Along with every hiker in the state right now, I’m itching to hit the trails for early spring hikes. The arrival of any season is a cause for celebration — by hiking, naturally. Actually, I never need much of an excuse to hike. But, the arrival of spring is an event, like a birthday.
Last Saturday I held a party for spring on the Beachcroft Trail in Acadia National Park. The plan was to find a snow-free path somewhere in the park. If I did, great — a double celebration, a hike and a reason to go where there’s no snow. If not, well, a hike would get me out there, which is always the idea.
The Beachcroft Trail is one of Acadia’s classic trails. It’s historic in that it’s one of the earliest built, sometime around the 1860s. It’s also one of several early trails in the park that are constructed with paving stones for at least a portion of its length.
Everything about the day itself was a call to the trail. The sky above was brilliantly blue. The ice sheet on The Tarn, the pond near the start of the trail, was dissolved. Out.
It wasn’t surprising, given the depth of the shallow pond. The afternoon sun was warm enough, even though the wind blew strong from off shore across the cold ocean. I strapped on my day pack and followed the stone path through the lower forest that approaches Huguenot Head.
The head is a prominent feature from Route 3. Its ledge-bound form rises on the left side of the road heading south, as the road winds through the valley towards Otter Creek. For the first 1/2 mile or so the trail is a stone-lined path. It winds through a thin birch and beech forest as it gradually climbs the west side of the small hill.
The precisely laid stones are a remarkable feat of trail design. Even after more than 100 years of foot travel very few have moved or wiggled free. I stopped for a snack and a couple, Cathy Anderson and Steve McKay of Orono, caught up to me. Since we were hiking in the same direction, they agreed to let me tag along. We hiked up the trail, around some switchback corners, and climbed up to the first prominent ledge outcrop overlooking Route 3 in the valley below. We could barely hear passing cars over the brisk breeze.
The ledge is a good place to view a rockslide on Champlain Mountain, our eventual destination for the day. The slide came down as a result of an earthquake a few years ago. The quake was so strong that another slide closed one trail on the other side of the mountain. It took the park a couple of years to reconstruct that trail. There was no damage on our trail, however.
Before passing around Huguenot Head, we resisted the urge to head to the top, off-trail over the bare ledges. Instead we hiked over to Champlain, where the trail got steeper. The blue-blazed trail, marked often with rock cairns, ascends steeply over bare ledges.
The higher we climbed, the more we remarked about the day, the views and, oh my, what a long winter it had been. We met a few other hikers on their way down. By the time we got to the 1,058-foot top of Champlain we were the only ones there.
We chatted awhile, then I went north on the Bear Brook Trail, while Steve and Cathy said they were leaving the way they came. All along the west side on the Beachcroft Trail there were only a few patches of snow near the route. But, on my descent off the north ridge of Champlain, there were more patches and they were larger. It won’t take long before they’ll be gone, too. I was just in time to see the last of winter melt away.
There were no hikers on the trail as I descended back to the closed-for-the-season Park Loop Road. What a day in spring, I thought. A day that was worthy of celebration indeed. A Maine spring day.
To get to the trailhead: Beachcroft Trail can be found on Map 16 of the Delorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer, grid B4. The parking area for the trail is located on Route 3 about 2.5 miles from Bar Harbor on the right side of the road. Be careful crossing the road to start of the trail on the east side.