For seniors, fall is a fine time to explore the beauty of Mount Desert Island

Posted Sept. 22, 2011, at 1:36 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 22, 2011, at 3:12 p.m.
View from Gorham Mountain in Acadia National Park.
View from Gorham Mountain in Acadia National Park.

Some of the best things to do are occasionally right in our own backyard. I found this out recently during a sailing trip in Penobscot Bay. The weather changed and we found ourselves wanting to wait out bad weather in Northeast Harbor for a few days. One person in our group suggested we hike up to Thuya Gardens and Lodge. I have to admit I have never really done any hiking on any part of Mount Desert Island, so I went along, despite the fact that it looked like we had to scale a mountain to get there.

Mountainsides can look daunting to a senior still rocking from the sailboat. In reality, it was a beautiful, manicured trail with landscaped rock walls that traversed the hillside back and forth. The path retains powerful natural elegance despite being built sometime between 1880 and 1928. There are benches to rest on, covered viewpoint trail houses and ultimately you come to the lodge, built by the same fellow who designed the path up, Joseph Henry Curtis.

Curtis donated the whole property, some 140 acres, to the residents of Mount Desert for perpetuity. The gardens are amazing, with all variety of perennials and even small gardens of lichen and moss. And when we were done touring this spectacular place, we got to go down the hillside. That was much easier.

That was a treat, but it wasn’t until it started raining hard that we found out the real wonder available at Acadia Park. We asked about the Island Explorer buses we kept seeing in the Chamber of Commerce office. It turns out that you can take a bus anywhere on the island for free. This means you can leave your sailboat or car behind and go to any part of the island for shopping, hiking, swimming and even biking, because some of the buses have bike racks. The beauty of the bus system is that you are able to let someone else drive the narrow, curvy roads while you enjoy the scenery in the comfort of the modern bus.

For seniors and others who may have hesitated to go to the park because of the traffic or narrow, scary roads, this is a must-do activity. Park your car at the entrance and take the bus and you can have a day of relaxed enjoyment. On our trip, we went from Northeast Harbor to Bar Harbor and went out to lunch and to the Abbe Museum. When we were done wandering around the town, we went to the Village Square and checked out the computerized schedule that told when the next buses would be there. It seems each route runs on half-hour increments. The drivers are excellent and seem to know everything about the area.

We sailed out of the harbor under sunny skies, finally. I have vowed to go back to Acadia and find more of its seemingly unlimited treasures.

Noelle Merrill is the executive director of the Eastern Area Agency on Aging in Bangor.

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