at Acadia National Park
Don’t ask me where the blaze was on this pile…

Up and up and up we went, until we turned and noticed we were on the exposed side of the mountain. For better or worse, the fog made it impossible to see. But we could definitely tell we were climbing up the side of a cliff….

To my right is a sheer drop off…..

At some point, because of our crappy knees situations (Kevin tore his ACL when he was a teenager, had it repaired, and then tore it again, so he doesn’t have an ACL in his right knee), we realized there was no turning back. Neither of us wanted to go down rocks like that, so our best option was up… and the higher we got, the more exposed the trail became.

We also noticed the “trail” got even less “trail-like.” It was as if one guy said to the other: “Whatever… no one’s gonna come up this way anyway.  Paint some blue blazes and let’s go grab a beer…”

The Bubble Rock Trail at Acadia National Park

 

 

What started as walking on rocks, turned to scrambling over rocks, which then turned into climbing rocks…. all of which was fun, except for the part about trying not to fall off a cliff.

The Bubble Rock Trail at Acadia National Park

In all seriousness, we had a great time on this trail. It was rewarding for us to successfully complete a physically and mentally demanding hike, and while we would have loved to have better views to share, it was actually pretty neat to hike through the thick fog.

Jordan Pond

We also checked out Jordan Pond. This very popular hike is about 3 miles long and circles the lovely lake. My only caution would be about bringing dogs on the trail. The first third of the hike is on raised boards that protect the vegetation. They were easily manageable for us, but we were glad we’d left Dixie at home. Only the most confident and sure footed dogs would enjoy it.

The Jordan Pond Shore Path at Acadia National Park
The boards are uneven and inconsistent. They may be as high as two feet off the ground, and some of them move as you put weight on them.

The Jordan Pond Shore Path at Acadia National Park

Jordan Pond
The opposite side of the pond features a more traditional flat walking path. It was particularly pretty at sunset.
Leave it to Beaver….

Bar Harbor and Bass Harbor Light House

To be honest, we barely spent any time in the town of Bar Harbor. We had enough to keep us occupied in Acadia and we just weren’t drawn to this tourist hot spot. But I did go down there one sunny afternoon to check it out. It’s certainly a nice place to wander, with plenty of restaurants, galleries, and shops to keep folks occupied. Additionally, I found a little shore path that follows the rocky coastline for about a mile, running from the main commercial district past some of the inns.

Collage of photos of Bar Harbor, Maine

Finally, I headed off to famous Bass Harbor Lighthouse, another very popular Maine lighthouse. On a good day, it looks like this:

Courtesy of Dave Wilson on Flickr

Unfortunately, when I got there, the lighthouse, which is located at the southernmost tip of the island, was shrouded in heavy fog, and the photo opportunities were pretty limited. Oh well.

Dixie: Creator of Chaos, Destroyer of Budgets

For those of you who know us, you know that Dixie is a trainwreck of a dog. I mean that in the most loving way possible, of course, but seriously? She’s a mess. The short version is, less than a week after we adopted her in 2011, our young (3 year old) and presumably healthy German Shepherd, had a big seizure which led to a late night visit to an emergency veterinary clinic, which led to a referral to a neurologist.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of dealing with a veterinary neurologist, here’s a quick rundown of the conversation:

Vet: My suggestion is that you have an MRI done on your dog.

Me: How much does that cost?

Vet: Do you have a savings account?

Me: Yes.

Vet: Not anymore!

And at the end of all this bank-breaking veterinary neurology awesomeness? She was diagnosed with “ideopathic epilepsy,” meaning: “I have no freaken idea. Your dog is just weird.”

An early photo of Dixie, one of many times, she has had her paw shaved for medical treatment of some sort.

Unrelated, (and in addition to several other health related challenges), 3 years later, she suffered a Fibro Cartilaginous Embolism (FCE) which is basically a stroke in the spine that causes part of the spinal cord to die… It’s exceedingly rare, unless your name is Dixie, in which case, it’s just what happens on a Tuesday.

The FCE could have been a complete catastrophe (dog owners oftentimes have to put their pets to sleep because of the damage), but luckily, Dixie rallied and, though she was never quite the same dog again, she adjusted and has done alright.

