Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Memorial Walk: Bar Harbor to Sieur de Monts

For something different I thought I'd recreate an old walk from the Bar Harbor village green to Acadia National Park's Sieur de Monts area, the latter being a popular destination from town during the formative years of the Park in the early 1900s. It is a mostly flat, 5-mile loop. Along the way you'll pass memorials and trail markers, while enjoying interesting sights in Bar Harbor and the Park. There are restrooms at Sieur de Monts. As with all woods walks, bring drinking water and bug repellant. Hats, cameras and binoculars should also be taken. Note: Portions involve walking on the edge of streets.

The walk starts at the 1906 horse trough/fountain at the southeast corner of Bar Harbor's village green. Walk west along Mt Desert St (Black on map)past the Jesup Memorial Library, a gift to Bar Harbor in 1911 by New Yorker Maria DeWitt Jesup in memory of her late husband, Morris. You'll pass three churches: the Congregational Church, since rebuilt, was the first church in Bar Harbor; St. Saviour and Holy Redeemer are named to commemorate San Sauveur, the first European settlement on the island, whose 400th anniversary will occur next year.

Make a left turn onto Kebo St (Lime). Notice on the southwest corner a stone with a memorial to Philadelphian DeGrasse Fox, an early developer of Bar Harbor. Proceed along Kebo St and at the intersection cross Cromwell Harbor Rd. The large stone on the southeast corner has the words "Jesup Path," a memorial path in honor of the Jesups. Stay on the Jesup Path (Blue)--also called here the Great Meadow Loop trail. In a short distance the path ends. You will have to walk on Kebo St, crossing over Kebo Brook. The fairways of Kebo Valley Golf Course, the eighth oldest golf course in the U.S., are on both sides of this street.  Rejoin the path in front of Holy Redeemer Cemetery. As you walk along the path, you will see the remnants of an old quarry on your right. Just beyond this point, cross Kebo St and reenter the Great Meadow Loop trail. A short distance ahead bear right at the trail post for the Jesup Path, descend the stone steps and cross the Park Loop Rd. Enter the Jesup Path. Get your binoculars ready, as this is the Great Meadow, a good venue for warblers.

Stay on the Jesup Path through the Great Meadow until it meets the gravel Hemlock Rd (Orange). Follow the Hemlock Rd to the right -- do not enter the Jesup Path boardwalk. You'll pass a trail post on the right and an engraved stone with the words "Strath Eden Path," an 1890s path out of Bar Harbor, which was officially called Eden until 1918; strath is Scottish Gaelic for river valley. Continuing on the Hemlock Rd you'll pass a trail post on the right with the words "Homans Path" (see an earlier blog article). Turn right just after it and rejoin the Jesup Path (opposite the boardwalk). Cross the wooden bridge and in a few feet turn right at the Jesup Path trail post.

On the right you'll pass stone steps and a trail post for the "Emery Path," a memorial path to Cincinnatian John Emery, who built the massive granite Turrets cottage in 1895 on what is now the College of the Atlantic campus. To your left is the white Sieur de Monts spring house; Bostonian George Dorr, the "Father of Acadia National Park," purchased the land in 1909 to preserve the spring. Continue straight ahead and cross the rustic wooden bridge. On the right is the native-American Abbe Museum, founded in 1928 by New Yorker Dr. Robert Abbe who was likely the first U.S. physician to use radium for cancer treatment.

Cross the gravel road and continue to The Tarn, a pond in the process of converting itself into a marsh. Near the outflow are four memorials on the right. The first you come upon is the memorial plaque for the Jesups. The next is the engraved sixth step on the entrance to the Kurt Diederich Climb memorial path, a Marylander who suffered early tragedies. Just beyond it is a stone marking the start of the memorial Kane Path and a few feet beyond it is a memorial plaque to New Yorker John Kane for whom the path was named.

Return to The Tarn's outflow and cross the 10 stepping stones. Make an immediate left at the trail post onto the Wild Garden Path (Brown) and return to Sieur de Monts to the Nature Center building. You are now heading back to Bar Harbor. Behind the Nature Center is a memorial to George Dorr. Cross the wooden bridge in front of the Nature Center and at the entrance to the botanical Wild Gardens of Acadia. Make an immediate right at the trail post pointing to the Jesup Path and proceed straight until you come to the boardwalk. Take the boardwalk, which is the newly-rehabilitated Jesup Path, to its end and make an immediate right onto the Hemlock Rd. Continue along it, binoculars at the ready, to its end at the boulders and the Park Loop Rd.

Cross the road and turn right onto the Great Meadow Loop trail (Green). The golf course is on the left. Just beyond the path's bridge is Ledgelawn Ave. Cross it and reenter the Great Meadow Loop trail at the trail post. The trail returns to Ledgelawn Ave. Turn right and walk along the road until you reenter the Great Meadow Loop trail at the signpost and wooden bridge on the left. Continue on the trail. A cemetery will be on your left. Whistle, if you like. When you come to the boulders and Cromwell Harbor Rd, turn left and proceed to the entrance of Ledgelawn Cemetery. Just inside the cemetery to the left is the large, white horizontal gravestone of George McMurtry, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism with the famed WW I "Lost Battalion." Cross the road and enter Spring St (Red).  Follow it back to Mt Desert St. Turn right and continue to this walk's end at the village green. Phew. You've earned yourself a delicious, locally-made ice cream!

