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.
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 staff—everywhere 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.
We enjoyed the lovely views of Witch Hole Pond and the forest surrounding it.
And we got to check out one of the famous bridges….
The 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.”
Many visitors take turns doing stuff like this….
As you can see, it was really foggy during our visit. Here’s what it looks like on a clear day:
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”:
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.
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….
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…”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Finally, I headed off to famous Bass Harbor Lighthouse, another very popular Maine lighthouse. On a good day, it looks like this:
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?
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.”
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.
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.