Bar Harbor, ME

WHAT’S NEW AT THE INN ON MOUNT DESERT

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21/Apr/2019
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One of the most attractive features of Acadia National Park is its ease of accessibility–the ability for locals and travelers alike to depart their home or accommodation in Bar Harbor and be immersed in The Park in 15 minutes or less.  This ease of accessibility is arguably all the more attractive in the wintertime when the days are shorter and the weather is rather unpredictable.  Last weekend I elected to take advantage of two nearby hikes–Day Mountain and Gorham Mountain–the former on Saturday and the latter on Sunday.  These relatively short hikes are ideal for brief off-season excursions as the trailheads are easily accessible by auto and the hikes themselves are not especially aggressive in any way that makes them particularly dangerous in any weather conditions.  That being said, this winter has been a particularly icy one with many rains and melts followed by freezes and snow events and so on and so forth.  Thus, there certainly was no shortage of slippery conditions on either mountain–in fact, most of the hike up and down Gorham last weekend was one which took place on ice–so you want to make sure you’ve got the proper gear.  I encountered only a very few other people on these hikes–I believe it was four in total, all near the base of Gorham–and all of these folks were using microspikes.  Without the proper gear Day Mountain was probably passable with minimal risk of injury, however the same could not be said for Gorham, which as of a week ago was effectively a 500-foot mound of ice.

On this occasion the Day Mountain hike took me about two hours, which is probably a half hour to an hour longer than it needed to take.  I went slowly not so much because of the conditions, but because I was in no hurry and was comfortable enjoying the sights and sounds of seclusion in the 30-some-degree weather (not especially warm for this time of year, but not especially cold, either).  Of note–Day Mountain, only a few hundred feet high but offering impressive views over the Seal Harbor area and of the neighboring mountains, has the distinction of being the only mountain in Acadia with a carriage road to its summit, which opens it up for various forms of recreation that a hiking trail does not afford.  On this occasion I climbed the hiking trail up and took the carriage road down.  The best views are situated, if you’re hiking up the trail, just prior to the trail’s crossing of the carriage road for a third and final time prior to their intersection at the summit.  If you’re using the carriage road up and down I would strongly suggest stopping at this third intersection of road and trail and venturing a minute or two along the trail until the sweeping ocean view presents itself just above the treetops.

Click here for video

Towards the end of my journey along the carriage road on my way down the mountain I encountered some rather impressive ice formations which are helpful in demonstrating just how much ice there is here this winter.  Just by studying these ice formations visually I figured the ice must’ve been at least a foot thick in some places, if not substantially thicker.  And Day Mountain wasn’t nearly as icy as Gorham.  To be clear, I am not suggesting these challenging conditions detracted from the experience–as a matter of fact, I experienced quite the opposite.  While I am not so much one to hike for any sense of accomplishment or even adventure–I’m really just in it for the views and the peace of mind that comes along with being out in nature–one can’t help but be colored with at least tinge of excitement when tackling a somewhat challenging environment, assuming one is equipped with the proper gear for maintaining a necessary level of safety.

 

Gorham Mountain can be accessed from its own parking area, or from the Beehive trailhead across from the Sand Beach parking area on the Ocean Drive (the section of the Park Loop Road open to vehicles all year).  Approaching the hike from Sand Beach allows–at least when the leaves are off the trees–magnificent views looking up at the granite cliffs of The Beehive.  The Beehive is itself an extremely popular short hike which remains easily accessible by car throughout the year, though I would not recommend it in snowy or icy conditions–it’s a ladder trail.

The hike up one side of Gorham, down the other side, and along the Ocean Drive back to my vehicle took me about three hours when in the summer it might take one-and-a-half.  I probably could’ve moved a little faster but had no reason to.  The views looking down at the Ocean Drive spanning all the way from Sand Beach and Great Head to Otter Cliff and beyond were breathtaking (see panorama at the top of this post–wow!).  I also experienced the unexpected bonus of glancing up to see a Bald Eagle soar about 20 feet directly over my head.  I’ve seen a good many Bald Eagles in Acadia, but never so close.  Unfortunately the surprise flyover happened rather suddenly and I wasn’t able to snap a photo, but trust the sight was impressive!

