Friday, October 11, 2013

Day 152 - Walking to an Island/The Bubble Mountains

I have never walked to an island, and I have never seen the Bubble Mountains. While these events are not simultaneously possible, our stay at Bar Harbor, Maine presented the opportunity to cross both of these “I have never...” events off of my list during the third day of our trip. First, the tremendous variability of the ocean tides in the bay of Bar Harbor presents a unique feature that makes a land bridge to nearby Bar Island appear during low tide each day. In turn, people can cross the exposed sandbar during a four hour window centered on low tide. It is certainly a rare phenomenon and an “I have never...” event I knew I likely wouldn’t find anywhere else in the remaining seven months of my journey. In addition to this “I have never...” event, Rachael and I also decided we would find our way to the center of the closed Acadia National Park today to find one of the park’s most striking scenes, the Bubble Mountains resting on the north shore of a striking body of water, Jordan Pond. With our day packed, Rachael and I decided to make the trip to Bar Island at the first possible opportunity this morning, which set into motion another day of new experiences on the Atlantic Coast of Maine.

After another early rise today, Rachael and I packed our backpacks full of supplies and took to the streets of Bar Harbor. A short walk from our Bed and Breakfast we found a small dead end road leading straight to the base of a narrow stretch of winding sand leading out toward a distant island. Realizing the land mass was the sandbar we were seeking, Rachael and walked down the street and immediately took to the sand. With the tide still receding, flows of water trickled off of the exposed land, which was still soft with sea water.

Bar Island - Before

Undeterred by the inherently odd fact we were walking on a piece of land that was seabed no more than one hour earlier, Rachael and I began our trek toward Bar Island, which rested some distance away on the opposite shore. As we moved from one shore to the next, the two of us commented periodically at the odd feeling of standing in the middle of a bay overlooking the nearby port. With docked ships floating little more than 100 yards away, the whole experience was strange and amazing. It was as close to walking on the sea as I knew I would likely ever feel, and that alone was incredible.


Our path eventually guided us to Bar Island, a plot of land resting near the center of Bar Harbor. We were quick to take to the trails on the island, which led us through the woods and up to a summit near the island’s center. There we took in the view of Bar Harbor resting quietly before a backdrop of mountains in the early morning sun. The moment was peaceful but fleeting as more people began making their way to the island as low tide hit its peak. In response, Rachael and I decided to wade deeper into the forest to explore areas left largely untouched by the crowds of routine island-goers.

The view of Bar Harbor from the island

Although Rachael was reluctant to trek too deep into the woods given the threat of being stranded on the island by high tide, I reassured her the length of the island would give leave us plenty of time to explore before we had to head back to the mainland. A few minutes later we found ourselves on the islands far shore, sifting through the scattered bits of shells, busted up lobster traps, and other debris carried to the island by the relentless motion of the sea. I was happy to explore a place rarely visited by people, but I knew we couldn’t stay on the shore long. As a result, Rachael and I climbed our way off of the shore and back into the forest to find our way back to the sandbar that guided us to Bar Island.

Our trip back across the island led us to some familiar locations, but also helped us happen upon the ruins of the residence that once stood on Bar Island. With a single wall left standing, Rachael and I looked over the finer details of the century old stone and mortar spires let from the once massive structure. I stood in amazement at the size of the home’s foundation which could still be seen through the grass field that had reclaimed it, and wondered out loud what it must have been like to live in such a home.

On the trail

The ruins

I snapped a few photos of the crumbling walls before Rachael and I took back to our track toward the sandbar connecting Bar Island to Bar Harbor. As we approached the sandbar we took note of the stream of people coming toward the island, which prompted Rachael to give a passing comment about our successful timing. With the sandbar fully exposed from the peak of low tide, Rachael and I took our time walking back to the mainland, taking time to look for sea glass and to note the unique features the widened sandbar had exposed. Remnants of buildings, docks, and other coastal structures peaked out from sand covered with snail and seaweed laden rocks. It was quite the sight to behold, and although simple, it ended up occupying our time until mid-morning.

