|Mount Desert Island below the cliffs of Champlain Mountain|
The day after Tumbledown, Julie and I headed to the premier climbing spot in Maine– Acadia National Park. We were still pretty tired from the long drive after the tough hike on Tumbledown, so we left Belfast a little later than planned. An early-morning fog that had rolled in off the coast had yet to dissipate by the time we left, so the drive took us through patches of mist intermingled with blazing heat from the nearly cloudless day.
We arrived in Bar Harbor just after noon, but still too early to meet my childhood friend, Jeremy, who is a climbing guide in the area. We stopped by Alpenglow Gear, where he works, to set our plan. Julie and I would hike up the Precipice, then down the backside of Champlain Mountain and Huguenot Head to meet Jeremy at the parking area on the other side of the mountain. Easy enough. Julie and I took off for the Precipice Trail head.
|Cliffs make for good views.|
The signs at the bottom of the Precipice label it as a “non-technical climbing route,” NOT a hiking trail. I guess that’s why it’s so fun. The only other time I’ve hiked, er, I mean climbed this trail was in the winter of 2010 with Jeremy. The Precipice is definitely not recommended for winter, but we had ourselves a great time. This time would be the first that I’d tried the Precipice in dry conditions, and it would turn out to be just as fun.
The climb starts out steeply, and almost immediately traverses a boulder field below the cliffs. Then, still steeply, the trail climbs almost vertically up the mountain face, using no small amount of rebar ladders and handholds. It’s amazing to think of what the trail builders must have gone through to find the initial route up the mountain, but they did a fantastic job of it. Julie and I scaled the route quickly despite the heat, stopping frequently for the constant views. The fog that had been so slow to lift in the morning still sat at the edge of Mount Desert Island, so thick it looked like something out of a sci-fi movie. It only added to the scenery, though. And I’d thought the winter climb had had the best possible views.
|Doing this in the winter was a little scary. Not so much in the summer.|
We arrived at the top to find well over a dozen people already there. We had passed more than a dozen others on the way up, but even with my end-of-summer antisocial streak I was amazed at how pleasant every single person on the mountain was. Usually you find at least one jackass in such a large crowd, but I couldn’t find anyone or anything to complain about. It was almost disappointing.
|Ladders, railings, and big ledges.|
We were already an hour late for meeting Jeremy when we got to the top, so we didn’t stay long. The trip down Huguenot Head is just as pretty as the trip up, but we moved a little slower. Steep downhills are murder on the knees.
Jeremy had anticipated our being late, so he arrived at the parking area only minutes after we finished our hike/climb. From there, even though Julie and I were both pretty zonked from so much traveling, hiking, and packing, we all headed back to the Precipice to do some technical climbing on the South Wall. I forgot to take my camera with me for the technical climbing, unfortunately, but the views were just as fine as the “non-technical climbing” part of the day.
|Atop Champlain Mountain, done with the hike for now.|
And that was it. The next day I would be on my way out of Maine with my car loaded to the gills. Of course it’s not the last time I’ll be there. Not by a long shot. But it felt like some kind of end. There’s something about the mountains and coast of Maine that Vermont and New Hampshire just don’t have. Really, no other place in the US can compare. Some combination of the remoteness and the way the people love the land. New Hampshire’s mountains may be bigger, and Vermont’s culture may be a little more organized, but Maine’s got Mainers and the North Woods, and those can’t be beat. I’m going to miss living here.