Saturday, October 11, 2014

A Perfect Autumn Day in Maine: Climbing the Beehive in Acadia National Park and a Lobstah Pound Lunch

October 2, 2014
Acadia National Park & Bernard, ME

We arrived in Bar Harbor to a late afternoon not-very-welcoming committee of overcast skies, chilly temps and brisk breezes that felt closer to winter than the final day of September.  

Acadia National Park
The following day, October 1st, continued cloudy and cool and we spent it wandering and exploring in Acadia National Park in the damp and gloom.  When our second and final day in town dawned sunny and with a promise of warmth in the air, we enthusiastically set off for the park after breakfast at our Holiday Inn resort hotel.  

The previous day, Scott had overheard rangers and other park visitors talking about the popular Beehive Trail, where hikers use iron rungs and ladders along with simple hand- and footholds carved into the rock face to scale the side of a mountain with the reward of stunning views at the top.  He was intrigued and enthusiastic to try it. "How bad could it be?" I thought to myself, since they let just anyone do it.  Besides, I love climbing opportunities on hikes and was feeling adventurous and nimble, so we off we went.  

The trail started out very easy and largely flat and provided a pleasant, tree-lined morning meander through the sun-dappled woods.  

And then we came to this sign at a junction in the trail.

I started to get the feeling that this adventure might prove to be a tad more challenging that originally anticipated.  I looked up and, in the distance, saw tiny hikers appearing to scale the side of a mountain.  With a jolt, I realized  that this was precisely where we were headed! 

While it is only about .8 miles to the top, this was easily the most treacherous feat I've attempted.  Ever.  For much of the trail, I was completely terrified, knowing that one stumble or missed hand-hold could mean a freefall toward near certain and painful death (as the warning sign located at the trailhead had so kindly pointed out). 

Negotiating the nearly vertical ascent of the Beehive
However, to my credit, not once did I even think about turning around (which is good because it is basically impossible to turn back once you begin).  I bravely soldiered on, utterly and completely focused on that task at hand, namely that of preserving my own life.  

The many hours Scott has put in at the climbing gym over the past year really paid off on this venture.  I let him go first and he frequently made helpful suggestions for strategic hand and foot placement in order to most safely and easily get to the next level as we switchbacked up the mountainside.  

"Sure, I feel like walking across an iron ladder extending out over thin air on the side of a mountain, why not?"
Finally, and seemingly against all odds, we reached the summit.  Upon reaching the top, the euphoria and adrenaline rush from simply having made it to safety might have been even more rewarding than the (albeit gorgeous) views!  

All the same, after a couple of cloudy days, having the opportunity to see the park’s beauty in the bright autumn sunshine did not disappoint!

Scott admires the view from the summit
View from the summit
After our death-defying morning climb, we decided we had more than earned our planned lunch that day at a lobster pound – an obvious must-do when in Maine.  The places we had passed by in and around Bar Harbor appeared uninspiring and we really wanted to have a great lobster pound experience.  So Scott jumped on Yelp and discovered Thurston’s.  Located clear on the other side of the island from Bar Harbor, it was little more than a shack, albeit a prettily trimmed one, with a no-frills, screened-in dining room and separate bar, both perched over the water and overlooking a charming, working harbor.  

The menu was simple and the food simply amazing.  Scott took this opportunity to tuck into an entire 2.5 pound lobster while I enjoyed the amazingly delicious crab-and grilled-cheese sandwich.

Oh yeah, it's Maine lobster time!
My crab sandwich (on plain sandwich bread, at that) might not look like much but, let me assure you, it was unadulterated, fresh-seafood bliss!
Thurston's proved to be pure New England-shellfish-and-ambiance perfection - it was exactly what we were looking for!  The only downside was that we had to sit in island construction traffic for an hour in order to get there.  And we would do it all over again without a moment’s hesitation!

More photos:
Admiring the view from the halfway point on the Beehive Trail
Climbing the Beehive

Enjoying a relaxing stretch of the Beehive Trail
Beehive summit selfie - we made it!!!
View from the top
Beehive Summit vistas

Beehive summit panorama
The less steep (read vertical) return trail down the other side took us by a pretty lake known as "The Bowl"
The Bowl, captured in the autumn sunshine
The Bowl
While much less perilous, there was still a little climbing required on the return trail...
A customer selects their lobster from the "pound"
The "pound"
Thurston's wins for best bloody mary ever, due to the de-shelled lobster-meat claw garnish!
Scott's lunch - dig in!
Thurston's screened-in dinning room, overlooking Bass Harbor

Lobster boat moored at Thurston's dock
Bass Harbor
Lobster traps
The inviting deck off of Thurston's bar offered a picturesque photo op
If I were a local, Thurston's bar would definitely be my hangout!
Bass Harbor buoys
Bass Harbor working boat

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