News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Mike Lunsford

February 16, 2014

Heaven on Earth: Writer gets lost — both figuratively and literally — at Acadia National Park

Editor’s Note: Today, we continue the New England Journal as Mike Lunsford writes of a day hiking the Atlantic shoreline and the trails of Maine’s Acadia National Park. Join Lunsford in March for the seventh and final installment of this series as he takes us to tiny Plymouth Notch, Vt., and the boyhood home of President Calvin Coolidge. All photos from Acadia are by Lunsford.

MOUNT DESERT ISLAND, MAINE — It was easy to forget that the world is becoming a hotter and more desperate and increasingly crowded place as I sat on a bowling ball-smooth boulder that sits more in than near Jordan Pond. In fact, it wasn’t hard to forget the pond’s water is reputedly the clearest in Maine, a claim that would find no argument with me. It is a most magical spot amid a nearly-50,000 acre top hat of magical places called Acadia National Park, a region with such greenness and fresh breeze and too many postage stamp-worthy vistas to count. This wonderful place prompted travelogue writer Benjamin De Costa to scribble in his journal in 1871, that “the mountains here are the bones of the earth, which, being broken and upheaved, form some of our most striking and beautiful scenery …”

Midway through our New England journey, my wife, Joanie, and I made last summer, we came to Acadia, hoping we’d find such a spot, and as we stepped down to the shoreline of the pond that day, we knew that surely we had done the best thing we could have done. We had a day like no other at Acadia, and we squeezed every minute the sun afforded us to hike along the Atlantic Coast, to breathe in what the great pond had to offer, and to even explore a small light house that sits a peninsula away. It was a hard place to leave, which we did just as the sun slipped below the horizon and the lonely clang of a buoy’s bell hung in the wind.

Its history

Acadia first came to be an American treasure with the stroke of President Woodrow Wilson’s pen on July 8, 1916. First called Sieur de Monts National Monument, it pre-dated the official creation of the National Park Service by nearly two months; it was given park status three years later as Lafayette National Park, then renamed yet again a decade later. Although Acadia is the fifth smallest of the parks in the service, it is one of the most visited; about two million people hike its trails, climb its rocks and watch its prodigious waves each year.

The place has been inhabited for quite a while, the first people to discover it arriving about 5,000 years ago. Those first visitors, the Micmac and the Abenaki, were once called “the people of the dawn,” for the craggy peaks on Mount Desert Island, on which most of Acadia is found, caught the sun’s earliest morning rays. Of course, the Indians were supplanted by Europeans about 500 years ago, the explorer, Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Mons (his navigator was Samuel de Champlain) giving the island its name in 1604 after he saw its bare outcroppings of pink granite. Passing from the hands of the French to the British to those of the young American nation did little to change the place. Until the mid-1840s, it was nothing more than a gorgeous wilderness dotted by a few sparsely populated villages. But that was to change.

In 1844, the great landscape painter, Thomas Cole, came to Acadia. His magnificent work, inspired by its sunsets and crags, drew even more of the Hudson River School artists to the island, men such as Frederic Church.

Within a few years, America’s new wealthy class arrived in Acadia to build summer homes, rooting themselves among its fir, beech and pine to escape the smells and noises of big cities. With Bar Harbor serving at its hub, a “Millionaire’s Row” developed, and the eastern shoreline of the island was dominated by dozens of lavish summer “cottages.”

One of the men who built a home on the island was Charles Eliot, a landscape architect who worked with the famous Frederick Law Olmsted. Eliot hoped to preserve Acadia’s beauty, all the while wanting to eventually open it for public enjoyment. After Eliot died of meningitis at just 38, his father, who was president of Harvard at the time, picked up his visionary son’s cause, and created the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations, which became the driving force behind the development of the park.

The greatest of Acadia’s heroes was undoubtedly George Dorr. A “cottager,” living in an inherited house, Dorr was a member of the trustees. He blazed many of the island’s greatest trails himself, spending much of his life, and virtually all of his inheritance, to buy land which eventually became part of the park. He not only valiantly lobbied in Washington to make Acadia a permanent national park, he eventually became its first superintendent, urging those who could to donate and promote Acadia’s legacy. When he died in 1944, his “estate” was gone, and the $2,000 used for his funeral came through donations as well.

