Along the coastline, there is high tide and there is low tide. Everyone plans and configures their buildings and docks and decks for high tide, when the ocean majestically sweeps in, leaving everything awash and bobbing on the water. (That obviously makes sense, of course, because if you designed everything for low tide you would find your careful designs underwater or afloat at high tide.)
But I prefer low tide, because it lets you see the soft underbelly of the coastline communities. The buildings built on stilts. The bottom of the bay. The algae lines on the piers. And the floating docks, sadly left high and dry.
Yesterday we ventured over to Acadia National Park to hike up Mount Cadillac — the towering peak situated right on the coastline that is the first place in America struck by the rays of the rising sun. It’s a popular destination that offers staggering views of the jagged Maine coast. Most people drive up to the top — but heck, anybody can do that. Hiking up is more fun and a bit of a challenge, besides.
We chose the south ridge trail, which begins along a road and, for the first mile of so, takes you through a dense, almost primeval forest. At that point you emerge above the tree line and are exposed to the first of the sweeping vistas that this hike affords — with views that just get better and better as you gain altitude. You follow blue trailblazing signs painted on trees and then on the granite of the mountain itself, as well as rock cairns that also mark the way.
The trail takes you along the granite spine of the mountain, shown in the first picture above, and you actually feel like you are moving from knob to knob on the gigantic backbone of a huge, hunched-over creature. Eventually you are treated to a commanding view in all directions and can see dozens of miles to faraway peaks in the Appalachian chain. You also pass a beautiful pond that is covered with velvety, impossibly green shoots, shown toward the middle of the photo below, and you wonder: “what is that doing way up here?”
It’s not a difficult climb, but it’s a rewarding one nevertheless. When you reach the top, having clambered up the last few rock faces, you can stare slack jawed in any direction. The rocks at the top are covered with people, and no wonder — the scenery is spectacular. It’s one of those spots that simply can’t be captured in a photograph. But I’ll always remember it.
Today we checked out the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse. It’s one of dozens of lighthouses that are found along the rockbound Maine coastline — each of which has it distinctive combination of light color and lighting sequence, so experienced mariners who are at sea at night can both steer clear of the rocks and determine exactly where they are, even in the darkest hours.
At the lighthouse, you can follow a path and a steep set of wooden stairs that take you down to sea level, where intrepid tourists (like me) can climb out onto the rocky coastline to position themselves for the best photographic vantage point that will allow them to snap a seaside shot of the iconic white lighthouse. It’s comical to see people of all ages scrambling out onto the rocks — with no guard rails or identified path — and of course many of the visitors were taking selfies, apparently oblivious to the risk they might slip as they were positioning themselves and go plunging into the ocean below. Fortunately, no one was injured while we were there.
I appreciate the fact that the Coast Guard, which operates the lighthouse and its grounds, has left the coastline in its natural state and trusts visitors to fend for themselves. It was fun to let the inner mountain goat out for a rocky adventure.
On the ocean side of the island, where the coastline is rock-bound, many of the stones are striated. The grooves run in largely parallel lines, and you can stand at the head and look at the lines as they angle down into the surf.