Monday, November 17, 2014


The story of the Great Cave begins with the building of the Precipice Trail, designed and built by Rudolph Brunnow, a man who was famous for constructing difficult and challenging trails.  When faced with the prospect of constructing a trail up the side of the Precipice, he was faced with a real challenge, but one he readily took on.
But once the precipice was constructed, Rudolph Brunnow was faced with perhaps as big of a challenge as the building of the trail itself - how does one attract people to a trail that was on a less popular area of the Park?  The task now facing him was coming up with a way to do just that, and his plan involved building a series of trails in the area of the Precipice.
Other supporting trails he built was the Orange and Black Trail, The Beehive trail, the Murry Lane Path, and the red Trail, today renamed the Schooner Head Trail.  But he still needed a main attraction, and thus he sought  permission and got it to construct a loop trail up to the Great Cave.  The Great Cave loop began around the same area where the Orange and black trail connect to the Precipice Trail today.  It follows a boulder field upward toward the woods, and just inside the woods the well worn Trail continues up to the entrance of the Great Cave.
Abandoned Trails of Acadia - The great Cave
Off to one side of the cave, and you do have to look for it, is a hidden stairway leading up above the cave, where it comes to cliffs.  There is a metal bridge and iron hand rails to help you along the narrow cliffs, and the loop ends at the base of where the Ladders begin up the official precipice Trail.
It was David Schortmann who went out and located and documented the Great Cave, he had found half of the missing Great Cave Loop, and I wrote how we now need some one to locate the other half of the loop.  Not long after I was contacted by Nick Thorndike, who had discovered the nearly hidden stairway and send me a photo of it.  So we now had the complete Great Cave Trail documented.  The finishing touch came when I got an email from Zhanna Galas who went up and got us the GPS numbers for the site.
  As you can see, like minded adventurers play a key role in uncovering some of these abandoned trails, and for them we are very thankful, because without their efforts some of these trails would remain lost to this day.  Not in this book nor on the website do we name everyone because for various reasons some do not want their name made public, so rather we know their names or not, we own them a big thank you.
Rudolph Brunnow was a master trail builder, as anyone who has climbed or walked his trails will attest to.  But he never could of seen the day coming, long after his death, that the Park Service would take aggressive moves and close down some of his greatest works.  The Great Cave Loop trail was abandoned, as was a nearby other trail he constructed.  Nearly half the Orange and black trail was also abandoned and the Schooner Head road red trail was also abandoned.  Rudolph Brunnow had plans to extend the red Trail from Schooner head up to the area of sand beach, to connect it to the Ocean shore path - for whatever reason those plans never came to be.

Abandoned Trails of Acadia - old map of Great Cave
In an old book at the COA I came across a piece on the Great cave, way back when I first began to search for its location.  It stated the Great cave was one of the worlds great wonders, and that the mouth of the cave was 100 feet high and 100 feet wide, and ran about 100 feet back into the mountain side.  The piece went on to say the cave was so large one could fit a plane inside it, which if true would really make for a really Great cave.  Perhaps one could fit a plane inside the Great cave, providing one carried it up there in pieces.  Not to say that the cave isn't great, because everyone who has been to it agree, it is indeed a Great cave and worth the hike.
It is worth noting that even though the Great cave no longer appears on trail maps, it is still very much there.  As trails are abandoned, the park service asks map makers to remove them from future maps, thus todays maps do not show abandoned sites like the Great Cave, Anemone Cave, The Bear's Den, the Hanging Steps, the Gurnee trail and other abandoned sites.

GPS for The Great Cave
Talus Slope along Precipice Trail
44.349697 - 68.189670
Split with Official Precipice Trail
44.349656 - 68.189792
First Sign of Trail in woods
44.349473 - 68.190019
Stone Steps to Cave
44.349164 - 68.190296
The great Cave
44.349101 - 68.190362
(supplied by Zhanna Galas)


Stone Steps - Great Cave Trail - Acadia National Park - photo submitted by Nick Thorndike

George B. Dorr, in honor of the work crew that helped build the Precipice Trail, built a miniature version of the Precipice trail by Glen Mary Park in downtown Bar Harbor.  It was on a cliff with ladders, metal bridges  and iron rings so people could go there and practice before attempting to hike the real thing.  There are no signs of this mini Precipice today.





Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home