October 1, 2017
Today was Day 1 of our cruise from Boston to Montreal. We left Boston on Saturday in late afternoon and by the time we woke up this morning, we had anchored off Bar Harbor. People who weren’t taking tours could obtain tender tickets to go ashore, and the first numbers were called just after 7 a.m. I kind of wish we had done that, because we waited to go until our tour was called and didn’t get back until the last tender was going back to the ship, so we didn’t have time to walk around Bar Harbor on our own or use a local Wi-Fi.
We had signed up for a shore excursion called “The Best of Both Worlds.” The tour guide used a lot of humor and told us that by the end of the tour we should figure out which “3 things” were true among everything he told us!
First, we went by bus toward Acadia National Park, the guide narrating about what we were seeing along the way. There were many beautiful vistas but although he told the driver to slow down, we didn’t stop at many of them.
Our first stop was about 40 minutes, where there was a small nature center (mostly about how climate change will affect the area’s future), a wigwam, and the Acadia Wild Gardens. The gardens were divided into several ecosystems and I took a brochure to help me interpret what I was seeing. It was pretty but most of the flowers were already gone and many plants were dying or getting ready to hibernate for the winter.
Acadia celebrated 100 years last year (this was one of the true things the guide told us!), because it was also the national park system’s 100th birthday. Acadia was one of the first national parks to be established in 1916. Most of the land had been privately owned, mainly by the Rockefellers, and Rockefeller gave most of it to the federal government for the park. There were several stone bridges he’d had built. We also saw the “shacks” (as our guide called them – they were actually mansions) that were the summer homes of rich people such as J. P. Morgan, Martha Stewart and Rockefeller.
One place we slowed down, but didn’t stop, was a spot where beavers had dammed a pond and built their houses. On the other side of the road, a tree had fallen where beavers had been gnawing away at it! Our guide told us about a huge forest fire that spread through much of this area in 1947. Before that, these hills were all pine forests. After a forest fire, the first trees that grow back are deciduous trees, with the evergreens eventually crowding them out. This probably takes generations. Our guide said the way to see which areas were unaffected by the fire, within the park borders, is look for the areas that are covered with deciduous versus pine forests. In town, the way to tell is by looking at the thickness of the tree trunks. The trees that survived the fire have an extra 70 years growth, so they are quite a bit thicker.
Some of the hills within the park borders are still covered with fir trees, not touched by the fire. In addition, some of the hills are “bald” on the top, with only bare granite. This is due to ancient glacial activity. Maine has a lot of granite. (I thought maybe it was called the “Granite State” but when I looked it up, I found out Maine’s nickname is the “Pine Tree State,” named for the white pine tree that grows here.)
Our next stop was 15 minutes, a “photo opp.” The bus pulled over to the side of the road but cars continued to go by so our guide placed himself in the middle of the road to stop cars when we wanted to cross. I took several pictures at this stop, but I didn’t go down to the rocky beach, because I was afraid of negotiating the rocky descent to get there.
Just outside the park border, we came upon this rural scene, which the guide said looked like a “Rockwell painting.”
Next we went to the Maine Lobster Museum. Mostly it was some live lobsters in tanks and a place where we could buy snacks, water and a few souvenirs. It was noon and no lunch was included on the tour, so Dale got Oreo cookies and I bought a bag of popcorn and a bottle of water.
We crowded into a room set up with metal folding chairs in long rows to listen to an old former lobsterman tell us about lobsters. Lobster traps have a hole in them big enough to let small lobsters (not fully grown) escape. The best bait for catching lobsters is herring. Someone asked why all the lobsters on display have bands around their claws. This, he said, isn’t because they could pinch humans, it’s to prevent them from pinching each other! In a confined tank, they can become cannibalistic, although they do not each other in their natural environment.
Lobsters can live up to 100 years! I wondered how old the big lobster in the tank we saw as we were coming in was. Lobster eggs take two years to hatch. They store up to 100,000 eggs, which are the size of the head of a pin. The first year, the female has the eggs inside of her body, and the second year, they are down near the tail on the outside. Therefore, she can have two batches of eggs developing at the same time!
Normally, lobsters are brown or green in color. (They become red when they are cooked.) Their shells make pigments in the primary colors (red, yellow, and blue). Occasionally, though, one might come across a blue lobster – and the old lobsterman held a blue lobster up for us to see; this is the result of a genetic mutation in which the lobster is unable to produce the red and yellow pigment which make its normal color. Other than its color, this lobster is like any other.
When we returned to Bar Harbor, we went to the campus of College of the Atlantic, which our guide said has only one major – human ecology! (This is true – I looked it up. It’s one of those experimental, “design your own curriculum” colleges.) Graduates typically earn less than high school graduates, according to him. About 200-300 students attend the college. It is notable for being completely carbon neutral – they literally recycle or compost everything they use.
We went into a building called the “Turrets” (the administration building), because of its castle-like turrets or towers. We were allowed to look around the first floor of this strong stone building, built in 1895 and because of its construction of stone, it was the only building not damaged in the 1947 fire that ravaged this area.
Decorative railing, stairwell and ceiling.
Lovely flowers and views on the back porch.
Finally, animal curiosities: jawbone of a whale leaning against a building, and the typical tourist picture of Dale and I staring out the belly of the sculpture of a buck!
I will have to return to Bar Harbor someday, as we were told about several interesting things about the town but there was no time left to stop. When we returned to the pier, there was only enough time to line up in a very long queue to take the last tender back to our ship.