It was not love at first sight with Acadia National Park.
I wanted to love it. I’d heard so many great things about Maine that I was ready to explore Acadia and experience the wildness not often found in the US anymore (Alaska exempted). But as it was, I got off to a not-so-great start.
One of the first things I’d read you should do in Acadia National Park is check out the amazing view from atop Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak not just in the park itself but also along the US Atlantic coast. (Which I find amazing because it’s just 1,530 feet high – a cute little hill compared to the 14,000-foot Colorado mountains I was used to growing up).
Being that it’s the tallest “mountain” for miles around, it was billed as a “must-see.” So I made it a goal to head there first thing in the morning so I’d be sure not to miss it. As I wound my way up the hillside, the fog that was once solely above my head started settling down around me. And the higher I went, the thicker it got.
At the top I could barely see five feet in front of me, and after I got out of the car and stepped my way carefully through the dense air to the official lookout point, I had a feeling I wouldn’t get the miraculous fog clearing I hoped was possible. And I was right. But at least I tried.
Since their Very Big Hill had failed to wow me, I thought perhaps the coast would. So I made my way over there along the 27-mile Park Loop Road, ready to explore more.
The shoreline was rugged, rocky and windswept, as expected. But could I honestly tell you it was the most impressive coastline I’d ever seen? Nope. It probably wouldn’t even make my top five. Ten, even. If I were to say what tops it in both the dramatic and captivating categories, I would say various parts of Alaska, Northern California, southern Oregon and Hawaii. It’s possible I’m biased, having lived in all but one of those states, but in my mind the West Coast wins.
I was now 0 for 2 and it was time to head inland to explore the woods, the place I was most curious to see in person. I was eager to compare what I’d seen in paintings to what I’d experience in person. Because I’d always thought the forests in the Northeast had a very distinctive look quite unlike those in the West. And I wasn’t sure if the variance was more because the artists had taken creative liberties in their paintings or if the artwork really did offer accurate renditions of the real thing.
After parking near the Nature Center I began exploring the Jesup and Hemlock Loop trails. I could already tell the forest was different, but if you were to ask me how it was different, I would struggle to explain. Because I can’t quite figure out what exactly it was about those woods. But that’s not really the point. The point is it was beautiful.
Even though the sky was overcast, there was a lightness to the woods. A kind of wispiness, if you will. And whenever the long grasses were caught by the breeze, they appeared to be flowing, like a river of green blades.
The forests’ colors also enchanted me. Colorado mostly has golden Aspens, so I couldn’t help but to favor and appreciate the wider gamut of colors here virtually nonexistent where I grew up, with many shades of reds and oranges on display.
And then, as I wandered through the woods, it clicked. Acadia was more than the esteemed coast or the Very Large Hill. It was also about the woods and the magic within. And that’s all I needed to fall in love.
Acadia National Park – official website