My favorite picture of these two – wearing matching shirts… (we used to put a t-shirt on Dixie after we applied her flea and tick medication so she wouldn’t get it on the sofa)

In the past several weeks, however, she’s been struggling with strength, balance, and coordination. She’s completely stopped going up the stairs into our RV or jumping into our car, so now Kevin is lifting her all the time. We were going to get her a ramp, but realized she was so weak and uncoordinated at times, she wouldn’t be able to safely walk up it. The problems get better and worse at times, and we can’t quite figure out what is setting it off. And because she has epilepsy, and because of the damage from the FCE, it’s hard to nail down which symptoms are actually new, and which are simply the result of getting older with all these underlying issues.

Anyway, things got really bad last week after we took her swimming. When she came out of the water, she was completely unable to hold herself up and she was knuckling over on her back legs (meaning, walking on the tops of her paws, rather than the bottoms). She woke up the next day and was basically paralyzed for several minutes. We took her to a local vet and though he was able to rule out several potential causes, he was unable to explain her symptoms. He referred us to a neurologist.

While we were able to get an appointment for early August, we were unable to find a reasonably priced campground to extend our stay in Bar Harbor. Therefore, we stuck with our original itinerary and headed into Canada. When we get closer to the appointment, we’ll double back into Maine. Depending on what we learn, we’ll adjust our plans as necessary.

We are reminded again of two very important realities. 1) Just because you’re living in an RV traveling around the country doesn’t mean life stops. Things still go wrong and finding ways to deal with problems can require some creativity; and 2) We are fortunate to be in a situation where we can address these challenges.

In the meantime, we are both trying not to panic too much. Dixie’s had a long history of problems, but she’s shown herself to be incredibly resilient. Hopefully the neurologist will be able to identify the issue and provide us some sort of treatment options. In the meantime, she’s improved a bit over the past week and we’ll keep our fingers crossed for more positive news.

32 COMMENTS

  1. I am so sorry about Dixie. I know what you are going through. We have 3 Shelties. One of them, Stirling, had a terrible seizure Dec. 9, 2014. He was under the care of a Neurologist Vet for 6 months and really, still has occasional visits. He was diagnosed with Encephalitis-inflammation of the brain. He was on Chemo for 6 months and continues to be on Phenobarbital and Prednisone (and Denamarin to counter act the effects of the Prednisone). Stirling had begun having back end problems a few months before Dec. 9. He had just earned his Agility Championship, just in the nick of time. He lost some memory and we had to carry him up/down stairs. He has had some other problems since then as well. His life is spent mostly on the couch with 3 walks a day but the walks have to be shorter now and his quality of life is getting less…but he still loves his food and has a will to live. He has blood draws regularly with our regular vet who corresponds well with the Neurologist vet! This began when Stirling was 10…he is now 12.5. Then we have Seamus, our 13 year old Sheltie who had gastritis recently and just 2 weeks ago atea peach pit…with 2 initial drm visits then surgery (and a 4 day stay in hospital) that episode alone came to about 10,000. And we have a 7 month old Sheltie Puppy (female) Sailor…who is healthy at the moment! Vet bills! Stirling’s Encephalitis has cost us a fortune. But, we are fortunate to be able to afford it without insurance! It is crazy expensive at times. I am so glad for every moment with him. I find it odd about the back end not working and neurological problems. Anyway, just wanted to tell you a little of our story so you know you are not alone. I will keep Dixie in my prayers. I know how hard this is!

    • Wow. I’m sorry to hear about your dogs’ problems too. It’s never easy, is it? These fur-monsters just weasel their way into your heart and you’ll do anything to make them better. It’s incredibly difficult to watch them struggle physically when mentally they are still the same dog, and they don’t understand why they can’t do what they normally do. We would not have realized that her issues were neurological (as opposed to orthopedic or otherwise) if not for her history of neurological issues. We’ve seen the vets do some of the standard tests to make sure the dog knows where its paws are, and she is failing those. That’s why we know it’s definitely something with that system, but there are a million possible causes. Hopefully we can figure it out and hopefully there’s something that we can do. Part of what’s been tough with Dixie is her problems have had no clear source, and no clear solution. So far, we’ve been lucky and she’s been able to function pretty well in spite of them. Hopefully this will be more of the same. Anyway, it’s definitely nice to know we are not alone with stuff like this. I wish your puppies well too.

