If there is one thing about rich people that has not changed throughout the ages, it is that like like to go and play at being poor people. Or at least country people. Living in the country. With huge houses. At one time the island of Bar Harbor was just one of 3000-4000 other such islands. Then, in the 18somethings or is that the somethingth century, people of means started visiting there for the summer until there upon that formerly deserted rock an exuberance of the connected and Mayflower born wealthy built cabins and cottages that were larger than most Restoration era villages.
But in time there came changes in taste, and fire, and more fire, until the entire rock burned to the living stone and perhaps in some places, even farther into the Eldredge aspects of the earth. This left the mountains as the predominant feature and the locals, that is some rather connected individuals, ensured that the place regrew in a better way than it was before to offer trails and parks and sitting spots and signs and all manner of polite adventure betwixt nature. The mountains became more silent for a time, since the Jet Age was in bloom, and The Visitors died down to such a trickle most of the grand hotels vanished. Then, with the advent of hiking magazines and a renewed interest in the out-of-doors, The Visitors came for the mountains again.
Of the mountains the most well known within the confines of this jurisdiction is Cadillac mountain. If you can, avoid this mountain of madness as there are several others within the park, each with a view, but none so crawling with the the ants of humanity as that one. It is always amazing when I travel to see what spot becomes “The” place to be, to snap, to selfie, to check off the bucket list and to see clusters and clatches of peoples tied in a human knot just to be “There.” In general the island is popular again which is good, but it is crowded. The way to Dessert Island is blocked as on weekends, clogged with cars and SUVs and such and especially those days falling within range of holidays, the traffic jamb starts but miles away and lasts for as long as you want to suffer it.
The park has miles of roadway some for cars and others for cart traffic pulled by horses or such back from a long ago attempt to Fire Island the place and ban motor car traffic (was that the Ford family or one of the Getty’s that ironically pushed for that?). These scenic car roadways allow one to experience views and vistas all from the comfort of bumper to bumper traffic. There are ways to escape, however, and that is to set out on a noname brand trail on some bullshit mountain no one wants to selfie from. We selected Dorr mountain, a slightly shorter chunk of stone than it’s famous brother but offering a number of trails, one of which consists of 1005 stone steps and two ladders to reach the top.
Unlike much of the National Park system where nature was allowed to reclaim some industrial environmental catastrophe, Arcadia was founded by the rusticators and saved right in the nick of time from overdevelopment and ruin. Discovered by several Hudson Valley School painters, and the retreat of the wealthy WASP set, the park is a strange mixture of wild areas that have been secretly, or not so quietly, landscaped to perfection. Nature made that much more better and as Central Park in Gotham just as wonderfully fake. It looks wild and why not tweak and twerk Nature to fit Our image. The trail up Dorr started with stone steps. These led to more steps and then ladders and then more stone steps. There is a great deal of stonework in the park. Everywhere you look. Large stone bridges connect the horse trails, granite wrapped lookouts, stone cairns marking each high trail and before that fire of 1947, several castle-cottages.
From the parking lot we started our hike. Up the stone steps fitted with precision into the mountain. It amazes me that our ancestors had worked hard to fit together such a structure to lead to nowhere. After many Lord of he Rings Hobbits going to Mordor the back way jokes, we reached the top and switched to a gentler trail that sent us to the summit. From there we could see the ocean, far and distant mountains, and the strange and frightening research facility where they are breaking apart mice to see what dark matter oozes from their stem cells and mapping the human genome I can only assume to embed consumerism and a love of The Googles into our cosmic and sacred structure. At the time I did not know what I was looking at so I joked with some hikers that it was the Clinton Memorial Prison for White Collar Crime & Bayside Country Club. Indeed I found it funnier than my situational companions.
From the summit one can count the ants on Cadillac mountain for a hole and then descend in so many ways. We selected the southerly route for no other reason that it seemed from the guide book a less challenging slope than the back way to Mordor we had just taken. And it was. Pleasant, not at all like what I have come to believe is hiking, which for most of the trails meant tracking through mud and doing a level of torture of some degree not unfamiliar to prisoners and convicts of certain fascist or totalitarian regimes.
We returned to the parking lot having a relaxing stint in nature and got to the car to recharge our iDevices and make our way about the park for more traffic. More sitting. And just off the island in time for dinner.
Editor’s Note: This will be the final installment of anything Maine at least for this year.