Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Hiking Acadia's Open Ridges

We have been having steamy weather the last several days.  It has been quite rainy the past few weeks.  With a clear day forecasted on Sunday, I decided to head to Acadia National Park to hike.  It tends to stay cooler on the coast in the summer so it sounded like a good option.  Many of the peaks in Acadia have open summits that tend to be breezy, so this added to the appeal of Acadia on a hot day.

The J Man and I decided on a loop that stayed on the ridges to hopefully catch a breeze.  Sargent and Penobscot mountains have long exposed ridges and open summits.  Across Jordan Pond, running parallel to Sargent and Penobscot is Pemetic Mountain, which also has a long exposed ridgeline with an open summit.  There are at least thirty named mountains in Acadia National Park and well over 100 miles of trails.  The hike from Sargent to Penobscot is my favorite trip in the park.  The hike over Pemetic is a close second.  Both ridges offer endless views of mountains, lakes, and the ocean.

The hike started from the Loop Road.  After passing the Bubble Peaks we descended to Jordan pond before climbing Sargent Mountain.  We reached the summit without seeing any other hikers.  Sargent is the second highest peak in the park and offers 360 degree views.  The open ridge traverse to Penobscot followed.  This is one of my favorite hikes in Maine.  As you walk along the ridge,  the sides of the mountain seem to vanish as you walk toward the ocean, more than 1200 feet below.  From summit to summit, the distance is about a mile between the two peaks.  Nearly the entire traverse stays above the trees.  Just before reaching Penobscot's summit, the trail dips into the trees for a short stretch and passes Sargent Pond, a small pond nestled in the trees that seemed quite inviting on a hot day.  Just beyond the pond, we spotted a baby hare hiding among the rocks.

Looking toward Atlantic Ocean from Sargent Mountain

Baby Hare

From the summit of Penobscot, the trail drops back to Jordan Pond.  The descent from Penobscot is on an open ridge before entering the trees.  Along the way, the trail passes impressive cliffs before reaching the Jordan Pond House and the south shore of the Pond.  Before crossing the road and climbing Pemetic Mountain, the trail takes you along Jordan Pond with its stunning view across the pond to the two peaks of the Bubbles.  This view is one of the iconic scenes in the park and often photographed.  Jordan Pond is framed by mountains on both sides with the twin peaks of the Bubbles on the north shore.

Looking over Bubbles from Penobscot Mountain

Descending Penobscot Mountain toward Atlantic with Cranberry Isles in background

Cliffs along trail below Penobscot

The classic view of the Bubbles over Jordan Pond

Leaving the Jordan Pond area, the trail soon begins its climb of Pemetic Mountain.  The long, open ridge of Pemetic is perhaps second only to the Sargent-Penobscot traverse in scenic splendor in the park.  Views overlook the Atlantic Ocean, several ponds, and numerous mountains.  Just to the east, cars are barely visible snaking their way up Cadillac Mountain.  Descending Pemetic the trail passes through a narrow ravine with ladders aiding the traverse.  The ravine offered a brief break from the heat with cooler temperatures.  After seven plus miles we closed the loop and reached the trailhead to finish the hike.

Looking back down Pemetic's ridge toward the Atlantic and Cranberry Isles

Pemetic Ravine

There are other variations of this hike.  The peaks of the Bubbles are a short diversion from this loop and both summits offer worthwhile views over Jordan Pond.  Because of the heat, we skipped the Bubbles this trip.  The trip can be cut short by walking one of the trails on either side of Jordan Pond.  The trail passes right by Sargent Pond which is said to be the oldest pond in Maine.  On a hot day, a dip in the pond would be a nice break from the heat.  If you are feeling the need for a more casual day, the Jordan Pond House has food and is known for its tea room.  Sitting on the shore of Jordan Pond, gazing upon the Bubbles with tea while lazing in an adirondack chair is a popular activity at the Jordan Pond House.

The park was busy with Independence Day weekend vacationers.  The trails for the most part weren't too crowded however.  The busiest part of the loop was around Jordan Pond House.  This is a major parking lot  and park destination.  Soon after leaving the Jordan Pond area, the crowds thinned.  The summits of Penobscot and Pemetic Mountains had a fair amount of people.  Again, the crowds thinned out away from the summits.

This hike was needed.  The dreary weather lately has put a damper on my outdoor activities.  Just the day before my trip to Acadia, I hiked Big Moose Mountain in Greenville, Maine near Moosehead Lake.  Rain fell as I reached the mountain.  This caused cloud cover to linger on the summit hampering any views.  The trail was very wet and I was soaked from the wet vegetation..

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