I’ve got a lot of catching up to do here. I want to write about each of the thirteen US national parks I just visited in the West. But I want to start from the beginning. Before I headed West, I visited one of our Eastern parks, Acadia National Park in Maine. That’s really the start of #TerryTreksUSA.

Acadia National Park is the place to see classic Maine seasores.
Acadia National Park is the place to see classic Maine seasores

Since my upcoming trip was going to be about national parks, I wanted to take a test run. I had so many doubts and worries. Would I be able to handle camping on my own? Would I be able to set up my tent? Would I be able to cook? Acadia was the closest national park to Boston, and I could practice there. But at five hours away by car, it wasn’t exactly close.

Cairns mark the way on top of the mountains.
Cairns mark the way on top of the mountains.

I rented a car, filled it with the camping gear I just bought, and made the boring drive. I had booked three nights in Seawall Campground, which was on the far side of the island and added an hour to the drive. First lesson learned: national parks are big. You can’t rely on the driving times Google gives if you just put in the name of the park. You have to use your actual destination inside the park.

There's a trail there somewhere. Acadia's trails were some of the hardest to follow of all the parks I visited. GPS comes in handy here.
There’s a trail there somewhere. Acadia’s trails were some of the hardest to follow of all the parks I visited. GPS comes in handy here.

The drive got more interesting once I crossed the causeway into the park, which is mostly on Mount Desert Island. But the island is not all park. The road goes in and out of the park, passing through quaint Maine seaside towns.

This trail through wetlands was easy to follow.
This trail through wetlands was easy to follow.

Seawall campground turned out to be nice and remote, with the campsites in the forrest pretty far apart for decent privacy. The sound of waves crashing and fog horns could be heard. I struggled to set my tent up for the first time outside, but eventually figured it out. I used my camp stove for the first time to cook dinner. When I went to bed I could hear the people in the next campsite talking. Second lesson learned: campgrounds are noisy. Always bring ear plugs.

On the top of a mountain.
On the top of a mountain.

Seawall campground is on the “quiet side” of the island, so I devoted my first full day to that part of the park. The island is very mountainous, and I ended up climbing three mountains. The mountains are crisscrossed by dozens of trails, many which are historic, having been constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. They are strenuous, with rocks to scramble over, ladders to climb, and rock cairns to follow. I climbed the 700 ft Mount Acadia. That may not be very high compared to the mountains out West, but it was still a respectable climb considering I started at an elevation of zero.

Evening in the forest.
Evening in the forest.

I ended up climbing two more mountains that first day. Later I took the easy way out and drove up Cadillac Mountain. It’s the highest point on the island at 1,500 ft, and the place everyone goes to watch the sunset.

Sunset on Cadillac Mountain
Sunset on Cadillac Mountain.

On my second day I used the free bus system to ride to the Penetic Mountain trailhead. It was an incredibly strenuous trail, but the views from the top were fantastic. The hike took me four hours.

On top of Mount Acadia
On top of Mount Acadia.

After my morning hike I walked to the historic Jordan Pond House for lunch. The thing to eat there are popovers, rolls made from egg batter. They were so tasty I had two.

On Jordan Pond.
On Jordan Pond.

I rode the bus to Otter Point for sunset. The cliffs glowed in the setting sun. After I caught the last bus back to the visitor center, I had an hour long drive back to the campground on the other side of the island. I took a walk on the seawall to admire the incredible stars. Without trying I found the Big Dipper for the first time in my life. I was amazed at how big it is!

Rock cairns dotted the shore of this bay for some reason.
Rock cairns dotted the shore of this bay for some reason

I could have used a third day here. I didn’t have time for Schoodic Peninsula, which gets fewer visitors and some say is the nicest part of the park. But even though I didn’t stay long enough, I had proved to myself that I could handle a national park. It was a successful prelude to #TerryTreksUSA, and I was looking forward to more.

Cadillac Mountain sunset.
Cadillac Mountain sunset.
Terry
I'm Terry, former cubicle-dweller, and now traveler, photographer, writer, and entrepreneur. I quit my job in 2014 to travel to US national parks, then to South East Asia. I write about independent, flexible, long-term, budget travel. Sign up to my newsletter to get the latest news on what I'm up to. I hope you join me on my trek around the world.

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