Acadia

Pull over. No seriously, pull over. It really doesn’t matter what your itinerary is. Don’t look at your watch. Forget time and just pull over. This is Acadia National Park. This place was breathtaking before breathtaking was breathtaking. Man has created so many amazing things. But we can’t compete with nature. This is a part of the country that can and will move you. Here, you will have experiences. Forgetting them will be impossible. Don’t even try.

Download the Acadia All-American Road highlights guide

“Ever wonder what it feels like to be a billionaire?”

We were riding in a horse-drawn carriage for the first time in our lives, clip-clopping up one of the Carriage roads in Acadia National Park.

My teenage son, Zach, was first to answer: “Dad, when you make your first billion you can tell us.”

The fall colors were breathtaking, and the autumn air some of the freshest a human being could breathe.

It was the same air and landscape that had once inspired John D. Rockefeller to build and protect this vast network of carriage roads.

“Okay, I’ll give you each twenty bucks for the gift shop,” I told Zach and his sister.

“Sweet,” they agreed.

No matter what our ATM balance was that day, on that timeless road, snuggled in the carriage together, we were the richest family in America.

You know the saying: You have to get up pretty early in the morning to go shopping in your pajamas?

I didn’t either. Until my thirteen-year-old daughter and I actually did it.

It was “Bed Race and Pajama Parade” day in Bar Harbor. And before the parade and race, Bar Harbor’s finest retail establishments were wide awake in the early morning hours, even if their customers were not.

“I can’t believe we’re actually shopping in our pajamas,” my daughter mumbled.

“I can’t believe the bargains we’re getting because we are,” I reminded her.

And when she found the perfect fleece at sixty per cent off, that pretty much sealed the deal.

Later we would meet her dad and little brother for the parade and race.

Until then, it would be mom and daughter in our jammies, having the retail and bonding experience of our dreams.

“And there it is, guys. We are officially the first family in America to see the sunrise today.”

Dawn comes early to Cadillac Mountain. As the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard, it’s the first U.S. location touched by the sunrise from October 7th to March 6th.

We stood there, the four of us watching the ocean make way for the first rays of a brand new day.

“So what do we get for that?” my son asked.

“Bragging rights for the rest of your life,” I told him.

“Okay.”

“And a selfie no one else in America can take right now,” my wife added. “Like the one your sister’s in the process of doing.”

“Cool.”

“And all-you-can-eat pancakes as soon as we get back down.”

“Awesome.”

“Have you ever been to the Milky Way?”

As hard as it was to get my family’s attention, this actually worked. Then again, they were making s’mores and had just entered the critical marshmallow-toasting phase.

“Dad, I don’t think you’ll actually be able to go there,” my son advised.

“Not in your lifetime anyway,” his sister threw in.

My own mortality was suddenly right there before me. But in an instant, and still very much alive, I lifted off the earth and reached all the way to the galaxy itself.

It wasn’t metaphysics. It was the Acadia Night Sky Festival, where DownEast Maine celebrates some of the last pristine, star-filled night skies in the Eastern United States.

“Okay everybody, take one second from your marshmallows and look up at the sky.”

To my surprise, they complied.

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Milky Way Galaxy.”

Crickets. Crickets. Crickets.

“Oh, and I think you’re going to need new marshmallows.”

It had been a stressful week at work for both of us. Even more than usual. Climbing the corporate ladder will do that.

So it was a little ironic that we’d planned a long weekend to do, you guessed it, more climbing. Except this was the kind of climbing that takes a week of stress and throws it right over the cliff.

Mansell Mountain will do that. Especially Perpendicular Trail.

It’s thousands of granite steps cut into the mountainside by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Long before there was a corporate ladder.

My wife was the first one to the top (I told her I let her win, which wasn’t really true) and I asked her how the view looked from up there.

“Sheer perfection,” she said between deep breaths. “Sheer perfection.”

My husband, Jack, and I have tasted a few wines in our time. But nothing quite like the collection we experienced at Bar Harbor Cellars Winery, one of the many great wineries on Maine’s famous Wine Trail.

The regional fruit wines are unique, flavorful and a great complement to the excellent whites, reds and even dessert wines.

In the tasting room, Jack and I had a chance to sample several. Apple, Apple Raspberry, Blueberry, Black Current Apple and Cranberry.

When I asked Jack what he thought of the fruit wines, he gave me smile that should have warned me.

“If I said berry, berry good, you’d probably throw that cork at me, right?”

“I’m afraid I’d have to.”

“Then I won’t.”

“Thank you.”

Goofy as ever. But vintage Jack.

“Think of it as the ultimate nightlight,” I yelled over the roar of the surf.

Personally, I thought it was fairly brilliant observation. But apparently my kids did not.

Then again, they were absorbed in their own observations, looking up at the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse where it rises from the cliff to stand watch over the centuries.

It’s just one the many historic lighthouses that make Mount Desert Island the sparkling jewel it is. Especially at night.

With the ocean crashing against the rocks around us, my wife called out an observation of her own.

“I’m guessing the old lighthouse keepers had bigger things to worry about,” she said, “than stubbing their toes on the way to the bathroom.”

Which, of course, got a laugh from the kids not even the ocean could drown out.

Acadia

All-American Road