Biking Acadia National Park and Canada Day in Bar Harbor
Jul 1, 2007
We made arrangements on-line for the Fast Cat Ferry to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia for Monday morning. All along, we have seen advertisements for the ferry and they have obviously had their effect. After passenger fees, the over height supplement for Blue's car top carrier and the fuel surcharge, our fare total was a whopping $287 US.
The day was bright and sunny but a little bit cooler; perfect for our planned bike ride in Acadia National Park. The 80+ kms of Carriage Roads were built under the direction and funding of John D. Rockefeller Jr. between 1910 and 1940. They are a fantastic and picturesque engineering feat called classic American broken stone roads, which Rockefeller wanted to build for horse-drawn carriages so they could keep away from new-fangled motorcars.
To make our day more pleasant and relaxed, Brenda suggested we pick up a couple of Subway sandwiches for a picnic lunch...great idea! We returned to the Park entrance and Visitors Center and the adjacent jump-off to the Carriage Road biking routes. Theoretically, the gravel-path Roads are designed with gentle slopes to minimize strain on the horses but I'd like to make clear to Mr. Rockefeller (were he still around) that he could have allowed a hell of a lot less slope for aging, overweight male humans on bicycles. As it was, the routes were designed to capitalize on the vast variety of scenic vistas, which we greatly appreciated in our frequent stops to gulp precious oxygen and water.
Our chosen route was 22 kms in loops around 2 scenic lakes, Witches Hole and Eagle Lake. Many other bicyclists joined us along with walkers and a horseback trail ride, but the effect of the great distance of Roads had us spread out so that we often felt we had it all to ourselves. We stopped at a spot along the shore of Eagle Lake for our lunch and were lost in the tranquillity of the scene as we sat on the rocks with the waves gently lapping at our feet in the cooling breeze. We were reminded by the scenery and quiet of our trips into Jim Lake in the Cariboo with the Marsh/Frolands and the Langdales.
Of course, what goes up must come down and our return trip often allowed us to coast down the now benign-feeling slopes. On one of our last turns we came out on a vista of Hulls Cove, looking way, way down to The Colony and our honeymoon cottage. The bike ride turned out to be one more highlight of our trip and the agony of the hill climbs quickly dissolved in the natural high of the total experience. We loaded up the bikes in the parking lot as many other visitors were just unloading theirs, and we strutted, somewhat limpingly, with the swagger of battle-scarred veterans.
We made reservations for dinner at The Chart House Restaurant, just across the highway on Hulls Cove. We had a thoroughly enjoyable dinner, with Brenda skipping the lobster features for a delightful Macadamia-encrusted Halibut with lobster sauce and me, the allergic one, savouring one of the best rib-eye steaks I've had on this trip. We walked back to our cottage, fully sated, while the rising full moon reflected across the Cove.
Happy Canada Day!
The Carriage Roads had given us a feel for the core of Acadia National Park and, for Sunday, we planned a driving tour of the paved loop roads, which would take us to some spectacular vistas of the surrounding ocean and the rugged outward shore. The sandwich chef at Subway on Saturday told us we had to see a sight called Thunder Hole. Our National Park Pass worked here and was worth $20 US...only 4 more major parks and it will have paid for itself.
Because we were working to the tide tables for the best vantage at Thunder Hole, we skipped a couple of overlooks and side trips for expediency. The drive was exceptional and the low speed limit allowed us to see a lot as we drove. As a matter of fact, several times Brenda offered to drive so that I could have a better view...or was it so she would feel safer rather than have me rubber-necking as I drove?
Thunder Hole didn't disappoint as the incoming tide rushed into a narrow gap in the rugged rocks and compressed the air in a long narrow cave, which in turn caused the water to be blown back with a loud thunderclap. Unfortunately, we were so close to high tide, we only saw the phenomenon a few times.
Our 27-mile drive took us through several different geographic and vegetation zones due to soil and precipitation patterns. We had thought of backtracking to see some of the sights we missed in our first loop but we had kind of slipped into lunchtime. We took the turn back into Bar Harbor and found a parking place on this busy Sunday.
We walked a couple of streets before finding Carmen Veranda, a deck above the town park featuring unique menu items, which kind of mixed styles and ingredients (Brenda - Crab Quesadilla, me - Vietnamese Pulled Pork) to great effect. We encountered the town office of the Cat Ferry, where we able to have our boarding pass and tickets pre-printed to allow us to use the express lane on Monday morning. In the same building, Nova Scotia has a tourism office, where we picked up Canadian flag pins and stickers from the very helpful woman in charge, in honour of Canada Day.
As we headed back onto the streets, we noticed there was lots of evidence of Canadians around, what with the flags, pins and license plates. We cruised a couple of stores before getting to the waterfront where we noticed a big black cloud heralding one more rainsquall. Remembering an Irish bar back up the street, we ducked in for a drink while we waited for the storm to pass.
We sat at the bar and Brenda started a conversation with two women from New Jersey (I believe they were wearing sensible shoes?). They were incredibly entertained by Brenda's stories and they reciprocated with great stories of their own. Our laughter pretty much dominated the bar for the 45 minutes the storm lasted.
After picking up a few essentials at the grocery store, we headed home to pack for the next day's ferry ride. We were not looking forward to getting up at 5:00 am to make the Cat.
However, we did manage to clean up most of our liquor supply to allow us to replenish at the duty free on board. Getting to sleep proved no challenge.