John D. Rockefeller Jr. understood Dorr’s vision and became his patron. He lived on the “quiet side” of the island, but eventually spent $3.5 million on the park’s lands, partially to develop 57 miles of carriage roads that would allow the public to see the most dramatic and scenic of Acadia’s beauty. He eventually donated nearly 10,000 acres to the park, as well.

Getting lost

After an overnight stay in Ellsworth — the fastest-growing town in Maine — just 17 miles north of the park, we drove east then south toward Acadia on congested two-lane pavement that made us wonder if of all the spots we had come to see that it was to be the most commercialized. The traffic heading into the park, and the bedlam we faced as we wandered through an information center a while later did little to allay those fears. Yet once we drove into the woods on the first mile or so of the park’s 27-mile loop road, we quickly understood that we could get lost, both figuratively and literally, at Acadia, and that there would be plenty of room for everyone.

Determined to see as much as we could in the time we had, Joanie and I soon left our car under the supervision of a chattering ground squirrel that had apparently not gotten the memo about welcoming park visitors. Within minutes we were walking along the Ocean Path, a four-mile hitch in the more than 125 miles of hiking available at Acadia. It was a very easy walk, and we found ourselves frequently slipping off the beaten path to step out onto dramatic granite cliffs that first overlook Newport Cove and then the Atlantic itself.  It was a sunny and windy day, and we were comfortable in short sleeves and with bare knees. Little did we know that later that evening a “Smokey sou’wester,” typical of the summer months, would come calling, its fog rolling in as we turned our backs to Acadia to drive into the night all the way to Augusta.

Despite its gorgeous views, the Ocean Path is best known for the famous “Thunder Hole,” a spot where, when conditions are just right, the foamy surf smashes into a narrow channel of rock, creating a crack of thunder. It is a congested spot about halfway down the trail so it took a while for us to make our way to the railings there.

Not everyone who visits the hole is treated to its roar, but we were, and although we were tempted to walk on down the path to its very end at Otter Point, we backed up where the trailhead forked toward Gorham Mountain.

Making our way back to the car, we realized we could drive past the point as we headed to other sites, so that we did. Not unlike the trails in several of our own state parks, Ocean Path was rebuilt with Civilian Conservation Corps labor during the Great Depression, yet a plaque dedicated to Rockefeller can be found at the Point.

A few miles later — a wondrous drive that runs along the shoreline before giving up to forests of ash, maple and birch — we came to Jordan Pond, which is hardly a pond by our definition. There are 26 lakes and ponds in Acadia, and Jordan Pond is only its fifth largest at 187 acres. It is, however, at 150 feet, the deepest, and it is reported that on some days and in some places, the water is so crystal clear that visibility is 60 feet.

The main attraction near the pond for many appeared to be the Jordan Pond House, a restaurant best known for its afternoon tea and popovers, a tradition since 1900 that came heartily recommended by a hiker we later met on the trail who first wanted to know where my dialect originated. Instead of eating, however, we decided to forego our rumbling stomachs for a late supper, munching instead on apples and granola bars as we parked then wandered to the trailhead.

The Jordan Pond Nature Trail is an easy half-mile walk that joins the Jordan Pond Path for another three-mile hike around the shoreline. We met the pond at the end of a ramp, a fresh west breeze kicking up to tousle our hair like brush piles. Occasionally stepping through the trees to stand or sit on massive rocks moved about by glaciers eons ago, we ambled more than hiked, spotting a healthy garter snake amid gorgeous mosses, ferns, balsam firs and red spruces. Midway in the hike, which forms a loop, we stood on a footbridge, our backs to a marshy wetland, one of dozens that feed the pond what it needs.

Of course, the famous Bubbles, a pair of twin round-topped mountains, help frame the northern rim of the pond, while Pemetic Mountain at more than 1,200 feet is to the east, and Penobscot Mountain, nearly as tall, stands to the west. On past the bridge, realizing the time was getting away from us, we simply sat a while, deep in our own thoughts, knowing that what we saw at that moment had inspired generations of painters and photographers.

There are more than 270 species of birds in and about Acadia — loons and bald eagles, ospreys and black-backed woodpeckers, white-winged crossbills and gray jays, to name a few — but at Jordan Pond we were graced by a common merganser, a duck of sorts that sports a punk rock-like crest; she sat on a boulder as if posing for my camera. I straddled stones in waist-deep water to get a clear picture, the words of a character from “Jeremiah Johnson” — a film about the American West — resounding in my head: “These here are God’s finest sculpterins’ … I’ll leave my bones on this great map of the magnificent.”

