family road trip: Acadia

On my agenda for Maine: hiking. Also, I wanted to have a day trip — something that took a little more effort and planning than idle meandering. So when I realized that we’d be only two hours from Acadia National Park, I pounced.  

My younger daughter stayed behind. She was still feeling yucky from the migraine, she said, and really, I think, she just wanted to be alone, in bed, for awhile. (Note to self: next time, do a better job managing expectations. I’d thought I’d thoroughly explained that we’d be doing things, not slumping around a house all day, but then the kids started fussing about not being able to sleep in and and I realized that I’d neglected to take into account that my kids might actually need a break: my younger son was weary from getting up early to milk every single morning, and my older daughter was bone-tired from four-plus months of ten-hour days, six days a week. Oops.)

As it so happened, our Acadia day was the one rainy day of the whole trip. It rained the whole way to the park, but then cleared just as we arrived. We parked and then headed straight for the Beehive. This hike, I’d read, was considered strenuous — it had vertical climbs with iron bars, and wasn’t for anyone afraid of heights. But I’m not afraid of heights, and I climb ladders just fine. Besides, it was only supposed to last 2 hours. Sounded kinda measly to me.

The first five minutes went fine. We read the sign warning of death and scampered happily up the rock-strewn path.

And then we started climbing and, ohshit, ohshit, ohshit. We had only narrow ledges to walk on, and once, in the absence of those, a few slippy iron bars sticking out of the rock with nothing to hold on to. One dizzy spell, one misstep, one loose rock, and we’d tumble straight down.

Not that I could see anything — the fog obscured the view, a gift for which I was supremely grateful. The couple times it lifted enough for me to see the far-away treetops, I used my hand as a blinder, or, on a couple occasions, just hugged the rock wall and tried to breathe. I stopped taking photos, and I didn’t look down, and I didn’t even really care where my kids were as long as they weren’t too close to me.

Keep going, keep going, keep going, I chanted between curses, half-wailing, half-laughing. At one point, I considered a panic attack but then I realized that’d be counter productive so I just laughed instead. 

the top

Because when you get yourself in a situation like that, what else can you do?

(For our second hike, I’d planned to do The Precipice, but when I realized that one was twice as high, and rain looked imminent, I said, No. No, no, no. Hell no. Just NO. My younger son was sorely disappointed. And to think he’s the same kid who cried at Tikal and Cabo Rojo because he was so terrified of the heights! Whatever.)

But even though I hated that climb and I really don’t think I’d ever want to do it again — turns out, I have limits! — I’m so glad I did it. Terror and exhilaration make a potent combo. I can see how some people get addicted to the rush. 

The hike down the other side was lovely, made all the more beautiful by our still-pumping adrenaline and the fact that we had just survived not dying. 

photo credit: my older daughter

We spent the next little while exploring the coast. While the rest of the family busied themselves scaling cliffs, I hung back, alternating between yelling at them not to die and photographing slugs on the ground so I wouldn’t have to watch. 

count the people: there are three

It started to rain then, so we took shelter under a tree and people-watched. The parking lots were crammed with people, the road-side trails overflowing, but the rain chased many of them away. By the time we struck off into the woods, the rain still coming down, we had the (forested) place pretty much to ourselves. 

photo credit: my older daughter

We got drenched (I could wring the water out of my fleece), but it didn’t much bother me. Well, except for slowing me down, footing-wise. My still-sore hamstring and knee made me more hesitant than ever, and the tread on my sneakers wasn’t all that effective, but I managed not to fall, so yay. The forest was gorgeous, the leaves brilliant green against the dark ground — I couldn’t get over it. Once the rained stopped, the kids entertained themselves by slapping trees to drench each other. 

Someone just got had.

We did another small hike then (read: I forced everyone to keep going) and stopped by Jordan’s Pond to use the bathrooms. 

I wanted to hike more — the day had turned sunny and lovely — but it was getting late and the kids were tired, so we quit. 

Next time we go, I’d like to have three or four days up there to hike, at least.

The place is incredible. 

This same time, years previous: burnt cheesecake, the quotidian (6.26.17), seven nothings, dark chocolate zucchini cake, lemon roast chicken.

4 Comments

  • suburbancorrespondent

    And now that I think of it, this may be a typical experience for all first-time Acadia visitors – everything seems so accessible, everything’s beautiful, let’s go hike! Our first time there, we decided on the spur of the moment to head up Cadillac Mountain with 4 kids aged 4-12, no water bottles, no walking sticks, me wearing FitFlops — all because the NPS rated the hike as moderate, which – as we now know – means anything but.

    We made it to the top (Larry carrying the 4-year-old the last bit of the way on his back), bought root beer (thank goodness for that kiosk at the top!), and – while our dehydrated kids gulped down the sugary goodness in utter shock that we handed them such a treat – admitted to each other that we were stuck, because there was no way we could get the little ones all the way back down. Stellar parenting! Larry ended up bribing one of the Ollie’s Trolleys drivers to give us a ride back to Bar Harbor (not really allowed). No idea what we would have done otherwise.

    Fun note: when we managed to get back to where our car was parked, Larry couldn’t find his keys. Yeah. We had to sit there and wait for a locksmith, while I ran all over the visitor’s center (shall we discuss how many steps there are from the parking lot to the visitor’s center? Many, many steps) looking for his keys and asking park rangers to try to find out if anyone had turned them in at the top of the mountain. And our 4 kids sat there on the bench, a little dazed by the sun and the unexpected root beer, probably wondering why Larry and I were allowed to be in charge of ANYTHING.

    Keys were in the car. The End.

  • Thrift at Home

    Oh my, that is NOT my kind of hike!! We went to Acadia as a family a few years back and absolutely loved it and did none of the dangerous hikes.

    Also, related: we just were hiking in upstate NY and got soaked to the skin and everyone was totally miserable except for my husband. I admire your ability to have fun while soaked, hahahaha

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