It’s been a while since we last posted – the summer has been busier than we expected both on the farm and at the jobs that are making this farm possible right now! So, it was quite the blessing that we were able to get away for 5 days to explore a bit more of God’s creation at Acadia National Park in Maine.
Acadia National Park covers about 47,000 acres of coastal Maine. Largely contained on Mount Desert Island, the park has a vast assortment of forests, rocky cliffs, mountains, lakes, ponds, streams, and coastline. In addition to the natural beauty, what drove us to select Acadia as our vacation spot was the approximately 50 miles of carriage roads throughout the park, a legacy of Nelson Rockefeller.
Though most say the best time to visit the park is Fall, my work schedule made August a better fit, and so in early Spring, we made our reservations at Wildwood Stables and campgrounds (run by Carriages of Acadia, a NPS concessionaire). With our plans to tent camp, the hot dry summer had us a bit worried, but the weather couldn’t have been better. High 70s during the day, beautifully chilly sleeping weather at night, and only one real rainstorm to challenge the waterproof qualities of our tents!
By Tuesday night, we had the truck and trailer packed so that on Wednesday morning, we only had to throw the food in the coolers, get the horses into the trailer, and be on our way.
Um… did I say “only” get the horses into the trailer?
As you may have read before, we have a bit of a history when it comes to trailering. Zip, our Quarter horse, is meek and mild – our oldest daughter points, he loads, she clips him in, moves the divider into place, and he’s done. It takes about 30 seconds.
Jasper, our Haflinger cross (our son now calls him our “Quarterflinger” because we think the other part of him is Quarter horse), takes a bit more effort. Everybody takes their places – one of our daughters at the door, my wife at the “butt bar,” our other daughter with the handi-stick, me with the lead rope, and our son safely elsewhere. Then, we see if it’s going to be an easy day, where he walks in with little effort, or a hard day, which can take up to an hour.
Wednesday was a hard day. In fact, it got pretty close to being the last day. After several false starts, we got him into the trailer, but I was a bit slow to get him clipped in. When the butt bar came across, he decided to turn around and get back out, forcing me between him and the bar (a length of chain running through a thick PVC pipe and bumper cover). The bar did a pretty good Heimlich maneuver on me (fortunately I’d had a light breakfast) before I managed to move to the side, and we all, Jasper included, had a pretty good scare. On the good side, he loaded right up after that!
So, first adventure safely completed, and a good bruise starting on my hipbone, we headed out on the 5 hour drive to the park, which passed quite uneventfully. We arrived in the evening and went straight to getting the horses stabled and the tents pitched. Wildwood has about 30 self-service boarding stables in three metal barns, in very good condition, with plenty of trailer parking space. The tent sites are closer together than we’d like but very clean, flat, and serviceable (though the water is across the road at the stables). With the horses walked, watered, fed, and stabled, we collapsed into our sleeping bags and fell asleep.
The next morning, after a good camp breakfast of pancakes, eggs (David’s eggs, of course), a quick trip to get a park pass (thank you taxpayers for the free military NPS passes!) we headed out on our first adventure. The girls rode the horses up to the top of Day mountain while I rode my bicycle alongside. Meanwhile, my wife and son hoofed up the shorter, steeper trail to meet us (David got a ride towards the top).
Up on the small mountain, we enjoyed some snacks, talking with other visitors, and the views (somewhat obscured by fog and clouds) before heading back home.
Our first round trip was about 6 hilly miles, and the horses were exhausted, so after lunch we gave them a break and went to the Seal Harbor beach with the kids. The next day, we spent more time on the trails, a bit over 13 miles between the two trips – girls on horseback, the rest of us on bike.
In addition to the carriage roads, Rockefeller’s construction included unique stone bridges and gatehouses, like this one near Jordan Pond.
Of course, no campout is complete without a campfire.
That evening after dinner, we built the fire up a bit bigger and sat around it. Mike, the owner of Carriages of Acadia, stopped by to talk about the operation. The main business is providing carriage rides through the park – he expects over 24,000 customers this year! The girls, of course, were spellbound, and when they mentioned wanting to learn how to drive carriages, he graciously invited them for a barn tour and carriage ride the next morning.
After a couple more days of exploring on horseback, bike, foot, and car, we headed home. Thankfully, Jasper loaded a bit better this time, and we arrived back at the Flying T in good shape. Great teamwork by the family got the unpacking done, and great neighbors watching the farm in our absence made the whole trip possible!