It was late as we said our goodbyes and turned our backs to the lake. We decided to head west, then south, out of the park for a while actually, up winding and narrow Highway 198 to Somesville — the sight of a tiny but beautiful library that sits near a flowing spillway — then down 102 to Bass Harbor, where Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse stands. The highway runs travelers through marshes, across bridges, and into woodlands and blueberry thickets, and at about the time we could smell the sea, we were back into the park again.

It was growing dark by the time we got to Bass Harbor, just shadowy enough that we decided not to tackle the short trail to the east side of the lighthouse; only later, did we discover that we should have taken the chance on the trail’s wet rocks and slippery stairs, for it would have provided an even more spectacular view of the lighthouse as the sun was setting.

Built in 1858 with $5,000 appropriated by Congress, the white brick lighthouse, the only one in Acadia, sits nearly 60 feet above the ocean on a stone foundation. Its red beacon light, magnified by a 112-year-old French lens, continues to guide seafarers in and out of Bass Harbor and Blue Hill Bay just as it has for over a century and a half.

A small living quarters that sits just behind the base of the tower — enlarged in 1900 — serves as home to a Coast Guard keeper, but on that beautiful evening we stood alone and looked out over blue water toward Swans Island, whose inhabitants leave for work and come back home by ferry. Past it and a few other isles of stone sits the open sea — nearly 3,200 miles of it to the British Isles.

The buoy’s bell in the wind-blown channel below us signaled the end of the day; after that, we were to head for home. Although we had miles to go and plenty yet to see, we wished we could have stayed on just a little longer.  

The French named Acadia; it means “Heaven on Earth.” That it is.

Mike Lunsford can be reached by email at hickory913@aol.com, or c/o the Tribune-Star at PO Box 149, Terre Haute, IN 47808.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Mike Lunsford
  • IMG_9352.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: One man’s trash is, well, another man’s trash

    Many people are growing weary of ecological doomsdayers, and if so, they are the folks most likely to tell us that Planet Earth isn’t in that bad of a shape, that it can repair itself, that new technologies just around the corner will solve our carbon emissions and greenhouse gases and oil consumption and the ever-growing pile of plastic in which we are drowning.

    April 13, 2014 2 Photos

  • Inscription 3.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: A book inscribed is surely a book treasured

    I don’t think it’s a secret that I value books as one of life’s great joys; “I am, therefore I read,” could be a T-shirt-worthy motto of mine.

    March 30, 2014 6 Photos

  • MIKE LUNSFORD: Something to crow about, as our neighbors return

    It is in the spring, I think, that I notice crows the most. They are noisy neighbors year-round, but they come calling (I resisted saying “cawing”) in early March in earnest, and they do so before the frogs on our pond and the buds on our trees make the new season official.

    March 16, 2014

  • Sworn In.jpg Author visits birthplace of Calvin Coolidge

    Editor’s Note: Today, in this seventh and final installment of Mike Lunsford’s “New England Journal,” the writer visits a small town in south central Vermont, birthplace of the nation’s 30th President, Calvin Coolidge. Be sure to look for Mike’s regular column in Monday’s edition of the Tribune-Star.

    March 16, 2014 12 Photos

  • Waiting for Spring.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: The long goodbye to winter

    I have no idea what the weather is to bring to us on the morning this story runs, but on the day I write most of it, the sun is shining, and we have just come off a weekend of pleasant warmth and cloudless skies.

    March 2, 2014 16 Photos

  • The Inlet at Thunder Hole.JPG Heaven on Earth: Writer gets lost — both figuratively and literally — at Acadia National Park

    Editor’s Note: Today, we continue the New England Journal as Mike Lunsford writes of a day hiking the Atlantic shoreline and the trails of Maine’s Acadia National Park.

    February 16, 2014 9 Photos

  • MIKE LUNSFORD: ‘To sleep, perchance to dream’

    I’ve been thankful this winter for a full propane tank and ample cold cranking amps and school snow-delay days that have kept me off the roads until the sun is up on the most frigid of these mornings.

    February 3, 2014

  • MET010714 lunsford art.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: The night the snow fell

    You would think that the cold winds and deep snows that we endured two weeks ago would be old news by now, but as I stood in the checkout line at a grocery store just a few days back, a gallon of milk in one hand and a quart of orange juice in the other, a customer just ahead of me appeared to be stocking up to make a run for the Donner Pass, and all she could talk about was the storm.

