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  • Writer's pictureAdam Hlasny

Acadia and Beyond: A Day Trip to Maine's Far East


Acadia
Day 2 begins

...continued from Part 1.


It's bonkers, you might suggest, to use your only full day in Acadia to drive another 2+ hours farther east. You may be right - I may be crazy. But, lunatic move or not, that's exactly what I did.


Allow me to explain my reasoning:

  • I had just spent an extremely satisfying afternoon hiking and enjoying an Acadian sunset.

  • The half-day I'd spent here equaled the amount of time I'd ever spent in any National Park.

  • The day's weather would be extremely cold, not conducive to hours of hiking anyway.

  • There are a multitude of scenic drives one can take in this part of the state.

  • I'd always been fascinated by "extreme points", i.e. the easternmost point in the Continental US, which was within day tripping distance of my Bar Harbor base.

  • I'd get to explore the Schoodic Point (mainland) section of Acadia on my way back.


Cresting another deserted hill, perhaps an hour east of Bar Harbor

Sounds like a win-win to me. After my really early evening on day 1, I was back on the road before 7:00am on Friday, January 5. Destination? Lubec (loo-BECK), the easternmost municipality in the United States. What is there to do in Lubec, you might ask? Not a heck of a lot. Especially when the wind chill struggles to reach the 0-degree mark.



Nonetheless, I arrived around 8:45 and walked around as if it were 40-50 degrees warmer, pretending bits of exposed skin weren't numb. After 5 minutes or so I found a single open coffee shop and strode in, craving a warm beverage and a pastry. I got just that, lavishly cradling the hot cappuccino as if it were a priceless heirloom. Served by a smiling 60ish woman, it warmed me from the inside out. I selected a blueberry muffin to nosh on, close as I was to one of the most prominent blueberry-growing regions in the US. Both were delightful.


Campobello Island, New Brunswick
The Bridge to Campobello Island, New Brunswick


Blue door, Lubec

Lubec is a lonely outpost on a good day, but on a bitterly cold January day it seemed next-level remote. Its population of 1,237 has decreased considerably from its peak of around 3,400 a century earlier. In the 30 seconds I had before freezing, I had read an informational placard about the fishing and canning industries, which surely contributed to a more robust population in years past.


Two countries in one cold snap

I was the only one daft enough to perambulate its few deserted streets, gazing across the cove to Mulholland Point Lighthouse on New Brunswick's equally lonesome shores. I had considered bringing my passport and bopping across the international bridge to Campobello Island. However, its main attraction - the home where FDR and family summered for years - was closed. Therefore, I decided against dealing with a border crossing to see more similar landscapes.


Lubec, West Quoddy Head
Lubec from West Quoddy Head

The wind whipped with ferocity, stinging exposed skin despite the sun's efforts. When, moments earlier, I heard someone (presumably a local) dressed in galoshes use the word "brutal" to describe the conditions, it validated my own perceptions.


Before leaving Lubec behind, it was time to visit the lighthouse that truly marks our easternmost point: West Quoddy Head.*


Why is the word West included in the US' easternmost point, you might ask? Well, given that Canada looms to our east, the American side is the western of the two pieces of land known as Quoddy Head. A geographical oddity that reminds us of how close our friendly neighbor is, even in this area's apparent remoteness.


The easternmost point of land in the lower 48, with Canada looking on

In any case, approaching the lighthouse on a crunchy gravel road gave me a bit of a thrill. There was actually a pickup truck parked near the light, but I never saw the other individual. Getting out and bracing myself for the cold, I wanted to be 100% sure I was standing east of every single person in the United States, childish claim though it was.





The lighthouse stood in faded, isolated glory, ruggedly handsome in its striped finery. Sunlight slanted through, lending an air of significance to the occasion. With the security of five layers of clothing, I felt such positive energy that I opted to do a short hike on the Coast Guard Trail. The amount of large, felled trees on the trail was remarkable, but I was able to pass over or under each, to more stunning viewpoints.


West Quoddy Head
The sugar-dusted, windswept Coast Guard Trail

I offered a quick greeting to one other solo traveler before heading back to the car; perhaps he was as fascinated as I was with the awe-inspiring geography of this wonderful state, this wonderful country we call home.






