I am a little late in posting last week’s hike. The holiday weekend and family festivities had me off my routine. I cannot get enough of Jordan Pond. I have lived in Maine since 1970 and have only been to Jordan Pond once in all our visits to Acadia. This May alone I have been there three times. Same pond different view.
Thursdays are my designated hiking day and I had plans to hike with my awesome co-worker, Stacey from the LL Bean outlet store in Bangor. She loves to hike and camp and is very knowledgeable on the Acadia trails. Not me, I am experienced on one trial, the AT, so I was very happy to have her companionship on last week’s outing. Tuesday night we were notified our shifts had been cut for Wednesday and we could work Thursday instead. We accepted the offer and changed our hike to Wednesday.
Wednesday morning we rendezvoused at the Brewer Wal-Mart and enjoyed a ride together to Acadia. There was not a quiet moment the whole ride. We shared stories about our kids, work and life in general. There are few things in life as precious as having a friend to do things with. I am blessed to have a multitude of people I can call “friend”. I try hard not to take their gift for granted. I never know when that day will come and they will no longer be there. As we drove east, the cloudy sky started to give way to sunshine. Route 1A to Route 3 was quiet, the morning rush had passed and the tourist season was not yet in full stride. It was a beautiful start and we had not even begun our hike yet.
There were a handful of other cars already parked at the Jordan House parking lot when we arrived. We quickly grabbed our gear, used the restroom and headed to the trailhead. Stacey was packed light with a LL Bean stowaway ultralight pack and I had a rather old and cumbersome, low-tech, LL Bean day pack that was heavy empty. This was my training pack for my A.T. hike. It is about 15 years old and looks as new as the day I bought it. It does the trick even though I do not like it. There are too many strings, pockets and zippers. I get lost in it. With my poles, my pack and boots I looked liked I was going to be gone for days. After hiking the A.T. fully loaded I feel naked when I don’t have my all my gear.
Our chosen route was Penobscot Mountain Trail. I wanted to do this trail after looking at its granite ridge while hiking the other side of Jordan Pond the last two times. It’s exposed surface looked so grand and impressive I just had to see what was over there. My guidebook “Acadia The Complete Guide” by James Kaiser states that Penobscot Mountain trail is 6 miles round trip with an elevation change of 900 feet. It recommends to follow the Jordan Pond Trail back.
Soon into our hike we crossed a carriage road then the trail immediately went straight up with stone steps, ledge inclines and drop offs with a wooden log railing. Nothing that raised any fear, but it sure did get the heart pumping.
Our reward for tackling the scrambles and rungs were views of Jordan Pond at the base of Pemetic Mountain with Cadillac Mountain in the background and a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean. Once we left the dense forest cover we hiked easily over the exposed granite ridge towards the peak of Penobscot Mountain. Just shy of the summit sign we took a break overlooking Jordan Pond. We sat on the warm stone and soaked in the rays of the sun. There was just enough breeze to keep the black flies from enjoying a fee lunch on us.
At the peak of Penobscot Mountain, 1,194 feet elevation, we soaked in the 360 degree vista. While doing so we met a solo hiker from Nebraska. We asked her what brought her to Acadia and she informed us she had spent her life so far doing things with her parents and she wanted to do some exploring on her own. Good for her. She was continuing on to Sargent Mountain which was just a little north of where we currently were. After our little break, Stacey and I decided there was plenty of day left and we too sought the summit of Sargent Mountain. It wasn’t too far away. I forgot my map again but Stacey was prepared and was also familiar with the various routes.
On the way we passed Sargent Mountain Pond, according to Stacey, nicknamed Frog Pond. While we were having a snack a large green frog crawled out from under a rock on the water’s edge. He was too quick for either one of us to capture his photo. This was about our third break on this short hike. It wasn’t that we needed to rest so often, we were just taking advantage of the beauty that surrounded us. We were not out to break any records or put another check in our summit log. Communing with the outdoors and each other was the focus of the day, time and distance were not a major concern.
In no time we were at our second peak, Sargent Mountain. It offered breath-taking views just a worthy as Penobscot Mountain. On Three hikes to Acadia I was brought around all sides of Jordan Pond. Each hike offered views of the pond, the surrounding mountains and the ocean. As I stood on Sargent Mountain overlooking the panorama for the third week in a row I was amazed at how the site never grows old. There is always something new to see. It may be the same place and same sights but it is never the same view. It could easily become mundane and uninteresting. But it doesn’t. It is very satisfying and awe-inspiring to take it all in.
If only we could have that same kind of relationship with our friends and family. I said early I try to appreciate my friends all the time but I admit, I am guilty of being less than a perfect friend or family member at times. We see our kin often and every day for some and the same with our friends. We know they are there and spend time with them occasionally. But do we truly never tire of them? As I begin my 5th decade of life it is very apparent to me how important all of my friends and family are and I am trying to make each encounter with them as awe-inspiring as it can be no matter what the circumstances.
For our return hike we dropped into the woods for a rapid descent. Our sights were on Jordan Cliffs Trail. Stacey’s guide-book described the trail to be very precipitous. That very adjective can send my stomach into flip-flops and the kick-off to a panic attack. While hiking the Appalachian Trail I needed to overcome my fear of heights to tackle several sections. But nothing on the A.T. was as terrifying to me as a short section hiking up Bubble the week before. So to read the word “precipitous” describing a trail had me reconsidering. We decided to give it a try, we could always turn around if I could not do it. A back up plan is always reassuring. I had no escape route on the A.T.
We came to a sign designating the direction of the Jordan Pond Cliff Trail. To our disappointment it was closed due to the nesting Peregrine Falcons. This endangered species was almost eradicated from the North East in the 20th century due to pesticide poisoning.
I have a strong fear of heights. It has kept me from seeing and doing things in the past. I am always struggling with it. However prominent that fear is, it doesn’t usually stand up to being told I cannot do something. I can tell myself I can’t do something, but other’s can’t tell me I can’t do it. Upon reading the closure sign I immediately disregarded my fear and had to climb the cliffs. No, I didn’t ignore the sign. I respected the habitat of the Peregrine but I did vow to come back in the fall and tackle the cliffs.
Since the cliffs would have to wait for another day, Stacey and I scrambled back to the top of Penobscot Mountain via a side trail and retraced our steps back to Jordan Pond House. We had the horizon to our backs on the way up. As we descended the peak the Atlantic Ocean filled our view until we dipped back into the dense forest from which we came earlier that day.
The almost empty parking lot upon our arrival that morning was now congested with cars, hikers, bikers and tourists. Many were ending their day as we were. Some were enjoying a bite to eat in the restaurant and still others were just starting out. Back at the car we released our toes from the confines of their pedi-prison, camelled up on some extra water, climbed in my Outback and headed west back to Brewer.
It was another successful day on the trail shared with a friend. Lessons learned in appreciating relationships whether they are with nature or human. They all are important and deserve respect.