Autumn Hiking Along The Maine Coast

On our way we stopped Midcoast and took a hike in the La Verna Nature Preserve.  We raced the setting sun and enjoyed the loop trail and especially the half mile that runs along the rocky shoreline of the Muscongus Bay. This trip is described in the AMC guide, Best Day Hikes along the coast of Maine by Carey Kish.
On our way we stopped Midcoast and took a hike in the La Verna Nature Preserve. We raced the setting sun and enjoyed the loop trail and especially the half mile that runs along the rocky shoreline of the Muscongus Bay. This trip is described in the AMC guide, Best Day Hikes along the coast of Maine by Carey Kish.

Amy Patenaude

 

by Amy Patenaude
Outdoor/Ski Writer

Why not? We could stay with our AT thru-hiking friend Carey Kish and his fine wife Fran in Southwest Harbor on Mount Desert Island. We could see the Ocean. It would be fun. So we did!
We skipped out of work a little early on Thursday and with a copy of the AMC’s Best Day Hikes along the Maine Coast in my hands, written by non-other than our friend Carey Kish, I made a plan while Charlie drove east.

Acadia’s paths and trails are not just famous for their fine stonework-Iron ladders and hand rails on the Beech Cliff Trail.
Acadia’s paths and trails are not just famous for their fine stonework-Iron ladders and hand rails on the Beech Cliff Trail.

Midcoast Maine, as best as I can tell, are the places between Freeport and Belfast. Then it’s Acadia/Bar Harbor and that other coastal place I have yet to visit called Downeast. Maine is big and has a big coastline.
Just north of Freeport we got off the Interstate and continued on Route 1 until we turned off towards the ocean. We passed through Damariscotta where traffic was stop and go, not due to the bridge bottleneck but because of forklifts running around carrying giant pumpkins on the main street.
Three hours later we were standing at the La Verna Preserve trailhead kiosk—trip #22 in the guide complete with map. I picked this trip because the 3 mile lollypop-loop has half of mile of trail right on the rocky coast and it sounded lovely for a late afternoon adventure.
Wasting no time we hit the trail. We wanted to make sure we were out by dark—can’t waste those headlamp batteries. The well blazed trail’s good footing made it easy for us to hustle down the trail through the woods and over bog bridges.
We heard the noise of the water hitting the rocks before we caught our first glimpse of the dark ocean through the trees. The trail dropped and we went nearer the water and we followed a spur that opened right out to onto the rocks. In the distance, the view of the near and far islands were tinged pink in the alpine glow of the soon to be setting sun.
More than once I muttered that we should have allowed for more time to enjoy this place. We walked slowly until the path turned away from the ocean. Back in the woods we hiked fast back to the trailhead and darkness greeted us back at the car.

Outdoor/Ski Columnist Amy Patenaude takes us on a breathtaking autumn hike along the midcoast of Maine. Pictured here are Fran Leyman and Charlie Gunn on top of Beech Cliff overlooking Echo Lake on a fine fall morning.  There are over 120 miles of paths and trails in Acadia National Park and Fran has redlined the Park--hiked every trail and path.
Outdoor/Ski Columnist Amy Patenaude takes us on a breathtaking autumn hike along the midcoast of Maine. Pictured here are Fran Leyman and Charlie Gunn on top of Beech Cliff overlooking Echo Lake on a fine fall morning. There are over 120 miles of paths and trails in Acadia National Park and Fran has redlined the Park–hiked every trail and path.

