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Acadiaís bikeways beckon, by Marty Basch
 Article List
• My winter vacation
• Phil Gaimon wins 2008 Mt. Washington Hillclimb
• Biking brothers in law charge around the Whites
• Overendís ready for a Granite State nickname
• Maineís Islesboro is a seaside bicycle adventure
• Quietly cycling Connecticutís northeastís corner
• That "new bike fit"
• Cyclocross - Best way to enjoy it, watch it.
• The next step in personal training?
• What goes up, goes down along Virginiaís Skyline Drive
• Hillclimbs, heaven or hell?
• Acadiaís bikeways beckon
• Where Cycling Is Taken Seriously
• Crusing along Lake Winnipesaukee by bike and boat
• Crank That Kanc
• Wrap, ride and reward
• A Clean Sweep
Thanks to a Rockefeller, cyclists now have over 45 miles of rustic carriages roads to ride around the mountains and through the valleys of Maine's Acadia National Park.

Philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr. was a skilled equestrian. He desired motor-free paths into the heart of Mount Desert Island. For 27 years, from 1913 to 1940, his construction efforts resulted in roads with sweeping ocean vistas.

The roads of broken stone which 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. They offer the cyclist on a mountain bike or hybrid a chance to ride over handsome stone bridges and through the woods without having to contend with summer motorists.

The history of Maine's national park goes back long before a Rockefeller was born. Artifacts indicate Indian encampments dating back 6,000 years. The first written descriptions of Maine coast Native Americans describe people who lived off the land by hunting, fishing and gathering plants and berries. The Abenaki's know Mount Desert Island as "the sloping land." It wasn't until the mid-1800's that wealthy visitors like the Rockefellers, Morgans, Fords, Vanderbilts, Carnegies and Astors choose to summer at the Island. They would congregate at elegant estates, which they called cottages, and enjoyed ostentatious gatherings.

It was John D. Rockefeller Jr. who saw the natural value in the area and hoped the 40,000 acre park, established in 1916, would become "a real gem of the first water among national parks." Families traveling together might want to get their "carriage road" legs while cycling around Eagle Lake. The two-mile loop is relatively easy and flat. Plus it's a good way to get oriented. Those with a bit more energy might want to try the Brewer Mountain trail which links to the Eagle Lake system.

Intermediate riders should keep Parkman Mountain in mind. There are various turn-off's on this trail, but the whole loop is about five miles. Rangers say most injuries in the park result from falls while hiking or biking. Cyclists might not be confident in sharing the carriage roads with the occasional horse. Horses can be unpredictable, just like mountain bikers. Stop if a horse and rider are coming at you and let them pass. Call out when approaching them from behind.

Cycling is not limited to the carriage roads. There are also paved roads along a 27-mile scenic Park Loop Road which rocks and rolls along the coast. This begins at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center and offers access to sites like Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Otter Cliffs, Jordan Pond and Cadillac Mountain. Be forewarned though. Not only are cyclists enjoying the surroundings, so are the motorists. Make sure riders watch the road as much as the ocean. Obey the road signs.

Cadillac Mountain stands tall at 1,530 feet. Do not be fooled by that elevation. Though only a hill by Western standards, this can be an ardous three-mile ascent for those not in the best of shape. If vacationing in the park, one option is to drive to the top of the mountain road and then zip down on the bike. It is truly exhilarating.

Acadia lie two-thirds of the way up the Maine coast. It is about 164 miles from Portland and roughly 270 miles from Boston. There is no train service to the park, but bus and air transportation are available. The park is open year-round, but the carriage roads aren't plowed. They are used for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in winter. Entrance fees are collected at $20 per vehicle, $5 per cyclists, and is good for seven consecutive days. Park maps for cyclists are available through park headquarters and visitor centers. Two of the three visitor centers open May 1, while the other opens May 30.

Since a trip to Acadia is worth more than a day's outing, accommodations should be noted. The park has three campgrounds, while inns, motels, bed-and-breakfasts and private campgrounds are plentiful around Mount Desert Island.

The park website is nps.gov/acad/home.htm. Through it, find links to area lodging, bike rentals and other opportunities.
by Marty Basch


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