The Dark Hedges… a spooky scene from Ireland

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In about six weeks Sam and I will be hopping on a plane to begin our journey back home to Ireland. Needless to say, both of us are very excited to spend time there exploring what we expect to be some familiar, and some not so familiar, places.

The image above is of a unique stretch of the Bregagh Road near Armoy in County Antrim that has been re-named locally as The Dark Hedges. As you can see, over the past 300 years or so the Beech trees guarding the lane have reached up and across to each other, becoming heavily intertwined to create a remarkable sight. I have previously shared color images of this place, but in this case I processed the image as a black and white, hoping to accentuate the strange and twisted shapes of the tree branches.

Perhaps this time around we might squeeze another visit to this wonderfully spooky place into our itinerary… wouldn’t it be cool to see this scene with heavy, low lying fog on the ground?

If interested in purchasing prints from this location, visit my online gallery at: http://www.acadiaandbeyond.com

Why I Like Reading on my iPad

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I wasn’t sure if I would like reading on my iPad, but after consuming half a dozen or so books over the past month, I have to admit this digital reading thing seems to be working for me!

After most recently enjoying the Stieg Larsson trilogy of Lisbeth Salander adventures, and then what I thought was a very entertaining story set in Dublin called Faithful Place by Tana French, I have now moved on to the Hemmingway classic “For Whom The Bell Tolls” – recommended by Sam.

Speaking of Sam, the artwork above was created by him when he was in 2nd grade, and it is now proudly displayed as my iPad home screen image.

Anyway, here’s what I like most about reading on my iPad:

1. In addition to carrying my photos, my music, my movies, my games, my email, and providing access to the Internet, my iPad also now stores my books. This means that at just about any time, I have a book at my fingertips. For someone who wasn’t normally a prolific reader, this is a big deal.

2. Using the Kindle for Mac app (or the iBook store), I can browse, buy and download in seconds just about any book I want – usually cheaper than either a paperback or hardcover edition. Oops… to prove that point I rather easily just spent ten bucks on “Her Fearful Symmetry” by Audrey Niffenegger – follow up to “The Time Traveler’s Wife” – which was awesome.

3. I can adjust the size of the font, the brightness of the screen, and the style of pages to make reading easier on my tired old eyes.

4. Simply by touching the screen, I can select any word I don’t know the meaning of and instantly get a definition. I can also highlight any part of the book to add my own notes, and I can easily search for any word or phrase.

5. I can download and read PDF e-books authored by my favorite landscape photographers such as Michael Frye, David duChemin, and Guy Tal. I love how the reach of the Internet has made publishing so accessible.

6. I can read in bed without having to fight with one of those scrawny book clip-on night lights.

7. I love how “right” it feels as I swipe my finger to turn a page – unlike most people probably, I don’t miss the tactile feel of a book in my hands.

8. If I choose to do so, at any time I can conveniently pause when reading to check email, twitter etc. without even setting the device down. Hmmm… does that make me more efficient or more unproductive?

Just about the only thing I don’t like about reading on my iPad is how when I finish a good book that I would like to share with a friend, I can’t just pass it along to them – although in a somewhat limited fashion you can now “loan” Kindle books. I find this whole notion kind of ironic in a reverse sort of way considering how slow much of the music industry was to adapt to the digital age.

Our Two Boys…

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It seems like only yesterday that 12-year old Sam was meeting his little brother Jack for the first time. Time certainly flies though, and as hard as it is to believe, that was already more than six years ago and Sam is now enjoying life as a college freshman! Perhaps having Sam home again for the Thanksgiving holiday has me being a bit nostalgic, but I can’t help but feel pretty thankful when I see our two boys together.

The little man obviously adores his big brother, and I know that Sam’s life was absolutely and irrevocably changed the day he met Jack. Our teenage boy has grown into a fine young man, and along the way he has embraced the opportunity to care deeply for his little brother. It has been fun and fulfilling to see them share their lives and get to know each other, and we couldn’t be more proud of the two of them. From this past weekend… here they are together again enjoying the annual ritual of harvesting our holiday tree at Piper Mountain.

Harry Potter

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We had two special guests for Halloween… Arry Pottah and his long lost brother. Twas nice to have the big man home from college for the weekend, and Jack loved that he and Sam went trick or treating together.

“Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain.”