Yet another successful weekend spent outdoors in Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park!  If you’re interested in experiencing some winter hiking for yourself, we just a few days ago got walloped by a foot or so of snow, and not much of it has melted as yet!


21/Apr/2019
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During this first winter of operations here at The Inn on Mount Desert we’ve learned that many are under the impression that Acadia National Park is closed in the wintertime.  Fortunately this is not the case!  While the auto road up Cadillac as well as some other parts of the Park Loop Road are closed to vehicle traffic, many auto roads through the Park remain open for vehicle traffic, including the Ocean Drive.  The Ocean Drive section of the Park Loop Road stretches from Sand Beach to Otter Cliff and offers direct access to a great many hiking trails including The Beehive and Gorham Mountain.  It also includes Boulder Beach–one of our favorite places (we like it so much we have a nine-foot wallpaper mural of the scene in one of our hallway nooks)–as well as Thunder Hole.  The Ocean Drive, needless to say, is downright spectacular in all conditions, and you can access it via Schooner Head Road just minutes from our parking lot!  Recently I drove the road during a small snowstorm, and it was gorgeous!

During my tour I stopped at the aforementioned Boulder Beach, which resides beneath Otter Cliff.  The surf was, I would say, moderately grumpy producing a fair degree of pretty splashes and soothing sounds, but nothing like some of the angriest conditions you might see produced in this area.  Indeed, sometimes the spray reaches all the way up to the apex of the hundred-plus-foot cliff!

It was pretty chilly out there but I was able to stay warm enough to take several photos and record a few videos with my cell phone, which required my hands to be exposed.  I was probably out of the vehicle for 30 minutes or so, and despite my failure to wear appropriate attire–my basketball sneakers, while high tops, proved not nearly high enough (nor brightly colored enough–I thought maybe the electric blue and pink hues would melt the snow–no such luck!) to conquer the snowdrifts on the beach–I survived pretty comfortably.

 

 

 


21/Apr/2019
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Bar Harbor has so much to offer in the way of natural beauty and outdoor activity that it is hard for us to honestly suggest that visitors ought to spend much time indoors, but one who spends the better part of the day hiking or biking or kayaking does require some degree of rest.  For such occasions we keep a number of books on hand (not to mention many cozy places to enjoy them!), and one we suggest might be of particular interest to our guests is David Nasaw’s account of Andrew Carnegie.  At about 800 pages in length the book is somewhat of an undertaking, however it is broken up into 42 chapters which can be picked at individually–for example, several chapters provide a look at the issue of labor relations during a formative period of the industrial economy, while a later chapter details the transaction that created US Steel, the world’s first billion-dollar company, and briefly made Carnegie the wealthiest person alive (he was soon overtaken by John D. Rockefeller, whose family’s donations of land comprise much of Acadia National Park).  Additionally, those interested in Carnegie’s philanthropic ventures will find a great deal of insight into his motives and manner of giving.  Somehow Carnegie managed to give away nearly all his money in his own lifetime–rather a tall task, as his assets amounted to something of rough equivalence to a few hundred billion 2019 dollars.

We think it’s always enriching for travelers to read about those subjects with connections to the local area, so it is worthy of note that Carnegie was good friends with James G. Blaine, probably the most influential politician in Maine’s history.  Blaine’s political career began rather humbly in the Maine House of Representatives and yet he very nearly won the presidency in 1884, losing the election narrowly to Grover Cleveland of New York.  Carnegie was a master of cultivating key relationships in the context of his business ventures so it’s no surprise he took a liking to a politician as influential and well connected as Blaine, who served as Secretary of State under three different Presidents.  Carnegie was a world traveler and visited Blaine in Bar Harbor, where Blaine owned the palatial Stanwood Cottage, which once stood only a mile or two from The Inn on Mount Desert.

Stanwood Cottage


21/Apr/2019
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While it wasn’t exactly the back-and-forth, high-flying, awe-inspiring marathon of offensive genius that many expected–rather it was, in fact, the lowest scoring Super Bowl ever–the Patriots got it done!  It’s the team’s 6th title in 18 years, which would seem to suggest that if you choose to visit us for a future Super Bowl the end result is quite likely to be a favorable one!  Well, as long as you’re in favor of the hometown New England squad, that is.

