October 6, 2013

Cyclists, rollerbladers rule Acadia’s roads

The rare joy of navigating the traffic-free national park is a welcome benefit of the shutdown.

By Glenn Jordan gjordan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

BAR HARBOR — The kid jumped down from a tan SUV with Maryland plates, saw the roller blades about to go on my feet and grinned.

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A sign on a closed gate near the entrance to the Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park tells visitors on Thursday that the park is closed because of the government shutdown.

Photos by Glenn Jordan/Staff Writer

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A self-portrait shows Staff Writer Glenn Jordan during his journey along the vehicle-free Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park on Thursday.

Additional Photos Below

His mom had parked on a side road near the 14th fairway of the Kebo Valley Golf Club. A hundred feet ahead, a low brown gate prevented automobiles from proceeding to the nearby Park Loop Road, a 27-mile ribbon of smooth asphalt that, on such perfect early-autumn afternoons, is guaranteed to put an observer more than halfway through the License Plate Game.

Not on this day.

As the single white sheet of paper – affixed with three strips of blue painter’s tape to the knee-level gate – proclaimed: “Because of the federal government shutdown, Acadia National Park is closed.”

Closed closed? Or closed to motorized vehicles?

The kid, and his bicycle, clearly interpreted it to mean the latter.

“I’ve done this every day,” he said. “I call it my anarchy ride.”

The failure of Congress to reach an agreement to pay its bills without eviscerating the Affordable Care Act has brought a lot of pain to a lot of people.

More than 800,000 federal employees are off the job and wondering about their next paycheck. Agencies, museums and national parks have been shut down. Mortgage applications are in flux.

But if there are silver linings to the shutdown, surely a loop road bereft of Buicks, Beetles and BMWs is one of them. The only drawback to Acadia in foliage season is the crowds. Take away the hordes, and what remains?

Heaven.

Although I would have preferred to skate the whole loop, our resident photography expert insisted that a helmet camera atop an in-line skater would induce seasickness in viewers because of the constant side-to-side motion. So I compromised (politicians, take note) and borrowed a bike.

Pedaling off through the new-growth trees that populate the chunk of Acadia that burned in the fire of 1947, the immediate feeling was one of tranquility, of a stillness as unnatural as the planeless skies of September 2001.

Champlain Mountain loomed to the right and Huguenot Head soon came into view. The benches and tables of Bear Brook were empty of picnickers and nearby Beaver Dam Pond glistened quietly in the afternoon sunlight.

Climbing the serpentine road toward a view of Frenchman’s Bay, four cyclists whizzed past, blissfully ignoring the one-way signage. The only sign of life in the parking area beneath the Precipice Trail was a pair of hikers strolling through an otherwise-empty parking area.

About this time came the realization that an injury or a blown tire would leave me stranded miles from help.

Any concern evaporates in the warm sunshine and disappears in the rustling leaves already turning into wonderful shades of red, orange and yellow.

Farther on, toward Sand Beach, more hikers and more cyclists appeared. Those tourists whose cruise boats turned away when informed of the park closure don’t know what they’re missing.

At Thunder Hole, a woman wearing a bridal veil peered into the abyss and listened for a moment, but the incoming waves were not of sufficient strength to provide much of a pop.

Overlooking Otter Cliff, two women lounged on lawn chairs placed in the Loop Road’s left lane and gazed back toward a Sand Beach dotted with perhaps a dozen intrepid explorers.

And so it went. No popovers or tea graced the back lawn of the Jordan Pond House, only two women looking out over the pond and the Bubbles beyond. Near a patch of white lichen beneath a stand of old-growth spruce in the area untouched by the ’47 fire, a photographer squinted behind a tripod as his wife looked on.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Without cars whizzing by to whisk them off, fallen leaves begin to blanket a section of the Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park on Thursday.

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Two women take advantage of the government shutdown to enjoy a view of the ocean from chairs that they set up in the middle of the road.

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Glenn Jordan takes a break from pedaling the 27-mile Park Loop Road to do a bit of rock hopping on large granite barrier stones that line the road.

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Glenn Jordan gets off his borrowed bike on Thursday to get a glimpse of Thunder Hole, normally one of Acadia National Park’s most crowded sites.

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The shadow of Glenn Jordan atop his borrowed hybrid bicycle falls on a stretch of the Park Loop Road as he nears the end of his Acadia journey.

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Afternoon sunlight slants through the trees lining an empty Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park on Thursday. If there is a silver lining to the government shutdown, the chance to bicycle or rollerblade along the loop road devoid of motor vehicles just might be it.



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