Acadia National Park Week: Hiking Acadia Mountain

Acadia National Park turns 100 in 2016. So if you need a good excuse to get here, their centennial should do the trick. But why wait? September and October, when the crowds are gone along with the black flies and mosquitoes is an ideal time to experience this breathtaking mix of mountains and sea. I always tell my friends in the Boston area to wake up early and try to leave by 7:30 am so you can arrive just in time for lunch. Grab your National Park vehicle pass at the Thompson Island Visitors Center and continue south on Route 102 bypassing the far better known Bar Harbor for now and heading straight for the quintessential Maine coastal village of Southwest Harbor. Turn left on Clark Point Road and drive to the end to reach one of my favorite lobster-in-the-rough joints in the state, Beal’s Lobster Pier

The food was just as good as I remember yesterday when my buddy Jeff and I entered the joint. My lobster roll was chockful of fresh meat from a lobster that was probably sitting in a trap that morning. Jeff ordered the blackened haddock and the fish was just as moist. Both dishes were accompanied by tasty cole slaw and chips, both made in house. We sat outdoors on picnic tables overlooking the water and enjoyed our meal. 
Energized from our food, it was time to play in arguably my favorite outdoor playground in the northeast. One of the best introductions to the astounding beauty of this park is a short climb up Acadia Mountain. This area of the park is also known as the Quiet Side, since it’s on the island’s far less popular western side. The trail weaves slowly through a forest of birches and pines before crossing a fire road and continuing straight up a rocky path. Here, the quick ascent to the peak begins. A series of flat ledges overlook Echo Lake—each plateau offering a slightly better view than the last.  
When we reach the top, the vista becomes a glorious panorama, a wonderful reward for a climb that’s not more than 45 minutes. Fishing boats and yachts were anchored in Southwest Harbor, the Cranberry Islands looked more like green peas in the distance. We followed the blue dashes and continued down the rock stairs to the easternmost point of Acadia’s peak for another mind-blowing view. Norumbega Mountain practically plunges into Somes Sound creating the only true fjord on the Eastern seaboard. Resting on a bare summit overlooking this majestic sight, I started to realize why so many people are drawn to Acadia. Everything is on a human scale. Mountains and forest, oceans and fjords are all within grasp on this compact island. Everything seems manageable, even climbing a mountain after a hearty lunch. The intense bond between nature and nature lover grows even stronger when you find yourself sitting on a bare summit on a cloudless September day all by your lonesome.