Tag Archives: Acadia

Acadia 2012 – Pirates of Acadia Sound

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Ed Note: It’s not actually Acadia Sound.  It’s correctly named “Somes Sound”.  All references to Acadia Sound have thus been edited.  Is it weird that I write these editors notes, even though I’m both the editor and the author?  Meh.

Mike owns a Kayak. I’ve mentioned it, and some of the adventures that have occurred within its inflatable hull, before. But when we were talking about when to head up to Acadia, we realized the scope of what this inflatable kayak actually mean – we could explore any of Acadia’s waterways, without worry of trying to find a place to rent the kayaks.

Thus, on Sunday morning we pulled out a map. Actually, first we went and hiked up The Beehive, a mountain hike that involves a lot of steep rock scrambling that’s aided by large iron runs in the cliff. But after that, we pulled out a map and started ticking off places we’d already been, and places that kayaks weren’t allowed. In the end, that left us with about half a dozen spots that we could explore, not including the outer coastline – we decided against that since neither of us really wanted to test an inflatable kayak in ocean swells.

Since we had a half dozen possible spots, we went with the scientific method to choose our launch point: we’d start driving, and drop into the first one that looked cool. Simple and efficient, and that’s how we found ourselves walking into an extremely high-class art boutique, asking the owners if we could park in their lot while we explored Somes Sound.

Unfortunately they did mind, since they’d technically be liable for both the car and us launching from their docks, but they were nice enough to point us towards a local boat launch that bordered on the marina at the end of the sound. We drove over, inflated the Bogmaster 3000, packed in our lunch and camera, and headed out into the “open ocean”.

Our travels took us through many adventures, but the first was the most dangerous… not in terms of getting hurt or anything, but in terms of self control: we were paddling through one of the major marinas, and there were boats tied up all around us. Tied up and just waiting to be plundered by a pair of buccaneers such as ourselves. See, I had my hat. And that hat? That hat is awesome. And with an awesome hat, comes a strong urge to become a pirate… and if you happen to be on a “boat” already? Well, that urge becomes almost too much to handle.

Thankfully, Mike kept us true to course by distracting me with the one thing that could distract me from good piracy: Rock climbing! The opposite shore was almost all perfect straight-sided cliff faces, and Mike and I aimed the Bogmaster 3000 for a small spot that looked like a low enough angle for us to clamber up and tie up to for a bit of land-based exploration.

The clambering around on rocks and ledges was quite fun, but The Captain (Mike) and I quickly longed for a return to the nautical life. And so, after failing to find the playboy mansion (which we totally expected to find) we returned to the Bogmaster 3000, untied from the cliff, and headed back into the “open ocean”.

As we paddled away from the cliffs we set our scopes on a medium-sized island shoved right in the mouth of the bay that we were in – we had been getting a bit hungry, and it seemed as good a spot to land and have some lunch as any. Unfortunately, we weren’t the first to decide that island would be a good spot… as we pulled into a small cove, we saw a large sign barring our way,

“NO ENTRY! BALD EAGLE NESTING GROUND!”

Damn. So instead, we charted a course around the island, and into the open waters of the main bay of Somes Sound.

Out here the water turned into the kind of chop that a pirate lives for – not enough to make the paddling hard or dangerous, but just enough to make us feel like we were actual sailors on the open sea. We were aiming for a small beacon in the distance… a small little buoy gleaming orange against the dark blue of the water. As we sliced through the oncoming waves we started singing a bit of a sea-shanty, falling deeper and deeper into the dangerous waters of “pirate talk”.

By the time we moored up to the buoy (that’s right. We moored to it. I pulled the anchor line and lashed that thing to a bolt on the buoy like a true sea dog) we were completely infected by Pirate Talk. Mike actually recorded a few minutes of our trademark inane banter, where I called out what was happening and possible piracy targets (in an excellent pirate accent, I might add), and Captain LeVasseur bellowed out orders with authority that rivaled that of Barbosa himself.

It was such a level of inane fake-piracy that I could feel Blackbeard rolling in his grave, getting the Queen Anne’s Revenge ready to burst from the waters just to shut us up.

And so, since the first-mate’s job is always to protect the captain and ship, I called for us to cast off from our mooring and continue our nautical adventures… to the tune of slightly less piratical banter.

The hour was starting to get late, and more importantly it was starting to get cold, so we headed back towards the small local dock that we’d launched from. On the way we attempted to board a sailboat that was cruising around between Eagle Island and the shore… but unfortunately a kayak can’t really keep up with a sailboat, much less run it down when the wind is blowing strong. After two failed attempts at pulling along side and demanding their wine and women, we turned towards the nearby shore to do a bit more exploring before heading back to dock.

This time, we stayed and paddled around a small cove instead of actually going ashore. The reason for not going ashore? We were in the middle of a small “kelp forest”, where the seaweed grew thick in these awesomely cool pillars that you could see through the clear water of the bay. Mike pulled out his GoPro camera (waterproof, of course) and took a few most-excellent underwater shots while I paddled around the small cove.

