Fall Foliage in Maine: Acadia National Park & BeyondAuthor: soliteyah (More Trip Reviews by soliteyah)
Date of Trip: October 2010
We worked our way around the peninsula to the parking area for the various Schoodic Head trails (Schoodic Head is a 440-foot peak, the highest on the peninsula). On the advice of our guidebook we started with the Anvil trail, a mile-long approach to the peak that had a few steep and/or precarious sections (ie rocks and roots that would be tough on the knees during a descent). Along the way up was a nice overlook with views that ended up being better than those at the top. (There were so many trees at the summit that the view was underwhelming, especially after others we'd seen. Bummer.) We continued over the top of the mountain to descend via the 0.7-mile Schoodic Head trail, which also had a cool overlook and then went down via a lovely path surrounded by trees and mossy rocks. That hooked up with the 0.6-mile Alder trail, which was wide, flat and grassy, and led straight back to the car. The whole thing took less than two hours, and it didn't rain -- nice!
We finished the Schoodic loop and went back up to Route 1 to search for food, since we didn't see much in the couple of small towns on the peninsula. We ended up picking up sandwiches and salads (plus beef jerky -- SO's impulse buy) at a grocery store in Millbridge. SO spotted a sign for a local park 4.5 miles away, so we took our food there for a picnic. The drive there was really pretty -- a country road with lots of fall color. The park, McClellan, was pleasant too, though the rocky coast looked much the same there as it had everywhere else.
After lunch, we drove back to Route 1 and turned onto Pigeon Hill Road to reach the Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge, set up to protect Maine's local shore birds. We choose a 1.5-mile trail that started in a field and wound its way through a ton of blueberry bushes (SO even found a couple of berries still on the branches, which we tried -- too small to judge the taste) down to the shore, where the tide was way out. I'd noticed by that point that everything looked better at high tide; low tide tended to expose lots of mucky-looking brown sand and seaweed.
The wind was really kicking up and the clouds looked threatening when we reached the shoreline, so we hightailed it back around the rest of the loop to the car. (On the way, SO spotted what he believed was a quail, high in a tree. Cool!) The skies opened up a bit in the last few minutes of our walk, so we were on the damp side when we got back to the car.
It was about 3:30 at that point, so we retreated to the inn. We sat downstairs in the lounge area and enjoyed the views of water and trees as far as the eye could see. The wrap-around porch had a number of hanging birdfeeders, so we watched the nuthatches and finches eat and flit around.
We had dinner at Ruth and Wimpy's, a fabulously kitschy diner-type place in Hancock with a huge model lobster out front (apparently named Wilbur). There were dozens of lobster combos on the menu plus heaps of sandwiches and pastas too. It was all very affordable: lobster roll for $10, lobster and corn (which SO got) for $11. My baked stuffed lobster plus a trip to the salad bar was $17.
The salad bar was pretty lackluster (iceberg lettuce, not many veggies), but everything else was fantastic. The atmosphere helped: license plates and beer bottles on the walls, a collection of vintage model cars, and an older waitress who said the best dessert on the menu was the brownie sundae -- too bad they were all out, haha! She tied on our lobster bibs and gave us moist towelettes and buckets to put our lobster shells in. It was my first time actually cracking a lobster -- fortunately SO knew what he was doing. ("It's a lot like dissection." Heh.)
We ended the meal with an unnecessary but delicious blueberry pie topped with blueberry ice cream. The blueberries in the pie were obviously wild -- quite a bit smaller than the ones you'd normally see in a supermarket. In all, it was a great dinner, and more affordable than most that we'd had so far.
On our way out, we walked past Wilbur, who appeared to be overseeing a steaming lobster pound. Behind that was a small outbuilding hung with lobster pots and the sign "Master Baiter." Awesome.
We checked out of the Bluff House Inn and drove to Blue Hill, where we hoped to climb Blue Hill Mountain. Despite the sunny forecast I'd read the night before, there were gray clouds overhead, and I was worried that maybe setting forth on a two-hour hike wasn't the best idea. But we spotted a few patches of blue sky overhead and decided to go for it.
The trail ran a mile uphill to the 900-foot summit. It was pretty -- lots of fall color -- if a little muddy. There was an overlook before the main summit, both of which offered some sweeping (and windy!) views. Alarmingly, any patches of blue we'd seen in the sky were gone by the time we hit the first overlook. Uh oh.
To go down, we had two options -- an "easy" service road or the "steep" Hays trail. We took the Hays, of course, but they weren't kidding about the steepness -- lots of rocks and some slow descents in the upper stretch. There was another nice overlook on that side too, though, so it was worth it.
Once we got onto the south face trail, which was pretty much exposed, the heavens opened. We raced through that stretch and found relative shelter in the wooded trail that we'd started on, though we were still pretty darn drenched when we got back to the car.
We drove into the town of Blue Hill to find lunch, ending up at the Fish Net. Clearly a local joint, it looked like a little roadside trailer with five or six booths and a carry-out window. We could have eaten very cheaply here (I was eyeing the $4 grilled cheese), but we ended up getting a $13 lobster roll (me -- YUM) and a $9 fish and chips (SO), plus a dessert of apple crisp with a HUGE pile of vanilla ice cream. It was fun to eavesdrop on some local conversations; most of the people there seemed to know each other.
We spent about 45 minutes after lunch browsing the stacks in Blue Hill Books, one of two independent bookstores in town. (We stopped in the other one too; it was connected to a yummy-smelling bakery.) Blue Hill Books had two floors of goodies, including a sizable poetry section. SO and I both treated ourselves to a book purchase. As we browsed, we were amused by the conversation between the sales clerk and a local. The clerk had been in Bar Harbor a couple of days before and said there were so many tourists (particularly cruise ship passengers) that you couldn't even move on the sidewalks. She talked disdainfully about cruise ship travel and how it was not how she'd ever want to travel, etc. I had some sympathy for her point of view, but I found it sort of funny that she was complaining about tourists when we were right there. Hopefully that means we weren't obvious foreigners!
We browsed a few other galleries/shops and stopped in the local marine ecological society office, where the staffer on duty recommended driving out to Wooden Boat to try to look for seals. (SO really wanted to see some at some point during the week.) So we drive toward Brooklin to see if we'd have any luck. It was a pretty country drive, and we tried to identify the house in North Brooklin where E.B. White and his family once lived. (It's not marked -- nuts.) Wooden Boat is a school/boat building workshop/store/magazine publishing company. We went out to their little boat launch/beach area with binoculars, but we had no luck with the seal spotting, alas. We popped into their store and bought a souvenir for my dad, who likes to sail.
The afternoon was coming to a close, so we headed down toward Stonington. After crossing onto Little Deer Isle via a truly enormous bridge, we detoured out to the end of Eggemoggin Road, where we had a nice view of a lighthouse on nearby Pumpkin Island. Our second detour was on Deer Isle, to Settlement Quarry. A quick five-minute walk brought us to a former granite quarry with fantastic views -- it was the least work we've had to do for that sort of view all week!
We arrived in the harbor town of Stonington a little after 5 p.m. and found our lodging for the night easily enough -- Boyce's Motel, right on Main Street. A friendly young staffer checked us in and took our payment on the spot, telling us we could leave our key in the room the next day and simply leave without checking out. We were a little worried this place would be a dive since we were paying less than $70 a night with taxes, but it was actually pretty decent. The room was small but well kept, with a view out onto Main Street and the harbor. The light switches and plugs in the bathroom were in rather bizarre places, and the lack of three-pronged outlets meant we couldn't plug in our laptop, but otherwise it was just fine.
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