      • Sorry to be so slow to respond. Thanks for the well wishes for our dogs! Seamus recovered. We’ll from his surgery and is actually back in Agility class…not bad for a 13 year old dog!
        I just read your recent post about Dixie! I sure hope the lower dose of Pred can help…mine are on it. It’s really difficult when you don’t know what is wrong! You are taking good care of her and that warms my heart! I am loving reading your blog!

    • Thanks! It felt very good to get that hike done and in the rear view mirror. It’s one more completed challenge that kind of helps me put things behind me and move on. I’ve still got a handful of other boxes to check, but that was a big one. Plus, it was super fun!! 🙂

  2. Beautiful pictures. I try not to look too long at the ones where Kevin is close to a cliff! 😳 Poor Dixie, we are hoping the best for her.

    • Just be glad there was lots of fog! It would have been much freakier (for everyone), had we actually been able to see how far up we were. 🙂 Thanks for the good wishes for Dixie. Hopefully she’ll do her usual (bankrupt us and then be fine.)

    • Thanks Stephanie! We miss you guys too! Speaking of north, it looks like you all are having a nice vacation at the moment…I’m pretty sure Aruba is a bit warmer than where we are. 🙂 Hope you guys have a great time!

  3. That trail reminds me of portions of the Old Rag trail. Very challenging. Glad you made it out in 1 piece. I’m sending good vibes Dixie’s way!

    • Some how, some way, I managed to live in the DC area for over 20 years, and I never hiked that trail. So dumb. Everyone says it’s great, and from the descriptions I’ve heard, it definitely sounds similar (though it’s MUCH longer than what we did). Maybe when we’re back in the area visiting, we’ll make it a point to check that one off the list. In any case, Dixie says “Thanks for the good wishes!”

  4. So sorry to hear about the troubles with Dixie. I hope the appointment goes well and that you find some relief for her. On another note, I had to laugh at the “small hill” comment from the ranger. There are NO small hills on those carriage trails. During our month long stay we rode nearly every part of the trails and I can confirm that none of the hills got any easier!

    • Thank You! That makes me feel a lot better. I mean, I know we’re out of shape and we’re new to biking, but as I was huffing and puffing my way up (between numerous breaks), I was feeling like quite a loser. It’s nice to know we’re not the only ones who found it challenging! I’m curious to see what the other carriage roads are like though… if the one we were on was considered relatively minor, I can’t even imagine what the tough ones would be like… Wow….

  5. Great post we are adding Maine to our lit.
    We certainly hope Dixie recovers soon, we completely understand when one must alter plans to care for family. Traveling with a big dog(s) can be a wonderful experience and well worth the effort and the occsional troubles that can occur., wish they lived as long as us. We will be thinking positive thoughts for Dixie.

    • Thanks very much. We often joke around about what a pain in the butt Dixie can be, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. She is a crucial component to our happy life and we’ll do whatever it takes to keep her happy and healthy as long as possible. And I agree: if it were up to me, our puppies would outlive us all.

  6. You are so right about life going on (and not often according to plan) when you are on the road. We’ve adjusted our itinerary numerous times over the years. I hope the neurologist is able to find out something that will help Dixie. I look forward to reading about your Canadian adventures.

    • I’m so glad I started reading travel blogs several years ago, because it’s been a recurring theme. We’ve watched some folks change their plans 3 or 4 times over the course of a season for one reason or another. It’s just part of the deal when you’re living on the road. We certainly hope it doesn’t come to that, but at the end of the day, one of the benefits of this life is we can go wherever we need to go to get the best treatment possible. And if it comes down to us having to store the RV for some period of time and just rent a single level place or whatever, we can do that too. It’s not fun to have to deal with these things, but it’s nice to have the freedom to go where we need to go to deal with whatever challenges present themselves.