The kelp entertained us for almost 15min, but unfortunately it was in the shade… and the day was starting to wane quite chilly, especially for those of us on the water without jackets on. And so we started making a beeline for the docks. On the way we tried pirating another row-boat that we saw cruising around, but his head start left him docked before we could get close enough to shout a challenge… and challenging a docked boat just isn’t the same as a boat on the water, so we held off our assault in favor of simply getting to shore.

The nice thing about an inflatable kayak is that it’s easy to store in a smaller car. The bad thing about it is that, instead of simply washing it off and putting it on a rack, it takes almost half an hour to deflate everything and stow it away in its travel bag. Thankfully we weren’t in any rush though, and packing the Bogmaster 3000 away gave us just enough of an extra appetite for the meal of the night: heading into Bar Harbor and devouring an entire rack of ribs, a 1.5lb lobster, a plate of fries, a beer each, and a plate of Quesadilla’s as an appetizer. A worthy meal of worthy pirates. Or, at least, attempted pirates.

Map for the Map:
A = the Marina
B = our tie-up point and land-based adventures
C = Eagle Preserve Island
D = tying up to the buoy and playing pirate
E = Attempted piracy numbers 1 and 2
F = exploring the kelp forests
G = Attempted piracy #3

Acadia 2012 – Climbing on the South Bubble

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“I am not climbing at Otter cliffs again.”

“Ohh, I hear you man. I agree 100%”

“Seriously. I will push babies off that cliff and then dive in myself if someone ropes me into teaching people at those cliffs again”

“So… what do you want to do instead?”

“How about South Bubble?”

“Done”

Twenty minutes later:

“Ok everyone! The official ‘learn to climb’ trip is going to South Bubble this year!”

“SON OF A…”

 

And that’s how my day started.

At every Acadia I’ve been to, and that’s four years so far, I’ve ended up either leading or helping to run the group climbing trip to Otter cliffs. I’ve enjoyed it, definitely, but this year I had decided that I wanted to do my own thing and actually get to see the rest of the climbing that Acadia had to offer. You know… without a huge group of beginners clamoring for me to teach them how to belay and/or place gear. And since rain would make the slabs of The Precipice (the second-most famous wall) unclimbable, we picked a place called The South Bubble.

The Bubble is a combination wall – not purely slab routes, but not purely crack systems either. According to the book it was a few slabs about 50ft tall cut apart by the nice crack systems that are such a major component to a trad wall such as this. Ed Note: One very nice thing, in my mind, about Acadia is that it’s almost exclusively Trad climbing. Bolting is quite rare, and is barely even used to build anchors at the most popular spots. The Bubble has literally no permanent gear in it. After those initial slabs, the cliff transformed into mostly vertical cracks with a massive roof at the top sandwitched between chimneys on the sides and a few large blocky sections in the middle… my favorite type of easy and relaxed climbing. And even better, the book mentioned that the cliff was only about 10min from the road! You can understand my confusion when, 30min into the approach, I still couldn’t see the wall.

Instead, we found a path leading upwards. “Maybe the guide is wrong”, we thought, and continued upwards. Then we hit the summit of the mountain. It wasn’t the guide that was wrong.

So we went back down, and started looking. What should have been a quick 10min approach quickly ‘turned into two hours of hiking through Acadia’s trails… not a bad thing, in any situation, but it got quite frustrating for Daniel and I since we were rather pumped up to do some multi-pitch routes.

After quite a long amount of exploring, and Daniel accidentally summitting the mountain again, we did actually arrive at the climb… and it was just as perfect as I had hoped it would be. You see, Otter Cliffs is purely single-pitch climbing. It’s fun and challenging, but it’s only 75feet at its highest. The Bubble, however, soared above us into the distance, easily reaching at least 300 feet.

Granted, 300ft is small-fry in comparison to our adventures on Whitehorse, which tops out at nearly 1200ft of climbing (a mere 800ft vertical). However, for folks who haven’t gotten to do “real” climbing in as long as us, The Bubble was a godsend. Staring up at it was almost enough to distract me from the dozen or so people clamoring around at the bottom of the cliff, screaming up at the climbers trapped in a web of rope.

Ok, so that might be an exaggeration… but not much. NUHOC had arrived at the cliffs, and there were seven or eight people hanging out and climbing at the bottom of the first pitch of the route. And, just as I had feared when I first heard that announcement in the morning, Daniel and I were roped in the moment we arrived:

“Ohh hey, you’re here! I’m going to start the multi-pitch route, can you watch everyone and teach them how to belay while I’m gone? Awesome, I’m out of here”

“Wait, but…”

And with that, he was up the cliff and we were left to teach.

It wasn’t so bad, to be honest… but it wasn’t climbing. And we’d been looking forward to climbing since we’d first gotten in the car back in Boston, when I stretched out in the back seat and opened the big book of New England climbs to the “Acadia National Park” section. But part of being a club leader is knowing when to sit down and wait for reinforcements, so that’s exactly what we did.

