Island Lupine

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I had heard rumors of there being a field of lupine on Bar Island, so I was excited to explore and see if it really existed… and boy, does it ever! Within five minutes of crossing the bar and stepping onto the pristine island, we were walking through an absolutely stunning meadow overflowing with my favorite flowers. I love lupine, and these beauties were at their peak with glorious swathes of purple, white and pink everywhere. It was a hot day when we visited, so we appreciated the shade along most of the short walk to the overlook and back. Awesome experience, and an easy, interesting hike that I would definitely recommend… just remember to check the tidal charts so you don’t get stranded out there by the rising waters!

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At low tide… Bar Island in Acadia

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Bar Island lies just offshore from Bar Harbor in Acadia National Park. I’ve always wanted to explore this mysterious (at least to me) little island, and just recently we finally timed an afternoon visit so we could walk across the relatively narrow bar which becomes exposed at low tide. On this particular afternoon, low tide was scheduled for 3:30pm, so we planned a nice lunch in town and then an adventure out to the island starting at about 2pm. This is an easy hike, one that offers a completely different perspective of the town of Bar Harbor with the mountains of Acadia in the background. We couldn’t have chosen a better time to try this hike… it was a picture perfect early summer day, with sailboats, lobster boats and kayaks filling the harbor.

Walking out onto the bar is a neat experience, one that allows you to stand pretty much in the middle of the harbor in a spot that would normally be considered the ocean floor. We were able to access the island about 90 minutes or so before the scheduled low tide, so my guess is that you probably would have a similar amount of time to explore once the tide starts coming back in. It’s not a difficult hike across the bar and onto the island, though you wouldn’t want to be stranded out there by the incoming tide. I can remember not that long ago when you were allowed to drive your car right down onto the exposed bar and park there, but apparently that policy has now changed. A town ordinance sign now prohibits parking on the bar… which probably isn’t such a bad idea since every now and again parked cars were left there by unsuspecting tourists who didn’t heed the warning signs as they enjoyed their hike on the island, only to return and find their vehicle under water.

Finding a foreground

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One of the most important elements of an interesting photograph is the foreground. A good foreground can add depth to any image, and it can help guide the viewer’s eye through the scene – I especially like how a wide angle lens can accentuate what you place in the foreground.

While the expansive views from the top of Cadillac toward Bar Harbor, Frenchman Bay and the Porcupine Islands are certainly remarkable, opportunities to find interesting rock formations and native vegetation for inclusion as foreground elements in your photographs are everywhere. Lines and cracks and rocks of all sizes are just waiting to be included in your composition… you just have to be prepared to look down and arrange them in an interesting way.

The ecosystem on top of Cadillac is rather delicate though, so if you find yourself exploring the summit, please try to stay on the designated concrete trail that loops around the mountain. If you do step off the trail, make sure to remain on the giant, solid slabs of granite and avoid the fragile, easily eroded parts of the mountainside.

One of my favorite views, I especially liked the reflection of the clouds in Frenchman Bay, and don’t you just love those foreground rocks!

Compass Harbor and the “haunted” house

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Compass Harbor is one of those quiet little spots in Acadia that not many people know about. Just outside the town of Bar Harbor on Route 3, there’s a small, easy to miss lot on the left of the road that holds maybe half a dozen cars. A gentle half mile walk through the woods reveals a picturesque and peaceful natural harbor. The short trail itself is fairly flat, but as you get nearer to the ocean, you will find plenty of gnarly tree roots that are quite happy to try and trip you up.

Looking along the natural curve of the shoreline, you see a rocky outcrop off in the distance that just begs to be explored. For the curious hiker, crystal clear, almost Caribbean-like harbor water and tide pools teeming with life offer a whole other world to investigate. While perched on top of that craggy headland, you can enjoy impressive views across Frenchman Bay toward the Porcupine Islands, the Schoodic Peninsula, and the relatively isolated Egg Rock Lighthouse. We stopped to soak in the warm summer air while letting the cool ocean breeze wash over us… what a perfect spot.

Just past where we stopped is a secluded cove of smooth, round granite cobbles… a location that might just warrant a return trip to see how the early morning light impacts it. Some striking, jagged rocks on the far end of what is an east-north-east facing cove might offer some compositional possibilities for a morning photograph. Rather than stopping at the cove this time though, the second part of our mission lay ahead of us… to get to the haunted house.

Compass Harbor is also the site of the “Old Farm”, the former residence of George B. Dorr, Acadia’s first superintendent. We first “discovered” this place when Sam was little, and from that moment in our family it has been known as the haunted house in Bar Harbor. George Dorr died in 1944, and after what apparently was a beautifully designed and constructed house fell into disrepair and became unsafe, the park service razed it to the ground in 1951. The foundation of the house still exists as well as several stone stair cases leading down toward the water. Anytime you find an old, spooky and overgrown ruin that still displays remnants of long ago human occupation, you will have a place capable of stirring the imagination – and the ruin of the Dorr house is no exception.