As for those who had not so much a horse in the race but instead were just hoping for a bit of excitement, if there was an upside to experiencing a football game in which one team punted on eight consecutive possessions (including an all-time record punt, for what that’s worth), it was all of the trips to the “concessions” that this variety of action suggested.  For our guests we served up an assortment of homemade offerings including meatballs and nachos with guacamole, and I must say the spread was quite delicious!  Some folks got creative and combined the meatballs with the rolls to make sliders, a move that on the day was second in ingeniousness only to Jason McCourty’s game-saving defensive strike in the end zone.

Right about the time the confetti fell in Atlanta, snow showers began to fall in Bar Harbor, putting a beautiful end to another great day here on Mount Desert Island!  Today is bright and sunny with temperatures in the 40s, so it’s prime time to get outdoors and work off all those snacks from last evening.  See you in the Park!

 


21/Apr/2019
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This past weekend was a cold and blustery one in Bar Harbor, but that’s not to say it wasn’t a good time!

We’re not precisely sure just how much snow and ice had piled up by the time the blizzard concluded on Monday, but it must’ve been about a foot of the former and a couple inches of the latter.  Digging the vehicles out was a bit of a chore (mine’s still stuck, but we shoveled half the night to make sure all our guests got out!), but the inclement weather brought everyone together for pizza and a couple of excellent football games on Sunday (indeed, it was the first time ever both NFL Conference Championships have gone to overtime).  Our staff also baked brownies and gingerbread men to go along with hot chocolate and marshmallows by the fireplace!  Many guests shared their own snacks, contributing to the bounty.  Needless to say, especially given the result of the Patriots game, a great time was had by all!

Many of our guests this weekend were local folks on duty at Bar Harbor’s Jackson Lab, and we are so glad to have had the opportunity to host this wonderful group!  Additionally, despite the weather and the challenges it posed to transportation, we did have several guests this weekend who were from out of town.  These dedicated travelers were rewarded for braving the storm with a gorgeous coat of sparkling white all over the Island, and they didn’t even need to go further than our own driveway to enjoy the beauty of wintertime in Bar Harbor!

 

 


21/Apr/2019
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There seems to be a common misconception that Acadia National Park is “closed” or “mostly closed” in the winter.  As an individual who has lived on Mount Desert Island for many years this comes as a surprise to me.  I visit the park as much or more in the winter than I do in the summer (not because the park isn’t wonderful in the summer, but because my schedule isn’t wonderful in the summer), and although I am not able to drive my vehicle up Cadillac Mountain or dine at the Jordan Pond House I am certainly never left feeling disappointed.  In fact, wintertime in the Park is an ideal time for uncovering new layers of intrigue that may be less apparent in the summertime.  Indeed, there are many subtle sights and sounds which are largely obscured when there are more people and more vegetation around.

 

Yesterday around noon I ventured into the Ocean Drive section of the Park Loop Road (note that this stretch of road is open to vehicle traffic all winter and offers access to tons of hiking trails, walking paths, and scenic locales; it takes only 10 to 15 minutes to get there from our front door in the middle of downtown Bar Harbor) with the intention of hiking Gorham Mountain.  Gorham is one of my favorite hikes any time of year, but it is especially convenient in the off-season because the Ocean Drive offers parking right at the trailhead.  Convenience was not enough to overcome my wandering mind, however, and I soon realized I had driven right past the parking area.  No matter–I would park at the Fabbri Picnic Area and walk back to the Gorham trailhead from there.

Weather conditions on this particular day were 36 degrees and overcast–it wouldn’t be unfair to describe them as unspectacular, however certainly conditions were not poor (in terms of their impact on one’s prospects for enjoyment of the Park, it is my firm belief that conditions are rarely poor).  I wore a basic jacket, hat, and sweatpants and felt entirely comfortable upon stepping outside (off-topic, but these are the single greatest sweatpants in the history of sweatpants–I’ve been a dedicated sweatpants enthusiast for three decades and I can assure you that these particular Champions are the true champion). I can’t tell you whether I still felt comfortable upon reaching the top of Gorham Mountain because, well, I never made it up there–in fact, I didn’t even make it to the trailhead.  Instead I spent an hour exploring the shapes, colors, textures, and sounds of the forest, followed by another hour watching the weather do strange things along the coastline.  For me this sort of experience is classic Acadia National Park in the 0ff-season: I venture off with some sort of itinerary in mind, only to find that several hours later I’ve gone off in some entirely different direction–either literally, figuratively, or both.

