Thursday, January 10, 2013

Bar Harbor, Maine

by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.
We left Sunset Point Campground (Harrington, Maine) at 10:20 a.m. bound for Hadley Point Campground just outside Bar Harbor.  It was only 56.9 miles and took 1 hour and 20 minutes.  We were towing our fifth wheel, and as soon as we had paid for two nights ($67.41) and set up camp, we left for the town of Bar Harbor.
Our stop in Bar Harbor followed our 14-day trip around the Canadian side of Lake Superior, and it was only our second day back in the United States.
Bar Harbor, once considered a small fishing and ship-building community, is nestled on the east side of Mount Desert Island and is the Island’s largest community.  It was New England’s premier summer resort during the 19th century, and today, it is a favorite destination for people throughout the world.
When we entered the small tourist venue, a large cruise ship was in port.  “All told, 118 cruise ship visits are scheduled for Bar Harbor this year [2010], the most that have ever been scheduled for this Mount Desert Island town in any calendar year.”  Between March and October [2010] “nearly 175,000 cruise ship passengers [are] scheduled to visit.” (See: Trotter, B. (April 30, 2010). “Bar Harbor will see more cruise ships.” Bangor Daily News. Retrieved January 25, 2011. 
It takes just a few minutes to walk the entire downtown area.  Besides the typical tourist-oriented souvenir shops and restaurants, there are a couple of outstanding museums as well.  When you get down to the coast and it is low tide, you can actually walk out to Bar Island; however, you have to be careful because the tide returns rather quickly and can leave you stranded.  The view of Bar Harbor from Bar Island is spectacular.
I haven’t yet mentioned the outstanding tourist attraction in the Bar Harbor area: Acadia National Park (ANP).  The park consists of more than 47,000 acres or 73 square miles.  We saved our visit for our second day in the area, and our “Golden Age Passport” gave us free entry.  

We heard about the crowds and the traffic, so we designed our visit for early in the morning.  It was just 6 miles from our campground, and we went directly to the Visitor’s Center where we saw a short movie, and purchased a “Tour Acadia” CD for $13.60.  We then followed the Park Road Circle Tour seeing the mountains, ocean shoreline, woodlands, and lakes.  Although we began early, we did not avoid the traffic.  There are small parking areas off the main Park Road at each of the scenic venues, and in many cases these small parking areas were already full or nearly full of cars.
We followed our “Tour Acadia” CD closely, turning it on and off as directed.  Overall, if visitors read the signs and stop at all the sites, they really don’t need the CD.  Although it provides some additional information, a free park map (provided at the Visitor’s Center) supplies all of the essential information.
In addition to following the Park Road Circle Tour and stopping often, we visited Bass Harbor and Lighthouse as well as Southern Harbor.  Also, we drove to the top of Cadillac Mountain — the highest point within 25 miles of the Atlantic Ocean coastline along the entire Eastern United States.
There is no doubt that ANP is worth a visit.  At the Wikipedia: Acadia National Park web site, under the topic “Expansion,” it says: “From 1915 to 1933, the wealthy philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr. financed, designed, and directed the construction of a network of carriage trails throughout the park. He sponsored the landscape architect Beatrix Farrand, with the nearby family summer home Reef Point Estate, to design the planting plans for the subtle carriage roads at the Park (c.1930).[6] The network encompassed over 50 miles (80 km) of gravel carriage trails, 17 granite bridges, and two gate lodges, almost all of which are still maintained and in use today. Cut granite stones placed along the edges of the carriage roads act as guard rails of sort and are locally known as "coping stones" to help visitors cope with the steep edges. They are also fondly called "Rockefeller's teeth."
Although we did not take the time to enjoy a carriage ride, we stopped several times to see the roads and bridges.  They are magnificent structures.
We ate our lunch in the car on top of Cadillac Mountain, but for dinner we wanted to sample Maine lobster, so for $29.95 we ordered the “Lobster Special” from “The Travelin’ Lobster” — close to our campsite.  For that price, we had 1 lobster, 1 crab, 1 ear of corn, and 1 small melted butter each.  Actually, it wasn’t much to eat, so we each had a bowl of cereal as well.
We increased our stay at Hadley Point Campground by one day, and on the day after visiting ANP, we went into Bar Harbor once again.  One of our goals while visiting the Maine area was to eat lobster.  Having read and heard about lobster rolls (neither of us had ever had one), we decided to try one.
We found a small restaurant right on the waterfront.  A number of tourists — visiting ship passengers — were already seated, so we were seated near the back.  This may sound expensive; however, we were told that it was a very good deal.  (Having checked the price of lobster rolls at other restaurants in Bar Harbor, we consider this a deal as well.)  The price was $22.41 each, and for that price each of us had a large lobster roll, a bowl of thick New England clam chowder, French fries, cole slaw, and a piece of blueberry pie ala mode.  Everything was absolutely delicious.
What we hadn’t realized is that Maine is known for its blueberries, and so we decided to purchase blueberry syrup as presents.  The cheapest bottles of syrup — surprise, surprise! — were found at the Visitor’s Center on the main road coming into Bar Harbor.  The same bottles were all $1.00 or $2.00 more in the tourist shops in downtown Bar Harbor.
Having been in a large number of tourist-oriented “port towns” Bar Harbor is special.  But, then, I think all New England towns are special!  It is quaint and small with wonderful little shops.  (I think our restaurant choice and lobster roll skewed our vision somewhat!)  Part of its uniqueness, too, is its proximity to ANP.  Viewing this town of about 5,000 residents from the top of Cadillac Mountain revealed how small and “nestled” it really is. 

It is hard to believe it was once home to the enormous Rodick House, expanded in 1881 to include 400 rooms with a dining room that would seat 1,000 people.  It was Bar Harbor's largest hotel at that time and dominated the town for two decades.  What a delightful location.
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At Bar Harbor & Acadia National Park, there is a short history about the places.  At the web site it says, “All of the old hotels are gone either torn down or burned down by the great fire of 1947.”

At the United States History web site, there is another short history ob Bar Harbor.  

Wikipedia has the most complete information about the history and demographics of Bar Harbor.
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Copyright January, 2013, by And Then Some Publishing, L.L.C.

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