Ramble On

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Champlain North Ridge Trail at Acadia National Park

As advertised, there were great views from the ridge.
After our cruise of the Cranberry Islands, topped off by lunch in Bar Harbor, I talked Mary into a second hike from the Best Easy Day Hikes - Acadia book.  Listed as a two mile hike that might take about two hours, it seemed within our capabilities, even though it was an ascent that would take us to the summit of Champlain Mountain.

The book describes the hike as follows:

"Enjoy expansive views from the summit of Champlain Mountain and all along the open ridge, the closest to the ocean of all of Acadia's ridges.  At times you'll see the contrast of fog rolling in over Frenchman Bay below and sun shining overhead, or storm clouds streaming in from the west as clear skies still prevail to the east."

An example of the Bates cairns at Acadia National Park.
We made our way up the trail, and it wasn't long before we began to note some interesting features:  the unique cairns that were established here to mark trails throughout the park, and wildflowers in bloom, including Colombine and Pink Lady Slippers.

The cairns have an interesting history.  Originally they were carefully designed by Waldron Bates and other locals on Mount Desert Island, who apparently felt they were stewards of the natural beauty of the place.  There's a link to an article here that provides a great overview of these features.

Pink Lady Slipper flowers at Acadia.

On the topic of wildflowers, I was particularly excited when we came upon this little group of Pink Lady Slippers.  It's a type of orchid that also blooms in Shenandoah National Park and the George Washington National Forest, where they even have an interpretive trail named after the flowers.  Try as I might, hiking extensively in April, May, and June, I have never managed to see one in Virginia - so it was a pleasant surprise to find them less than a quarter mile into our Champlain Mountain hike!

The trail follows rock ledges and forest trails on the way to the summit.  At times, it was a bit of a scramble, but no where near as difficult as Old Rag or Bear Fence in Shenandoah.  We made good time and found it easy going, for the most part.

Mary enjoying the hike - before the snake.
We did have two challenges on the trail, and at the end we weren't quite able to finish.

First, Mary ventured a little ways ahead of me and got out of sight.  It wasn't long before I heard a yell, "Snake!" - and there she was when I caught up.  I went to investigate to see a juvenile rat snake slithering calmly away - not an unfamiliar species, but a little surprising to see it here, on an island.

The second challenge happened further up the ridge. On this side of Mount Desert Island, the exposure is to the Atlantic, and the breezes were strong and cold.  During the afternoon clouds had been moving it, and it was getting cloudy and overcast, so when we emerged from one of the forest sections on the hike, we were suddenly cold and buffeted by some strong winds - enough for us to call it a day on this hike.

It had already been an adventuresome day, but we still had time to check out a few more sights before dinner.  We drove on around the park's loop road to Thunder Hole and Cadillac Mountain - and that's where my next post will pick up.

No comments: