WEDNESDAY 14 September
(There are 20 photos in this post, distributed through the text.)
Today was our last full day, and our last night, on Mount Desert Island, Maine. The weather was forecast to be good, partly cloudy with cool temperatures, the best of our short stay here. Having used the Island Explorer bus system on Monday, we thought that would be an ideal way to re-visit Acadia National Park. There are lots of routes with frequent buses, several places where they cross and we cold transfer, and it was all free. After studying the Island Explorer bus schedule last night, our plan was to tour the one section/road we had already visited, and another section/road we had not yet seen.
We decided to take the 9:25 AM #1 Bar Harbor bus from our campground to the Hulls Cove Entrance Visitor Center. We walked up to the bus stop, which was at the campground office, at 9 AM and stopped in the office to see about signing up for a waste tank pump-out tomorrow morning. The cost was $12, which was fine, and they started at 8 AM, which sounded great, so we signed up.
The #1 bus arrived right on time, and pulled into the Visitor Center parking lot around 9:40 AM. There were already a lot of vehicles there, but not as many as on Monday, and it didn’t matter anyway as we were riding the bus! We disembarked and walked up to the Visitor Center building (52 steps) and had a look around. I picked up another hang tag pass holder, as a spare. We spent a few minutes in the small gift shop, but did not see anything that we wanted to buy and carry around with us all day. I had also chosen to leave the SONY SLR behind, and just capture images with my Pixel 6 Pro smartphone.
From the Visitor Center (parking lot) we caught the 10:20 AM #4 Loop Road bus. We had driven the Loop Road on Monday when we drove up Cadillac Mountain, but parking was insane and we did not even attempt to stop along the way. Our main interests on the Loop Road today were Sand Beach and Thunder Hole, but first we got off the bus at Sieur du Monts (finally, some French again) to visit the Wild Gardens of Acadia and the original/old (closed) Abbe Museum.
The Wild Gardens of Acadia had not been on our radar at all, but what a wonderful stop it turned out to be. It is a private operation that has been run/maintained by volunteers for the past 50+ years. The gardens are laid out in sections, defined by meandering paths, for the various environments and their plant communities found within the park. The old Abbe museum building dates back to the 1920s and is permanently closed, all of the artifacts having been moved to the newer/larger museum in Bar Harbor.
The #4 Loop Road bus runs on a 20-minute schedule, so we boarded the next available one to continue our journey to Sand Beach. Like much of Maine, much of the shoreline of MDI is rocky. Sand Beach, however, was an exception to the rule. Located in a cove with unique natural conditions, it had a fine sand beach. It also had a 12’ tide swing and water that was 45-55 (F) year-round. But the weather was lovely and, in spite of the water temperature, someone was in the water swimming. The south side of the cove had some dramatic rocks, and I took a few pictures.
We reboarded the next available #4 Loop Road bus for the short drive to Thunder Hole. This is one of the most popular “attractions” in the park (along with Cadillac Mountain) for non-hikers, and non-bikers. (Hikers and bikers have a LOT of options for what to do in the park.) We spent some time there, and I got a few more photos, but our timing was off. The best time to experience Thunder Hole is ~2 hours before high tide, especially with strong waves out of the ESE. Neither of those conditions were present, but a lot of people had taken up position anyway to see the phenomenon. (Water pours into a cave and traps air which then gets blown out in a dramatic spray and makes a sound like thunder, hence the name. Under certain weather conditions, the area becomes dangerous and the Park Service closes it off to visitors.)
Back on the next available #4 bus (we never had to wait long) we rode past Wildwood Stables to the Jordan Pond House, and the southern tip of Jordan Pond. We did not have a reservation, but decided we would try the Jordan Pond House Restaurant for Popovers and Tea, which has been a tradition here since the 1890’s. The restaurant had both indoor and outdoor seating, and the “grand thing” to do here is have your popovers and tea “on the lawn.” We added our name the waiting list at 12:50 PM for “first available,” and were given a pager. The wait time was one (1) hour, so we used the time to walk down to the Pond and take a few photos.
Back at the restaurant we studied the menu and the bus schedule while waiting to be paged. We were seated at 1:50 PM, and would like to have had lunch, but wanted to make the 2:40 PM #6 Northeast Harbor bus. We each ordered the “Two popovers and beverage” special, and each got blueberry iced tea. The popovers came with butter and strawberry jam, which we both used. We asked for the bill when the drinks were delivered, and our waiter took care of it right at the table.
The #6 bus went south from Jordan Pond House to Seal Cove, where it picked up Hwy-3 going west along the coast and then followed the east shore of Northeast Harbor to its northern end where it took a spur to the southwest into the Village of Northeast Harbor. According to our bus driver, Northeast Harbor is where the money is on MDI. (He mentioned names like Rockefeller, Stewart (Martha), and Travolta (John).) We had a 10-minute layover at the marina which afforded the opportunity for a bathroom break.
The bus returned to Hwy-3, and continued NNW up the east side of Somes Sound to its terminus at Hwy-233 near Mt. Desert Campground. The drive from Jordan Pond House to here was the part of the Park we had not yet seen. We headed east on Hwy-233, going past the MDI High School, ANP Headquarters, the north end of Eagle Lake, and through North Ridge, finally arriving at the Village Green in Bar Harbor. At the Village Green we only had a short wait for the #1 Bar Harbor bus and were on our way back to our campground.
It was still early enough in the day, and not that long after our diminutive lunch, that we decided to drive a few miles back towards Bar Harbor to Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf (mini-golf) before dinner. PCAG had two 18-hole courses; The Captain’s Course, and Blackbeard’s Course. Bluebeard’s Course had more obstacles and was considered more difficult. A ticket for one course (either one) was $10. A ticket for both courses was $15. We were not sure we were up for 36 holes of miniature golf, so we chose to play Blackbeard’s Course.
The facility was in very good shape, generally, and the two courses were cleverly intertwined. There were other people there, but it was not crowded. All of the pirate themed stuff was fun. I had one hole-in-one and Linda had two. Our worst hole for both of us, was 15, a Par 3 that took her 5 strokes and took me 11 strokes. It was a Par 42 course that took me 56 strokes and took Linda 51. But it was not a competition, and we enjoyed the hour it took to play through.
Back at camp, we got the Weber-Q propane grill out of the back of the F-150 and set it up. Dinner was a simple affair of hot dogs and grilled corn, with mixed fruit cups. We had So Delicious Vanilla Bean non-dairy ice cream with pineapple topping for dessert.
Linda had been texting with Nancy about their return to our part of Michigan on Friday to pick up their Winnebago BOLDT. They planned to spend the night in it, in our driveway, and then visit with their son and daughter-in-law, as well as our son and his family, on Saturday. They will have access to our house as they have things stored there, as well as in our shed, and will need access to some of the facilities. I shut off the water to house when we left in June, so I called Paul after dinner to go over how to turn it back on, maybe. It’s been three months since I turned it off, so we agreed that he would take a photo and send it if what I was describing didn’t match the reality in front of him.
At some point in the evening, I copied photos from my phone to my computer and began looking at them. I deferred editing them in favor of sketching out the blog post before I forgot the details of our day. We needed to be up by 7 AM tomorrow morning, so Linda set an alarm on her Fitbit before going to sleep.
Of course, all good stories involve pirates, so this post ends with a picture of a pirate ship.
Back when, we rode our bikes on the Carriage Roads and did stop at Jordon Pond. Lot of history there.
Indeed. We saw a lot of bicycles in the park, and the carriage roads looked very inviting.