Eventually, we broke free of the sandbar’s grip and found our way back to the streets of Bar Harbor. With the second part of our day requiring several miles of travel through the closed Acadia Park, Rachael and I decided we would investigate bike rentals from a business near our Bed and Breakfast. The prospect proved a success, as we found ourselves with a bike rack and two bikes strapped to the back of our rental car no more than 20 minutes later. With all of our gear in tow, Rachael and I hit the road to return to the location we had scouted out the previous evening, where we promptly parked the car, unloaded our bikes, and prepared to enter Acadia Park for the second day.

Bar Island - After

With our course plotted, Rachael and I made short work of the trip to our first destination, Jordan Pond. The vacant roads and near absence of other people in the park gave us free reign over the asphalt and gravel paths that led us to the southern shore of the body of water. When we arrive at the pond, we were immediately struck with an amazing view of the Bubble Mountains with the pristine waters of Jordan Pond stretched out before them. To say the view was breathtaking would be an understatement. With the lakeshores and the mountains covered in vibrant color, the still and amazingly clear water of the pond served as a sort of natural mirror in the still morning air. It was an amazing sight, and it was only the beginning of our second day in Acadia.

The clear water of Jordan Pond

After taking in the views from Jordan Pond for a while, Rachael and I took back to the carriage road leading along the pond’s shore. Although the constant gradual incline of the road offered some challenge for our tired legs, we pressed on until we came to the Bubble Mountain trail. There we stopped and discussed the idea of taking to the trail and climbing one of the Bubble Mountains, which left both of us feeling uncertain considering the effort required in our previous day’s journey. Eventually, Rachael gave the final push to commit to the journey, which spurred my motivation and reminded me I have a pretty cool chick in my life. As a result of her decision, the two of us parked our bikes and headed into the woods once more to conquer our second mountain in as many days.

Looking back from the mountain trail

On our way to Peak of South Bubble Mountain we were surrounded by the unending beauty of Acadia, and were lucky enough to come across some unique aspects of the park. After crossing under a bridge built by the Rockefellers, we walked past the north shore of Jordan Pond and climbed the makeshift bridges over the pond’s tributaries. Then we began our ascent up the Bubble Pass, which required a climb of 600 feet in less than four tenths of a mile. The grade of the climb was enough to wear us down in the first 30 minutes of the climb, but neither Rachael nor I were willing to give up on our objective. Our legs burning, we pressed on until we reached the summit of the South Bubble and took in the incredible views from the peak of the mid-range mountain.

The view of the North Bubble from the Peak of the South Bubble

The Peak of the South Bubble

Intimidating... Bubble Rock is the size of a semi truck

The view from the peak

The view of Jordan Pond from the peak

We spent nearly an hour on the mountain top before starting our trek back to the ground. The trip down the slope of the South Bubble was surprisingly short, but made sense given the trail led us down sheer cliffs that made our earlier ascent seem gradual. Once back on the ground, we found our way to our bikes and journeyed back to south shore of Jordan Pond. Following a brief stop to take in the mountains once more, we continued on until we eventually arrived back at our car. With daylight escaping, we packed up our things and headed back to Bar Harbor once more to wrap up another day in this incredible place called Acadia.

One last view of the mountains from Jordan Pond

Today was another day of new experiences that left me feeling lucky to have gained so much from the first half of my “I have never...” year. Being as adventurous as Rachael and I have been in the past few days leaves me feeling refreshed and revitalized, even if my body is left stiff and sore. When it is just us and nature I feel truly free, and the ability to see such uniquely amazing landscapes serves only to lift me up. When I put this “I have never...” idea into motion I was hopeful I would find experiences that left me feeling the way I do after today’s experiences. Perhaps that means I’m on to something with my “I have never...” journey, or maybe it just means I’m finally living the life I want to live. Either way, I know for every experience I’ve gained I’ve discovered something about myself, and when that is the case, I can’t help but feel like I’m truly in a good place.

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