Weather isn’t always perfect when you are on vacation. Just like at home, the weather is always changing and it is always good to be prepared with fun things to do even on a rainy day. As a big weather channel person I always try to keep abreast of what it looks like the weather might be and when we get to a location like a National Park I keep my eye out for activities that take advantage of the weather good or bad.
Luckily at Acadia National Park there are so many things to do that you can plan around the weather. Plus the free shuttle bus system offers a great service to not have to hassle with driving maps and parking, and it saves me more energy to hike, bike or learn about the area’s history. Here are some of our favorites. First off one of the things I have come to appreciate is that rainy days offer sometimes some pretty dramatic opportunities for taking pictures. Clouds offer some great contrast and fog can add a sense of mystery. For instance it’s great time to visit a lighthouse, on a clear day you can usually see forever from that vantage point, but visiting a lighthouse especially one with an attached museum, can be a great way to really contemplate why lighthouses were such needed entities and to gain an appreciation of the work of a lighthouse keeper. Bass Lighthouse in Acadia is one that you can stop by and look out over the water, there is no museum attached.
On our rainy day adventure we tried to think about where would it be interesting to see the ocean interact with the land? So we decided to hop on a shuttle bus and head to Thunder Hole.
We grabbed our rain jackets, packed our lunch, our cameras and a light wool sweater, beanie skullcap, and gloves for changes in temperature. (I use a point and shoot camera long with my cell phone and Eileen used her cell phone). I also wear a sombrero waterproof hat with my raincoat even though I have hood. My day hiking pack came with a rain cover so it made it easy for me to keep our stuff dry. Eileen grabbed her little stuff pack that she could wear under her coat (it worked but did become annoying so for her upcoming birthday I got her a new day pack with a rain cover). We also wear waterproof hiking boots (wearing solid shoes/boots is important we have seen too many flip flop accidents in the National Parks) and lightweight rip stop zip off pants that dry fast and a new trick Eileen discovered is instead of long underwear on those days when the temperature can yo-yo, she wears spandex shorts under her zip offs. They provide extra support and warmth to her thighs plus her rain jacket falls over her upper legs so it’s just the bottom half of her pants that get damp/wet but easily dry from body heat. She finds herself never too hot.
We had two choices for our visit to Thunder Hole; we could take the bus down to Sand Beach and walk the top part of the Ocean Path down to Thunder Hole or take the bus directly to Thunder Hole. We chose to take the bus directly to Thunder Hole and then we would walk from Thunder Hole down to Otter Cliffs the last part of the Ocean Path. The wave action along the rocks was amazing. That morning Thunder Hole was not thundering but we still enjoyed watching, taking pictures and when it got too crowded with people we head down to Otter Cliffs taking side detours to stop and enjoy drama of the ocean.
Our next stop was to hop the bus to Sieur de Monts, to visit the Nature Center and Abbey Trailside Museum. The Nature Museum was a small building, hosted by a Park Ranger; inside there were some great displays about the fauna and flora. Outside was also the Acadia Botanical Garden or actually the Wild Garden of Acadia, which is maintained by the Bar Harbor Garden Club. We had planned to walk through the garden but at that point it was pouring so heavily we decided to duck into the Abbe Museum.
There are two Abbe Museum’s one in downtown Bar Harbor that is in the old YMCA building (26 Mt. Desert St, Bar Harbor Hours: 10-5 seven days a week). The exhibits are fantastic and really help to understand the culture of the Native people of Maine, it’s a real must see. The basket collection is amazing. They also have great activity sheets to help kids engage with the materials. The trailside museum is a blast into the past of how museums use to be. The trailside museum was established as a private museum back in 1926 and opened in 1928. While waiting for Eileen (she and I wander differently in museums) I had a great conversation with one of the staff about the artifacts that were there and the one’s out for conservation. She explained how conservation worked and we discussed some of the early ethics of finding artifacts. We also discussed the actual trailside museum and how it does not reflect modern day museum work and yet it is a historical record of the origins of the museum. This then presents a quandary to how to approach updating the trailside museum. (A very significant document we read at the trailside museum was: the doctrine of discovery, it is a legal/moral document that was used to justify white male Christians right to dominate non-Christians and their land.)
The day we were there the Sieur de Monts Spring building was being renovated and was pretty covered up. I actually wish the park would put a small picnic pavilion on the site. It would give folks a place to hang out good or bad weather and I think be in tune with what the area was first used for, we saw old photos of folks enjoying a concert on the grounds.
Other activities you could enjoy would be to go into Bar Harbor and visit the shops, stop by the YMCA (21 Park St.), they are open various hours seven days a week. Get a day pass to use the pool and other recreation facilities (gym, fitness center, etc.) There are also some museums on the southeast side of the island that you could drive to; the bus service is limited there. Such as the Wendell Gilley Museum, which celebrates, bird carving. We also saw signs for the Maine Granite Industry Museum and Seal Cove Auto Museum.
Don’t let a little rain stop you – get out, explore and enjoy!
© 2018 Jelane A. Kennedy and Eileen A. McFerran