Treasure of The Beehive – Acadia National Park

I’ve been practicing a new skill. I’m learning to reach out to the world around me and embrace it. Which is why, after working the overnight shift in the ER, I wasn’t napping as I waited for my friend to join me at Acadia National Park.

The sound of the crashing surf drew me down the stairs to Sand Beach. My face tingled in the moist salty air and I breathed deeply feeling the ocean energy flow through me, chasing away the last vestiges of sleep.

Sand Beach - Acadia National ParkThe sea glowed a mystical green as she sent her waves rolling toward me. I stood for several minutes and watched them swell, rising to a crest that, for a moment, opened a window to the world beneath the surface before transforming into a bubbly white foam as the water crashed against the golden sand and rushed back to the sea. It would be easy to spend my day here, but instead I forced myself to turn away. Today is not about the sand and sea. It is about challenging my muscles as my hands grip the rockyBeehive Mountain - Acadia National Park surface and my legs carry me forward and up. I turn my back to the sea and join my friend, together we begin the first phase of today’s journey—The Beehive.

Beehive Mountain TrailheadI step along the strategically placed rocks that form the beginning of the trail.
The sun filters through the aspen and maple that stretch toward the sky on either side of me. I can’t help but reach out and runmy fingers along their trunks as I pass.Beehive Mountain TrailAfter a few minutes of easy climbing, we reach a marker. Despite the yellow sign warning of narrow ledges and steep climbs, I veer away from the easy route that skirts The Bowl to ascend the backside of The Beehive and set my feet on the path to ascend the face of the mountain.IMG_9317

Here the trail turned into a combination of scrabbling over boulders and making our way along the narrow ledges.Beehive Mountain Trail As I hugged the rock wall to work my way around a sharp bend in the ledge, my friend spoke behind me.

Beehive Mountain Trail

“I don’t think I can do this.”

And this is where I learned something new about my friend. I learned that she (along with about 5% of the general population) suffered from Acrophobia—the fear of heights.  While I was taking in the view and enjoying the climb, her terror had silenced her. That silence hadn’t been a signal to me, because when we’ve hiked in the past, we’d often walked side-by-side along the trail, breathing in the fresh air and listening to the sounds of the forest.Beehive Mountain Trail

Beehive Mountain Trail

I heard the tremble in her voice and I turned. Her face was flushed red and her hand shook as she clutched the rock wall. I looked down, we really weren’t very far
along and we could turn back. I looked up at the ledges, rungs and rock scrambles ahead of us and did what any good friend would do. I encouraged her on. I talked non-stop about how beautiful it will be when we get to the top. I coached her around tight ledges and coaxed her up ladder rungs, until finally we reached the top.

Below me, the mystical green sea had transformed into a sparkling ocean of blue diamonds. The beach that I’d stood on that morning was only a strip of golden sand. I paused and watched the waves crash against the shore.Beehive Mountain Summit

After soaking up the sun on the rocky summit of the Beehive, it was time to continue our trek. Stubby pines and bushes covered with dark blue berries bordered the trail. I held one of the berries in my hand. It looked like a blueberry, but I’d never seen one so dark.

There’s a comradery among hikers, even day hikers—an opportunity for brief encounters among strangers connected by their appreciation of the natural world. And it was through this connection that I learned that the dark berry in my hand was a huckleberry. Curious, I popped it into my mouth.Huckleberries

I don’t like huckleberries.

The Bowl is a serene body of water nestled at the base of the surrounding peaks. Pale purple aster grows along the banks and tiny fish dart about beneath the surface. It’s a peaceful place and I could have spent the rest of the afternoon there.The Bowl at Acadia National ParkIMG_9385But my goal was to reach the summit of Champlain Mountain, so I turned away from the water onto what I, at that time, believed was the trail.

A red squirrel chattered and scolded me as it raced up and down the trees along the trail. I realize now, that he was warning me that I was off track.IMG_9386 But I pressed on. Before long the ‘trail’ tapered off and disappeared. I backtracked, looking for a blue blaze, then gave up all together and tromped onward to what I at that time believed was Champlain Mountain, puzzled as to why I couldn’t find the trail.

It was a fun hike, scrambling up the occasional boulder, weaving around huckleberry bushes and enjoying the artwork of nature on uprooted tree stumps faded gray but the wind and sun. IMG_9391When I reached the top, I did what I should have done as soon as I lost the blue blazes. I took out my map.