  7. Oh no! We’re so sorry to hear about Dixie’s problems. As you said, traveling full-time doesn’t mean that there aren’t bumps in the road. Sometimes really big bumps. Hoping that everything will turn out well. As for the biking and hiking, way to go, you two!! Those look like some seriously beautiful trails. I hope someone took the blue paint away from whatever crazy person was marking that rocky trail. And good to know about the Carriage Roads….I’ve had this idyllic image of us leisurely biking those trails. Now I know it won’t be leisurely!

    • Thanks Laurel. I know you know about things going wrong while living on the road. Just a little. 😉 As for Acadia, we really did have so much fun on that hike, and while biking is more Kevin’s thing than mine at the moment, it was still fun… except when it wasn’t. Hearing from other folks who have similarly struggled with those carriage roads is certainly therapeutic. I’m hoping that all those gorgeous bike trails out west are as perfect (meaning: “flat”) as they seem….

  8. Deas and I observed many times that the Mainer’s definition of an easy/moderate trail is very different than ours! We did the Bubble Trail and those rock scrambles are no joke. So sorry to hear about Dixie – we are dealing with some additional arthritis issues with Nikki this month. I hate to even bring this up, but did the vet you saw discuss the possibility of degenerative myelopathy? I really hope that’s not it….but the comment about her walking on the top of her feet made me think of that – I know that’s a symptom. Hope you’re enjoying Canada and that you get some (good) answers about Dixie soon.

    • Trust me, no two words scare the shit out of me more than “Degenerative Myelopathy.” It was the first thing that came to mind when she started having problems and the first thing I started researching (and panicking about when I saw the symptoms lined up). However, I asked the Maine vet we went to and he said he did not think it fit because of the up and down nature of her symptoms. He said DM is a very progressive disease, so once something starts going bad, it stays bad. With Dixie, one day she can’t hold herself up and is literally falling down, but the next she’s ok. Therefore, we’re thinking (based on what the vet said) that it might be something that’s getting inflamed and, at times, pressing on her spine – a slipped disc or a tumor or something like that. We could be wrong, but it does seem to fit more. And at this point, that’s what we’re hoping for because at least there would be hope for some sort of treatment. Sorry to hear about Nikki. We dealt with all kinds of arthritis issues with our last Shepherd, so we know what that’s like too. One thing we found helpful, in addition to the standard anti-inflammatories and pain killers was Adequan…. Not sure if you’re familiar with it, but if not, take a look. It definitely helped our dog a lot. Ugh… next time I want to get a pet, just tell me to get a fish, OK? Thanks.

      • Well that’s good news….I worry about DM with Nikki all the time too! I did talk to the vet about Adequan, but she felt like we should try some other things first. She’s now on Dasuquin Advanced and muscle relaxers at night, and she now gets a 20-minute massage every day. From me. Only been a few days but those things seem to be helping so far. Fingers crossed!

  9. So sorry to hear about Dixie’s health issues. Those fur-babies mean so much (ours is a bullmastiff named Lexie). Wish you all the best and sending healing thoughts and prayers Dixie’s way! Dawn

  10. I’m so sorry to hear about your dog’s health problems. I hope everything will turn out okay.

    Reading your entries on Acadia makes me want to go back, we loved it there!

    • Thanks for the good wishes. We’re hoping to see some improvement soon. And yeah, I can’t wait to go back and see more of Acadia too. We loved our visit, but only saw a fraction of the park. We could easily spend a month there.

  11. Now you have taken me to trails we missed while in Acadia! Perhaps a revisit is in order.
    Just know you are not alone in having pet issues and or bumps on the road. I hope Dixie’s issues will be diagnosed soon so that you can take care of that quick.
    Enjoy Canada and take lots of photos.

    • Thanks MonaLiza! Bumps in the road are definitely part of the deal, no different than living in a normal house. Having read all these blogs for several years, we’ve definitely seen lots of people go through these things, you guys included, obviously. The reality is, it’s not all unicorns and rainbows, and you just have to expect the unexpected and try to deal with the challenges as they come along. Easier said than done, obviously, but that’s the goal. Anyway, we are dutifully taking lots of pictures in Canada and I will have more on that coming soon. Hope things are going well with you guys.

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