A Quick Visit to the Quiet Side of MDI
If you have never been to Bar Harbor, Maine or Acadia National Park, you may be surprised to know that both of these great places are located on an island. To be honest, even many of the visitors to the area, don’t realize they are on an island. Mount Desert Island where we have spent our summer workamping is the 2nd largest island on the east coast of the United States. Long Island in New York is far larger and Martha’s Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts is just a bit smaller. The French Explorer, Samuel de Champlain is credited with discovering the island in 1604, though in reality the Abenaki tribe had been here for a long, long time before. Champlain noticed the bare peaks of the area and called the place Isle de Monts Desert meaning “island of barren mountains.” Due to its French influence, there is a bit of a controversy whether it is to be pronounced de·sert (like the Sahara) or des·sert (like Chocolate Lava Cake). It is not my goal to solve that 413 year old dispute today, call it what you wish! But, if you are going to lean toward sounding like a local and calling it Mount Des·sert Island like we do, remember to serve that Chocolate Lava Cake with a scoop of ice cream.
In shape, Mount Desert Island resembles a lobster claw which is very fitting for the lobster-rich region. Glaciers carved the lobster-claw-shaped island thousands of years ago. The Island is about 16 miles long and 13 miles wide, with 6 of those miles being the Somes Sound located in between the lobster’s pinchers. Do you see the resembelence or call me crazy? Leave us a comment below on your opinion on the matter! Russ will take any fuel he can get for his claim to me being a bit cray cray!
Most of Acadia’s best-known attractions are on the eastern side of the “claw,” which is separated from the western side by Somes Sound. The majority of our time has been spent on the eastern side, so it was time to explore the islands western half, often called the “Quiet-Side”. We set our sights on exploring another quaint coastal town, Southwest Harbor. While very small in size, it is the largest municipality on the western side of the island. The town has a few cute shops, several art galleries, a sweet & tasty bakery, Little Notch Bakery! Southwest Harbor along with nearby Manset & Tremont were first settled by fishermen, and the villages retain their maritime heritage boasting healthy fishing fleets and impressive boat yards. You will without a doubt see lobsterman working hard on a daily basis many of which will be unloading fresh Maine lobster at Beal's Lobster Pier, a long-standing tradition in Southwest Harbor. After spending some time walking about the marina & downtown areas, we continued on to our next stop.
We headed north toward Echo Lake where you will find a man-made beach and the most popular swimming spot in Acadia National Park. While there are many, many miles of coastline and dozens of lakes and ponds, Echo Lake is known for very clean water that is usually warmer than many other options, such as Sand Beach on the popular eastern side of Mount Desert Island. You might want to take note, that warm would not be the best adjective to use as the water temperature will rarely hit the high 60s! So you can bet your bottom dollar that you wouldn’t find Russ or I anywhere near that frigid water. Another reason, Echo Lake is a popular water hole is its location right next to Beech Mountain, standing tail at 839 feet overlooking the beautiful lake. After a hike on a hot 80 degree day, the fresh water lake would be a refreshing treat. But your bet is still safe, as there is just about nothing that would make Russ or I step foot in those chilly waters! Real wimps, I know!
We didn’t have much time to explore as things like laundry & grocery shopping stood in our way. Lucky for us, the weather wasn’t the best so it made those everyday chores a bit less irritating. Even in the cloudy, misty weather the “Quiet-Side” of Mount Desert Island did not disappoint. We will definitely do some more exploring on this side of the “claw” in the near future.