Southwest Harbor is the home of Hinckley Yachts. We dropped the anchor in eight meters of water just east of the Coast Guard station and just across from a stunning array of Hinckleys swinging on mooring balls adjacent to the Yard. I made a mental note to tour the Yard when I returned to Southwest Harbor in a couple of weeks.
For now, however, our time in Southwest Harbor was limited to a quick trip ashore to collect a few provisions and a meal, then returning to the boat for a night’s rest before proceeding up Somes Sound to Somes Harbor and the town of Mt. Desert. That is where we would lie at anchor for a couple of days to explore Acadia National Park and orchestrate a crew change. Dense fog delayed our departure until Noon, but finally we were headed up the Sound, claimed to be the closest thing to a Norwegian fjord on the East Coast. Indeed, the fog finally lifted as we proceeded north, revealing steep cliffs and high hills looming hundreds of feet above each side of the sound in places. Arriving in Somes Sound, the anchor instantly set in thick mud once dropped.
We dinghied ashore for some initial reconnaissance around 3 p.m. Walt needed wifi to check his email for a couple of work related messages, so he headed to the library while I cycled five miles south and 300 feet uphill into the Park to the parking lot at the base of Beech Hill. A half-hour and 600 vertical feet later, climbing a well-worn trail complete with granite steps, and I gazed out from the Beech Hill fire tower. The tops of a series of timber and rock crested ridges were visible to the east and west above thick misty clouds which hung in the intervening valleys. Several people with thick New York accents loitered on the summit gabbing loudly, disturbing the reverie.
Back in Somesville, I found Walt at the library still slogging through emails. Finally, he pried himself away and we returned to Windleblo to plot our assault of the island’s second highest point, Sargent Mountain, at 1,373 feet, on the morrow.
The next day was a stunner – deep blue sky, warm steady breezes, a few puffy clouds – perfect for mountain climbing. Our route for the day took us over Bald Peak (974 feet) and Parkman Mountain (941 feet) before descending a drainage and climbing up to Sargent Mountain via Gilmore Mountain (1,041 feet). Our approach to the Bald Peak trailhead consisted of a six-mile bicycle ride over busy island highways and finally a section of gravel carriage road.
At the parking lot near the trailhead, we picked up a map of the Acadia National Park carriage road network, which advised that “Acadia’s carriage roads are the best example of broken-stone roads – a type of road commonly used at the turn of the 20th century – in America today. They are true roads, approximately 16 feet wide, constructed with methods that required much hand labor.
“Forty-five miles of rustic carriage roads, the gift of philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and family, weave around the mountains and valleys of Acadia National Park. Rockefeller, a skilled horseman, watered to travel on motor-free byways via horse and carriage into the heart of Mount Desert Island. His construction efforts form 1913 tro 1940 resulted in roads with sweeping vistas and close-up views of the landscape. His love of road building ensured a state-of-the-art system.
“The roads were engineered to contend with Maine’s wet weather. Stone culverts, wide ditches, three layers of rock, and a substantial six- to eight-inch crown ensured good drainage.
“Rather than flattening hillsides to accommodate the roads, breast walls and retaining walls were built to preserve the line of hillsides to save trees. Rockefeller, naturally gifted with the eye of a landscape architect, aligned the roads to follow the contours of the land and to take advantage of scenic views. He graded the roads so they were not too steep or too sharply curved for horse-drawn carriages.”
The legs held up over about eight miles and 1,700 vertical feet before we saddled up for the return ride, mostly downhill, back to the boat. I had that good feeling you earn after a long, hard hike to carry me through the evening meal and a night’s deep sleep.
The next day, I bid farewell to my good friend Walt and welcomed my next shipmate, Mike Long, to S/V Windleblo.