Hello from North Haven!
For our anniversary, my husband Bill and I returned to gorgeous Acadia National Park. With us was Penrose, of course, and Bill’s parents.
We were there for Indigenous Peoples’ Day weekend. The weather was mild, the leaves were about three-quarters of the way to peak foliage, and several thousand other people also thought it would be the perfect time to visit Acadia.
Of course, this wasn’t a surprise. When we previously visited, in February, it was nearly abandoned, but the trade-off was that little of the park was open. Now, with every trail and lookout point accessible, and abundant restaurants to visit in Bar Harbor, everywhere we looked was filled with people.
We stayed at the Atlantic Oceanside again, and got into town with enough time to swim in the pool before dinner. We lucked out and got a table at Side Street Cafe. We’d had lunch there in February, as it’s one of the few restaurants open year-round, and were just as happy with our meal this time around.
Saturday was Bill’s and my actual anniversary, and I wanted to celebrate at the Jordan Pond House. The elegant restaurant, which was closed tight when we were last at Acadia, is famous for its popovers and tea. We made a plan: walk the perimeter of Jordan Pond (a 3.3 mile loop) and be at Jordan Pond House for an 11:15 reservation.
Anyone with a child under the age of – well, I’m having trouble thinking of what the bar should be for this – knows how foolish it is to make plans. We’d intended to set out on the trail at 9, but didn’t get moving until 9:30 because parking anywhere in any proximity to Acadia before I’m guessing January is insane. Then the hike took well over two hours. Two stunningly gorgeous hours, but also a lot of an anxious four-year-old balancing on boards in the bog walk, slow navigation of boulders (although the four-year-old was the leader of that particular challenge) and then stress as we realized there was no way we’d make our reservation.
My husband and father-in-law picked up the pace so they could get up to Jordan Pond House and put our names down. And by the time Pen, my mother-in-law, and I met them there, there was a table waiting for us. So, despite the scuttling of the plan, we still got to enjoy popovers and tea (or beer), and delicious soup (and pasta with butter and cheese for one of us).
After another session of swimming, we drove from Sand Beach (windy again but warmer than February) to Thunder Hole, which was in full force, and also full of people. We tried and somehow failed to find Otter Cliffs, and then went out for a really, truly delicious anniversary meal at Cafe This Way. (Seriously, one of the best vegetarian selections of any restaurant ever).
The next day was overcast and mild, and we decided to drive up to the top of Cadillac Mountain. For the first few switchbacks we were treated to breathtaking views of Jordan Pond, the Bubbles, Pemetic, and other vistas, and then we ascended into the clouds. Penrose fell asleep in the truck, and when we woke her up to walk around, she didn’t take it well. My mother-in-law was shivering in the drizzle, visibility was zero, and before long we hustled back to the truck.
We took some time to walk around town and picked up some souvenirs. Sherman’s Maine Coast Book Shops was our best stop, and Penrose left with two graphic novels and a set of glitter paint pens. I was happy with my Jordan Pond blend tea and a buffalo plaid nightgown from the Acadia Shop, too. We got a very filling lunch at Bar Harbor Beerworks and headed back to the pool.
We, and several hundred of our closest friends, decided to take in the sunset from the Bass Harbor Head Light. Here’s where our patience really paid off: We hit major traffic about a mile from the lighthouse, and realized that the tiny parking lot was completely full. As one car left, a car from the queue pulled in to the empty spot. After not too long, we pulled in.
Bill scrambled out onto the rocks and set up his camera. I stayed with Pen and my in-laws at the base of the rocky stairs. We had a perfect vantage point for the setting sun. Seals’ heads glistened, and porpoises breached.
We played the waiting game again at dinner, as we hovered waiting for a table to open at Rosalie’s for greek salads, calzones and pasta. It was crowded and hot and not relaxing. But the food was good when it came, and the shops were still open when we were done. We treated ourselves to ice cream and fudge at Bill and Ben’s, and said goodnight to Bar Harbor. The next morning we went for a quick swim, and headed out of town.
There’s a reason Bar Harbor and Acadia are packed with people when most of the park is accessible. It’s charming and gorgeous. And while it can feel crowded, there’s plenty of foliage, trails and views for everyone.