Mark Twain

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do ...
Explore. Dream. Discover." Mark Twain

Friday, April 15, 2011

M - is for Mortifying Maine Memories

One of my favorite places on earth is Bar Harbor, Maine and Acadia National Park. If you like rugged coast lines, wilderness, hiking trails, horse drawn wagon rides, beautiful lakes, breath-taking views ... you need to visit this place. Some of my very best memories were created there, as well as one "Mortifying Memory."

The story begins with great expectations!

(Pictured: view of Jordon Pond - 1998)

On our first trip in 1998 my husband and I discovered Jordon Pond. The walk/hike is measured about 3 1/4 miles around. The guide books suggested allowing 2-2 1/2 hours to walk it due to the rough terraine.

Today there is a restored trail around the lake. It is more of a walk than a hike. The trail is rated a 1 on a scale of 1 to 5 - with 5 being strenuous. (The Precipice, a vertical cliff climb in Acadia, is rated 5.)

(Picture: gravel path early in the walk, easy walk, 1998)

But things were different on our first trip. Only about 30% of the trail was graded and graveled. The rest was a mix of tangled roots, raised boards for keeping hikers off the delicate ecosystems, some forest paths, and there were about 5 large man-made rock falls that you had to climb over. The guide book rated the first 30% of the trail as a 1 - and a the balance of the walk as 3-4 in difficulty.

We were regular walkers, we read the guide books carefully, the hike was vertical, we had the right shoes, and we had the attitude. We were full of ourselves. We would conquer Jordan Pond.

(Pictured: part of the trail that was uneven and hard walking.).

We walked the easy part first. We were passing folks. We were commenting on their sandals, or inappropriate clothing, and how they wouldn't make it the whole way around. We were "experienced".

Then we got to the more difficult parts. First came the roots. There were deep ruts everywhere. Lots of them. It was very difficult on the ankles. It was slow going but we were careful. We watched many people turn back because of that first section. Then came the raised boards. They went on for quite a while - through some beautiful sections of woods. It was quiet and peaceful - and we didn't see many people, because many had turned back. It wasn't difficult to walk the boards, but you did need to pay attention to your foot placement.

We then came to our first section of boulders. The boulders were several hundred feet across, and traveled a fair distance up the hill and down to the water. You couldn't avoid them. And, of course, we weren't going back. At this point our self-esteem was involved. We pushed on. We were a little tired, but very confident that we could manage this.

(Pictured: Entrance of the first rock fall. Deceivingly passable . Later on, when I was tired and not thinking of taking pictures, the rocky terraine became more difficult. In this picture, just beyond are trees in the distance were larger boulders. It got harder fast.)

And so it repeated (and it seemed like a million times ... but I exaggerate). Root sections, raised board sections, forest paths, rock falls. We were getting tired. Very tired. The travel was getting pretty darn slow as well. We were thirsty. (No ... us "experienced hikers" did not have water, or a snack, or good sense. ) We didn't know how much trail was ahead, but I had to rest. My legs were shaky. I felt a little weak. I needed a breather. So we sat on a large bolder in the middle of a rock fall enjoying the beautiful lake, bone tired (and I was silently hoping I could get to the end without twisting something.)

And then we got a mortifying reality check.

To our left, 3 older women started the climb cross the rock fall coming toward us. They had been traveling not too far behind us apparently. Two women were walking on either side of a very elderly woman. She was bent over, struggling a bit with the rocks. She was using with 2 walking sticks. I wanted to jump up to help, but ... the legs were a bit rubbery. No point embarrassing myself. We struck up a conversation as they neared us. Apparently the very elderly woman was celebrating her 80th birthday that day. She had walked Jordon Pond on her birthday for years. Her companions were "younger" - one 68 and one was 76 and they were here to help her make the trip around the pond. The Birthday Girl shook off my offer to assist her (thank God - it would have been most embarrasing if she had to help me off my boulder!). She said she was fine. She wished us a good day. And on the three of them went without a backward glance.

My husband and I sat there for a few minutes pondering what had just happened.

I jumped up! I remember throwing out comments like - "lets get going", "rest time is over", "hup-hup!!" or something stupid like that.

I did not make any further comments about being tired, or thirsty or hungry!!! When we caught up with them, we cheerfully waved our good wishes and sprightly moved on past them. We were not recovered by a long shot, but in 1998, we were about 30 years younger than the birthday girl, and action on our part seemed ... (searching for a word here) ... REQUIRED!

Needless to say, we beat the 3 elderly ladies back to the beginning of the trail, but I am guessing just barely. :-) And we did it all in a "speedy" 4 1/2 hours!

On our second trip to Jordan Pond (1999), my husband and I were once again walking the trail. He slipped off the boards and broke his ankle. I have a feeling that the spirits of Jordon Pond were putting us in our place!!

Rightfully so.

We don't have many pictures of our 1999 trip because we spent most of it in the Bed and Breakfast with his foot elevated!

(Pictured: My husband and I returned a third time to Jordon Pond - 2005. No broken bones and we made it around the pond without problems. This time we prepared. I wasn't going to be embarrased by another 80 year old woman with 2 elderly companions.

One other note - the picture shows we had walking sticks and water. We learned.)

(Pictured: Sadly, we lamented that the trail restoration was completed by 2005. Rangers told us that injuries around Jordon Pond dropped dramatically once it was completed.)

I miss the "old" trail. :-)


  1. What a beautiful wonder you keep coming back.

  2. Aw, that's a great story. (well, not the broken bones part, ouch!) And beautiful pictures :)

  3. Wonderful story!
    Ken and I visited Acadia in 2009 and had a great time there. Walked many trails.
    It was on that vacation that I met one of my blogger friends Vee from Maine.

  4. Visiting from the A to Z Challenge. Hope you'll visit back. I love Bar Harbor but I've never been to Jordan Pond. Now I think I never will. I'm sure it's an easy hike now, but still...

  5. Cute story! I couldn't imagine what the mortifying moment was going to be, I loved reading this. :)
    I've never been to Bar Harbor but this sure made me want to visit, the pictures are fabulous.

  6. Great story! Loved the part with the 80 yr old.


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