Dan and I chose Acadia as our first National Park of the year because after a combined two decades as New York City bartenders, we thought it would be funny, and fitting, to spend one of the biggest drinking holidays watching the sun rise from a mountaintop rather than pouring booze for the green horde. The trail conditions we experienced on Thursday, combined with temperatures in the low teens Friday morning and the thought that driving through Tuesday’s blizzard may have used up our week’s allotment of luck, made us realize that a snowy mountain hike in the pre-dawn dark was probably outside our capabilities.
We had two options to access the summit during the winter: the North Ridge trail (the black dashed line in this photo, roughly 2.2 miles and a 1256 foot climb in elevation) or the 4.5 mile park road, which is paved but unplowed and closed to vehicle traffic until April. We wanted to challenge ourselves and tackle the trail, so we layered up, put some hot coffee in a thermos and set out.
Almost right away, we knew we’d made the right choice to attempt this in the light (and warmth!) of the sun. Snow covered the steep trail, and sporadic icy patches made us grateful for our hiking poles. Fortunately a few other people had hiked the initial section so we made decent progress in their footprints.
Trail conditions started to get more hairy during the second section that ran parallel to the park road. I suggested we consider switching to the road since our progress had slowed significantly and by this point we were only following one set of tracks; the others had either given up or also moved to the road. On the other hand, we only had half a mile to the summit if we stuck to the trail, as opposed to triple that if we took the road.
We don’t have many pictures from this section because we were focused on locating the blue blazes that marked the trail, which were often on rocks buried under layers of snow and ice. We clambered over snow drifts and skated across frozen puddles; I fell into a big drift and Dan pointed out how nice he was to not take a picture of me. We paused occasionally to look out at the gorgeous views and see how far and how high up we’d progressed, but mainly we focused on our feet and not slipping. The rocky sections were the worst, because icy patches looked so similar to the grey lichen that we were constantly nervous about our feet finding purchase. That last half mile took us about an hour and a half, but in retrospect I’m happy we stuck to the trail because our hard work made the payoff – the spectacular summit views – that much sweeter.
We took the park road down since it took us till late afternoon to reach the summit, and those four and a half miles took us about an hour and a half, too!