On this final day on Mt. Desert Island in Maine, we did a morning Puffin & Whale Watching Tour, and then we finished off the week with a little bike riding on the carriage roads in Acadia National Park and one last lobster dinner. In our "final thoughts" on Acadia, you'll see we didn't rank the park as high as we thought we would, but we're willing to give it another chance.
Acadia Carriage Roads
Before leaving Acadia National Park, I told Linda that I really would like to ride our bikes on some of the Acadia carriage roads. So, we loaded up, and headed off to the Eagle Lake parking area which is much more convenient than the Jordan Pond area. Since it was late in the afternoon, the crowds had cleared and we were able to find a parking spot in the lot right next to one of the carriage roads.
The 45 miles of carriage roads in Acadia were built by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. between 1913 and 1940. They are sixteen feet wide, broken stone roads that wind throughout the eastern side of the park. They are hard-packed, so the surface is easy to ride, but there was just enough fine, loose gravel to make us pay attention to keep from skidding out in downhill turns.
The carriage roads are a bicyclists dream, thus there are more vehicles on Mt. Desert Island with bike racks than I've seen anywhere else in our travels. Even the Island Explorer buses have bike racks.
Now Rockefeller built the roads so that they have gradual grades designed for horses and carriages. But some of the grades are pretty long, and that's what we ran into on one side of Eagle Lake.
We had a map of the roads and all their many intersections. But the map doesn't tell you the elevation changes. Our bikes aren't really designed for hills, so while we never had to get off and walk, the very long uphill grade we were on seemed like it would never end, and it took a lot out of us.
Ultimately, we turned around and went around the other side of Eagle Lake.
That 2.1-mile section had gentler ups and downs. We barely scratched the surface of the carriage roads and rode about six miles.
My guess is that the Jordan Pond area, where more carriage roads intersect and where the park stables are located, has more opportunity to pedal to more places without long uphill sections. But next time we are here, I'll do more research or pick up a more detailed guide to better select the roads more conducive to our bikes and our casual bike riding experience. For the more avid bikers with different bikes, that wouldn't be necessary.
One Last Lobster Dinner
Since it was a lovely evening, we decided to stop at The Chart Room - Where The Locals Dine and sit out on their deck for dinner.
It's located on Hulls Cove between Bar Harbor/Acadia and our campground. They have an early bird (before 6:00) lobster dinner special, and they had some other specials we took advantage of.
I ordered the lobster and a cup of lobster stew (more like a thin chowder) ....
and Linda ordered a Macadamia Nut Encrusted Halibut with Lobster Sauce.
Linda took the obligatory photo of me in my lobster bib.
We're starting to get pretty proficient at cracking open and eating lobsters. Now, I'll pass along some lobster lessons we've learned.
Lobsters molt and then re-grow their shells. That's how they grow. When they lose their shell, they puff themselves up and a new, larger shell grows around them. In the early stages of shell growth, the shell is softer and those are called soft-shell lobsters. Once they've fully grown into their shells and before they molt again, the shells are hard and they are called hard-shell lobsters. Same species, just different times in the growing stage.
Soft-shell lobsters are not durable enough for shipping, so whenever you get a Live Maine Lobster in a restaurant outside of New England, it's a hard-shell.
Also, since the soft-shells haven't typically fully grown into their shells, they tend to hold more water, and they have a little less meat than a hard-shell. Because of that, hard-shell lobsters are more desirable. However, soft-shell lobsters are often cheaper and the best "per pound" quotes we see here in Maine are usually soft-shells. They may be $3 per pound cheaper.
Now, some people say that the soft-shells lobsters have a sweeter taste and are more tender. Experts say the meat is not as versatile for grilling and other preparations besides boiling and steaming. All I know is they taste really good and they are much easier to crack open, so I get to eat them faster. I'll take a soft-shell any day.
Final Thoughts On Acadia National Park
Okay, so that ended our time in Acadia on this trip. What did we learn? We learned that August is the worst time for crowds and the crowds are huge. I don't know about Linda, but taking everything into consideration, I believe our normal travel routine and timing would have worked much better. By that I mean coming in the shoulder season and spending a couple of weeks to slowly explore all the park has to offer in the way of hiking, bike riding, paddling, etc.
Part of our issue was we just came from the beautiful, uncrowded coastline of northeastern Maine. We didn't see any prettier views of the coast at Acadia than we saw at Boot Head Preserve or Quoddy Head State Park.
But, if we come back to Acadia someday, we'll come in the middle of September after Labor Day when kids are back in school, while it's still reasonably warm, and before the crowds gather again for fall colors. And now that we have an overview, we'll be much better prepared.
We had some great times and some disappointing times here on Mt. Desert Island. Several people warned us that we wouldn't like the crowds and that Bar Harbor is too commercial for us. They were right. But, given another opportunity at a different time of the year, in a more normal travel style for us, I believe our experiences would be at least a little better.
My expectations of Acadia were high, maybe too high. I can't put it at the top of the list of my favorite national parks (I thought that was going to be a given), but I'm willing to give it another chance. Under the right circumstances, I think it could move up the list.
I know there is more beautiful Maine coast scenery and more lobster in our future.