From Wild! Weird! Wonderful! Maine. by Earl Brechlin
Acadia National Park sprawls across nearly fifty thousand acres on Mount Desert Island and the Schoodic Peninsula. It was the first park created entirely from donations of private land. Hosting some 3.5 million visitors annually, the park showcases the area’s rugged granite shores, deep, cool lakes, verdant forests, and bald mountain tops first spotted by explorer Samuel de Champlain in September of 1604. Created as Sieur de Monts National Monument in 1916, it became Lafayette National Park in 1919 and was renamed Acadia in 1929.
Cadillac Mountain, at 1,532 feet high, is the tallest mountain within fifty miles of the sea from Maine to Rio de Janeiro. Some days it is the first place touched by the rays of the rising sun in the United States. Atop Cadillac, a mysterious thirteen-inch cross carved into the granite bedrock along the North Ridge Trails has confounded visitors for a century. Legend holds it was chiseled by members of Champlain’s crew in 1604. Actually, it is one of four markers delineating the corners of an eighty-nine-acre parcel of land sold to become part of the park. Most likely, they were carved by surveyors around 1908.
Nearly splitting Mount Desert Island in two, Somes Sound, according to geologists, is not a true fjord because it lacks an oxygen deprived “dead zone” at the bottom. It was downgraded to a “fjard” in 1989. In 2014, area residents dropped a stone tablet into the depths honoring the band, the Grateful Dead, claiming the sound now has a “Dead” zone and is therefore a fjord.
After automobiles were first allowed everywhere on the island in 1915, Acadia co-founder John D. Rockefeller Jr., began construction of a fifty-mile network of carriage roads for walkers and equestrians where motorized travel is prohibited to this day. A total of sixteen unique stone bridges await discovery as part of the system.
Acadia has more than one hundred miles of maintained hiking trails, including some with more than one thousand stalwart granite steps. There are fabulous views, mysterious caves, and, on some dangerous trails such as the Precipice, wrought-iron rungs to assist climbers scrambling up sheer granite cliffs.
Sand Beach is one of Acadia’s most popular spots. Mixed with fine sediments are trillions of bits of broken shells. Waves continually sculpt the shore, sometimes revealing the wooden ribs of the shipwrecked schooner Tar, usually hidden below the dunes.
Thunder Hole is a cleft in the granite shoreline that funnels the power of the Gulf of Maine’s massive waves into a narrow area. The water compresses under overhanging rocks and often rockets skyward in a geyser accompanied by a ground-shaking rumble.
Balance Rock sits atop the South Bubble in the heart of Acadia. It differs from the underlying bedrock however and is believed to have been deposited by a one-mile thick glacier that plucked it from the Dedham area, forty miles to the north. It left this “erratic” behind
when it melted.
Sargent Mountain Pond
Sargent Mountain Pond in Acadia is Maine’s Oldest Pond. Based
on bottom core samples, geologists believe it was the first depression to
fill with water as the Laurentide Ice Sheet retreated 16,000 years ago.
Journalist Earl Brechlin celebrates the Pine Tree State in his book Wild! Weird! Wonderful! Maine. This excerpt from the "Down East" section explains some of Acadia National Park's most interesting landmarks