    January 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • MET010414 lunsford 2.jpg THE OFF SEASON: Seeing the miraculousness of the ordinary

    It was just a few nights ago that I announced to my wife that I was headed outside to watch the International Space Station pass overhead.

    January 5, 2014 2 Photos

  • Millay at Steepletop.jpg ‘Afternoon on a Hill’: The formal poet who led an informal life — Edna St. Vincent Millay

    EDITOR’S NOTE: Today, we continue the New England Journal as Mike Lunsford writes of an afternoon exploring the rural gardens and home of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay near Austerlitz, N.Y. Join Lunsford in February for the sixth installment of this series as he wanders along the wooded shorelines of Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park.

    January 5, 2014 6 Photos

  • MET121713 lunsford radio.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: Lying by the warm radioside

    I am writing this piece well before Christmas Eve, although you wouldn’t think that it can be far away by the look of things out my windows tonight.

    December 22, 2013 1 Photo

  • MET120713lunsford.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: ‘The mind is a dark forest’

    If you hadn’t noticed by reading this newspaper or hearing me crow about it myself, I have another collection of stories out in print.

    December 8, 2013 1 Photo

  • Beach Roses.JPG Walk of a Lifetime: Writer discovers views fit for a painting while walking the cliffs of Prout’s Neck, home to famous artist Winslow Homer’s seaside studio

    Editor’s Note: Today, we continue the New England Journal as Mike Lunsford writes of a day walking the Maine seacoast in search of the great artist, Winslow Homer. Join Mike in January for the fifth installment of this series as he visits Edna St. Vincent Millay’s rural New York farm, Steepletop.

    December 1, 2013 8 Photos

  • MET100913 woolybear.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: Inching on toward a cold winter?

    I’m not ready for snow and ice and the daggers of a north wind, but I have finally accepted the fact that winter is nearly here.

    November 24, 2013 1 Photo

  • B Plot at Epinal France.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: ‘I’m going simply because I’ve got to … ’

    Late in the year 1944, the great Hoosier war correspondent Ernie Pyle, mentally and physically exhausted from his months reporting from the battlefields of Europe, came home for the last time. He was scrawny and gray.

    November 11, 2013 4 Photos

  • Black Cat.JPG MIKE LUNSFORD: Pumpkins: Good for the fork and the (carving) knife

    My wife and I are fairly frugal; we are budgeters and planners. In the fall, we set aside what we’ll need to heat the house and pay the doctor and buy sensible shoes for school. I think we’re going to have to open an account for pumpkins, too.

    October 28, 2013 3 Photos

  • Stephen Kim 1.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: Déjà vu, courtesy of violinist prodigy

    It’s been said that the longer married couples stay together, the more they begin to think alike. I can’t refute that, although, for my wife’s sake, I hope a similar theory — that they begin to look alike, too — is far from true.

    October 14, 2013 2 Photos

  • Harry Evans Bridge II.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: The beauty, spirit of a ‘lonely’ bridge

    It was the best kind of day a few Saturdays ago: not quite 70 degrees, a slight breeze from the northwest barely pushed flat-bottomed white clouds around in an otherwise blue sky.

    September 30, 2013 6 Photos

  • MET0909113goldenrod.jpg Mike Lunsford: The golden rods of September

    The sunflowers that are framed in my cabin’s eastside window are soon to become things of the past, for no matter how much I water and weed, the time has come for them to go.

    September 16, 2013 2 Photos

  • MET083013lunsford squirrel2.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: It isn’t the end but it is the beginning of the end …

    I had every intention of writing about Labor Day today; it has become a tradition of sorts for me because it seems as though my column and the holiday have an annual convergence. But as I thumbed through a number of other stories I’d written on the subject, I felt I had nothing new to say.

    September 2, 2013 1 Photo

  • tslunsford MIKE LUNSFORD: A long day’s journey into night

    We arrived at the sprawling hulk of a motel well after dark, the parking lot pitch black except for a few spots illuminated by flickering blue lights that hummed a monotonous tune.

    August 19, 2013 1 Photo

  • Beulah Gravestone.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: Searching for Beulah Jane

    EDITOR’S NOTE: Today’s Mike Lunsford column is the second in a two-part story on his search to solve a family mystery. Part 1 was published in Monday’s Tribune-Star. Both are available at www.tribstar.com.

