Waking this morning, we were greeted by chilly temperatures that had dipped down into the mid-30’s, and the frost-tipped grass in the front yard battling the warming morning sun was a timely reminder that our amazing summer is now over, and before long the cold, dark winter that I loathe will soon be coming our way.
Before winter gets here though, we have what is my favorite season still to enjoy… fall. I love being in Acadia as autumn begins to grab hold, so with Sam home from college for a brief fall break, he and I grabbed the opportunity to spend a wonderful morning hiking a couple of trails we hadn’t been on before. Bright sunshine and a cool breeze greeted us as we began the ascent from the Sand Beach parking lot up toward the Bowl – a shallow glacial pond nestled between Champlain Mountain and the back of the Beehive – and then on to Champlain Mountain. I had been to the Bowl before, and I can remember looking across the water to the southern slope of Champlain Mountain knowing that someday I would climb it. Today was the day.
Some amazing restoration work has been done to the trail up toward the Bowl, with a series of impressive wooden steps having been recently installed. These new steps certainly made the trail more accessible, and I am sure that they also serve the purpose of protecting the trail from erosion and wear. We had a deadline to meet, so we cranked up the hill toward the Bowl in record time. As always, Sam could have easily left this old man in his wake, but instead he chose to stay close enough so we could chat as we hiked.
After rounding the Bowl, we entered the low forest canopy typical of many Acadia mountain hikes, and the hidden streams which were full of energy after a solid week of rain were always somewhere within earshot. Using hands and feet at times, we were soon on the upper slopes of Champlain ascending above the trees and being treated to broad views of either Dorr and Cadillac to our left, Frenchman Bay and Egg Rock to our right, and if we stopped and turned around, we soaked in the Bowl from above and the long granite ridges that lead toward the southern shores of Mount Desert Island and the Cranberry Islands beyond.
Neither of us is a big fan of out-and-back trails, so after summiting the 1,058 ft Champlain Mountain in pretty good time, instead of returning the way we came, we decided to explore going down the North Ridge Trail to where it would meet the Orange and Black Path, and we would then complete the last leg of our hike back to the car by following the Loop Road to Sand Beach.
The views from the North Ridge Trail toward Bar Harbor and the Porcupine Islands were breathtaking, and as you can see from the photograph above, there were a couple of enormous cruise ships anchored just off shore. Once we hit the Orange and Black Path we descended pretty quickly. A marvelous example of the art of trail making, much work has obviously gone into making the stone steps of this trail relatively accessible, while at the same time maintaining the natural look and feel of the surrounding environment.
The granite ledges of Acadia hikes are probably my favorite places to be. I am perfectly happy exploring any of the glacially crafted southern mountain slopes of Sargent, Penobscot, or Cadillac, and the panoramic views you are rewarded with are exceptional. There is something about those sun-warmed pink granite slabs that make me feel very comfortable at any time of year, but as the fall foliage colors slowly begin to show (still about 7-10 days away from peak), what better way to spend an early autumn day than hiking in my favorite national park with Sam, followed by an awesome steak and cheese from Epi sub in Bar Harbor 🙂