Saturday, September 28, 2013

Sea Kayaking in Frenchman Bay

In the morning of our 3rd day at Acadia, we went sea kayaking - a first time for our family as a whole. Justin and I had our first sea kayaking during our Alaska trip 4 years ago.

We usually kayak in a sit-on-top style kayak on lakes. So when we were asked to put on kayak skirts, the rest of the family was surprised and curious. I told them that for "professional" kayaking, kayaker sits in the hull, the skirt, snapped onto the hull opening, will prevent water getting into the hull and the paddler from getting wet. With skirt attached to kayak, it is a bit dangerous if roll over occurs since the kayaker might not be able to free himself.   So the first thing after putting on the skirts, the group of 4 families had a safety lesson, primarily how to free oneself when roll over occurs.

First time in a kayak skirt

A shuttle transported the group to the sand  bar at Bar Harbor for launching. It was a sunny beautiful day. The light breeze over the Frenchman bay made it very pleasant. The 13 tourists with the kayak guide paddle seven tandem kayaks toward the bar island.

paddling toward bar island
As we approached the island, we turned left to paddle along the island shore to see wild life and scenery. The shore of the bar island has a sandy beach.On the way to porcupine island, we passed an unnamed sand with a dozen or sea gulls resting on it, and lot of sea weed surround it.   The shore of porcupine island is more typical of Acadia, rocky, no beach, a lot sea birds flapping around or rest on water or rocks.  On the island, there is an active bald eagle nest, the baby eagle, which was in fact totally black at this stage of its life. Lily and Justin saw the eagle nest and baby eagle with the help of the guide. Nicholas and I were a bit too far away from the guide at the time to hear him.
paddling along the bar island
sea gulls on a unnamed sand bar
Shore of porcupine island

A schooner passed by
 When we returned to the sand bar at Bar Harbor, it disappeared from view already due to high tide. In fact the tide was still rising p. In the 10 - 15 minutes time after we disembarked from the kayaks, the sea level rose a couple more inches.

Lily and I 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Biking in Acadia

Acadia has extensive bike trails on the so called carriage road in the center of the park. The trails are mostly covered by crushed small rocks, and they are hilly but not really very steep - good for recreational use. In addition, a good portion of the trails is shaded which makes biking more enjoyable on a hot summer day.

Jordan pond 

We went to biking on the 4th day of our stay at Acadia. It was a cloudy day as forecast. The cloud was low, and the sky was grey - one could not see the beauty of Acadia at all. We rent bikes at Bar Harbor Bicycles.  Following the suggestions of a clerk at the bicycle store, we did not use the park shuttle to get into to the park, we biked to the trail head directly instead. It was less than a mile away from the store.

on a downhill slope

It was an relatively easy trail for Justin, Nicholas could more or less stay with his older brother with some efforts. It was, however, strenuous for Lily and I, especially those long ascending slopes. I was the slowest biker in our family. The boys had to wait for us, especially me, at the top of every long ascending slope. With the hard work to overcome each long ascending slope , we were rewarded by easy high speed ride on a long downhill slope.  

taking break at a small trail side water fall

The bike trails hugged  quite a few glacier lakes, such as Eagle Lake, Jordan pond. We could check lily flowers, beavers dam more closely during our breaks on the trails.

Lily pond

beaver's dam

About half way through our planed biking ride, we reached Jordan pond,  we dined at Jordan House - the best restaurant in national park service system, for lunch. The timing was almost perfect, we waited for only 5 minutes or so before being seated at our table in the usually very crowded restaurant.  The service was excellent, the food was great, and all of us loved the famed popover bread.  
our rented bikes outside Jordan house

As we embarked on our return trip, the cloud turned into mist. It was a perfect weather for strenuous biking.  We completed the total of 20 mile hilly bike trails in about 6 hours including breaks. We returned to hotel early,  ~ 4:30pm. After showering, Lily and I watched two episodes of "Get out alive with Bear Grylls" on computer, the boys played games.

It was a great biking day from start to end!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Precipice Trail at Acadia

Precipice Trail is on the east face of Champlain Mountain, with exposed cliffs and nearly 1000 ft vertical rise above the ocean. It is the most challenging and famous trail in Acadia National Park. In fact it is not listed as a hiking trail, but a non technical climbing trail. I did not know all this when I picked the trail by the loop road except that it is a very steep, strenuous trail on exposed cliffs per park trail description. The reason I selected it for our first full day at Acadia was that it is a strenuous but short trail (~ 1.8 mile) and with gorgeous view from the summit of Champlain mountain.

The east face of Champlain Mountain
When we arrived at the trail head, bright yellow warning sign greeted us: ...dangerous, possible serious injury and death.... It was very intimidating! We moved ahead nevertheless. The initial section of the trail is rugged, steep - more difficult than usual but nothing extraordinary. I stopped a few times to enjoy the view and take pictures. Then another bright yellow warning sign posted by the trail greeted us. Shortly we encountered a first set of iron rungs on a high step, shortly after which  another set of iron rungs on a vertical rock surface. We were entering the vertical cliff section of the trail. I called out to Justin and Nicholas who were leading the way - be steady, no rush and space out. 

The road to the cliff
 The trail was now a narrow  ledge of a vertical cliff - left hand side is a vertical wall of rocks, the right hand side is 50 to 100 ft drop to the lower section, and straight ahead is the view of Frenchman Bay and porcupine islands!  It is definitely nerve wrecking for people afraid of height. Fortunately for me, there is a steel wire formed rail on the outside. I stopped at the start of the section, took out my camera trying to capture the view. I could see Justin gingerly in the front of a group of hikers. I stopped Lily and have her to turn around and I took a picture of her in this literately breathtaking scenery!
On the edge

Awesome - literately 
A good portion of the remaining trail is extremely  treacherous, even narrower trail on the ledge of cliff, no railing on the outside, but railings on the cliff surface, and iron rungs on the rock to prevent slips into abyss, every step, every turn poses dire danger. I put my camera in case to focus solely on climbing. I kept calling out to the boys to be careful, and reminded myself as well. It was challenging and adrenaline pumping at the same time.

As we were closer to the summit, the zigzagged trail turns into a direct ascend - more rungs on nearly 90 degree rock surface, however the landings are wider and larger, not as frightening as before. I paused for a few minutes and took a few more pictures of the climbing of the rest of the family.
Nearly vertical ascend
Difficulty wise,  the final portion of the trail to the summit is anti climatic. On top of Champlain Mountain, each of us felt great sense of accomplishment by overcoming the most challenging trail at Acadia, and was rewarded with the calming and beautiful Frenchman Bay. I secretly had a sigh of relief that there was no accident on this climb.

Summit of Champlain Mountain
It took us about 90 minutes for the 0.9 mile trip to the summit. Hiking down would have been so much more harder than climbing up on the same trail. We took an alternate, longer, much easier trail downhill to return to the trail head parking lot.

Precipice Trail at Acadia is the most difficult trail we have ever attempted. It is fearsome, thrilling, exciting and tremendously satisfying.


1) Justin did not take any pictures during the climb
2) Nicholas wrote about the climb on precipice trail for his Acadia trip journal
3) There was an accident on the trail in July 2012 that resulted in the death of a hiker - first time in 27 years.