May 27, 2019
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Hiking Great Head in the fog

Greg Westrich photo | BDN
Greg Westrich photo | BDN
Ann Hartman and her daughter, Emma, cross Great Head in Acadia National Park in the fog.

by Greg Westrich

Special to The Weekly


Last year for Father’s Day I got breakfast in bed and the promise of a family hike. After “oohing” and “aahing” over my pancakes, with everyone including the dog watching me, we packed up and headed down to Acadia. Endless gray clouds jammed the sky; a damp breeze.

Forgetting their promise, the kids wanted to go to Sand Beach in Acadia National Park and play in the surf.

My wife, Ann, was concerned that a slow, steady rain would begin — no weather to be hiking

in. Only I remained energized about an actual hike. We drove through a packed Bar Harbor; it

seemed that everyone shared Ann’s opinion of the weather. Tourists crowded the sidewalks in

rain slickers, putting off exploring the island for a sunny day.

As a compromise we decided to hike Great Head with a side trip down to Sand Beach. We started up the trail in jackets. I was beginning to regret wearing shorts. The clouds had descended to the ground. A pale light suffused the forest, smudging the color from the trees,

leaving only dark browns and blackened greens. The fog muffled the sound of the waves on the

rocks. Bunchberry and wild lily-of-the-valley blooms glowed among the trunks like the first stars

in a newly-dark sky. We moved quietly along the trail, up granite steps and ledges to the open

A hundred feet below, hidden by the fog, the sea lapped quietly against Great Head. In the distance a fog horn sounded, a buoy bell clanged as it rocked back and forth on the swell, a

lobster boat chugged through the water. Overhead gulls glided by.

Unlike pea-soup fog, the fog was less something you could see and feel, more an absence. Everything more than a few yards away looked faded, fuzzy. The trees were mere outlines against the white sky. Beyond that there were only muffled sounds.

We couldn’t see Sand Beach until we were nearly down off Great Head. A few families were spread out along the sand; only a couple of children went near the water. A cool breeze followed the waves up onto the sand, chilling Ann and I as we watched the Henry and Emma play at the water’s edge. Behind us the Beehive occasionally appeared in outline on the horizon. All around us was an unbroken wall of white.

I sat thinking of all the folks in Bar Harbor who were missing the quiet of this day. Who didn’t get the experience of moving through a familiar landscape rendered foreign by the fog. Despite the chill, I was exactly where I wanted to be on Father’s Day.

Greg Westrich lives in Glenburn and is the author of “Hiking Maine.”

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