Out of the many places I have been and still want to see, I will never let go of my beloved New England. The bustling metropolis of Boston, the winding roads of Vermont, and of course the pristine green gem of northern Maine wilderness all have their hold on my heart, and their grip tightens every day I spend in quarantine. As soon as possible, I’m throwing my tent, my crash pad and hiking boots into my little hatchback and making a beeline up I-95 to Mount Desert Island for Acadia National Park.
I want a campfire. I want to wake up with the sun. I want to feel the rejuvenation that only comes with a night spent sleeping outdoors breathing fresh air. Hell, I even miss the mosquitos.
Acadia is an outdoorsman’s wet dream. The mountains are criss-crossed with miles of hiking trails leading to gorgeous outlooks. The infamous Beehive trail is a route that is known for its precarious cliffs that are traversed via various ramshackle ladders and bridges. The heart palpitations are worth the view. In some places, the island’s shore is craggy, perfect for complex bouldering and climbing routes. In others, there are beaches with crashing waves perfect for cooling off after a rigorous day. A good portion of the island can be covered on bike on the graveled Carriage trails that lead you through the mountains and past crystal clear ponds and lakes.
The last time I made the trip up to Mount Desert Island I had just finished my undergraduate degree and the lease on my apartment was coming to an end. Faced with a foggy, unemployed future, an indefinite stay at my parents’ house, exhausted from hauling couches and dressers, and the final exam-packed sprint to the finish, my girlfriend and I booked it north. As the highway emptied out and the forest grew more and more dense, an unforgettable wash of relief pushed the numbing stresses of that last week out of my head. They were replaced by awe and appreciation as we approached the Seawall Campground that would serve as a base for the next week. We rounded a corner and the Atlantic Ocean opened in front of us just as the sun was setting. Rolling down the window the last of my anxieties were blown away by the sea breeze.
For the next week we hiked Mount Cadillac, we climbed boulders on the shore and dove into the icy Atlantic. Our days were marked by seal and falcon sightings. We ate mostly sandwiches and apples under evergreen shade, by the ocean or on mountaintops. When we got sick of that we drove five minutes across the island into Bar Harbor for a cocktail and a delicious dinner at Cafe This Way.
Throughout my visits the last couple of decades — and decades before that — Bar Harbor has remained a slow-moving coastal town that perfectly reflects the spirit of the neighboring national park. You won’t find any chains downtown. Everything is independently and locally run and is oriented towards getting the most out of what the island has to offer. There are several experienced guides offering kayak, hiking and climbing tours. There’s a fortune teller, restaurants offering the iconic Maine seafood, harborside pubs and a whale watching ferry that makes trips daily.
As soon as this beautiful place opens up to tourists I will be there to rinse my addled brain, to stretch my legs and lungs, to relive all of the visits from my childhood and my most recent trip to seek peace from such a natural place. After all this time stuck inside there is no balm more soothing than listening to the breeze rustle the leaves.