By Brian Swartz
Weekly Staff Editor
BAR HARBOR, Maine — On those summer days when the onshore breeze blankets Mount Desert Island in fog, hiking opportunities still exist.
Maine’s vagarious fog plays with the MDI scenery:
• Creeping ashore the previous evening, a morning fog may reduce lateral visibility to a quarter mile or less; from the foot of Bridge Street in Bar Harbor, Bar Island may be invisible just across its tide-widened sand bar.
• Depending on a breeze’s velocity, fog may sweep across MDI’s southern terrain and not reach Salisbury Cove and Town Hill to the north.
• Atmospheric conditions may bring fog right to the water’s edge, but not onto land.
• Fog may descend only so far, thus obliterating the higher peaks, yet leaving the lower summits uncovered. On such days, being “short” has its advantage for the Bubbles, Kebo Mountain, and Day Mountain; up these peaks hikers can climb to find unhindered views, if only of taller mountains immersed in fog.
The coastal and forest trails and carriage roads are great places to hike in fog. For example, along the shore:
• Check out Ocean Path between Sand Beach and Otter Point.
• Walk the trails at Ship Harbor and Wonderland, located between Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse and Seawall Campground on MDI’s southwestern edge.
Away from the sea:
• Explore the Jordan Pond Trail — and if time permits, enjoy popovers and tea at the Jordan Pond House, a delightful destination in Acadia National Park.
• Stroll the Eagle Lake Carriage Road from Route 233 east and south to Bubble Pond. Relatively level, this 2½-to-3-mile section alternately borders the lake and runs through the mixed forest below Cadillac Mountain’s steep western face.
• Walk along the lower carriage road around Upper Hadlock Pond north of Asticou Gardens and Northeast Harbor.
• Take the Seaside Path from the Jordan Pond House to Seal Harbor. The roundtrip distance is 4-plus miles.
• Explore the Asticou Trail, which connects the Jordan Pond House with Asticou at the head of Northeast Harbor. Hike through the predominantly spruce-fir forest to the cedar bridge across Little Harbor Brook; at this landmark, decide whether to continue west or return east to the Pond House.
Of course, mountain trails lure hikers to venture amidst gray-painted landscapes. The magnificent MDI horizons vanish when a cool, thick fog swirls across the granite slopes and jack pine-studded peaks — but what the fog erases, it also enhances.
Now hovering a half mile away, now only yards off, the fog shifts the horizon nearer and forces hikers to pay attention. When important landmarks disappear behind the gray quilt, hikers must watch for the subtle trail signs: the blue slash painted on granite, the cairn with its “pointer” stone, the metal diamond thrust into a tree. Such signs are vital for keeping hikers on the right trail.
Sound becomes important. High up a fog-bound Bald Peak or Parkman Mountain east of Somes Sound, traffic noise on nearby Route 198 spells “w-e-s-t,” the right direction to the Parkman Mountain Gate. Along the Day Mountain Trail, clip-clopping horse hooves and jingling harnesses reveal traffic on a nearby carriage road — and a chance to flag down a horse-drawn carriage and ask for directions to the appropriate parking lot.
When hiking on MDI, whether in sunshine or fog, always carry a detailed map or a guidebook. The gift shops at Thunder Hole and the Jordan Pond House and atop Cadillac Mountain carry such maps and well-written hiking guidebooks; so do the various bookstores on “The Island.” I recommend the spiral-bound “A Walk in the Park” by Tom St. Germain, a well-experienced MDI hiker. The book is in its umpteenth updated printing.
For additional information about hiking on Mount Desert Island, go to:
• nps.gov/acad, a National Park Service web site.
• barharborinfo.com, maintained by the Bangor Harbor Chamber of Commerce.
• acadiamagic.com, which includes trail information (and some photos).