Confident from our conquering of Cadillac Mountain and, now, well rested and fed, there is no summit in Acadia safe from our picnic blanket. Next on the agenda was Champlain Mountain (1058′).
Champlain Mountain is best known for the Precipice Trail, which involves a 1000 foot climb up the east face of the mountain by way of iron rungs hammered into the rock. No, thank you. We were on the bus, on our way to Cadillac, when a fellow passenger with elementary school-aged children requested a stop at Precipice. The bus driver told stories of many deaths on that trail (which is true), including that of the designer of the trail. I haven’t been able to substantiate that last part and I wonder if it wasn’t a last-ditch effort on the part of the bus driver to talk this fool out of taking his kids to their death, since he seemed unswayed so far. We never heard of any tragic accidents, so perhaps the children’s better judgement prevailed, or as so often seems to happen, something was looking out for the criminally stupid that day.
We chose a longer, but much less dangerous route. We started at the same trail head we took for Gorham Mountain, which also leads to the Beehive. The Beehive is kind of like Precipice Lite, all the iron rungs and narrow ledges but with only about 500 feet to fall to your death. As we passed the trailhead for the Beehive, we caught a glimpse of all the brave (foolish) people taking it on that day. If anything will improve climbing up a sheer cliff along narrow ledges, it’s heavy traffic.
Meanwhile, our trail ascended more gently, up around the Bowl, a glacier-formed lake. Just beyond, the South Ridge Trail opened up to spectacular views of Frenchman Bay and the southeast coast. We had a moderate southwest breeze, so we found a sheltered spot for lunch before tackling the start of the more challenging climb toward the summit. The view wasn’t bad, either. The exposed ridge also means lots of sunshine for the abundant wild blueberry bushes. I have to admit, it slowed me down a bit. Mark didn’t share my need to “stop and taste the berries,” especially since they weren’t raspberries. Chloë didn’t quite grasp that they were food, or she would have been on my side, I’m sure.
We stopped again, just before the summit to eat our dessert (cookies!) and because Mark picked up some cell reception and needed to check his voicemail. Working aside, it was a good decision because the summit was crowded, as usual, and we didn’t linger long. We did see the sign at the Precipice Trail that said, basically, “People have died here. This trail is dangerous, don’t be stupid.”
Continuing on to the North Ridge, there were some nice views of Bar Harbor and Frenchman Bay. The trail was pretty easy most of the way and out of the wind. Before long, we were back to the Park Loop Road. We walked back to Sieur de Monts and caught the bus, for a total of about 4.5 miles.