Ottawa to Bar Harbor Part 5: Acadia National Park
Ah, I'm so glad you asked. (And like you, I'm a little afeared of how long this series is turning out to be. Part 5 and we're only now talking about Bar Harbor? Yikes.)
Ahem, yes, Bar Harbor. Loved it. LOVED it. Bar Harbor is a magical place, where you are walking along the street thinking to yourself, "Man, I'm hungry" and you look to the left and there is a lovely little restaurant called Testa's that has opened its windows to the balmy summer air, and you decide to pop in and have the most delicious cheese omelette of your life.
In Bar Harbor, when you're just sort of wandering around getting oriented on your first morning there, and it starts to rain just a little bit, you think to yourself "Well, maybe we'll just get in the car and drive around for a while until it stops raining." So you take a random left and then a random right, and hey, lookit that, there's the entrance to Acadia National Park. And you think, "Might as well check it out now," so you do. And while you're ogling the spectacular scenery and Tristan announces he has to pee, you stop at the first place you see - which appears out of the trees like he conjured it - and while you're stretching your legs you look over to the left and realize you've stumbled upon a lovely oceanside beach. And then you realize that this is in fact Sand Beach, the one place that almost every local and previous visitor has told you that you must take the kids. And as you are making your way down to the almost deserted and breathtakingly lovely beach, you realize it has stopped raining.
Yah, it was like that.
Two of my very favourite memories of our trip have to do with beaches. The first was Sand Beach. I posted maybe half a dozen of our pictures in the Flickr set, but I must have taken 50 or more in that location alone. We spent a wonderful hour or more just wandering along the surf line, letting the boys run in up to their ankles and back, enjoying their shrieks of delight as the salty 55F (brrr!) waves splashed up at them. It was such a calming, restorative, fresh and simply enjoyable hour. The boys could run freely and explore (if you look at the pictures on Flickr, you'll see that they never let go of their lightsabers, perhaps the most well-traveled lightsabers since Obi Wan himself). The morning was damp from the sprinkling rain, and the smell of the salt air was heady and refreshing. It was dizzying to look out and realize I was looking out to the vast Atlantic itself, and even though the seas were relatively calm, there was just enough of a surf to delight the boys. We could even detect a discernable temperature difference in the air from one sheltered corner of the beach to where the ocean breeze blew directly in. I can't imagine a more lovely place or time. I'd go all the way back to Bar Harbor again, just to spend more time there.
When we finally tore ourselves away, and none of us really wanted to move along, it was a unique challenge getting the 'sand' off the boys' feet. Not sand at all, in fact, but tiny grains of pulverized shells. After first trying to brush off the last stubborn grains with my hand and then a sock, I actually had to use my fingernail to gently scrape the tiny shell fragments off the boys' ticklish feet - in itself a lot of fun!
Behind the washrooms and changerooms adjacent to the beach, Tristan had spied a 'secret trail'. With the sun breaking through the clouds and the temperature at least 10 degrees higher than it had been on the beach, we decided to go for a little hike along the Ocean Path trail. The famous Thunder hole was only a mile's hike, and we figured that would be within the boys' capability.
Stop to laugh at me now if you must. It was just before lunch time, the temperature was rising by the minute, neither Beloved nor I was exactly sure how far 'a mile' was and how long it might take to walk it, and Simon had no pants on - they had been soaked by the surf - and was waddling along in a t-shirt and diaper. A perfect time for a hike? Maybe not so much. But you have to give me credit for idealism. Alas, we never made it as far as the Thunder hole, but given the calm seas of the day, I suspect we wouldn't have seen much if we had. When Simon started asking to be carried, we knew we had reached the end of our particular trek, and turned back the way we came. But even in the 20 minutes or so we had hiked, we had enjoyed some gorgeous views from high above Sand Beach on one side, and up to a mountain towering above us on the other.
Mere feet from the trail head and true to my family's legacy of klutziness, I went down hard as I stumbled and fell on what was probably the only pothole in the Ocean Path. It's long been a family joke that if there was a six-inch hole in an acre of land, we'd find the hole and fall in it. The good news is, I protected both the Nikon around my neck and the passenger in my uterus from serious trauma. And I got a lovely scabbed knee, with which the boys were fascinated, as a souvenir of my visit to Acadia National Park, bringing a little park dust home with me.
The magical serendipity of the morning continued as we piled back into the car and began to wonder what to do next. My cell phone rang and it was the incomparable Phantom Scribbler, also in Bar Harbor with her family on vacation. We compared notes and schedules, and decided to bring the families together on a bloggy play date for a round of Pirate Golf in a little over an hour.
With our next destination settled but time on our hands, we spend the rest of the morning following the Park Loop Road on its 27-mile loop through Acadia National Park, with Simon's shorts dangling from my window and drying in the warm summer breeze. Carriage Roads (motorized vehicles forbidden) and rocky cliffs, breathtaking ocean views, stone bridges and cottage mansions, forests and mountains... again, I only wish we had had more time to explore this most amazing place.
But who could resist the siren song of a bloggy playdate and Pirate Golf?