I can’t seem to stay away from Acadia National Park. It keeps calling me back each week. Cadillac Mountain South Ridge Trail was our destination.
I was joined by Sharon. I picked her up after I stopped at Hannford to get a piece of fruit and a new water bottle. I prefer to use the brand Smartwater over a regular Nalgene or other sport bottle. They are lighter, yet durable and after a week or two of use I can recycle it. While hiking on the Appalachian Trail I learned all kinds tips and tricks to lighten my load.
I noticed a pattern in my thoughts and behaviors since I returned from my thru hike. I can’t seem to go on a hike, walk or even just out and about without making references to my grand adventure. I will make comments or have thoughts like, “Well, on the trail it was like….” Or “I did it this way….”. I was very aware of this yesterday and tried not to let my past experiences lessen the day’s sweetness. But it is really difficult not to let it happen. My A. T. hike is now a huge part of me.
Sharon and I were headed east and she posed the question “Where are we hiking?” I tossed her my handy-dandy waterproof map of Acadia by Map Adventures and suggested we do the Cadillac South Ridge Trail. All my spring hikes so far had been fairly short and easy. I was up for something a little longer. She was game. She opened the map and started reading the trail description. I was familiar with the trail location but had not read the details. The map told us it was difficult. No problem, we have noticed the map’s definition of difficult was not our definition of difficult so we were not worried about that. What did concern us was the distance, 7.2 miles. On a normal day this would have been fine but we got a late start. And I hadn’t packed quite enough snacks to carry me that far. I should go without a few calories to reduce the muffin top I have acquired, just not on a hiking day.
With my plans for hiking to the top of Cadillac squashed, we I decided to pull over into Marden’s parking lot in Ellsworth that I thought was Wal-mart. That just goes to show how much I pay attention. It used to be a Wal-mart but Sharon informed me a few years back the big box store moved and Marden’s and Tractor Supply were the new tenants.
In the parking lot we consulted the map and decided on Beehive. Sharon had already done this hike early in spring in the reverse direction we were going to do it. That’s just nuts to have gone down it. The recommended direction is to ascend beehive due to its latter rungs and catwalk type trails. I agreed to do it under one condition. If it got too scary we could turn around.
It was a beautiful drive to Acadia despite the traffic. It is still not peak season but mid morning had route 1A buzzing with cars, trucks, RV’s and motorcycle groups. We were not the only ones who wanted to get a jumpstart to the weekend and good weather. We found ourselves at Sand Beach parking patiently waiting for another tourist to back out of their spot so we could claim it. Timing was everything. Heaven forbid if we had to park further down the road and walk a few extra steps.
The trails to Beehive and Bowl are right across the street from Sand Beach parking. Perfect! We could go up Beehive and descend Bowl making a nice loop. The trail begins right away with rocks. Stepping stones of pure fun. I would have liked my poles but my day pack for the day had no secure place to hold them when we navigated the soon to come hand-over-hand sections. I need to put “new day pack” on my ever growing wishlist. So my poles remained in the car. As I was enjoying the challenge of rock surfing another hiker ahead was complaining how the trail wasn’t “real trail hiking”. “This is more like back woods, off the beaten path…usually hiking trails would have rock steps put in a place like this.” I chuckled to myself as I wondered what city he was from.
He was right, while hiking the A.T. (It’s hard not to reference) we knew when we were close to towns or big tourist destinations because the trail was always carved out and well manicured. The further the trail traveled deeper into the woods the less “touristy” it became.
It was a relatively short distance of hiking to reach the point of elevation change. Beehive Summit is only 520 feet high. It’s just a mole hill as far as mountains are concerned but it goes pretty much straight up. Fortunately, the trail uses a series of sharp, winding, rock ledge, switch-backs to carry hikers to its breathe taking view.
Still protected by the security of the stunted alpine trees we were offered a peak-a-boo view of Sand Beach below.
The trail was narrow and had my comfort level on high alert. The drops were not significantly far but would have been quite painful. Poor Sharon was at my beck-and-call. I had no place to stratigically hold my camera so I kept it in the top of her pack. Every time I wanted it she needed to turn around on the narrow ledge while I fished for it. We held up on this section due to a bottle neck of hikers in front as well as hikers behind us. Since we couldn’t go anyplace I took the opportunity to snap this neat photo of The beach. It helped keep my mind off of my location.
I was really beginning to wish I had gotten up earlier to beat the crowds. Having to wait was giving my mind way too much freedom to think about my situation.
Sharon and I had pushed a head slightly but I held up here as I waited for the young boys ahead to continue. There was no more security of the shrubby pines. Just a 30 inch ledge and unknown around the corner. Add the fear of heights with the crowds and it took all my inner will to keep my mind in control. I couldn’t go forward and I couldn’t go back. I was trapped. Not my happy place. All of a sudden I realized I was actually having fun. I was scared but not scared to death. Once the kids in front of us disappeared, I graceful traversed the openness and rounded the unknown corner.
Fear is nothing more then False Evidence Appearing Real. Over the last few years with the help of mental training, widening my comfort zone and lots of prayer I have been able to tackle and tame some of my phobias. They are still there but I am tired of them controlling what I can and cannot do.
Another skill in helping to conquer fear is not to do it alone. Teamwork is always a great aid in every endeavor. The crew who was causing the bottle neck had a young man who was really challenged with the hike. I think his fear was greater then mine. But with the encouragement of his friends who sandwiched him between them, guided and lead him through every step and hand hold. It was a joy to see these young kids working together for the enjoyment of them all.
While we were munching on our hiker feast of a PBJ for me and Yogurt for Sharon a crew of about 8 teenage boys took their spot on the ledge for a photo. I was surprised to recognize one of them. Then I heard, “Hi Mrs. Leonard!” And I turned to see Ryan, another boy I knew from my days at All Saints Catholic School. He called Tommy over, the other fella I spotted. What a small world. Two summers ago I saw Tommy’s brother on top of Mt. Katahdin.
Before heading down the Bowl trail, Sharon and I took the usually goofy selfie at the summit sign.
Yesterday’s hike was a great reminder of the power of teamwork working through your fears. Together everyone achieves more and when faced with fear the only cure is to tackle it head on and usually you find that it wasn’t as bad as perceived. Just like that unknown corner. Once we actually got to it and navigated it we were like, “Piece of cake!”
We ended with a snack on the shore of Sand Beach. There were several brave souls who swam in the frigid water. We preferred the warmth of the sun. Maybe next time.
The hike to Beehive may not have had honey at the summit but the views and lessons of the day were just as sweet!
A few Add-ons: Thanks to Matthew Baylor for taking the following photos of Sharon and I. He and his family were hiking behind us.