I had a commitment first thing in the morning in Bar Harbor and another at 2pm, so I figured I would hike and swim in the interim. I had my sights set on the west side of Pemetic, on that opfork where you can either climb on ladders through the Lemon Squeezer of Acadia or scramble up steep granite faces. When I pulled into the Bubbles parking lot on this sunny Thursday at 11am, not a parking space to be found. Slightly disappointed, I headed to the Bubbles Pond parking. No luck there either, or at the pull-off near the North Ridge of Cadillac.
I was not in the vast wilderness of Somerset County any more. This was all part of the social hiking experience that is Mount Desert Island. I decided I would be happy climbing anything with a parking space. I eagerly pulled over at the turn-off by the North Ridge of Champlain simply because it had room for my Honda Fit.
Yesterday, I only saw a man and his dog on Bigelow. I can handle that much solitude, and all the risks that come with that much solitude. Especially on a main artery like the AT, if .something happened to me as a solo hiker during this time of year, assuming I stayed on the trail, someone would stumble across me within 24 hours. I am more vocal than ever with my husband and mother about my whereabouts. I look back on some of the things that I did not tell anyone that I was doing in my twenties, and I think I was lucky nothing ever happened to me. More cautious in my thirties, I sign into every register, I leave my cell phone on, and I trust in God. I love the mountains like my husband loves playing with electricity: we both venture into realms that slightly scare the other but we would never deny each other the supreme joy that accompanies potential danger.
In contrast, I encountered another hiker within two minutes of setting foot on the trail in Acadia. He pointed out the lady slippers ahead on the trail, and I thanked him for sharing. Who knows if my eyes would have been so intent to notice if he had not been there.
I encountered at least twenty others on Champlain, all enjoying the strong breeze on the exposed ridge line. When people ask me where to hike on the island, I should just say, “climb a ridge line, any ridgeline” for the most comfortable conditions and most spectacular views.
No doubt, sharing the views did not ruin them for me. It is what I have always said about this island. I love it in all seasons, all times of day, as crowded as it may be, even when I cannot find a parking space.