Memorial day weekend I traveled north to the region’s only National Park, Acadia with Carly, Eric, and Ben.
The adventure started for me on Tuesday night before the weekend. My sister was coming back home to visit with my parents and she was bringing Jeff, her boyfriend. The family was heading to Maine to stay at the Rangeley house and visit with the Kertlands. Unfortunately my sister was slow in getting her S together so I had made plans by that time. As a compromise so I could see her and Jeff I took Wednesday and Thursday off before the holiday weekend–Friday was a furlough day so I already had it off. …
After some difficult logistics of putting three bikes and a kayak on my car, plus one bike and some gear, I was on the road. Unfortunately it was raining. Not ideal for the bikes, but they are mountain bikes so no major harm down but some surface rust right? About a 1/3 of the way to NH the rain stopped and it was a pleasant drive. My sister and Jeff had already arrived by the time I did and we caught up a bit in the kitchen before I declared that I had been up before anyone and wanted some sleep.
The next couple days were scattered with some rain and lounging around the house chatting with the family.
Thursday came around. The plan was to meet Carly, Ben, and Eric in Kittery on I-95 and proceed up to Acadia after Carly jumped over to my car. Despite a few hangups along the way the crew from CT eventually met me and we headed up to begin our four day, four sport weekend of fun.
Our four sports were to be, and in their planned order, climbing, hiking, kayaking, and biking. Our primary concern was to climb on Friday, a day most people had to work, to avoid the crowds. Unfortunately we drove into camp in dense fog/mist that didn’t lift until Saturday at mid-day.
Our climbing plans dashed for Friday we did Eric’s day of hiking up Cadillac. I’ve been up Cadillac before during my previous trip in 2005. That day was clear, albeit hazy and hot. This time it was cool, and foggy. We didn’t get much for views, but it was an enjoyable hike nonetheless. I am super happy with my choice of foot ware for the hike too. I decided to take my 5.10 Guide Tennie approach shoes in preparation for longer hikes in the future and they were comfortable. Most importantly they were spectacular on the wet slabby rock of the trail. I rarely had any traction issues at all, whereas everyone else had to be a bit delicate in some sections of trail.
Back at camp we enjoyed some clearing weather and no fog. Everyone pitched in and made an awesome dinner. My contribution was starting the fire and cooking the awesome steak tips over it. Despite what my campmates might say, they onions were not underdone! The steak was perfect considering the less than even cooking temps on the open fire.
Saturday opened with a little sprinkles in the morning but we decided to go for climbing anyway. After a little coaxing of my companions we were able to get to Otter Cliffs by 9am. Guides were still setting up ropes for their van loads of clients so we were still able to get on some moderate routes. After a quick top belay lesson with a GriGri, I let Carly, Ben, and Eric have fun on a set of routes while I set up another one on the Seastack. Otter Cliffs is a short (50 ft) set of cliffs that is on the ocean along the scenic park loop around Acadia. Because of the proximity to beautiful scenery and easy access, climbers and spectators flock to the top of the cliff to climb or just watch. Aside from Rumney I’ve never been to a cliff with so many people, but even so it is still great. The scenery is hard to beat right on the water. A smart climber even checks the tide charts before coming to see if the first few feet of a route are going to be accessible.
Back to the Seastack, this feature is the right wall of an alcove called the Gallery. The Gallery has a large rock floor and is set back perhaps 80 feet from the water at mid/high tide–at least during low wave activity. The Seastack is comprised of three rocks, two on the bottom which were cleft in two eons ago, on top of these rests an other large block. The division between the bottom and top is a varying width crack from 2 feet wide to fist size. It is an obvious feature of the cliff and begs to be climbed. It also allows for some awesome pictures to be taken from the main cliff.
I set a 5.9+ called Gallery Arete and a 5.9 classic called Rock Lobster on it. The other routes we were on were 5.7-5.8 range and I wanted to get everyone on a harder route so they could challenge themselves. Ben fired off the route with a hang or maybe two first. I then went down to have a go. It is a great route despite the jumpy first move. At the division between the rocks in the stack there is a perfect horizontal fist jam that I was happy to indulge myself in. The route then moved up and left above the cleft in the lower blocks. A tricky couple of moves then brought you to the belay and a semi-awkward mantleing top out. Eric was next and despite not climbing at all in a couple years was able to do all the moves with some hangs. Carly finished up the route with a valiant effort. The route’s moves confounded her and she needed some boosting up in a couple spots. I will credit her with keeping her cool and sticking with it despite many failed attempts at the hard sections.
