We are in final preparation today for a departure tomorrow. The winds are currently light and the fog is pretty thick, but the winds are supposed to turn favorable tomorrow and the fog may dissipate. We got the bulk of our work done yesterday, and our friendly National Parks Ranger Lynne Dominy offered to take our crew on a tour of Acadia National Park today. Mt. Desert Island and Acadia National Park have so many amazing amenities, making this place a huge attraction for people in the summer when things thaw out. Thousands of people were at the park today; from the look of the license plates in the parking lots, they come from far and wide to visit Acadia. There are a ton of new amenities in the park this year as they are celebrating their centennial, but the real beauty in this place is something that has been here for thousands of years.
We started off the morning at Wapuwoc, which is more commonly known as Cadillac Mountain. It is the highest mountain in the eastern seaboard and provides a stunning view of the surrounding lakes, forests and granite stone features. We lucked out arriving early enough to share the view with only a couple of other visitors, and the fog was light enough to let us see some of the sights. Even though the mountain is barely more than 1/10th the of height of our beloved Mauna Kea, I still experienced that feeling of being above the clouds with the fog surrounding us on the mountain. We spent about an hour up on the peaceful mountain learning about the Mt. Desert Island community.
As we were getting ready to leave the mountain, ranger Lynne pointed out a blueberry shrub that was just off the parking lot. The whole crew was amazed that these grew wild so close to the road. I have to say, the absolute best part of the day was the blueberries. Apparently these delicious items grow on low bushes and taller shrubs; I’ve only seen them before in plastic cases in the Safeway. It was an unexpected treat to be able to pick these tiny candies and eat them fresh off the shrub. The fact that these things grow all over the place in the park made for a pretty unreal treasure hunt at each stop. By the time we finished the day, we had several hundred of them that fit nicely in a bowl we shared over dinner.
The land of this popular park, I learned, comes from gifts of families that want to see the land conserved and protected. They way of life on Mt. Desert is something that really got me thinking—so many parallels to Hawaiʻi, yet so different in landscape and rhythm. The contrast of the imposing warm granite to the green hues of the conifers and other wild flora sets up for stunning photos at all of the stops. When the fog overlays across the two, it’s like nature’s way of applying a Gaussian blur effect, commonly used by us photographers in post-production. Add to this incredible visual feast a visit to one of the only sand beaches for literally hundreds of miles. This beach is made entirely of seashells that have been crushed up in the gentle surf until soft sand is all that remains. It is bound by cliffs of granite on either side with pines that tower over the skyline. Even though the old growth trees are mostly gone due to logging more than a century back, we were still witness to some pretty large trees throughout the day – these on the beach were no exception. The crew took some time to walk the shores looking for shells and other memorabilia – but crewmember and master chef Tamiko took the time instead to perform an impromptu beach cleanup, collecting plastic and other trash along her walk.
In this place, nature has really been given the latitude and respect to be the priority. That doesn’t mean that this was always the case. Like everywhere else where humans have interacted with the environment, missteps were made and natural resources were used to create wealth in some method of extraction. Trees were cut for timber, granite was mined to create buildings in D.C. and Philadelphia, and the list goes on and on. But the natural beauty here won the hearts and minds of those with the resources to turn it all around – they donated the land to make it a national park. All the residents here revel in the beauty of the place and now protect it fiercely. In the face of this stunning landscape, I’m really struggling with the question – when will we in Hawai’i come together like they have here to protect our precious island home?
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