Friday, September 26, 2008

Mount Desert Island

In 1604 French explorer Samuel Champlain was exploring the north-east coast of America. One large island he named "l'Isles des Monts-déserts" because of mountains bare of vegetation. Today this island on the south-east coast of Maine is known by it English name of Mount Desert Island. Much of the island is now part of Acadia National Park. Acadia National Park was the first national park established east of the Mississippi. This park is also the only national park created by donations of private land. In the late 1800s, the island became the summer playground for very wealthy American industrialists such as the Rockefellers, Morgans, Fords, Vanderbilts, Carnegies, and Astors. They built large summer mansions euphemistically called "cottages". Because of increasing commercial development on the Island, these land owners began exploring ways of preserving the Island. In 1901, George B. Dorr and others formed the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations to acquire land for perpetual public use. The land was offered to the federal government, and in 1915 President Wilson established Sieur de Monts National Monument. In 1919 Lafayette National Park was created from the monument. In 1929 the park nearly doubled in size with the donation of the Schoodic Peninsula. But this land was donated by a British family with the stipulation that the Francophile name of Lafayette be changed. In 1929 the park was renamed to the present Acadia National Park.

There is a 27 mile scenic loop automobile road within the park on the eastern part of the island. There are also about 45 miles of carriage roads that were built by John D. Rockefeller Jr. The carriage roads are open to hiking and biking, but closed to autos. There are even horse-drawn carriage rides available.

On the island is the town of Bar Harbor. This area is an extremely popular travel destination with many inns, restaurants and shops. Even though we visited after Labor Day, there were still many people visiting. But we were told it was nothing like the crowds during the height of summer.

Also found around the island are restaurants called "Lobster Pounds". These restaurants serve the crustacean that happens to be one of Barbara's culinary passions, so we had to try a couple of them. These places have live lobsters in tanks. You pick the one you want and they then cook it for you. The best one we tried (Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound) cooked its lobsters outside in boiling seawater heated over wood fires.

Here is a view down to Bar Harbor from Cadillac Mountain. Cadillac Mountain is the highest point along the eastern coastline of the United States. As you can see, cruise ships visit Bar Harbor.

Here is one of the few sandy beaches along the mostly rocky coastline of the island.

This is typical of much of the coastline surrounding the island.

The island was covered by glaciers in the last ice age. Much of the granite rock on the island was left smoothed and exposed.

This is one of many beautiful bridges over streams and roads that were constructed using the local stone.

Acadia National Park is definitely not to be missed if traveling in the area. There are also several good restaurants, gift shops and tours available in Bar Harbor, but be prepared for lots of people.

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