    August 6, 2013 2 Photos 1 Story

  • MIKE LUNSFORD: The girl who wasn’t my grandmother

    EDITOR’S NOTE: We travel this week with Mike Lunsford on a journey across miles and memories, as he seeks answers to a long-ago family mystery. Today’s column is the first of a two-part story. Part II will run Tuesday.

    August 5, 2013 1 Story

  • A Sailboat on the Lake.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: ‘Once more to the lake…’

    We are heading home today after spending a few days on Lake Michigan, and I am a bit sad for the leaving. We have made it a habit to come here every year, dragging weary bones and beach towels and enough breakfast food to last us a week. And, as expected, when I turn my back on the cool blueness of the lake for the last time this afternoon, I’ll know that another year has gone by, and there’s no getting it back.

    July 22, 2013 1 Photo

  • Frost Writing C…Near Ripton.jpg Poets at heart, writer, wife walk paths that Frost walked

    A few summers ago, my family traveled to New England to see what we could see. Along the way, we dipped our toes into Walden Pond, holy waters to those who have read Henry David Thoreau. My wife and I returned to the region last month to seek shrines that poets at heart revere: the Vermont homes where Robert Frost wrote magical words.

    July 21, 2013 7 Photos

  • MIKE LUNSFORD: Mice really do play when the cat’s away

    I am rarely away from my place much in the summer. I like the quiet here and don’t yearn to be gone for very long at a time. To me, a vacation often means that I don’t have to start my car for days on end, or put on socks, for that matter. But this year has been different; my wife and I took a two-week driving trip through New England, the longest vacation we’ve ever had without our kids along for the ride. We had a great time, but when we got back, we were surprised to learn that all kinds of things had been going on in our absence.

    July 8, 2013

  • MIKE LUNSFORD: A New England journal begins …

    BAR HARBOR, MAINE — I am beginning this story before I can possibly know how it ends. The view from my window isthat of a green Maine countryside on a Thursday morning, so I felt compelled to get started, knowing a deadline looms. It is difficult work, not because I have so few ideas from which to draw, but because I have so many. …

    June 24, 2013

  • tslunsford MIKE LUNSFORD: We’ve created a honey of a problem

    The Dutch clover is making its appearance in my yard this week. A cooler-than-usual spring has slowed its arrival by a few days, but it is here for now, bringing the honeybees and bumblebees with it.

    June 10, 2013 1 Photo

  • Green Heron3.JPG A walk in the woods

    I went for a walk in the woods one day last week after work. It was a warm and green afternoon, and a fresh blue breeze blew in from the west like a new spring friend.

    April 28, 2013 5 Photos

  • MET041013dowsing.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: ‘Dowsers’ provide hope more than science

    My grandfather was a man of God. Many times I saw him, his right hand held high in the air at his Wednesday night “prayer meeting,” praising the Lord before weeping at the altar on his knees. And yet, he was a “dowser,” a “diviner,” a “witcher” who, as a favor, would grab a forked sassafras stick and find water for some poor unfortunate whose well had gone dry.

    April 15, 2013 2 Photos

Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
Raw: Obamas Attend Easter Service Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Raw: More Than 100,000 Gather for Easter Sunday Raw: Easter Morning Delivery for Space Station Raw: Crowds Rally at '420' Celebration in Denver Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico New York Auto Show Highlights Latest in Car Tech Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Ferry Captain Received Medical Treatment Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy New York Auto Show Highlights Latest in Car Tech Marathoners Celebrate Easter With Tradition Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus
NDN Video
ET Presents The Summer Movie Preview Lauren Stoner Shows Off Her Incredible Bikini Body Teen hitchhikes in wheel well of flight from California to Hawaii Celebs Share Their Easter Fun At Boston Marathon, a Chance to Finally Finish Hundreds Gather for Denver Pot Rally on Easter Dr. Phil Put In The Hot Seat By His Own Wife Jabari Parker's Top 5 Plays From Duke Career Kourtney Kardashian Is a Bikini Babe More Manpower Than Ever Expected At 4/20 Rally Debunk'd: Miley Cyrus AIDS, Cheeseburgers Cause Cancer, Military Warning Bill Previewing the NBA playoffs Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite My name is Cocaine Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Lohan Gets Candid About Her Sex List The 2014 New York Auto Show Meet Johnny Manziel's New Girlfriend Chelsea Clinton Announces Pregnancy Funny: Celebrating Easter with Martha Stewart and Friends
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity