The sun always rises first in Acadia!

Ahhhh, Acadia…how lucky I have been this week! It has been a fantastic experience to visit such a wonderful place, a place I know well, yet don’t know well enough!

“The Rock”. It’s what the locals call Mount Desert Island. Growing up, it became second nature to just call it “the rock”, and say “Yep, I’ll be back on The Rock for the summer” or during the school year, local communities hang banners for local sports teams competing in regional events that state “last one off The Rock–turns the lights off”, as if to reinforce a strong sense of bond between the villages that make up Mount Desert Island.

Mount Desert Island is oh, so much more than just “a rock”, although. It’s the largest Island off the coast of Maine, and of course, home to Acadia National Park! I can safely say, that after this week, I certainly feel that Acadia National Park (ANP), can truly be considered the “heart” of Mount Desert Island, and an entity that has helped tie the communities of the Island together physically by roads, trails and lands, and also through cooperation and programming.

Monday: A Park Perspective

On Monday, Kristi, Margie and I were able to join up with the SUNY ESF field school crew and listen to Acadia National Park Planner, John Kelly speak of his work with the park, and many of the key issues that arise in its management and maintenance, but also its community involvement and relations. I found it extremely fascinating, and although I knew many of the problems already, my eyes were opened very, very wide to the fact that the Park’s Administrative boundaries stretch way and I mean waaaay beyond what I thought they had, and include many outer islands (and we all know how I am about islands!!!!), of which the Park has easements on or to. I instantly thought of BOHA, and how the two manage their resources. I also…I also thought about low and high tide demarcations (yes Margie–and Marc, I did!).


My mental map of the expanse of lands that Acadia National Park encompasses. Note–many islands contain NPS easements, yet are privately owned.

John Kelly’s talk brought me into thinking on how the park acts as a link between the communities on the island, and how it is his job to reinforce this, and work with towns on issues that effect both sides, such as cell phone tower appearance (do not get me started on this…let’s just say…they have great Spruce and Pine halloween costumes!)

The remainder of our Monday was spent with John Grove, of Reed Hilderbrand Landscape Architects touring the properties of Charles Butt with caretaker, Barry Stratton. John and Barry’s description of the evolution of these historic properties really helped me establish an idea of how contemporary residential design on Mount Desert Island can be very much rooted in history, and how management depends heavily on resources, and the willingness to allow for adaptability in the landscape.

Tuesday: The Rolly Wheel climbs Beehive–and we follow it.  Margie gets a foot-long lobster roll…

Well, Tuesday split Kristi and I up. We had spent the previous evening touring Sand Beach, and the Loop Road (and Thunder Hole!) with Margie, as she photographed outhouse facilities for Jeff, and had relaxed with a dinner in Hulls Cove. However, Tuesday would bring about interesting challenges. On Monday, I had raised my hand to volunteer to be a part of the group that measured and inventoried the Beehive Mountain trail. Now, I’ve been up this mountain before (I even checked in on FourSquare from its summit…hahaha!), but it takes on a whole new meaning when you go up with the SUNY ESF crew!! And a whole lot more fun too!

Navigating the rungs on the trail. Overall not too much of a problem with the measuring wheel!

Iron Rungs–an observation from the group was that these were a bit greasy from all of the hands of the day. It is a relieving sight to see them though!

Almost to the summit (and approximately 1650 linear ft later!) We measured in 50′ segments, documenting built features, views, and elements between each, and comparing that to the existing trail inventory.

Beehive was interesting to document. It’s one of the most popular trails amongst visitors, as it has spectacular views of Bar Harbor, Sand Beach and Great Head, as well as Gorham Mountain and others. Its trail is often treacherous when wet, and drops right off. It’s a nice site to see your accomplishment from the base at Sand Beach!

The Views of Great Head and Sand Beach are fantastic from nearly all portions of the Beehive trail–at it’s narrowest on-grade portion here!

I learned a lot about this trail during my two ascents this week, it is certainly one that sees a lot of wear and tear, and is a great ice-breaker for those interested in doing larger, more tricky summits, like The Precipice. But, more importantly, I think this trail is a great example of Acadia’s multitude of built elements, and structural trail amenities. It has a variety of elements that showcase the hand-craft of the park’s trail crews, of which I will explain further in this post.

Wednesday: Findings along Kebo Brook, Stratheden and the Jessup Trails!

The Bar Harbor zone of Acadia, I have felt, has always held an enormous amount of history, and spiritual aura for the park, and for me as well. Its deep rooted history is steeped in a wealth of events ranging from French exploration, aristocratic 20th century recreation to forest fire and ecological regrowth, the trails in this area have layers of history unlike many others. Bill and I set out to recapture several photos from the Stratheden Path, and take trip 2 notes on Kebo Brook as well. We were fortunate enough to run into some really interesting findings along these two trails, and for me, I was ELATED to find a volunteer trails crew working on the Stratheden…and to report back to Margie that I had been able to take a before and after shot of trail work!!!

The Kebo Brook path was unique in that it followed the brook, but certainly had a flexible character, from woodland, to brookside, to nearly open meadow, it followed along the Loop Road, and had several structures that I took note of as being somewhat unique to my eye. The Stratheden Path was crucial to find for its wooden corduroy bridges, and current trail work!

Cobble paving/drainage structure along the Kebo Brook trail. I hadn’t seen many of these, but had been told it is a “Texas Culvert”.

A very interesting encounter with a granite staircase/retaining wall/coping/stone check structure along the Kebo Brook trail. I want to do a detail of one of these at some point…it just screams “multi-function”!

Marking out for a 48″ wide tread, and approx. 24″ wide, and 6″ deep swale/trench. The material that is cut for the swale, is placed on top of the tread way. (on Stratheden Trail)

The result! Note the plant/moss material saved and replanted along edge!

After completing work for trip 2 inventories for the day, Kristi and I set out to capture the essence of the Jessup path and the Great Meadow! I was really excited for Kristi to see this area of the park, as it has an overwhelming sense of “landscape rooms” to it. Your travels bring you from the Wild Gardens of Acadia, through a tranquil wetland boardwalk, and onward through a low-land meadow…each transition subtly noted by trail and interpretational signage. I knew she would love it! My main goal was to spot a batch of “witch’s butter”, which is a bright orange fungal growth that happens on the birch trees there just after a cool, wet spell. It is so easy to find amongst the growth, however I did not capture any!


A stone-dust foot bridge along the great meadow loop. Interesting to see how landscape structure is contextually appropriate, and does not distract from the experience of the trail and scenery. You barely know it’s a bridge!

Thursday+Friday: Historic Gardens+Wrap up of Trip 2 Hiking!

Thursday brought about a bit of nostalgia for me as we all travelled to the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden, and Thuya Gardens in the morning. For the sake of time, I’m going to try and keep this brief–because I could go on for decades! The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden is a semi-public ornamental flower garden owned by David Rockefeller, and opened to the public during the summer on a limited basis. Its history is centered around the fact that it was once a cut flower garden, designed by Beatrix Farrand for the Rockefeller Family. Its intent was both to serve for flowers, as well as to house the family’s growing collection of Asian art and stone pieces. The garden essentially is an “East meets West” design, in which Farrand thought closely about the English border garden, and how it might match up against the cool, calm and collected path work and zen experience of a Japanese path. The garden has become a prime example of a landscape that is experiencing a rebirth as a semi-public garden, and therefor a shift in maintenance and management culture.


Capturing a sketch or two on what is now lawn, but was once cut flowers. This garden is an extremely high maintenance landscape. It is a great example of how management and maintenance practices evolve to be sustainable, to ensure the garden persists through the future!


Carved doors leading into the formal garden area at the Thuya Terraces


Garland Farm: The inner workings of Beatrix Farrand. These maps are of several planting designs that Farrand did on Mount Desert Island.

Wrapping up our Thursday was a trip to Garland Farm, the former home of Beatrix Farrand, after she moved from her larger home (Reef Point) in Bar Harbor. I had never been to Garland Farm before, and was absolutely astounded by it! I couldn’t help but question the connections between my visit to Garland Farm and to Fairsted. The tours of each seem to overlap each other with concepts and ideas shared by both Farrand and Olmsted. For example, the positioning of the open rooms out onto the landscape–as if to massage the barrier between the built and the planted seemed very apparent in both sites. It made me question how Olmsted’s influence affected Farrand, and whether or not there might be a project out there where they collaborated. The process by which both worked seemed to differ, but with similar goals in mind.

Friday was spent reviewing trip 2 hikes, and taking repeat photographs on Beehive Mountain, Ocean Path, Sand Beach Connector and the Eagle Lake Trail! I can eagerly admit that I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to venture on this trip with Kristi and Margie! I have learned so much, and found a much deeper appreciation for the trail work done here at home. I’ve set a goal of hiking all of the Bar Harbor zone by the fall, and would very much like to be a part of inventories in the future! It was great working with Bill, Sarah, Sarah, Jessey, Nick, Vincent and Pam as well! I can’t believe how much they’ve accomplished in five weeks, and it was such fun helping them out with inventories!

Thanks for reading! ~Ericka

Image of Garland Farm’s house from the garden, and a detail sketch done by Beatrix Farrand for a gate and bench. Ending my trip at the Ocean Path near Fabbri Memorial!

One response to “The sun always rises first in Acadia!

  1. Wow what a thorough post – really brought me back to my memories of Beehive and the gardens, and opened my eyes to the design elements. A nice tidbit that the tide line got you thinking about the BOHA boundary, too!

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