As I looked across at The Beehive, then down to The Bowl and realized I’d gone right when I should have gone left. I led the way back down the mystery mountain, past the screeching squirrel to the water’s edge, then onto the clearly marked trail to Champlain Mountain.

I walked along the double-plank trail alongside the water, enjoying the shade from the maple, pine and aspen that towered over me.IMG_9395Before long, my friend and I left the flat ground and began our ascent up and over rocky boulders. To the delight of my good friend, there were no ledges here. Scattered stubby pines, huckleberry bushes along with the occasional low growing blueberry bush dotted the landscape.

IMG_9389A tiny maple, that somehow managed to root in the rocky terrain put on an early fall display of red-orange leaves. In the sky above, three vultures circled. IMG_9402We crossed a long flat stone clearing where cairns led us on toward the peak.

The sun was highChamplain Mountain Summit - acadia national park in the sky when we reached the summit.

I looked out at the five Porcupine Islands and realized once again, I wanted more time in this beautiful place. I could spend a year here and still not experience the full splendor of Acadia National Park.

The comradery of hiker’s failed me when I tried to convince my friend to take the Precipice Trail down and follow the road back to the parking area. Without fail, every one of them advised against using this as a downhill route! So we followed the guidance of those who’d experienced the trail and made our way back along the now familiar trail to the trailhead.

Although my friend had to return home, she followed me to the Blackwoods Campground. I said my goodbye, then set up my tent. I always feel a little giddy when I manage to get my campfire going, so I settled onto the ground to watch the fire, mesmerized by the flames as my burger sizzled on the tinfoil covering the grate.Blackwoods Campground - Acadia National Park

With my belly full, I dug my laptop out of my car and leaned back against the trunk of a tree and worked on Whispering Spirits, the sequel to Troubled Spirits. After all, what better place to work on a ghost story set in the Maine woods!

As always, I slept soundly in my little tent.

The next day, a steady rain foiled my plan to capture the sunrise from the top of Cadillac Mountain, but still I enjoyed my day. I didn’t attempt to start a fire in the rain. Jeannie's Great Maine BreakfastIMG_9563
IMG_9539 IMG_9472 IMG_9465

Journey to Katahdin’s Summit

The sun was still tucked away beneath the horizon when my eyes opened. I lay still, listening to the bubbling gurgle of Katahdin Stream as it wandered past the campsite. I rolled out of my sleeping bag, pausing to gaze up into the still-dark sky at the waniIMG_8599ng gibbous moon that shone down on me. It took only a moment for the cool morning air and my excitement for the journey ahead to clear away the last bit of sleepiness from my mind.

Bacon sizzled over the fire as the sound of rustling sleeping bags and murmured voices coming from the lean-to signaled the rising of my friends. We spoke in whispered voices so as not to disrupt the sleep of the other campers as we filled our bellies with bacon, eggs and fried oatmeal, then prepared our packs for the hike ahead.

IMG_8614 (2)Although the sun was still hidden beyond the mountains, the sky above us was filled with her soft morning light when I stepped onto Hunt Trail. A potpourri of trees—pine, birch, maple and mountain ash—bordered the path. As I walked past the trees, I slid my hand along their trunks, feeling the energy of the wilderness around me. To my right, water splashed and swirled as it rushed over rocks and down miniature waterfalls. Beneath my feet the trail varied from root-strewn packed dirt to large stones—some scattered haphazardly along the path, others arranged neatly into stairs.

IMG_8618 We breezed past the trail to The Owl, and continued the easy trek to the wooden bridge that carried us across the water.

I paused to snap a picture of  the heavy iron eye-hooks that had been drilled into large boulders on both sides of the stream. I pictured a rope bridge stretched across the stream and imagined what it must have been like to feel it sway beneath my feet as I made my way across the water.IMG_8630

The rush of water turned to a roar and I hurried ahead to take in the beauty of the falls. After breaking for a few pictures, we continued up the trail,
which was now a long, smooth surface of rock. Here, along the falls, the trees
had been replaced by bushes. It took only a second to recognize the tiny crowns on the round blue berries. I plucked a few as I walked and enjoyed the sweet—with a hint of tartness—taste of the late season blueberries. And then, the bushes faded back into the towering trees of Maine’s largest wilderness.

