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Carey Kish

Carey Kish of Mount Desert Island has been adventuring in the woods and mountains of Maine for, well, a long time. If there’s a trail—be it on dirt, rock, snow, water or pavement—he will find it, explore it, and write about it. Carey is a two-time Appalachian Trail thru-hiker, Registered Maine Guide, author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast, editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide (10th ed.), and has written a hiking & camping column for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram since 2003. Follow his outdoor travels and musings here, and on Facebook/CareyKish. Let Carey know what you think at MaineOutdoors@aol.com.

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Posted: January 16, 2018

Acadia: A winter wonderland no matter the weather conditions

Written by: Carey Kish

Well, I was going to tell you about the fantastic cross-country skiing on the carriage roads of Acadia National Park. And the awesome snowshoeing on the park’s many miles of trails. But I got so busy doing a lot of both recently that setting down to the keyboard has taken a big back seat. And now, of course, with a couple of oddball days in the mid-50s and a few inches of dreaded rain, things aren’t looking quite so rosy out there.

But this is Maine and it’s only the middle of January, so you know full well that there’s lots more winter ahead, plenty of snow and cold to go around, that’s for sure. Yep, don’t like the weather, then wait a minute. Or maybe a day. It’s 54 degrees right now as I write this, but a look at the forecast tells me that in just 16 hours the temperature will plunge to 9 degrees. And four days from, 8 to 12 inches of snow is predicted. There you have it.

Cross-country skiing on Acadia’s groomed carriage roads is a pretty amazing experience. Carey Kish photo.

So, while we wait for this January thaw thing to pass, how about I tell you about the fantastic cross-cross country and snowshoeing and hiking to be had here at Acadia, which is wide open for your recreational pleasure all year long. Sure, the Park Loop Road might be closed (till mid-April), but there are plenty of other access points on the various public roads that cut through park land, including Routes 3, 198 and 233 on the east side of Mt. Desert Island and Routes 102 and 102A on the west side. Many of the trailhead parking lots along these routes are plowed to boot, and a few even have vault toilets that are open for use.

Something I wasn’t aware of till recently is that the Ocean Drive section of the Park Loop Road from Schooner Head Road to Otter Cliff Road – the section that includes Sand Beach, Thunder Hole and gets you close to Otter Cliff – is plowed and open to vehicles. How cool is that! Makes for easy access to Great Head, The Bowl and Gorham Mountain, for starters, never mind the most excellent walking along the Ocean Path.

Skier on the Amphitheater Loop. The Acadia Winter Trails Association grooms about 25 miles of the carriage road system. Carey Kish photo.

So, about that cross-country skiing. Wow, when it’s good it is so very good. Thanks to whenever Mother Nature deposits a goodly amount of snow, and then to the amazing cadre of volunteers who machine groom and track a series of ski loops, something like 25 miles all told. These precious volunteers are members of the Acadia Winter Trails Association, part of Friends of Acadia. Whenever it dumps more than a few inches, the groomers are out the next morning doing their thing. You’ve just gotta love them.

A wide swath is groomed and a traditional track is set. Signs will indicate so, but you should know ahead of time: One edge of the trail is tracked for traditional skiers, while the other edge is for snowshoeing enthusiasts, booted hikers and dogs. Skate skiers get the middle of the corduroy swath, as well as traditional skiers who don’t care to stay in the track. Please follows these simple rules of etiquette and we’ll all get along just fine.

Probably the most popular jumping off point for carriage road skiers is the parking lot on Route 233 at the north end of Eagle Lake. This provides access to the Witch Hole Loop, a sweet 6.5-mile circuit to the north at Paradise Hill, as well as the 6-mile Aunt Betty Loop, which heads south along Eagle Lake. The 4-mile Hadlock Pond Loop and the 5-mile Amphitheater Loop are accessed from Route 3/198 at either the Parkman Mountain trailhead or Brown Mountain Gatehouse. Be sure to check the grooming status of the carriage road trail loops before heading out so you know what’s been worked on and what hasn’t.

Carriage road users need to follow a few simple rules. Traditional track skiers, skate skiers, and snowshoers/booted hikers/dogs all have their place on the groomed trail. Signs make it clear. Carey Kish photo.

In addition to skiing the carriage roads, the entire park is open to snowshoers and hikers. That’s something like 130 miles of trails. Carey Kish photo.

View of Sand Beach, the Beehive and part of Gorham Mtn. from the trail on Great Head. Carey Kish photo.

Hiker enjoying a winter’s day on Great Head. Carey Kish photo.

On the Wonderland Trail on the west side of Mt. Desert Island not far from Seawall. Carey Kish photo.

More info to help plan your Acadia winter visit:

Acadia National Park

Acadia Winter Trails Association

Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce

Southwest Harbor-Tremont Chamber of Commerce

Cadillac Mountain Sports

 

 

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