When the sun hovers above Penobscot Mountain on Mount Desert Island in early October, certain Acadia National Park trails glow golden.
Autumn glory on South Bubble Trail
Most Acadia visitors figure that the South Bubble Trail climbs from the Loop Road parking lot to Bubble Rock.
Yes — and no.
The Bubbles, North and South, thrust their craggy bulks above Jordan Pond’s northern shore, which is accessible via the Jordan Pond Trail, the Jordan Pond Carry Trail (connects Eagle Lake and Jordan Pond), and the Deer Brook Trail, an ankle- and knee-beating ascent to the col between Penobscot and Sargent mountains.
On a clear and sunny October af-ternoon, I parked in a Loop Road lot to hike Jordan Pond’s eastern and northern shores. Looming above Pe-nobscot Mountain, the sun fully lit my south-to-north route and illuminated the Bubbles.
Dark blue water to the left and South Bubble’s rugged lower slopes to the right: Rounding the slight north-westerly curve beneath South Bubble, I paused to relish the brilliantly hued hardwoods glowing amidst the soft woods “behind” Jordan Pond’s northern shore.
At its geographical apex, the Jordan Pond Trail crosses a wooden bridge spanning a stream that drains the valley between North Bubble and Sargent Mountain. Hiking some distance beyond the bridge to photo-graphically frame the bridge (and other hikers) against the Bubbles, I headed back toward the distant Loop Road parking lot.
Just across the bridge, I noticed a weathered post marked “South Bubble Trail.” Huh? Doesn’t the South Bub-ble Trail start at the Loop Road and hang two lefts before reaching the South Bubble summit post?
Yes — and no. The trail officially starts at the Loop Road, hangs a left (southwest) where North Bubble Trail splits north, and rises across a spur to split left (southeast) to South Bubble peak. At this intersection, a sign post indicates that Jordan Pond lies 0.3 miles southwest.
The sign post does not identify which trail descends to Jordan Pond. Turned out to my surprise that South Bubble Trail does so; talented trail, that South Bubble Trail, running all around South Bubble!
Climbing from the pond, the South Bubble Trail crisscrosses a talus field camouflaged by abundant hardwoods, primarily birches and maples. On this perfect autumn afternoon, sunlight shadowed the leaves and dappled the jumbled rocks and intermingled tree trunks. Scouring the rock-strewn slope for blue paint blazes, I picked a zigzag course upwards …
… and then paused momentarily to gaze westward.
Oh, my …
red and yellow leaves liberally glowed in the slanting sunlight, and the leafy canopy blazed golden above me as a light breeze stirred the trees. The lower slope appeared afire in autumnal glory.
Then I turned upslope to find the next blue blaze, and the “October lights” (as I call such sun-kissed scen-ery) vanished. Climbing a few more rocky steps, I looked back along South Bubble Trail and caught a different perspective on the “October lights.”
Completing the 0.3-mile climb took some time that afternoon. Climb and look back, climb and look back; when I reached the spur and the sign post marking the southeasterly turn toward South Bubble peak, I gazed westward and sighed.
Only along the Van Salvoord Trail east of Pemetic Mountain had I ever experienced similar “October lights” in Acadia National Park. Perhaps other trails offer similar beauty when the autumn sun hangs above Penobscot Mountain.