To rid ourselves of the gummy masses at Otter Cliffs we headed inland towards the Precipice. This mountain has a very popular and semi-technical hiking route which has fixed gear aiding hikers up its steep slopes. In the spring and early summer though the trail is closed because of falcon nesting. Luckily those pesky falcons don’t like the steeper cliff band to the left of the trail. This section of the cliff has many awesome multi-pitch routes on stellar granite.
Since we had already climbed the first half of the day, we had only one leader (me), and two ropes, I decided the best course of action would be a nice casual route called Story of O (5.6). After getting a little beta while on the approach from a guide and a former AIARE classmate, Adam, I decide the 3 pitch route would be perfect for the four of us. Eric hasn’t done any multi-pitch climbs before but Ben has and Carly has a few. The pitches are short and with a 70m rope it might be possible to do it in one, certainly two with a 60m is easy.
After getting in line behind 50ish couple we saw at Otter Cliffs I explained how things would work. I would lead up, Carly, being competent at removing gear, but not as much on rope work as Ben, would go second, tied to the center of my rope. Eric being the noob would be at the end of my rope and follow after Carly was at the belay. He trailed Ben’s rope after him. Ben then brought up the rear. Thankfully the ledges on the route are generous and have ample cracks for making anchors. I had a good chat with John from the Boston AMC while bringing up Carly and Eric. It was pretty amusing to see four clove hitches all in the same master point.
John and his partner Maggie (?) decided to skip ahead and do the last two pitches in one, leaving us with plenty of room and them with no crowds. The second pitch of Story of O has a beautiful left facing dihedral with amazing stemming moves and pro pretty much where you’d want it. Definitely some of the best 5.6 moves I’ve had the pleasure of doing, too bad it is only 40 ft tall. At the next belay I notice another party of the usual size, two, coming up behind us. To avoid being “that group” I decided that once Eric got to the belay and I got back all the gear from Carly, less the anchor at Ben and our P2 anchor, I would climb ahead with Carly belaying me and Ben by Eric. In short work I was at the bolted anchors sharing them with a party, also from the Boston AMC, who just finished Gunklandia (5.7), also a great route from what my new friends said.
After bringing everyone up to the top with me we pre-rigged the four of us into our double rope rappel. Carly and Eric enjoyed the 170 ft rap and Ben eventually came down to complete our day of climbing.
Sunday was Ben’s day. And good thing since all he could harp about was, “why don’t we go kayaking?” Sunday was similarly clear and was a perfect day to be on the water. We eventually put in 3/4 of the way up Somes Sound a fjordlet on the island. Since Ben’s boats aren’t true open ocean kayaks we decided to be a little conservative and stick to the sound since it would be more sheltered and offered escape options should something go awry.
Fighting the rising tide we made our way passed million dollar homes that were strangely empty for a Memorial Day weekend with nice weather. After about 3 miles we pulled up on a beach for lunch and to lounge in the sun. Ben’s objective was to go to the mouth of the sound and taste the open ocean of the Atlantic. Carly and I were less ambitious and decided to follow him and Eric to an island and then rest while they circumnavigated the island and got a little exposure to the open ocean. On the way back we timed things well enough that the tide was still on its way in and we were able to ride the flow in half the time it took to get out to our destination.
Sunday night we again had good weather and made some awesome quinoa and chicken with peppers and tomatoes washed down by some Geary’s Summer Ale and some Costco chocolate cookies, which might just be the best chocolate cookies on the planet. Yup, that’s right Mom, I like them better than yours, sorry. Cheer up though, they can’t hold a candle to your blueberry cake or chocolate legal cake.
Monday, our final day, was to be Carly’s day and her activity of choice was biking. The park has a fairly extensive set of carriage roads which are dirt and have only pedestrian, bike, and horse & carriage traffic. Since we had a almost 8 hour drive ahead of us our sights were set modestly. Parking at the Jordan Pond House parking lot we offloaded the bikes and tuned them up. From the parking lot we picked up the carriage road quickly and easily cruised to the base of Day Mountain. The road goes all the way around and has an offshoot that goes to the top. We took this and got a good sweat worked up, at least I did, on the way up. At the summit we had decent views but it was still overcast. At least we got to see a bit of Frenchman’s Bay before we left. While enjoying the view we saw the path we took in the kayaks the day before. Our ride down was awesome since the carriage road is so smooth. Lots of fun.
We finished our Acadia weekend at the little bridge connecting it to the mainland. We at lunch at Thompson’s Island. Here we also were amazed at how quickly the tide comes in. There were no waves, it was completely calm, but if you watched a rock partially in the water it was easy to see the waterline move up.