J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets


Not a Kindergartener Anymore

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Today was the start of First Grade. Most kids dread the end of summer and going back to school, but luckily for us he is just like his big brother and he actually looks forward to it. I was the same at their age… I liked the summer… but by the end of it I was ready and excited to be going back to school. The temperature at 7:30am this morning was already hitting the high 70’s, and despite the muggy and uncomfortable conditions, he was a real trooper as we got back into the routine of breakfast, getting dressed, and on this occasion, posing for the obligatory first day back-to-school photographs. There were lots of hugs for Lori as she left for work, and I think the only thing unusual was how as the morning unfolded we all kind of noticed at some point that Sam wasn’t there. No worries about making the adjustment today for Jack though, and we were even early as we started our quarter mile or so walk down the street to Jill’s house for before school care and to catch the bus.

As we made our way down past the park, I could sense that he was starting to get a little bit nervous. We talked about how excited Mrs Jones was going to be to see him (Mrs Jones was Sam’s first grade teacher too), and we talked about how he could help the new little kindergarteners who would be getting on the school bus for the first time and would likely be petrified. He remembered how scared he felt this time last year, and promised to help them out by smiling and sharing his seat. Bus driver Bob is apparently seriously lacking in basic social skills, and his presence can be far from welcoming. As you can see, Jack is starting to really grow up. He is definitely getting taller, and with the “Lori special” haircut from the night before – and the missing two front teeth – I can’t help feeling that he is growing up way too fast. Lori met the bus at school and was there to ease his entry into the school building and down to the wing that houses the first graders. No tears on this morning for him… in fact, when I first dropped him off at Jill’s, I got a big hug and a quick goodbye from a very happy and confident little man who I just new was going to be kind to the new kids on the bus.

They grow up so fast, don’t they?

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I haven’t been able to spend much time on the blog lately. Between taking care of work obligations, preseason soccer practices, and Sam getting ready to go to college, you can imagine that things have been pretty hectic around here.

Today was a big day. This was the day we drove Sam to Brunswick so he could begin his academic career at Bowdoin College. All sorts of emotions were flowing freely throughout the day, with moments of excitement and anticipation of what lies ahead for him intertwined with profound moments of sadness as we realized that he will no longer be a part of our every day. We had become accustomed to him getting up “early” at 9am in the summer months and wandering downstairs looking for breakfast, and at some point during each day we could always rely on seeing all 6’4″ of him sprawled out on the living room floor playing Playmobil with Jack. We already miss hearing his bedroom door creak open late at night as he would come wandering downstairs for a snack, and who’s now going to mow the grass?

He will always will be our baby, but we have watched him grow into a strong and confident young man whom we are very proud of. He is an amazing big brother, and even though each of us already misses him terribly, we are all genuinely excited about what is the beginning of a new and wonderful adventure for him. Cliche I know, but it seems like only yesterday that we were carrying him in a backpack, pushing him in a stroller, and laughing at how he would almost immediately fall asleep when we put his oversized helmet on and strapped him in to his bike seat.

With all of his most treasured belongings deposited in the new dorm room, hugs and kisses were generously shared, and then it was time for him to join all of the other freshmen eager to begin their first year experience. As he walked away, his little brother Jack (6) sighed, turned to Lori and with wisdom beyond his years said… “They grow up so fast, don’t they?”

Popham Beach State Park

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Probably the coolest beach in Maine, Popham Beach State Park isn’t your standard sand and surf spot. With over 500 acres of salt marshes, forest, sand dunes and tidal flats, this is an absolutely spectacular section of Maine’s coastline. Part of what makes this particular shoreline so special is how at low tide a broad, expansive beach with pools of warm swimming water is revealed. Timed right, a visit to Popham exposes an ever-shifting sandbar that provides exciting access to explore and enjoy the distant and rocky Fox Island. The views all around from the beach are exceptional, with Seguin Island and its 53ft high granite lighthouse serving as a wonderful backdrop to the scene.

Jack took to the water like a fish, and the temperatures were perfect. He was experimenting with his boogie board, and with the gentle rolling waves the setting could not have been more kid-friendly. Everyone probably got a little too much sun, but what a way to spend a late summer Saturday in Maine! The peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were awesome, and after lunch we wandered back to Brunswick for some ice cream and to get another peek at Bowdoin College with Sam. We have just over a week now until he reports as a freshman, so the plans for moving in and making living arrangements with room mates are in full swing. I am sure that we will be visiting him often, so perhaps there will be a few boogie boarding side trips to Popham in the works too!

