Finding Easy Walks in Rugged Places-Acadia National Park

DSC00184.JPGVisiting Acadia National Park is a balancing act for my family–I need easy walks, while my husband enjoys more challenging trails. But the carriage roads draw us back again and again, providing safe, off road places for us to enjoy riding our tandem bike. Sometimes the weather is simply not conducive for biking–too wet, colder than some of us like for bike riding, or various other reasons.

And since most of the trails at Acadia are challenging, we search out new easy walks–and sometimes discover trails that most folks think of as easy, but which, for a person like me who has substantial paralysis in my right leg and foot, are not that easy at all.


Bare rock along the Wonderland trail

The Seawall area of Mt. Desert Island, south of Southwest Harbor, has several trails we’ve found to lend themselves to easier walking. Spring was just springing when we recently visited, and DSC00141.JPGso we were rewarded on our walk with lots of newly opening flowers and colorful buds on evergreen trees.


Seagull sentries stand guard for eiders on rocks just off shore at Wonderland, in the Seawall area

Wonderland is an mostly flat, mostly level half-mile trail out to a spit of rocky shoreline. On several visits we’ve found large number of seabirds right off shore in this area. Gulls as well as other birds congregate–the gulls mostly on the rocks just offshore, the eiders and other birds feeding in the area protected by the rocks.

On another visit to this area we realized the gulls acted as an early warning system, alerting the birds in the water of the presence of eagles. We saw the same scenario playing out this day, but, sadly for us, no eagles showed up. The eiders may have been grateful for less excitement.

On our drive up Cadillac Mountain (an easy drive–not an easy walk!) we spotted a large flock of seagulls flying about chaotically over Eagle Lake, and realized they were responding to an eagle that had flown over the lake. Same behavior as we’d seen on the shore–the eagles must not appreciate these noisy gulls, but I suspect the smaller birds stick pretty close to their troublemaker cousins, as long as there are eagles in the area.

Once at the top of Cadillac, there is an easy half-mile trail around the top of the mountain, offering views of all the surrounding area. Well-known as the spot the sun first hits each morning in the U.S., it also offers a great location for night star-gazing. The day we visited, we were able to witness a massive cloud formation slide up the side of the mountain and envelope the top in fog.

DSC00251.JPGWe spotted lots of apple trees along the roadsides, some quite old, and many that are younger and healthier. Spring is later in Maine by at least two weeks, and so we had a brief return to the full blossoming of spring on this visit. A boat ride took us out to Little Cranberry Island, just offshore from Mt Desert Island, where we walked into the village, enjoyed blooming lilacs and blossoming apple trees,


Budding entrepreneurs on Little Cranberry Island

and found an iced tea stand manned by some enterprising brothers.


Little Cranberry Island harbor

All too soon we headed back to the boat to return to the main island.


Helpful boardwalks made the walking easier in places at Ships Harbor Trail

Another trail we really enjoyed was Ship’s Harbor, quite close to the Wonderland trail, and with similar topography. The figure 8 shaped trail system offered some variety–both walks along the shoreline as well as time spent on an almost desert-like bare granite rock area.

But we’d discovered on a previous visit that the outermost shoreline trail offered rock-climbing challenges that felt unsafe for me. We opted to take the easier inland path for most of the trip, only walking the shoreline for the portion closest to the trailhead.


Yes, I made it to the top of Flying Mountain

Flying Mountain was our destination early one morning, a trail some describe as the easiest mountain to climb in Acadia. At .3 miles it’s short enough, and there are water bar-stairs almost the whole way up to the summit, which offers stunning views of the entrance to Somes Sounds. But there was that last twenty feet or so–rock ledge that required some fancy footwork and even some grabbing cracks in the rock, akin to what one might do on a rock-climbing trip. Coming down was not much easier. But I will do a lot when there is the promise of a view. This was probably the only time I will attempt this trip, but it was a wonderful experience to stand and look out to the nearby islands.


Otter Creek, rushing to the sea

Otter Creek was a spot we’d never noticed before, only investigating after we saw the sign for a boat launch. The walk along the creek provided some lovely views of a stream dropping over rocks on its way to the sea.


Water striders cast an almost comical shadow on mudflats in a quiet eddy in the stream

Some water striders skimmed along the surface of a small pool protected by rocks, and the bright sunshine created some intriguing shadows on the underlying mud as the striders slid across the water’s surface.


Otter Point

Our last stop before leaving the island was a portion of Otter Cliffs. The trail at the top of the cliffs has several spots where you can easily access the rocks for great views.

There are many challenging trails to choose from when visiting Acadia, but we’ve learned that there are also many options for being active, seeing gorgeous scenery, and appreciating the wonders of this special place. having a place to stay that offers water views is the icing on an already delicious cake of a place, Seeing eagles and seals right from one’s window is almost more than we could wish for. But that happened as well…


Climbing onto the dock, outside our window at Southwest Harbor


Marjorie Turner Hollman is a writer who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd editionMore Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd editionEasy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed, and Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. Her memoir, the backstory of Easy Walks, is My Liturgy of Easy Walks: Reclaiming hope in a world turned upside down.

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