 
Cutler, Maine

I felt I had already accomplished a lot, and it was still only mid-morning. I began the leisurely westward return drive to Acadia, opting to travel on minor roads. At one point 20 or more minutes passed without seeing a single other vehicle or person. I stopped for perhaps 90 seconds in the minuscule fishing village of Cutler and snapped a couple photos without even leaving the car.




By midday I was back in the National Park, but to a less-visited region called the Schoodic District. The loop road within this district happens to be a National Scenic Byway, the first I'd been on since Alaska in Sept. 2021. Come to think of it, much of eastern Maine reminded me of a miniature Alaska, smaller in scale but similarly awe-inspiring.



Mount Desert Island from the Schoodic Peninsula

The temperature had warmed to perhaps 20 degrees by this point, but the winds still gusted. Despite this, the Schoodic Point area was giving off northern California vibes. I parked and scrambled over some (non-icy) rocks like an inquisitive schoolboy, enjoying the simple pleasure of exploring a deserted coastal area. Views were exquisite as I gazed west, toward the hill I had scaled yesterday. It was almost as if I was looking directly back, at how this raw earth appeared before humankind trod its wild expanses.


Acadia, Schoodic
The author enjoying a moment of coastal solitude

I felt like I'd been on a journey of a thousand years, but it was still barely afternoon. Knowing the sun would vanish around 4, I had wanted to make one more stop on Mount Desert Island - Bass Harbor Head Light. Bass Harbor was on the southernmost tip of the island, almost opposite my Bar Harbor digs. Despite the inefficiency of yet more driving, I embraced the opportunity and proceeded eagerly.


Bass Harbor Head Light
Bass Harbor Head Light

After so much magnificence, one might think I was jaded to the beauty of another lighthouse, another rocky shore. However, I appreciated the nuance of different lighting, different viewpoints. It was yet another place I had to myself (with the exception of one couple arriving as I left). As the sun sank lower, it cast a gentle glow on the lighthouse, ensconced in a coniferous skyline.



What had I done to deserve front-row seats to such splendor? My overwhelming sense of gratitude was enhanced by my continuing introspection. Of course, I wanted to share these images, this peacefulness, with family and friends - and I would, soon enough. But these moments became etched deep within, hopefully accessible when the figurative seas will inevitably get rougher. It would soon be time to head back home after a journey that seemed far longer than two days.*


*From leaving home Thursday morning to returning Saturday afternoon, the trip clocked in at just under 56 hours. My car's odometer read 833 miles as I pulled back into the driveway.



 

I rose with the sun on Saturday, January 6. I knew a snowstorm was due later in the afternoon, but I wanted to catch a final glimpse of Acadian majesty before heading home. I found just what I sought in Eagle Pond, savoring the celestial play of early light. Ice had begun to encroach on the lake, providing another pulchritudinous layer of wonder.



Yet again, I had the place to myself - even on a Saturday morning. I couldn't imagine how different this area must look/sound in summer, seclusion interrupted by a crying infant, obnoxiously revving motorcycle, or some Boston big shot on a cellphone.



My winter gamble had paid off handsomely. Willing to endure the cold, I was rewarded by exquisite scenery, deserted roads and paths, and an unspeakably vast appreciation for the natural world and the abundant blessings in my own life.




If you ever get the chance to visit this extraordinary corner of the world in the offseason, I would wholeheartedly recommend it. Layer up, breathe in the freshness, and savor this spectacular National Park.



ADAM'S NATIONAL PARKS VISITED

Mammoth Cave

Kentucky

Aug. 2007

Grand Canyon

Arizona

Jan. 2008

Joshua Tree

California

Jan. 2008

Everglades

Florida

Jan. 2009, Feb. 2022

Gateway Arch*

Missouri

Sep. 2015

Badlands**

South Dakota

June 2017

Grand Teton

Wyoming

June 2017

Crater Lake

Oregon

June 2017

Redwoods^

California

June 2017

Rocky Mountain**

Colorado

Mar. 2019

Shenandoah

Virginia

Feb. 2020

Denali

Alaska

Sep. 2021

Kenai Fjords

Alaska

Sep. 2021

Acadia

Maine

Jan. 2024

* = visited before it became a NP in 2018

** = not an official visit; roadside stop to take in a view only

^ = technically visited Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, which is jointly administered with Redwoods NP


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