Cadillac Mountain West Face Trail

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Phew! It doesn’t take that long to get to the top of Cadillac Mountain when you hike this route, and it also doesn’t take long for you to realize that you are going to get a decent workout! As with most things of any value though, there is a give and take… this time in return for the effort expended going up so sharply, the early views from the trail across Eagle Lake and off toward Blue Hill were breathtaking.

With Lori and Jack enjoying Storyland and Santa’s Village in New Hampshire with the cousins Chloe and Isaiah, Sam and I decided to pull on the hiking shoes once again and head down to Acadia. We wanted to hike, but we also wanted Rosalie’s Pizza… nuff said. I gave Sam the task of deciding where we would hike… my only stipulations were that it had to be a loop hike where we don’t come back the way we went, and that we get to see something new.

He chose to create his own little loop where we started at the Bubble Pond parking lot going up – and I mean up – the Cadillac West Face Trail until we met the South Ridge Trail. From there we made a left turn and proceeded the rest of the way to the top of Cadillac – it took us about an hour total from the parking lot at Bubble Pond to the top of Cadillac. We stayed only a few minutes atop Cadillac before retracing our steps down part of the South Ridge Trail toward the Featherbed, a pretty little mountain pond tucked into a small dip on Cadillac. After stopping to recharge the batteries and water the horses one last time, we made a right turn just before the Featherbed and descended off the mountain via the also steep – and tricky – (Jordan) Pond Trail.

As always, I thoroughly enjoyed this hike. There is something about being on top of one of the long mountain ridges in Acadia. I am always fascinated by the glacial erratics strewn all over the place, the combination of warm summer sun and cool breezes is refreshing, and of course, the views are to die for. The South Ridge Trail of Cadillac is fast becoming one of my all-time favorites. It is relatively long for Acadia, but the gentle sloping granite ridge that winds its way to the summit has so much to offer.

As we came down the Pond Trail toward Bubble Pond, the evening had already begun the transition to twilight. Never having been to the far end of Bubble Pond, we stopped along the shore to soak in the view. Rosalie’s was the usual source of pizza extraordinaire – our favorite delicious thin crust, New York style pizza in Bar Harbor, Maine… a great way to round off the day.

Underwater Adventurers

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Granny and Grandpa’s pool might not seem that big, but for our two intrepid underwater adventurers it was like an ocean playground. A year ago Jack was still a little hesitant to be in the pool without holding on to someone for dear life, but just look at him go now!

As a parent, it feels good to see him display so much confidence in the water at such an early age. With Sam, we were just a tad bit lacking in supporting his truly learning to swim, though thankfully over the years he has developed a pretty decent appreciation of the water all by himself.

Goggles adorned, they would take a few deep breaths before setting off underwater in search of the “toy-pedoes” they had planted on the bottom of the pool. Jack would wrap his arms around his big brother, and together they would glide down and through the water, staying under the surface until they had either retrieved their treasure, or one of them needed to catch their breath. With the stifling New York summer temperatures making the days almost unbearable, it actually became difficult to get them out of the water. Our underwater adventurers…

French Fries, Dough Boys, and Cotton Candy

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It felt like fall as we walked from the car to the gate of the Bangor State Fair, but the wall of sights, sounds and smells that hit us on entry immediately took our mind off the slight chill in the air. I always look forward to the last week of July when the fair comes to Bangor, though truth be told for me it is more about the picnic table of artery clogging delights that you can’t get anywhere else but here. Delicious and irresistible… yes… between the four of us we did eat just about one of everything available!

We all rode on the Ferris Wheel together for the first time. Jack had always been too little – or maybe it was my fear of heights – but either way, we eagerly climbed on board and held on tight as we were winched high above the crowds. As the sun got lower in the sky it bathed what was a rainbow-colored scene below us in a magical warm glow, and Jack took advantage of the unique view to survey the scene and look for our house off in the distance. When dangling 200 feet up in the air in a swinging metal bucket, combining the mouthwatering smells of traditional fair food with the shrieks of delight from thrill seeking teenagers on rides below provides an assault to the senses the likes of which can’t be found anywhere else.

