The Seaboard – Acadia National Park, Maine (part II)

When I left off last week, my family and I had just crossed the sandbar back to Mount Desert Island from Bar Island. This was a fairly leisurely walk, and served as a nice warm-up for our next hike: The Beehive.

The Beehive trail climbs 520 feet in 0.8 miles to the top of this rock monolith that rises above Sand Beach. In my mind, this is one of the must-do hikes at Acadia (a second hike – up the Precipice trail – is apparently similarly spectacular but is often closed to protect the nesting peregrine falcons).

That being said, this is not a hike for those with a fear of heights. My sister was less than thrilled with the steep exposures and ladder climbing that we had to navigate on our way to the top. I, on the other hand, loved it! Continue reading

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Mount Desert Island – Acadia National Park, Maine (part I)

After a wonderful week exploring maritime Canada, we crossed back into our home country for the final few days of our vacation. Our destination – Acadia National Park, located on the east central coast of Maine. This relatively small park has three disconnected sections: Isle au Haut, the Schoodic Peninsula, and Mount Desert Island. Mount Desert Island is the largest, most developed, and by far the most popular section of the park. This is where we went.

We only had 2 days to spend in Acadia, and I can say with certainty that this was not enough. Not even close. Acadia is beautiful, and it quickly became apparent to me that I needed to plan multiple additional vacations to Maine.

(This was 4 years ago. Currently, the vacations are planned but have yet to be executed. Oops.)

Anyway, after a 5-hour drive from New Brunswick, we entered Mount Desert Island from the north, which is the only way to reach the island by car. A long bridge connects the mainland to the tiny Thompson Island (home to a visitor information center) and then Mount Desert Island.   Continue reading

Eastward Bound (part II) – Indiana to Ontario

At the end of my last post, my mom and I were wading in Lake Michigan at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Day 4 of our cross-country excursion, however, was the one I was most excited for. Our destination: Niagara Falls!

We left Indiana early in the morning, continuing across the northern edge of the state and crossing into Ohio. By lunch, we were just outside of Cleveland. Coincidentally, earlier that morning my mom and I had been discussing national parks and the fact that there aren’t any in Ohio. She grew up there so I didn’t have any reason to doubt her. However, when I pulled out the map to find us a suitable picnic location, I spotted the small green area labeled Cuyahoga Valley National Park just south of Cleveland.

And so our picnic spot was chosen. Continue reading

Eastward Bound (part I) – Montana to Indiana

August 10, 2012: Moving Day.

I don’t think it had hit me yet that I would be spending the next few years of my life in Connecticut. I’d never been there before. I’d never been anywhere in the northeast. All I had was warnings from various people that northeasterners are rude and everyone has a Boston accent. And though people do tend to drive like total jackasses here, I quickly learned that most people are friendly and the Boston accent is pretty well confined to Boston.

Anyway, the point of my story is that I hadn’t quite realized what I was getting myself into. It didn’t really hit me until I was sitting in my new house in Connecticut and my mom was on a plane back home. My roommates hadn’t yet arrived and my grad school advisor was on vacation. I was alone. Suffice it to say, it wasn’t the best day I’ve ever had.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Continue reading

That time I willingly jumped into 55°F water – Crater Lake National Park, Oregon (part II)

Day 2 at Crater Lake dawned clear and calm, which was perfect because this was the day we’d been waiting for – boat tour day! We’d hemmed and hawed over this for quite a while because the $42 per person tickets didn’t really fit in with our MO of budget travel. But in the end, we made the tour reservations because we knew that if we didn’t we’d end up regretting it.

And it was worth every dollar!

The only access to Crater Lake is on foot, by descending an incredibly steep 1.1-mile trail to Cleetwood Cove. This strenuous trail drops 700 feet in this short distance; going down isn’t too difficult, but climbing back up at the end of the day is a different story. After a long day in the sun, our legs were not pleased with what we were asking of them.

From the dock at Cleetwood Cove, Volcano Boat Cruises offers two tours: the Standard Lake Cruise (a guided tour around the perimeter of the lake), and the Wizard Island Cruise (which also circles the lake but includes a 3-hour stop on Wizard Island). We took the Wizard Island Cruise, which departed at 9:30am and got us back to Cleetwood Cove by about 3:00pm. The lake portion of the tour is narrated by a park ranger; on the Wizard Island part of the tour, we were left to our own devices.

Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and friendly, and we learned a lot about the geology and history of the lake. Of course, this was 4 years ago so I don’t remember all of what we learned. But I remember that we learned it. Continue reading

Crystal Clear – Crater Lake National Park, Oregon (part I)

After leaving the Columbia River Gorge, we turned south at Hood River, OR and began the 4.5-hour journey to Crater Lake National Park.

Crater Lake was formed about 7,000 years ago when Mount Mazama erupted so violently that it collapsed. The top of the mountain was blown off and what remained formed a caldera that is 5 miles across and nearly 4,000 feet deep. A few subsequent eruptions were small enough to form the 755-foot tall Wizard Island in the middle of the caldera. The mountain has not erupted since. Many Native American tribes actually lived in the area when Mount Mazama erupted; this event is still alive in some of their legends, and Crater Lake is considered sacred.

Because the lake is in a caldera, there are no inlets or outlets. The only source of water for the lake is precipitation – either that which falls onto the surface of the lake directly, or that which is absorbed into the ground of the caldera and eventually seeps out into the lake. The only way out of the lake is by evaporation. Due to these factors, Crater Lake is home to some of the cleanest and clearest water in the world. Clarity readings range from 115-175 feet, which is incredibly unusual. Continue reading

A Day in Paradise – Mount Rainier National Park, Washington (part IV)

I’ve been a lot of cool places. The US map on my bedroom wall is covered in pins; I’m up to 43 states and 57 National Park Service sites, not to mention 7 Canadian provinces and numerous national and provincial parks up there as well. So when I say that the Skyline Trail at Mount Rainier is quite possibly the most beautiful hike I’ve ever done, I have a decent number of locations to compare it to.

In fact, it’s one of the two Skyline Trails that can be found on my All-time Favorite Hikes list.

Of all our days in Mount Rainier National Park, this one was the warmest, sunniest, and by far the best. It began with a cloudless view of Mount Rainier from the main road as we drove from Cougar Rock Campground to the Paradise turnoff.  Continue reading