The first thing I noticed upon walking along the Loop Road was all this stringy moss hanging from the trees.  Our landscaper tells me it’s probably Spanish Moss; I find it looks more like an old wizard’s beard dyed green.  Anyhow, I can only imagine the feats of artistry that an actual photographer with an actual camera could accomplish in photographing this stuff; the texture and color of it is just so interesting, particularly paired with all the other mosses and lichens.

I enjoyed the various mosses and lichens all the way to one end of the Ocean Path at Otter Point, at which point I decided to leave the road and walk the path.  The weather was still overcast, however some bursts of sun were starting to break through the cloud cover, which resulted in a rather spectacular sky as well as interesting lighting on the ground.  I stopped for several minutes to enjoy the sight and sound of a tiny waterfall that was dripping from a rocky ledge into a small tidal pool, and then I stopped again to observe some very oddly configured tree roots which cross the path.  In all this time I saw five souls–two cyclists, two deer, and one fox.  For all intents and purposes I had the entire Ocean Path–one of Acadia’s premier attractions–all to myself.

My progress continued to be extremely slow as I, for whatever reason, became engrossed in every little detail of the landscape.  Eventually made it about a half mile down the path and rounded a bend near Otter Cliff, revealing a gorgeous view of The Beehive, Sand Beach, and Great Head.  For a moment I couldn’t determine why this view appeared so stunning to me, but suddenly I realized–in all my thousands of treks along the Ocean Drive and the Ocean Path, I have never once walked or driven this particular section of coastline in this particular direction! (Which seems odd, however this is probably more common than one would imagine because this part of the auto road is one way.)

Yes, after 30 years of near daily use, one is still able to rediscover Acadia–such is the magic of this great National Park which sits in our backyard.

The picture comes nowhere close to doing the scene justice, however if you look carefully you can see the aforementioned cloudy sky with bursts of bright sunshine breaking through and traveling along the ground near the base of the Beehive and across Great Head.  Surely someone with the right skill and equipment could have captured this incredible scene in a way that showcased how these rays of sunlight brought out the pink tones in the granite–truly, Acadia is a photographer’s dream.

In all, I spent roughly two hours exploring a stretch of maybe one mile.  So while I suppose it is true that the closure of certain auto roads makes Acadia a little “smaller” in the winter, this should absolutely not lead one to believe that there is no longer enough to see or do to make the trip worthwhile.  Acadia is simply so concentrated with natural beauty that one need not cover miles and miles of ground to enjoy what the park has to offer, particularly for the detail-oriented individual looking to escape from life’s day-to-day pressures and anxieties and slow things down a bit.  On this particular day I think the reason I never made it up the mountain as I had planned is because I was more in need of this sort of leisurely, thoughtful, calming experience than even I had realized.  Indeed, these couple hours were incredibly refreshing!

Along the Ocean Path there is a memorial dedicated to John D. Rockefeller, Jr.  The plaque very effectively summarizes some of the basic areas of enrichment a walk in the park can offer to an individual, all year round.


21/Apr/2019
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Thought the last fantastic holiday weekend in Bar Harbor was in October?  Think again!

The weather this November weekend was mixed–a little rain, a little sun–but a bit of water wasn’t enough to get in the way of a good time.  Saturday morning’s Pajama Sale started at 6 AM (Too early?  Not to worry, the sale went until 10!) and shoppers who turned out in their pajamas were on the receiving end of some incredible deals.  I rose around nine and scoped out nautical decor at The Rock & Art Shop on Cottage Street, where one can acquire anything from stone serving dishes to actual barnacles (which, for the record, possess a surprising degree of decoration potential).  At 10 I walked straight out of the store and directly into a large crowd assembled to view the annual Bar Harbor Bed Races, where a new champion was crowned this year! 