Probably for the last time – since Jack is getting so grown up now – we did the Crazy Bus ride, likely the exact same one that Sam first rode many years ago. Jack and Lori rode the giant slide, while Sam and I enjoyed another round of exceptionally tasty – just like my mother made – salt and vinegar covered hand cut fries. The cotton candy was as sweet and gooey as always, and it’s hard to beat a right-out-of-the-fryer doughboy that has been dusted (heavily) with brown and white sugar… classic Americana.

Lori and Sam wandered over to check out the local farm animals while Jack and I marveled at the alligator-wrestling, Steve Irwin-type showman who gave us an up-close education about a critter that we don’t normally see around these parts. Even though my legendary streak of winning an oversized cuddly animal at the water gun game was inexplicably snapped this year, nothing could dampen our spirits on this evening as we all agreed that time spent together at the state fair is hard to beat.

This was probably the latest we have ever stayed into the evening at the fair, and I really enjoyed the atmosphere as the night closed in. The rides lit up with intense and spectacular colors, the crowd seemed to swell to double the size, and the thump, thump, thump of the music designed to attract young people to each ride seemed to get louder and louder. As we reluctantly started to think about heading home, we looked around to make sure there wasn’t anything we had missed. Hmmm… sausage and peppers… don’t think we had one of those yet 🙂

A Room With A View

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As we approached the Tioga Pass entrance station for the last time, Sam asked if I would be interested in exploring the Gaylor Lakes Trail that started just inside the park. The original plan for our final morning in the higher country was to wander around the Tuolumne Meadow and climb Pothole Dome to get a wide view of what is probably some of the most beautiful country I have ever seen. As much as I was looking forward to seeing more of the meadow, Sam’s surprise invitation to tackle the Gaylor Lakes Trail seemed like an excellent way to squeeze one more good hike into our visit. After hiking the 14.2 miles to Clouds Rest the day before, I wasn’t entirely confident of my legs being able to withstand another climb, never mind one that would take us to higher than 10,000 feet! But Sam assured me we would be OK, and that the photographs he had seen from this hike showed pretty spectacular scenery…. what the heck, what’s another five miles!

We filled three water bottles each, lubed up with bug spray and sunscreen, and set out on the trail. My initial fears were justified… this trail was so steep I was doing my own personal switchbacks on the switchbacks. Slow and steady… that was my mantra as I kept my head down and tried to keep my pulse under 200 beats per minute. Sam blazed the trail at a pretty good lick, but after getting ahead of me by about 50 yards or so he always stopped to let me catch up and make sure I hadn’t collapsed. Tough climb… maybe because it was straight up, or maybe because I had already hiked 20+ miles in the past two days, but none of that mattered when we crested the top of the ridge and we caught a glimpse of the Gaylor Lakes basin.

Truly breathtaking. This is what I had envisioned when we had first decided that we wanted to explore the high country of Yosemite. Laid out before us all in one vista were green meadows dotted with huge boulders left over from glacial times, jagged and imposing granite peaks sweeping down to the bluest of subalpine lakes, bubbling mountain brooks, and all of this framed with a 360 degree backdrop of the snow-capped Sierra mountains. Going down into the basin was much easier than the climb up, but by now I was catching on to this hiking thing… in general, what goes up must come down, and what goes down must come up. I tried not to think about that though, and instead focused on the amazing scenery.

After skirting the middle lake, we followed the stream up hill toward the third, higher lake. As we climbed the hill we became reacquainted with our mosquito friends, as they seemed bound and determined to welcome us to their domain. As soon as we reached the upper lake, thankfully they lost interest in us and went back downhill to bother some other hikers. The upper lake was in the shadow of Gaylor Peak (11,004 ft), and on the other side we found ourselves in the still unmelted snow that blanketed the landscape. It definitely felt unusual to be walking on what was still deep snow, but both Sam and I agreed that this was waaaaay cool.

Not done yet, we climbed above the upper lake and headed toward the Great Sierra Mine – an old abandoned prospector’s homestead and silver mine that dates back to 1878. It was impressive to see how a home created entirely out of flat stones could stand so strong for so long in what must be a very inhospitable climate for probably 6 months of the year. As we sat high atop the landscape enjoying our lunch of Clif Bars (new favorite of mine), we admired the fortitude of the pioneering spirit who had lived and worked here so long ago. Imagine working hard in the mine all day and coming home to a view like this…

All good things come to an end though, and unfortunately we had to leave this stunning lunch spot and return to civilization. I won’t bore anyone with the details of me huffing and puffing up the hill again, nor will I mention the sounds my knees and ankles made as I gingerly made my way back down the other (steep, very steep) side, but I will say that this was probably my most favorite hike of the entire trip. This must surely be classic Yosemite high country, where the effort to explore is rewarded with sights and sounds that are polar opposite of what most of us experience in our normal daily lives. As we drove along the Tioga Road and passed by Tuolumne Meadow for the last time on our trip, I felt so very happy that Sam and I got to share this time and this place together. Maybe one day Sam will bring his kid here… that would make me very proud.

