Dateline July 25, 2012: Acadia National Park

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We drove into Maine across the FDR bridge linking Campobello Island and Maine. Our destination was Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor on Mount Desert Island, which is the second largest island on the east coast, smaller than Long Island and larger than Martha’s Vineyard. We stopped at a campsite just outside Bar Harbor for the evening and enjoyed some of the great flounder we had purchased in Five Islands. In the morning we drove into Bar Harbor. What a lovely, active town overlooking Frenchman Bay. The many boats and yachts in the harbor offset the beautiful landscape. It is easy to understand that by 1880, there were over 30 hotels, with tourists arriving by train and ferry to the Gilted Age resort that would rival Newport, Rhode Island as a destination for the rich and famous who built “cottages” for family retreats. In 1947 a fire destroyed most of the hotels and unfortunately many of the cottages. The fire smoldered underground through the winter into the spring of 1948. The town then rebuilt to become the oasis that it is today.

We spent a few hours walking in town, looking at all the items that 30 years ago we would have “had to have” for the home. A nice dish of ice cream and we took off for the drive up Cadillac Mountain that towers over Bar Harbor at 1,530 feet

View of Bar Harbor from Cadillac Mountain

and is the tallest mountain on the east coast. The views were magnificent! It is easy to see why Travel and Leisure has ranked Desert Island among “The World’s Top Islands,” which includes Bali, Kauai, and Maui. Cadillac Mountain is one of 24 mountains that make up Desert Island. That evening we stayed at Hadley’s Point Campground just outside the town. A great facility run by a delightful family.

In the morning we stopped at The Desert Mountain Oceanarium owned and operated by David and Judy Mills. This is a working lobster hatchery with a fascinating tour to see mother lobsters hatch baby lobsters and the hatchery process. The lobsters with the exterior eggs are brought to them by other fisherman if they catch one. These lobsters are put in a special tank when the eggs are ready to hatch. Once the eggs are hatched the babies are captured in a special net and weighed to determine how many there are. When we were there they collected eggs from a recent hatch and weighed them and determined there were about 5000 babies. The eggs are placed in a special large tank and dated. They are moved as they develop over a 2 week period.

Baby lobster less than 2 weeks old

They are then reintroduced to the sea where the mother was captured. The percentage of surviving lobsters is dramatically increased. When David discussed the lobster industry, they self regulate, his comment was “we don’t need any government telling us how to do it”. They only harvest lobsters that measure atleast 3¼” from the eye socket to the back of the carapace where the tail joins the body. Any lobster with a greater than 5” carapace (about 4 pounds) must be returned to the sea. This is to protect the “breeders”.

Eggs on a female just before hatching

Larger lobsters are capable of reproducing greater and healthier numbers of offspring and Maine lobster harvesters feel very strongly about protecting this brood stock. Female lobsters with visible eggs cannot be harvested. Before releasing her, the harvester notches her tail to identify her as a good breeder, thus protecting her for life from being harvested. The industry does all this to protect the lobster harvest future. At the same time the harvest is growing year over year with a 2009 harvest of 81 million pounds, 93 million in 2010 and over 100 million in 2011, demonstrating the success of managing the size of lobsters being caught does make a difference in keeping the industry healthy. What an interesting experience.

We spent the rest of the day visiting the different villages on Desert Island and ending up at our Seawall campsite within Acadia National Park.

The affluent at the turn of the century came here to frolic, they had much to do with preserving the landscape that we enjoy today. It was from this social strata that George B. Dorr, a tireless spokesman for conservation, devoted 43 years of his life, energy, and family fortune to preserving the Acadian landscape. In 1901, disturbed by the growing development of the Bar Harbor area and the dangers he foresaw in the newly invented gasoline powered portable sawmill, George Dorr and others established the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations. The corporation, whose sole purpose was to preserve land for the perpetual use of the public, acquired 6,000 acres by 1913. Dorr offered the land to the federal government, and in 1916, President Wilson announced the creation of Sieur de Monts National Monument. Dorr continued to acquire property and renewed his efforts to obtain full national park status for his beloved preserve. In 1919, President Wilson signed the act establishing Lafayette National Park named for Marquis de Lafayette, the influential French supporter of the American Revolution, the first national park east of the Mississippi. Dorr, whose labors constituted “the greatest of one-man shows in the history of land conservation,” became the first park superintendent. Many families donated their land to the park. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. built many of the roads that currently circle Desert Island and the park. In 1929, the park name changed to Acadia. Today the park protects more than 47,000 acres, and the simple pleasures of “ocean, forests, lakes, and mountains” that for over a century and a quarter have been sought and found by millions, are yours to enjoy.

We visited many areas of the park, the beauty is comparable to the most beautiful locations we had visited in the Canadian Maritime Provinces. The towns that remain outside the park such as Bar Harbor and Southwest Harbor are a joy to visit and add to the experience of Acadia National Park.

View from a picnic area near Seawall Campground

If you have the chance to visit, the experience is tremendous.