For those interested in using GPS, here are the coordinates of the memorials and path markers mentioned:
1-Village Green fountain/horse trough: N44° 23.261'  W068° 12.270'
2-Jesup Memorial Library: N44° 23.233'  W068° 12.386'
3-DeGrasse Fox memorial: N44° 23.175'  W068° 12.811'
4-Jesup Path stone: N44° 22.715'  W068° 12.835'
5-Strath Eden Path stone: N44° 21.997'  W068° 12.765'
6-Homans Path entrance: N44° 21.781'  W068° 12.548'
7-Emery Path entrance: N44° 21.695'  W068° 12.513'
8-Abbe Museum: N44° 21.662'  W068° 12.475'
9-Jesup, Diederich, Kane memorials: N44° 21.512'  W068° 12.425'
10-George Dorr memorial: N44° 21.721'  W068° 12.466'

Note: For a compact and informative guide of Bar Harbor you might wish to get Betty Massie's Self-Guided Walking Tour of Historic Bar Harbor.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Curran Path - a Once Long and Lovely Walk

At the northwest corner of Eagle Lake, about three miles west of Bar Harbor's village green, there is a cove, almost touching Eagle Lake Road/Route 233. It is known locally as "Nick's Cove."

The topmost corner of the cove was once the start of a trail referred to as the Curran Path. It came into existence about 1885 and started on property owned by the Currans. It ran south along the west side of Eagle Lake, turned west to skirt Conners Nubble and entered a valley called the Southwest Pass between Sargent Mountain and The Bubbles. There it joined a woods road and continued south to the northwest end of Jordan Pond for an overall distance of 2.8 miles. From here a hiker could continue around Jordan Pond, perhaps to enjoy popovers and tea at the Jordan Pond House at its south end. For those wishing a more strenuous outing, alternative destinations were the summits of Sargent, Penobscot, Pemetic or The Bubbles. Others seeking a lengthy but easier hike could continue to Seal Harbor via the Seaside Path or Northeast Harbor via the Asticou Trail.

1887 Map of Mount Desert Island
showing Curran House and Lake House
The name Nick's Cove is a reference to Nicholas F. Curran (1840-1901). He and his wife Mary Harris (Ellison) (1839-1917), who married in 1871, were from Bangor, Maine, where Mary was born and where she worked for many years as a librarian for the Bangor Public Library. Nicholas had emigrated from Ireland in 1855. They purchased two acres of land abutting the cove in 1884. The Curran Path likely assumed its name from the Curran's property over which it passed.  On the property were a stable, shop and house, which the Currans operated as a small hotel, aptly named the Curran House.*1  A short walk to the east and near the Eagle Lake outlet was the Lake House.*2  The Currans ran both as places to stay, dine and hire equipment or guides to enjoy the lake. Fire destroyed the Lake House in 1891. By 1896 Nicholas was the proprietor of a second Curran House, a small hotel on Main Street near the wharf in downtown Bar Harbor. In 1902 Mary Curran, now a widow, sold the property to Frank Brewer, who sold it to the Bar Harbor Water Company in 1915. The very next day, the water company conveyed the property to the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations with the provision that nothing would ever be built or maintained upon it, out of its interest to protect the purity of Bar Harbor's water supply.

Lake House
Courtesy: Maine Historic Preservation Commission
It is interesting to note that Nicholas complained to the Bar Harbor Water Company in 1897 about the loss of his property shoreline due to the higher water level following the company's construction of the dam at the lake's north end. The lost property extended to a depth of 47 feet. The BHWC built the dam about 1895, which raised the lake's natural water level as much as three feet.

Acadia National Park stopped maintaining the Curran Path in the 1950s, and it is now mostly untraceable. There are interesting stone steps, however, alongside the lake's edge due east of Carriage Road Post 9 near the path's north entrance.*3  The Curran Path first appeared on 1896 maps compiled by Waldron Bates, Edward L. Rand and Herbert Jaques. The last map to display the whole path from Nick's Cove to Jordan Pond was the 1941 Path and Road Map of the Eastern Part of Mount Desert Island, revised and published by William Jay Turner.*4  The 1942 Topographic Map - Acadia National Park and Vicinity showed the start of the path about 0.6 mile south of its original beginning. Perhaps the rise in water level, which aggravated Curran, obliterated the north section of the path. It does not appear construction of the carriage road affected this section. The 1961 Appalachian Mountain Club Map of Mount Desert Island reprised the complete path, but described it as "condition unknown or abandoned."

It is easy to imagine the Curran Path as a long and lovely woods walk joining two beautiful lakes. Maybe, some day, the Park will reopen it for our enjoyment.

Postscript: Nicholas and Mary Curran are buried in Bangor's Mount Hope Cemetery.

1  Curran House GPS location: N44° 22.614'  W068° 15.246'
2  Lake House GPS location (approx.): N44° 22.590'  W068° 14.787' Near the Lake House people could board the stern-wheeler Wauwinet for a cruise down Eagle Lake to catch the cog railway to the summit of Green Mountain (renamed Cadillac Mountain). The Green Mountain Railway went out of business in 1890, a year before the Lake House burned.
3  Stone steps GPS location: N44° 22.572'  W068° 15.165'
4  Turner was the Northeast Harbor Village Improvement Society path committee chairman from 1921-46.