Where the Clouds Rest in Yosemite

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Soaring high above Yosemite Valley floor, Clouds Rest is a large granite ridge left over from when glaciers moved through the high country and carved out Tenaya Canyon. The top of Clouds Rest is 9,930 feet above sea level, and when Sam and I hiked to the top of it today, it felt like we climbed every one of those feet! In reality, the elevation gain was more like only 3,000 feet, but at this altitude, and in 80 degree weather, these two flatlanders from Maine were certainly challenged.

We started the hike at 8:30am, and were able to reach the summit by noon. The first 1.5 miles or so of the hike lulls you into thinking this isn’t going to be so bad. After wading knee deep across Tenaya Creek, we followed a wooded path alongside the water, but soon we started to climb, and climb quickly. The next mile had us navigating uphill switchbacks that despite the generous staired trail, absolutely tear at your legs and lungs. Things flattened out a little after that, and we were treated to a wide variety of beautiful wildflowers in bloom, the ever majestic and sometimes gigantic Yosemite trees, and a lovely quiet pond nestled in amongst the landscape.

The final push to the summit of Clouds Rest was long, hot, and dusty as the remainder of the 7.1 mile trail steadily climbed to where we were exposed above the trees on the granite that is synonymous with Yosemite. At the summit, we enjoyed the expansive views of the park, especially of the valley floor some 5,000 feet below – we also had an amazing view of the back side of half-dome. As you can see, Sam had no qualms about getting to the very summit, but with my fear of heights, I was quite content to admire the view from the wider “summit” part of Clouds Rest.

After a brief rest and a chance to refuel, we reversed direction and started the descent, confident in the knowledge that going down couldn’t possibly be as hard as coming up. Though we certainly moved along at a better pace going down, the length and elevation difference in this hike made for one of the more challenging experiences I certainly have had hiking. On our return to our starting point, the cool water in Tenaya Creek felt sooooo good on our feet and legs, and we were quite relieved to have finished this hike. It took us a total of 7 hours to complete, and that includes a 45 minute rest on the summit… not bad for two boys from Bangor, Maine.

Cathedral Lake, Yosemite NP

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As I mentioned in my last post, Sam and I hiked in to Cathedral Lake this morning from Tuolumne Meadow. Apart from the steady climb at the very beginning I found this to be a very manageable hike. The 9,000+ feet of altitude took its toll on me early though, forcing my lungs, heart, and legs to work overtime. After the initial climb and thoughts of how they were going to carry my dead body out of the forest, we settled into a good rhythm and I actually felt fine most of the rest of the way. We crossed freshwater streams, saw large areas of mid-July snowpack, and admired what were often spectacular mountain views.

After about 90 minutes or so of hiking, we reached the clearing that signaled we were about to see the lake, but we still had one more hurdle to clear… a mosquito infested marsh that stood between us and what we knew would be a beautiful sight. I have never seen mosquitos as vicious and bloodthirsty as those that we encountered going across the 200 yard-wide marsh. I swear they were getting drunk on the insect repellant we had doused ourselves in, and when mixed with a little blood, they were absolutely loving their early afternoon cocktails. The breeze along the granite shore of the lake brought us a little respite from their appetites, but they were still active even there. Here’s Sam on the trail…

Lunch was spent enjoying the views and briefly exploring the area, but it was soon time to head back. Once again the mosquitos swarmed around us as we crossed the marshy area leading back to the trail. Without exaggerating, Sam must have been bitten fifty times on his shoulders alone, and we actually resorted to running to try to get away from them. We both laughed about it afterwards, but the image of him frantically trying to escape from the swarms of skeeters will stay with me for a long time 🙂

Storms were brewing on the way back home, so we quickened the pace as best we could without sending me into cardiac arrest. We made it back to Tuolumne Meadow and the car just before the thunder, lightning and rains came. First stop when we got off the mountain was to purchase some after-bite stuff that is supposed to stop you from itching… hopefully it works better than the bug repellent!

