Summer's Maine Event, Part 2

(This is the second of two parts.)

Nobody goes there anymore; it's too crowded.”    Yogi Bera

In Part 1 of this article I wrote about visiting Maine and sailing for a few days the islands and bays north of Rockland on a coastal schooner. The ship returned to its home port mid-morning, leaving us plenty of time for a leisurely drive north along the coast, a lunch stop in Camden, and then on to our hotel in Bar Harbor. We'd have two days there to explore and photograph. And eat.

Pat and I had last been in Maine in the 1980s, and last visited Acadia National Park in 1976. I remember Bar Harbor as a lovely, serene, sleepy little seaside village, certainly with ample tourist traffic, but still a working harbor town. Back then, the end of tourist season came at Labor Day, the first Monday in September. Many shops had closed for the year, we experienced little traffic, and thoroughly enjoyed our time there. Which is why, upon coming into town, we found the numbers of people and cars, and the expansion of the shopping “opportunities” to be beyond shocking. We crept along Mt. Desert Street (Route 3) to Main, finally reaching our hotel, being very grateful it had its own parking area, as one could only dream of finding empty curb-side parking spaces.

The World Comes to Bar Harbor

After getting settled in we took a walk through town, the weather sunny, warm and dry. Mind-numbing congestion made crossing roads a challenge, jammed as they were with barely-moving cars. The sidewalks, packed edge-to-edge with people, made walking through town equally difficult. It brought to mind an episode of the original Star Trek series, “The Mark of Gideon”, which featured an over-crowded planet looking to our spacefaring heroes for solutions. The streets of Bar Harbor felt much like the scene outside the window of the USS Enterprise in this photo. A fairly geeky reference, perhaps, but an accurate way to describe the stunning crush of bodies in Bar Harbor on a mid-September afternoon.

Thirty years ago the giant cruise ships didn't stop in Bar Harbor. Now they do, weekly disgorging thousands of passengers. Ah, Progress. We bumped and jostled our way through town, looking, with limited success, for anything familiar from our visits so many years ago. Later in the evening we had a wonderful meal at the Bar Harbor Inn. From our table we watched one of the giant cruise ships depart, glad to see it, and its population of passengers, go. People still overran the town the next day, but the traffic, both on foot and in cars, seemed a bit lighter.

Acadia National Park

Acadia is what I came for, the real reason I toted the camera gear across the country and through the TSA's gauntlet, which, to be fair, offered no significant hassle. I had fun making photographs on the Heritage, and reviewing the pictures later I happily found a few keepers. Never say “Never”, but I don't expect I'll ever see Maine again; I really, really wanted to come home with a good picture or two from the park. It would be a challenge, as I'd have only one sunrise to get it done.

Over night it rained, and we woke to a chilly morning of drizzle and gloomy, blah skies. It would be a good day for exploring and scouting. One should never discount a gray day; perhaps there'd be interesting fog or, if rougher weather moved in, impressive waves. After breakfast we escaped town and made the short drive to the park's entrance.

Sand Beach, Acadia National Park, Maine, U.S.

Rocks on Sand Beach, in Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park, at about 47,000 acres, occupies most of Mount Desert Island. The island is heavily wooded, primarily with balsam and white spruce, but also a variety of deciduous trees. Too early for fall color, we drove mainly through green forest, although some trees had begun to turn. Like most of Maine, the island is quite rocky, with large blocks of pink granite piled along the coast. Given our very limited time in the park I planned to hit a few of the iconic spots, looking for good subjects and compositions, and hoping weather would help make for interesting photos.

We stopped first at the appropriately-named (and deserted!) Sand Beach. It's an unusual little cove because it's filled with clean, golden sand, broken by protruding granite, and surrounded by high cliffs. Low morning sun would make for long shadows from the scattered boulders, but this morning's gray sky prevented that. Marty, the geologist, climbed around for a good look at the rocks, while I looked for abstracts and other fun compositions of jagged dark rock and smooth, flat sand. Although I considered this a scouting visit, I made a number of exposures. I'm glad I did because, as things turned out, we didn't return to Sand Beach the next day.

Back on the park's Loop Road we moved on for a quick look at Thunder Hole. A quick look because we found cars and tour buses in the parking area and lots of people wandering around. Concrete stairs and stainless steel railings lined the way to the rock feature that, on this day with calm seas, did no thundering. When Pat and I last visited Thunder Hole we were the only people there, and had to scramble along the rocky path without benefit of pavement or railings. I'm sure it's safer now, but if one wanted to photograph Thunder Hole, the challenge would be to avoid having stairs and railings (and people!) in the pictures. It all seemed rather sterile and artificial. Disney World meets the Maine coast.

Otter Point came next along Loop Road. More accurately, several turn-outs along the road, near Otter Cliff, provided opportunities to look toward the point. I climbed down into the giant slabs of granite below the road, looking for compositions and gauging where the sun would rise the next day. I liked the look of things and planned to return in the morning. Ask any photographer, and he or she will confirm that the desire to make a picture is directly linked to whatever cosmic forces control the weather, forces that delight in frustrating us. I could only wait to see if I'd have decent conditions the next morning.

