By Zach Mosbarger
I’m sure more daring men have witnessed better views from higher elevations than this one, but I haven’t been up those trails yet. For now, I sit looking out over the Atlantic from the top of Champlain Mountain, a modest peak just a few dozen feet over one thousand. I bite into an apple and wish I had more adjectives; I think I’ve unintentionally uttered “beautiful” more times than I can count on my fingers and toes since we’ve entered Acadia National Park here in Maine. Call it the ‘forgotten national park’ or my own ignorance, but I was certainly unaware of what these islands had to offer before I started preparing for this trip. The guidebooks and park maps all recommend a three or four day stay to fully experience the wonders of Acadia, but we only have one. We made a quick dash up the Precipice Trail to the peak, where we’ve stopped for a quick backpacker’s meal and to take in the scene.
Acadia National Park sits off the coast of Maine, southeast of towns like Bangor and Ellsworth. The hub of human activity on the main island, named Mount Desert for it’s barren peaks, is Bar Harbor, a standard East Coast tourist town. As we’ve seen so far in New England, there seems to be more microbreweries per capita here than I ever came across in Ohio and Bar Harbor is no exception. I resist the urge to sample a well-known blueberry ale suggested to me by a traveler from Idaho so that Lexi and I can hit the Precipice a little earlier in the day than we did for the Vermont debacle.
Precipice Trail isn’t particularly long (we took our time and hiked to the top in about forty-three minutes) or challenging (the rock faces on Hell Brook Trail in Vermont made me more nervous than this) but if it is anything, it is steep. The sign at the trailhead urges hikers with any trepidation for heights to reconsider and find an alternate path to the top; “Falls from this mountain have resulted in serious injury and death“, it said. A fair warning, I suppose, but I work out nearly every day. This should be no problem.
Mere moments into the hike we are faced with scrambling up a pile of boulders for about eighty feet up a steep grade. I start to worry that maybe this will be harder than I thought and I’m internally overcome with that familiar inner voice that speaks to you at the beginning of the second round of a three round workout: “shit, this is hard…is it over yet? This really does suck…this is never going to end.” I’m forced to end my personal pity party when a group of badass women in their fifties cross our path on their way back down the mountain and wish us luck. If they did it, I can do it without complaining, right? Motivation renewed.
We start to accelerate our pace up the trail, even in spots so steep and awkward that they require iron rungs built into the rock. I feel like Indiana Jones traversing these natural ledges. My mom would have a heart attack if she saw me now, tiptoeing along the edge of a mountain where the slightest slip means a sure death. We make it past the difficult section of the hike without a scratch and the final hundred vertical feet are at a more manageable grade. The trees and foliage clear and the view opens up, the blue Atlantic sparkling below. Small, uninhabited islands as far as the eye can see dot the water to both the left and right. Europe must be straight ahead, I suppose. Then I remember that you’d actually run into Nova Scotia first if you went by boat straight from here, and I’m slightly embarrassed.
The top of a hike, especially on a gorgeous September Sunday, is a wonderful place to find interesting people. A solo hiker armed with his Nikon, a group of old men in their sixties, a couple from Boston walking their border collies. I wonder which paths they took to arrive here, where they are going after this, what they think of the park. This was supposed to be an active recovery day from our normal CrossFit work out schedule, but I find myself exercising my brain more than anything. For what seems like the hundredth time already on this trip, I confirm that what I’m doing is important and by no means a mistake. This lifestyle is quickly becoming an addiction for me and from the top of this little mountain on an island in Maine I feel like my decision is justified.