With the weather looking pretty bleak for the rest of the evening, we headed back down through the Tioga Pass to Lee Vining to get some dinner and decide what to do next. After a pizza at the Whoa Nellie Deli – yes, we ate there again – it looked like there might be a chance of the skies clearing and offering some good, stormy light, so we decided to stick close to home for the evening and visit the picturesque and surreal landscape of Mono Lake.

* apparently we completely missed that we should probably have visited Upper Cathedral Lake while on this hike… bummer.

Tuolumne Meadow Sunset

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Long day. We were up before 4am to get to JFK for our flight to San Francisco, and as I write this I am still on east coast time where it is 2am. Traveling couldn’t have gone smoother, and by about 1pm local time we were on the road driving toward Yosemite.

As we made our way across the central California valley, even from one hundred miles away we could see some serious thunderheads on the horizon getting us excited about what we might see at our chosen first destination… Tuolumne Meadow. We passed up the opportunity to stop at many beautiful places along the Tioga Road so that we might get to Tuolumne before dark, and hopefully in time for some nice light playing with the storm clouds.

Sam and I both caught our breath when we first glimpsed the meadow, and we excitedly jumped out and started to explore. There was some stormy weather over Lembert Dome and beyond into the high country where Mount Gibbs and Mount Dana towered over the landscape, and with the sun behind us we were treated to a spectacular rainbow and some amazing late evening light.

In the brief but productive time we had here, there must have been fifteen or more deer happily grazing in the meadow, and the mosquitoes rivaled anything we have back home in Maine. As you can see though, nothing could spoil the remarkable sight before our eyes. Cannot wait to explore more tomorrow.

Ready or not, Yosemite here we come!

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We have been hiking pretty regularly over the past couple of weeks, and although here in Acadia we haven’t experienced the elevations that will undoubtedly challenge us in Yosemite, we have covered a fair amount of miles in readiness for our trip. During our recent visits to Acadia we have usually hiked pretty hard, making sure to tax our bodies in the hope of being more ready for the thinner Californian air at 8,ooo plus feet. Though the effects of the altitude definitely concern me, my biggest worry over the past few weeks has been more to do with breaking in my shoes to avoid blisters, finding a good camera backpack for hiking, and working my old knees and ankles so that they might become better prepared for our upcoming adventures. I have to admit though… all of this hiking has me feeling physically better than I have felt in a while, and it also has me wondering why we don’t do it more often? Also, most of the time we have pretty much had any of the trails that involve going uphill to ourselves, and that has given me a chance to spend some quality time with Sam. Fresh air, exercise, and the stunning backdrop of Acadia National Park… what’s not to like? Our hiking preparations have been fun, and I am really glad we have had the chance to explore Acadia more intimately, but now it’s time… Yosemite here we come!

Sargent Mountain, Acadia National Park

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Our last practice hike before heading off to Yosemite National Park later this week was to the top of Sargent Mtn (1,373 ft) and Penobscot Mtn (1,194 ft) in Acadia National Park. We started out with a 1.5 mile stroll along the shore of Jordan Pond until we reached the Deer Brook Trail. This is a pretty hike to begin with, offering classic views of the Bubbles at the north end of the pond all along the trail, and the man-made boardwalk designed to protect the fragile ecosytem of the shoreline definitely added to the interest.

After a brief pause at the head of the Deer Brook Trail to take in some fluids, we finally started to climb. The Deer Brook Trail rose relatively gently through some very thick forest, and we had to hop across the brook itself several times as we reached the magnificent Deer Brook Bridge. Continuing on, when we reached the intersection of the East Cliffs Trail we had a decision to make… should we take the longer, easier way around to the top of Sargent Mountain, or should we take the more direct, but probably steeper route? Always up for a challenge, we decided to take the steeper – turns out MUCH steeper –  East Cliffs Trail. We were now climbing rather than hiking. I categorize any trail that makes me use both my hands and my feet as a climb… and boy did we gain elevation fast!

I have to admit that I was huffing and puffing by the time we had worked our way up this trail and into the more familiar and gentler sloping granite ledges of Sargent Mountain, and this part of the trail was made all the more difficult because many of the rocks were wet and slippery. You know what they say about the burn being a good burn… well that was my legs and my lungs at this point. Hard work, but it genuinely did feel good. As you can see from the photograph below, Sam was always a step ahead of me, and I think he enjoyed showing me where the Sargent Mountain summit was.

