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Outdoor Adventures

Outdoor Adventures: Burst out with the Bubbles

Bubble Rock appears to teeter on the edge in Maine's Acadia National Park.

Bubble Rock appears to teeter on the edge in Maine's Acadia National Park.

You know the hike’s popular when there is a tour bus at the trailhead.

Still, while that may deter many an outdoor lover from making the trek, there are also reasons why some hikes draw those of all abilities and ages.

Short, steep and stunning. That about sums up the well-liked hike to a pair of rounded pink granite hills collectively called the Bubbles in Maine’s Acadia National Park within an easy drive of the pine-heavy Blackwoods Campground.

Certainly the name is playful, but do expect to exert some energy to climb 872-foot North Bubble and 766-foot South Bubble on Mount Desert Island. The pair are an Acadia landmark, the nearly identical-looking domes on the north end of Jordan Pond. The Bubbles are the money shot, their reflections in the pond a photo mainstay for many park visitors. There was a time the Bubbles were covered heavily with tree growth, but a 1947 fire created the open vistas that draw today’s hikers.

The frolicsome Bubbles tower over the 45 miles of carriage roads in the park with their trailheads passed en route to the hike. Thank John D. Rockefeller for those roads. For 27 years, from 1913 to 1940, his construction efforts resulted in roads with sweeping ocean vistas. The roads of broken stone that wind through the eastern half of the island, past lakes and mountains, are now enjoyed by travelers on foot, bicycle and horseback. Gently graded and lined with gravel, the carriage roads are somewhat maze-like, but well-marked.

Though a compact hike, there are options there. Choose just one Bubble if you don’t want to do both. Views are exceptional from both, but South Bubble has something North Bubble doesn’t – a huge glacial erratic named Bubble Rock – well worth the visit.

My hiking honey, Jan, and I – normally trekkers enjoying an early morning start – opted for mid-afternoon for the jolly 1.6-mile t-shaped jaunt along the easy-to-follow blue-blazed Bubbles Divide Trail, passing the weathered Acadian trail signs and a kiosk with a map and description of what is ahead. In essence, we just stayed on the trail through the hardwood forest until it came to a fork where hikers must decide which Bubble to climb.

Wanting to save the best for last, the pathway led to the granite ledges of North Bubble with its outstanding views of Jordan Pond below. Mount Desert Island’s top peaks are out there, too. Look for Cadillac, Pemetic, Penobscot and Sargent. Though they aren’t very high, given that many of the hikes in the park start at near sea level, it’s easy to see why low-lying peaks can also be a dramatic challenge just like their bigger brothers and sisters throughout the mountains of New England.

Back at the junction, we ascended log and stone steps, soon meeting many of the midwestern visitors from the tour bus set on listening to the flutelike song of the thrush. We stopped as well, hearing the whistle we’ve heard many times while exploring the forests.

Soon enough, we were on South Bubble, also a spot with fragile vegetation.

There’s another view of Jordan Pond. Spot Eagle Lake. Look over to North Bubble. There’s Cadillac, the islands and, of course, the Atlantic.

But just to the east of the summit is that impressive granite Bubble Rock. Looking like a marble for giants on a precarious perch, the boulder is the remnant of a melting glacier from thousands of years ago. The moving ice was capable of picking up all sorts of things and putting them in another spot. Bubble Rock is believed to have come from as far as 40 miles away. It’s possible to get a close look at it. We just followed the path, but also noted the cordoned off areas.

The summit was no place for solitude that day. Instead we shared it with many others, chatting about where they were from and, of course, being ambassadors for our home, waxing about the beauty in New Hampshire, particularly in the fall.

And on the way back down, we stopped again, listening to the song of the thrush in the woods along two small mountains where the smell of the sea is never far away.

(Marty Basch can be reached through onetankaway.com)

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