Kayakers on Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park, Maine, U.S.

Half a dozen Kayakers on Jordan Pond. They're quite small in this photo, but there had been twice as many, and much closer.

We continued on Loop Road, with a couple more quick stops to admire the views, until we'd made our way to Jordan Pond House. Jordan Pond is a lovely little glacial tarn, easily accessed from a short trail starting at the restaurant. Across the pond are two small, rounded hills, North Bubble and South Bubble (collectively, “The Bubbles”), and larger Pemetic Mountain, a significant east coast mountain at over 1250 feet (380 m). We walked the trail to a boulder-strewn shore and found the pond relatively calm and the hills all but invisible in fog. Lovely! I dashed back to the car for my photo gear, while the rest of our group went into the restaurant for an early lunch. While the trip to the car and back couldn't have taken 15 minutes, when I got back to the pond the fog had lifted, exposing The Bubbles, but leaving a shroud of heavy cloud above them and across Pemetic Mountain. A steady drizzle had wet the boulders, bringing out nice color in the granite. All very cool, but: a gaggle of kayakers had parked, apparently to stay and gab, smack in the middle of my composition. I can't say I understand how that was fun for them, sitting in a lake in the rain. Perhaps it was a group of old friends who'd not seen each other since they last screwed up someone's final attempt to photograph the pond. Or they were just being jerks.

I wandered among the rocks, setting up and making a few exposures, thinking I might be able to remove the kayakers later in Photoshop. Eventually I just sat on a rock in the drizzle, and waited. The kayakers sat in their kayaks, bunched into a couple of groups, waiting along with me. Finally most of them moved off, and I did get a keeper image from which I had to remove (with Photoshop's clone tool) only a couple of the colorful little boats. I retraced my steps to the car to stow the photo gear and then found Pat, Marty, and Marie in the restaurant, warm and dry (unlike me), and waiting to order. Another fine meal.

We continued our drive, having a look at the view from atop Cadillac Mountain (at 1530 feet/466m, the highest point on the eastern Atlantic seaboard), stopping at the park's visitor center, and finally making our way back to Bar Harbor. The weather had improved to a hazy, calm, warm afternoon. Later in the evening we had a terrific meal and a small pub on Main Street. I decided not to attempt any evening/sunset photos, as the haze and thin clouds made for a boring sky and poor light.

A Glorious Sunrise

On our last morning there, Pat and I got into the park around 5:30 AM. We went directly to the third turn-out past Otter Cliff, sat in the dark for nearly half an hour, until I had enough light to see my way climbing down into the rocks above the ocean. One always appreciates calm winds on a chilly morning. This also meant a calm ocean. Some wave action would have been worth tolerating a bit of wind. Otherwise, I couldn't have asked for better conditions; great clouds, brilliantly under-lit before the sun rose. With my back to the local boulders and Otter Point I made a number of exposures until the sun just broke the horizon. I then turned 180° and focused on the rocks and point. “Spectacular” describes the morning pretty well. The light on the rocks brought out blazing color, almost too much to seem realistic in the pictures. I worked the area for only half an hour. By 6:00 the sky had cleared completely and the light on the rocks had lost intensity. I couldn't have been happier as we drove to Jordan Pond for a quick look, but no photos thanks to the empty sky and choppy water. We returned to Bar Harbor for an outstanding breakfast. We found Marty and Marie coming out for their own breakfast just as we returned to the hotel.

Sunrise on the rocks leading to Otter Point, Acadia National Park, ME, U.S.

Sunrise on the rocks leading to Otter Point.

Heading Home

We spent the rest of the morning driving around Mount Desert Island, visiting Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, Southwest Harbor, Northeast Harbor, Pretty Marsh, and Indian Point, making our way across the causeway into Ellsworth and then south to Camden for another excellent lunch. It took most of the afternoon to get to the hotel in Portland. A nearby restaurant provided a good dinner.

We had an early flight out of Portland. In keeping with tradition, United couldn't have made a bigger mess of it, eventually canceling our flight. Thanks to Pat's determination to get home yet that same day, she convinced United to put us on Delta flights, which worked out really well except we arrived at the airport in Missoula, MT, while our car awaited 150 miles away at the airport in Kalispell. We rented a car to get home, dropping it off the next day in Kalispell and collecting our car. Note to United Airlines: to better serve your customers, put them on Delta flights.

Crowds (and United) aside, we had great fun, ate well, saw some beautiful country, revisited old memories, and got home on the originally scheduled day, which is never a sure thing these days. I have a few new photos with which I'm very happy. A few days ago I dug out the slides from our Maine trips in the '70s and '80s. They are almost universally terrible, but as is often the case, I enjoyed the memories. Not everything has improved in the last 40 years, but I'm much happier with my photography now!

We've created a gallery on this site for photos made in Acadia. We will be adding to that gallery over the next few weeks.

October, 2015

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