It was another sunny day in Bangor when we left but another foggy day on the mountain. Am kind of glad though, because we got to see the mountains in a really neat setting, with the dense fog shrouding much of the landscape and also keeping the temperatures down. We didn’t see a soul on either Sargent Mountain or Penobscot Mountain, which also helped make this a pretty unique experience. Making our way down the Sargent Mountain South Ridge, and before making the short climb back up to the top of Penobscot Mountain, we stopped to admire the Sargent Mountain Pond. This is a gorgeous little pond nestled between the two mountains, and even though we were pretty much socked in with fog, it was still a remarkable sight. Lined with tall pine trees, it had the classic look of a mountain lake.

After cresting Penobscot Mountain, we made our way down the Penobscot Mountain Trail at a pretty good clip. We had been hiking for more than three hours by this time, and I swear we could smell Rosalie’s Pizza in Bar Harbor. The quiet on the mountain was amplified by the foggy conditions, and the solitude on this trail was pretty special. I absolutely love the long granite ridges on the ice-sculpted Acadia mountains, and Penobscot Mountain didn’t disappoint. On this occasion the foggy conditions didn’t provide us with any breath-taking ocean or mountain views, but the peace and quiet of such a beautiful place more than made up for that. Besides… maybe we should plan another trek up here on a sunny day!

After leaving the granite ledge of Penobscot Mountain, we took the fairly short and quirky Spring Trail down toward the parking lot at Jordan Pond. We both agreed that our route today was definitely another trail to add to the list of favorites, and as quickly as possible we packed our gear away and headed into Bar Harbor for that date with Rosalie. Perhaps it was because we believed we had earned it, but Rosalie’s pizza tonight was the best ever!

Practicing for Yosemite on Cadillac Mountain

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So… Sam and I leave for Yosemite next Wednesday, and over the past couple of weeks we have been practicing our hiking skills in preparation for the trip. Sam doesn’t need any practice, but it has been good for me to get this old body moving again, and in the process we have had an opportunity to explore some magnificent trails in Acadia National Park.

This evening we planned on hiking the Cadillac South Ridge Trail starting at Blackwoods Campground just off Route 3, but we got a later than anticipated start and had to settle for completing only about two thirds of it. We made it as far as where the Canon Brook Trail and Pond Trail both intersect the Cadillac South Ridge Trail… that put us about 1.2 miles from the summit of Cadillac. Even though we were motoring at a decent pace, we both agreed that continuing to the summit would mean having to navigate the rocky and tree-root covered lower part of the trail in the dark on the way back – not something we were really interested in.

Even though we didn’t reach the summit, we thoroughly enjoyed this hike. We left home where it was 85 degrees and as we approached Mount Desert Island we could see that the tops of the bigger mountains were in the clouds. Apart from the first quarter mile or so of the hike where we made our way through a sweet-smelling pine forest, we had fog rolling in all around us and strong ocean breezes combining to keep the temperatures and bugs very manageable. Hard to believe I am actually saying this, but the cool mist was a welcome change from the blue skies and hot temperatures we have been having so far this summer. I am usually not a big fan of hikes that go out one way and then return the same way, but this one was kind of special. The ridge line we climbed had a nice variety of terrain, with huge boulders strewn all across the path mixed in with vegetation doing its best to survive what must be a very inhospitable landscape in the winter.

We enjoyed seeing “The Featherbed” – a little mountain pond nestled in a saddle along the trail, and just past that we found a small “meadow” of wildflowers in bloom living next to a mini-tarn where rainfall had gathered and filled a small granite depression. Other than the 10,000 feet elevation difference, we could easily have been somewhere in the Yosemite high country. Speaking of altitude, I wonder how well we will handle the elevation gain in out west?

On the way down we detoured around the Eagle’s Crag Trail where we had wonderful views of Gorham Mountain – one of our favorites – with Otter Cove and the Atlantic beyond.  This is definitely a trail to return to, and maybe next time we will make it all the way to the 1530 feet high summit. We rounded out what was a really nice evening with a superb steak and cheese from Epi’s in Bar Harbor. Philadelphia it isn’t, but it is as good a cheesesteak as we have been able to find anywhere in New England… yum, yum.