The super large pumpkins were out on display in Damariscotta and luckily we were able to secure two seats at the King Eider’s Pub. At the bar we were served crab cakes, fresh fish and a recommendation to stay at the Hawk House B&B (just four miles away).
After yummy eggs and homemade bread toast prepared by our host at the Hawk House we drove two hours to Acadia National Park.
Straight to the Loop Road we went and we parked in the right hand lane (like they do on the one-way Loop Road, remember not anywhere else) and just past the parking for the popular Precipice Trail. Luckily, right in front of the rock climber’s herd path.
Charlie led me up a three pitch vertical climb and it did have wide belaying ledges to stand on while Charlie climbed above me. The rock was nice, the weather perfect and the wide ocean vista was grand and it was a fine fun afternoon for rock climbing.
Carey and Fran are wonderful hosts. They made us supper and put us up in a comfy bed.
We were up early and Fran, Charlie and I went off to hike. Fran is a strong hiker and she is in part because she redlined Acadia’s hiking trails—she’s hiked every single trail! She is the best guide. From her husband’s guide I had picked Trip #30—Beech Cliffs/Beech Mountain Loops. Fran agreed it was a good choice and nearby on their “quiet side” of Mount Desert Island.
From the parking area on the south end of Echo Lake we started up the Beech Cliffs Trail. Wood carved signs, rock steps, big lookout ledges and even a few iron ladders on the steepest parts make up the trail to the lookout tower.
The Beech Mountain fire tower is sometimes open but we were too early for its noon opening. We still climbed the stairs up to just below the cabin. Oh the view of the surrounding mountains and the sparkling waters was lovely.
The guide book gives an excellent description of the trails and what you can see in the vista.
With Fran’s guidance we strayed from Trip #30’s route and we headed down the South Ridge and returned via the Valley Trail. There are so many options for hiking—Acadia National Park has over 120 miles of trails and paths. Yes, Fran has hiked every mile and many more than once.
After our hike we picked up Carey and we all went to the Oktoberfest celebration. We met friends, tasted beers and tasted beer (yes we did).

The Perpendicular Trail up Mansell Mountain isn’t as steep as it it sounds but the 1,100 stone steps do climb over 800 vertical feet in just over half a mile.
The Perpendicular Trail up Mansell Mountain isn’t as steep as it it sounds but the 1,100 stone steps do climb over 800 vertical feet in just over half a mile.

The next day the weather wasn’t as wonderful—rain was moving in. Charlie and I managed to get up early and go for a hike. The trailhead for Mansell Mountain is not far from where we started our last hike but on the south end of Long Pond. The wind was blowing hard and making whitecaps on the pond. The Perpendicular Trail, originally constructed by the CCC, has over 1,100 stone steps. Fran has counted them and confirmed that there are that many stone steps! This trail is a piece of art and will withstand the test of time and the repeated travel of hikers for generations to come.
Again we enjoyed nice views and the darkening skies really made the yellow and red foliage appear even brighter. We had a nice view of Beech Mountain and could see the fire tower too.
Since it was not raining yet we descended via the Razorback Trail. From the ledgy open ridge we could see far out to the mountains and ocean. Luckily we made it back to the car just as it started to rain.

Charlie, Kris and Jay having fun hiking in the rain. This is just one of the many stone staircases to be found on Acadia National Park’s paths and trails.
Charlie, Kris and Jay having fun hiking in the rain. This is just one of the many stone staircases to be found on Acadia National Park’s paths and trails.

After lunch we met our good friends Kris and Jay for a short hike in the rain. Donning our rain gear we walked on trails close to Bar Harbor. We walked along the Tarn on the path paved with giant rock blocks and then we made a loop up the stone staircase that forms the path for the Kurt Diederich’s Climb and then descended on the switchbacks on the fine stonework of the Emery Path.
We got soaked but the view over the Great Meadow and Bar Harbor to the ocean was stunning. The giant cruise ship anchored in the harbor was dwarfed by the vastness of the ocean and the islands.
On our final night we all went out on the town of Bar Harbor (just like everyone else on Mount Desert Island). Our dinner reservations at the Side Street Café were late. Carey said it was well worth waiting for and he was right. To pass the time we sat at the bar next door, Pork Nation, where the bartender entertained us with good Oktoberfest tips.
The next morning the sun reappeared. Carey and Fran were busy packing for a camping trip to Isle au Haut and they had to be ready to leave the next day to catch a 4:30 am ferry to the island.
We joined Kris and Jay for a 25 mile ride through the park on the famous Acadia Carriage Roads.
As soon as we finish our bicycle ride we packed up our bikes and began the 5 hour drive home. With Charlie behind the wheel, I sat in the passenger seat and thumbed through Carey’s guide and dreamed about our next visit to hike the Maine Coast.
Have fun!

Amy Patenaude is an avid skier/outdoor enthusiast from Henniker, N.H. Readers are welcome to send comments or suggestions to her at: amy@weirs.com.