MOUNT DESERT — As Janet “Bay” Ellis climbs along what she calls her natural Stairmaster, she hikes briskly up to a summit she’s stood upon hundreds of times. Here Ellis, 53, stops and takes in the panoramic view of Somes Sound from the trails in Acadia National Park that never grows old for this island native.

The daughter of a Maine boat builder who is related to the first keeper of Mount Desert Island’s famous Bass Harbor Light, Janet Ellis’ ancestral roots run deep here but not nearly as deep as her love for this place.

“I grew up hiking and walking around Witch Hole Pond in the park almost daily with my mother,” Ellis said. “I started hiking here when I was 2. My grandmother would take me to Wonderland or on the Ship’s Harbor trail when I was in high school. It’s a part of life.”

Since Ellis was born, Acadia has either been her neighbor, the friend she spent time with after grade school, or like a relative she missed as she traveled the world. She’s hiked in South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Australia, Patagonia and New Zealand. She lived in Georgia, Florida and even for a time in Antarctica when she worked for the National Science Foundation.

No place for Ellis had the happy vibe of Mount Desert Island or the beautiful and inspiring scenery of her beloved park.

“I love it here. Once I lived in Trenton (on the other shore from Mount Desert Island). It was too far away. I needed to be here,” Ellis said. “I’ve seen a great deal of the world. And I’m very fortunate. But nothing is as beautiful to me as Acadia.”

Now, living just 2 miles from the park’s Acadia Mountain trail where she works as a hairstylist, Ellis hikes the hourlong climb every morning at 6 for fitness – and for the peace it affords.

“I love getting here at 6 a.m.,” Ellis said as she hiked up the trail. “I love having the trail to myself, and I love knowing I’m the first person on the planet to clear the cobwebs from this place and see this view of the sea.”

One morning two weeks ago she climbed the mountain later, when there was a steady parade of summer visitors passing her. It didn’t diminish her enthusiasm for this place as she warned the parents of small children of the steep descent ahead, and stopped to admire a low-lying shrub blooming in the barren rocky terrain.

For Ellis the daily climb in one of the most visited national parks sets her days to the rhythm of the ocean’s waves below.

“I think there’s something for everyone here. There are trails for different levels of fitness, for a 2-year-old or an 80-year-old,” Ellis said. “My grandmother died in 2007 at the age of 94. Maybe all that exercise kept her going for that many years. I had a great childhood here. I’m still loving it.”

– Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming

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