Friday evening in Acadia

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What better way to spend a Friday evening than in Acadia National Park. It was Sam who suggested that we shoot down to Mount Desert Island after work for some pizza, and to be honest there wasn’t a lot of opposition in this household. We had been eagerly anticipating the re-opening of Rosalie’s Pizza in Bar Harbor after the winter, and this was the perfect opportunity to pay them a visit. Rosalie’s is good… and let me just say… we understand our pizza. We spend a lot of time in New York and Boston, and every chance we get we sample the local fare. Anyway… trust me, the thin crust of Rosalie’s is as good as you are likely to find anywhere north of Boston, and after the long winter break, tonight’s pie(s) tasted as good as ever!

With bellies filled, Jack and I dropped Sam and Lori off at the bottom of the North Ridge Trail to Cadillac, and we made plans to meet at the summit in about an hour. While Sam and Lori enjoyed their hike, Jack and I explored the somewhat quieter than normal Loop Road. It was a beautiful early summer evening, and as the sun got lower in the sky, we spent some time hopping around on the rocks at Otter Point – always a favorite place to visit. We couldn’t stay too long, since we wanted to time our arrival at the top of Cadillac with when our two favorite hikers made it to the top.

When we arrived at the top of Cadillac there was a cool breeze blowing across the top of the mountain, and with the stunningly clear air we could literally see for miles and miles. The sun was setting in the west, and the shadows scattered across the cap of Cadillac were starting to lengthen. Sam and Lori weren’t quite finished their hike yet, so Jack and I wandered around the summit enjoying the magnificent views of Bar Harbor and Frenchman Bay. Two invigorated and happy hikers soon appeared at the top of the trail, and after pausing for a while to let them catch their breath and soak in the view, we drove down into Bar Harbor for the customary visit to enjoy some ice cream at Ben and Bill’s Chocolate Emporium. What a great way to start the weekend!

Yosemite

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As a family we had the good fortune of visiting the magnificent Yosemite National Park last summer. Yosemite is a place like no other, and even though we had heard tales of the beauty we would see there, we were all totally amazed to witness for ourselves what is a remarkable and spectacular landscape.

Sam just graduated from high school, and when asked what he would like for a present, he was pretty emphatic in his desire to travel west to see Yosemite again. When we left the park last summer I think we each had the feeling we would be back, but little did we know it would be so soon.

Last summer we spent the majority of our time in Yosemite Valley enjoying the icons – and the crowds. We had a wonderful time exploring along the Merced River and bending our necks to soak in views like Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, Bridalveil Falls and El Capitan, but all the while there we couldn’t help wondering what it would be like to escape the hordes of tourists and get up into the high country… this time we will.

On this trip we are incredibly excited to be spending most of our time up along the Tioga Road and especially around the Tuolumne Meadows area. At 8,500 feet, the temperatures at this elevation should be moderate and bearable, but it is the promise of experiencing the higher sierra that has us really anticipating our visit.

The image above with Half Dome standing large in front of Clouds Rest was made on a perfect summer evening from Glacier Point. Looking back up Tenaya Canyon toward the high country, you can’t help but sense the wonder of what must be a spectacular and unparalleled wilderness. Can’t wait to see it for ourselves.

We are currently researching and planning how we can squeeze every last ounce of Yosemite into our trip, so if you know of any must-see hikes to add to our itinerary, please share in the comments.

The Graduate

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Sam graduated from high school today, and we could not be more proud of him. Today’s graduation ceremonies signaled the start of what is likely to be one of the most important transitions in his life, and as parents we can only hope he is ready for what lies ahead of him.

Enjoying school and posting a stellar academic record throughout his career, his motivation to learn has forever been impressive. He has spent considerable time on the practice and game fields learning life lessons and reaping the benefits of athletic competition, though lately he has poured his energy into after-school activities that have tested his intellect, his leadership skills, and his emotions.

As we gathered to congratulate the newly minted graduates and take post-ceremony photographs, we marveled at how Sam has forged friendships that will be strong enough to last a lifetime. We are extremely proud of our eldest son… the young man he has become and the the older brother he will always be. Having family with us to share in the weekend festivities was pretty special, and as Sam prepares for the many changes he will now have to navigate, we are confident that he is indeed ready for the challenge.

Congratulations big man… we are all very proud of you!