IMG_8662The trail grew steeper as we traveled over the next mile. Added to the terrain of dirt, roots and rocks (mostly rocks) was the intermittent flow of water emerging from underground springs. It ran around and sometimes over the rocks on the trail, and I was thankful for the water-resistant hiking shoes on my feet. In the midst of one of these tiny brooks the trees spaced out around a large boulder.11960155_10153582697219568_6171188044636868333_n

I climbed to the top and admired The Owl. It was then that I noticed the moon, still
visible in the clear blue sky.IMG_8708

Not far up the trail, we discovered a large boulder with ‘3M’ written in white letters. Almost half-way there, I thought. Little did I know that ahead of me were some of the toughest miles of the trail.

Before long, I noticed that the trunks of the trees were thinner and they no longer towered above us. As the trees grew smaller, the rocks grew larger, until the towering trees were replaced by mountainous boulders. I craned my neck as I tilted my face upward, searching for the white blazes that had marked the trail. And then I spotted them, marking a path straight up.IMG_8685

I gripped the edge of a boulder, found a foothold and hoisted myself up to its top. My journey to the summit of Katahdin had truly begun.11999018_10153582745429568_5019333435101806547_n

I scrambled, hitched and hoisted myself higher and higher along the side of the mountain. Over and over I crested sections of boulders, thinking I’d reached the top only to discover a new section rising above me. I watched for the iron ladder rungs I’d read about in the trail description and laughed to myself when I finally reached “them”.  I’m not sure if that ‘S’ was a typo or if I’d misread it, but what I discovered was a single rung and a curved iron peg just below it.IMG_8682

“Here goes,” I said to myself and gripped the rung, pushed off with one foot, stretching with the other, just catching it on top of the curved iron peg so I could scrabble to the top. I paused, catching my breath as I waited for my hiking companions, ready to offer a hand if needed.IMG_8712

My bouldered journey continued, inching my way up through narrow crevices and finding a few more iron pegs to help me along my way until finally, I found myself standing on the Tablelands of Mt. Katahdin.IMG_8722 IMG_8763

The trail wound its way through the fragile vegetation of thick stemmed grass and low growing bushes. Half-way across the Tableland, I reached Thoreau Spring, named for Henry David Thoreau, author of ‘The Maine Woods’ which he wrote after ascending Katahdin in 1846. What had it been like to ascend this mountain without the benefit of a beautifully maintained trail, blazes and cairns?IMG_8729

At this point I was used to the fact that the spring and the trail were one. I hopped from rock to rock, continuing this habit beyond the spring, because it was more rock than earth. At the end of the Tableland, I knew I’d reached the last phase of my journey. At the top of the steep trail before me I could see people—small splashes of color—moving about on the summit.

IMG_8737Twenty minutes later I reached Baxter Peak. I felt a thrill of accomplishment as I stood at an elevation of 5,267 feet and gazed at the Katahdin sign. I turned and looked behind me at the path I’d travelled and felt a surge of pride.IMG_8693

As I waited for the last two members of our group to join us, I took in the breathtaking views. Below me, the deep green of the forest trees was broken only by the numerous lakes that shone in the late afternoon sun. Mountain ranges stretched as far as I could see. White clouds billowed and streaked across the blue sky. A raven landed beside me, hopping about and flying short distances. My hiking partner pointed out a large cairn. He told me it was thirteen feet tall, built to give Katahdin the extra feet necessary to be a full mile. My eyes shifted past the cairn to Knife Edge, a trail for another day.IMG_8748 IMG_8741

I settled onto a rock and enjoyed watching Appalachian Trail through-hikers summit, often running the last few steps to the Katahdin sign, some stopping to plant a kiss on the worn wood. What will it be like for them to return to their lives after months of being surrounded by nature? Will the walls of their home be warm and welcoming, or claustrophobic? Maybe a little of both.

My friends summited and we spent the next hour on Baxter Peak. In hindsight, it was a bit too long, because reaching the summit of any mountain is only half the journey. Although our descent of Katahdin was, without a doubt, faster than our ascent, by the time we reached Katahdin Stream Falls, the sun had slipped below the horizon, forcing us to complete the last 1.2 miles of our journey by the light of our flashlights.

As I sat by our campfire, I gazed up at the millions of stars that shone down on me. I was filled with awe and appreciation of the beauty of this Maine wilderness, and although my legs were tired, I dreamed of my next hike.

IMG_8617 IMG_8815

Teri Lee is the author of Troubled Spirits, a YA paranormal novel set in Maine. Troubled Spirits is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Books, Ibooks, Smashwords and other online sites.

*All photos are taken by Teri Lee and may be used with permission only