Mr. Rockefeller's teeth
Jul 7, 2008
|Busses, carriages and Rockefeller's roads - Monday, July 7
Acadia National Park is served by a well designed bus system called Island Explorer, and we started out Monday morning by catching one of their shuttle busses into the town of Bar Harbor. Bar Harbor is outside the park but adjacent to it, and it once was the playground of the rich and famous back in the days of the Rockefeller’s, the Vanderbilt's, the Morgan’s and the Pulitzer’s.
It’s a clean attractive little town built on a hill overlooking a wide ocean harbor. Today the harbor is partially shrouded in offshore fog, but several islands are visible, and there are a scattering of boats at anchor. A four masted schooner is tied up to a dock. The boats are for pleasure and lobstering, and the schooner is an excursion boat you can go out on for thirty something dollars. The town is filled with tourists speaking a variety of languages, but it is not crowded and the atmosphere is relaxed and happy.
We found a post office and called to have our mail forwarded, then we checked out the various tours, both land and sea. Nothing appealed to us right off, so we returned to the town green and boarded a bus for the Acadia National Park Visitor Center. There is a 52 step climb from the parking lot to the Visitor Center which features an excellent video on the park and it’s history.
The narrator of the film had this to say about Acadia Park;
“This place does not overwhelm. Acadia Park was never like that. It doesn’t reach out and grab you. It invites you in to share it’s secrets.
“Acadia is not a place of superlatives. There is no highest, widest, fastest or richest here - no Old Faithful Geyser - no Grand Canyon. But in a world sated with superlatives Acadia shows us there are better values.” He goes on to talk of the solitude, and the subtle beauty of the quiet vistas. I would add that there is a gentleness here as well. From the calmness of the sea, to the accessibility of the highest peak - this is a place that truly does invite you in. Trailheads do not warn of rattlesnakes or grizzly bears, and while there are black bears and poison ivy, even they seem relatively benign. There is little to fear, and much to enjoy in this serenely beautiful gem of a park.
From the Visitor Center we boarded an Island Explorer Loop Bus. This bus follows the Loop Road which circles the eastern half of the park, and makes a number of stops at various features such as Sand Beach, the Thunder Hole, and the Cadillac Mountain trailhead.
One of the stops on the Loop is the Wildwood Stables. Here you can enjoy a feature that is unique to Acadia Park, the carriage rides. Many parks and other venues offer carriage rides, but the thing that makes these rides unique is the fact that they follow carriage roads designed and built by John D. Rockefeller Jr. himself, and created especially for this purpose.
When the island started admitting motor cars, John D. worried that the experience of riding by horse drawn carriage would be lost to future generations, so he donated the land and money to build some 57 miles of crushed rock roads dedicated exclusively to pedestrian and carriage traffic, and prohibited to motorized vehicles. This from a man who’s fortune was made on the oil that made the motorcar possible.
We decided a carriage ride was preferable to a bus tour so we got off at Wildwood Stables and booked a ride. We were soon aboard a horse drawn wagon that seated some 12 to 16 people, and was pulled (pushed really) by two powerful Belgian draft horses. The driver’s name was Jim, and while he said he is from Maine his accent was more Jersey or New York. He took us on an hour’s ride around Day Mountain.
Rockefeller delighted in designing his roads so that after a mile or two in the woods they would suddenly come out on one of his favorite vistas, and of these Acadia Park has many. Some of the ones we saw were of the ocean and the fog softened shore, and of Cadillac Ridge the highest point on the eastern seaboard. In addition to the roads he built 17 rock bridges, each specially designed to harmonize with the creek or road or waterfall it spanned.
All along the way the roads are bordered by large granite blocks called coping stones, but nicknamed Rockefeller’s Teeth, for their resemblance to a human set of teeth. It’s doubtful if anyone called them that to Mr. Rockefeller’s face, but despite his wealth and power he was a good hearted and generous man, who might not have minded at all. He is also said to have been a serious man however, so he probably would not have laughed.
Some additional notes regarding the park:
Maine has more offshore islands than any other state.
At 1,530 feet, Cadillac Mountain summit is the highest point on the Atlantic coast (eastern seaboard) north of Rio de Janero.
Acadia was the first National Park east of the Mississippi.
We topped off the day with dinner in Bar Harbor. We got to the Parkside Restaurant in time for their early bird lobster, and for $19.95 apiece we each got a pound and a quarter lobster served whole. None of us had ever tackled a whole lobster before, but our waiter was kind enough to coach us on the technique, and hunger did the rest. It was absolutely exquisite, and Maine lobster is certainly one of this country’s best meals by far. Do I sound like a fan?!