Following the Bed Races I strolled down the street to Jordan’s for a stack of blueberry pancakes, then took off for one of my favorite spots, Hunter’s Beach.  While Mother Nature wasn’t exactly what I would call angry on Saturday, she wasn’t entirely pleasant, either.  Conditions were drizzly with a gusty wind, but the temperature was warm enough that I was plenty comfortable in a light jacket and baseball cap.  Prior to even reaching the beach I knew I was in for a spectacle as I could hear the distinct sound of large waves crashing onto the stones and tumbling them about like marbles.  Indeed, soothing sounds were aplenty.  On the way to the beach I stopped to observe several small waterfalls along Hunter’s Brook, which was experiencing high volumes from the recent rains.  Ultimately I spent most of my time perched underneath a tree on the precipice of Hunter’s Cliff, where a rock formation happened to form something of a bench for my enjoyment.  From this vantage point I watched the crashing surf fight the granite, sending splashes of foam what must’ve been twenty or thirty feet high to both my left and right (sorry, no pictures–I left all of my devices at home because, well, that’s sort of the point).  I never saw a soul.  Upon returning to the Inn I enjoyed college football by our fireplace and a pizza from Pat’s.

Sunday was sunny and crisp, so I opted for the same baseball cap but paired it with a slightly heavier jacket.  Once again I was perfectly comfortable outdoors for an extended period of time.  I strolled along the Shore Path, where I didn’t see many people but did run into some ducks and seagulls as well as a squirrel who, either purposefully or incidentally, was knocking all sorts of apples off of the tree near Balance Rock (the bench underneath that tree is always so enticing, however on this occasion I chose an alternative).  I must say, there are few experiences more refreshing than listening to the crisp, dry November leaves crunch underfoot during a stroll down the Shore Path.  Sunday’s football was pretty good too, although the locals didn’t particularly enjoy the result.

And with that I am once again led to conclude: Not only is there no such thing as a bad time to visit Bar Harbor, but November is a downright good time to visit Bar Harbor!

 

 

 


21/Apr/2019
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We’re not sure whether he’s a hand towel or an octopus, but one thing’s for sure–Sir Inks A Lot knows how to enjoy himself at The Inn on Mount Desert!

Today Sir Inks A Lot spent most of his time relaxing in a plush king bed, catching up on the news with The Mount Desert Islander, scoping out some local activities, and relaxing on the front porch.  Sir Inks A Lot has also been known to shoot a game of pool in our billiards room, however you won’t find him on the bocce court–those balls are too heavy and he’s terribly afraid of getting squashed.

Generally if you’re looking to see Sir Inks A Lot you can visit him at the front desk, however he’s been known to make appearances in the guest rooms from time to time.  Don’t worry, he’s not noisy or messy!


21/Apr/2019
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One of the most exciting aspects of designing our new building was finding the right paintings and artwork to hang in the guestrooms as well as our many common spaces.  We are Bar Harbor natives and felt compelled to present the best and most representative imagery of the area.  We put a great deal of time and thought into our choices, however this six-foot-tall photograph of Otter Cliff in a storm was a no-brainer!  No later than the moment we saw it we inquired about having it blown up as large as possible, which turned out to be, well, huge.

March 2018 brought some fascinating weather to Bar Harbor.  I’ve lived here all my life, and in 29 years I can’t ever recall seeing surf so dramatic as what I saw for several days this past spring.  Photographer Tyler Kimbar of Maine was here to witness is, and he captured the above photograph of his girlfriend, Jasmine, standing atop Otter Cliff in a flowing red dress as a massive wave crashed onto Boulder Beach below.  As soon as we saw this image we knew the Inn had to have it so that our guests could enjoy this incredible example of the remarkable acts of nature to be witnessed here in Bar Harbor.  Recently, Tyler and his girlfriend came to visit the Inn and posed in front of their photograph–yes, the photo really is that big!

You can find this photo near our back door, adjacent to the stairs as you come up to the main entryway.  It really packs a punch when you turn, look up, and see it for the first time–almost like you’re actually there!

Note that for those guests who would like to visit Otter Cliff in person–which we highly recommend–it is just 15 minutes from our doorstep!  Heck, you can even climb it with the Atlantic Climbing School if you’re feeling extra adventurous!