While waiting, we took the chance to relax a bit from our long search for the cliffs. Daniel, Brian and I had worked up a rather intense sweat while hiking up, so we quickly used our powers of leadership to institute “shirtless o’clock” rules (since we knew the one girl there quite well, and knew she could take the joke) before we got started on organizing teams and helping people belay. It was relaxing, getting to stretch out and sunbath – though made a bit less relaxing since we had to keep an eye out to make sure people didn’t drop each other off cliffs.

Reinforcements arrived about an hour later, in the form of Liz and Rachel, who were going to relieve us and give us the chance to head up the climb. Which we did almost immediately – Daniel took the lead on the first pitch, followed by Brian, and the I finally got to head up myself. The route was amazing – short-ish pitches, followed by very nice belay stations, all covered by the perfectly warm ocean breeze. It was literally the best weather I’ve ever encountered on Acadia, and we got to enjoy it from a cliff face, which made it even more perfect.

The climb itself was fairly easy, with a few trouble spots added on thanks to the rain. Nothing major, just enough to remind you that you’re clinging to a cliff face with a 175ft drop below you. I loved it.

  • The route we took was a combination of the Lower Slabs (est 5.4), and “Unknown” (5.4) all at South Bubble in Acadia National Park
  • Pitch 1 – Simple and easy. Since Daniel lead it and Brian cleaned it I don’t really know too much about placements, but it looked nicely solid leading to a huge belay ledge.
  • Pitch 2 – We traversed (read: walked) across the belay ledge to the second pitch. I led this one, and it was a simple block-climb, with a few interesting layback moves thrown in for fun. Very reminiscent of the sea-stack climbs of Otter Cliff, but made up of beautiful granite, undamaged by the years of sea-exposure that Otter’s put up with.
    Gear was simple and almost all Cams, though I could easily have thrown in some stoppers had I felt like it. I used Black Diamond cams ranging from a 00 C3 to a #4 C4.
  • The belay ledge after Pitch 2 was nice and simple, I actually anchored off a few iron bars from what looked like an old Via Ferrata route.
  • Pitch 3 – We debated between climbing a hand-crack, or moving through a dihedral / chimney system. In the end we went with the chimney, since we were getting a bit pressed on time, which was definitely a fun route. It was made a bit hairier because of the water seeping through it and coating the entrance (if you’ve climbed dihedral chimneys, you know that getting into it is the real challenge).
    Gear was primarily cams, all placed way back into the crack at the back of the chimney. I think I used from a #0.5 C4 through a #3 C4
  • The final belay was a bit nicer than the one above pitch 2, simply because I could build the anchor much higher up and belay while sitting on the ledge. Perfect weather combined with the cliff shading me from the direct sunlight, and combined with the perfect view of the ocean meant that this little seat was heaven.
  • The walk off was a bit sketchy. We ended up running a belay for it, just to be safe, since it was pretty heady 4th-class scrambling… normally not that bad, but when combined with a 300ft fall if you slipped… yeah. Safety first boys and girls.

     

    Huh, cool!  I can put Alt-Text in!  BANANAPHONE!

    Our path from the car (upper right) to the cliffs (big red dot)

Acadia 2012 – “How do I get to Acadia?”

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Instead of writing out one long winded story about the annual trip to Acadia National Park and the adventures associated with that trip, I’m writing out a few shorter stories. These don’t cover every detail of the trip, but it should give a good feel for my time hanging out on the island.

Also, I didn’t have a camera with me, so instead of pictures, I’ve put interesting little maps in to give scale to these adventures.

It’s a long drive from Boston to Acadia. Every time I drive up there, I understand this fact in the back of my mind… but that never really prepares me for the reality of the drive. Five and a half hours, by map, stretches out into six and seven hours when you have to stop for gas, for food, and simply to stretch your legs out so that your feet don’t fall off. And that’s just the time spent driving, not the time spent organizing everyone in the car, packing your gear into the trunk, unpacking it when you arrive, and then setting up camp on the island.

It’s just… it’s long.

By the time we finally arrived on the island it was dark, raining, and all three of us (Daniel, Stef, and myself) were so sick of the car that we didn’t have any trouble jumping out of the car and into the rain. Thankfully, Daniel and I are old-hands at the whole “driving to Acadia” shindig, and we had an ace up our sleeve to revive us after the long drive – Captain Nemo’s BBQ shack.

That’s right, an old-school BBQ shack in the middle of an island off the coast of Northern Maine. And not just any boring shack… this place took the idea to heart, and ran with it faster than a marathon runner – the ceilings were barely six feet tall, the “dining room” was filled with old furniture, and the beers came in three sizes: “small”, “medium”, and “large”. I put those in quotes for this simple reason – “Small” = 24oz “Medium” = 32oz and “large” = 48oz. Seriously. All for $4, $6, and $8.

THAT was what brought me back from the edge, after the long ride of not being able to pick the right music. Combining a 36oz stein of home-brewed red ale with a massive plate of chili-cheese-nachos does a man a world of good, and by the time we left I was ready to brave the rain and get to rocking out at Acadia.


Map: My route for the day – Took the train into Boston from Medway, met up with Daniel and Stef in Boston, and then trucked up to Acadia