I had been intimidated by the thought of climbing Cadillac Mountain, the tallest mountain along the East Coast at 1530′. As with most of the mountains in the park, there are multiple trails leading to the summit, some more difficult than others. Logically, the easier ones tend to be longer, allowing for a more gradual elevation gain. Given our recent successes and armed with some encouragement and good information from John over at Hiking in Maine with Kelley, I talked the team into giving it a go.
We took the bus to the North Ridge Trailhead and started up. At one point, we lost the trail, although this seemed to be a common problem, since there were lightly worn paths all over the forested areas. Mark bought a hiking GPS before leaving Rockland because we had some difficulty keeping to the trails in Block Island. The public lands there are managed by the Nature Conservancy, not the National Park Service, and so are not nearly as well-marked. There are lots more trails than are indicated on the not-very-detailed map available for sale, presumably maintained by private land owners for access to their properties, but still, it seriously confused the issue.
Anyway, back to Cadillac, the GPS showed the trail and our position relative to it, so we were able to move in the correct direction and soon we were back on track. The bad news is, we had plenty of company on the actual trail. We did manage to find an out-of-the-way spot for lunch before reaching the summit, complete with shade, a light breeze and views of Frenchman Bay and Bar Harbor. The summit was a mad house. Unlike the other mountains in the park, there is an auto road that leads to the top, so most people arrive by car or tour bus and, on this day, every available space in the parking area was taken. Having already enjoyed most of the views during the hike to the top, the crowded summit was unappealing, but at least we could find someone to take a photo of the three of us.
We started down the long South Ridge Trail, which is open granite for most of the first half or more, offering spectacular views of nearly the entire south coast of Mount Desert and many small offshore islands beyond. It turns out, Cadillac has much less difficult terrain on this route than other hikes we’ve done this week, but it’s long at around six miles. Also, those open granite expanses that make for such lovely views also mean lots of sun exposure and long, steady periods of ascending (or descending).
I’m glad we took the challenge and we got a beautiful day for it. Chloë was a trooper, as always. There were lots of dogs at the summit and that always inspires her to be a bit of a show-off, climbing and jumping off things unnecessarily. It seemed as if she knew most of those dogs had arrived there via car and she was feeling a little smug about it all, in her fancy hiking gear. I could relate.