Saturday, July 25, 2015


Not exactly an abandoned hiking trail, this piece is on an abandoned rail line and the story of the old Bar Harbor Express.  In Hancock they say you can still see the remains of the dock where the Mount Desert Ferry was once located.
  Not many people today even know that The Bar Harbor Express once helped get people to and from the island.  The railroad line,  The Maine Shore Line Railroad, was built by Colonel John N. Greene with financial backing from the Maine Central Railroad, and went on to become the premier passenger line in all of New England.  The train was first named the Mount Desert Limited, but would later get renamed The Bar Harbor Express.
Mount Desert Ferry Terminal - Bar Harbor Express

  The train transported passengers to the Mount Desert Ferry at Hancock Peninsula, at  McNeil Point from 1885 through the mid 1930's.  As many as seven train loads of passengers arrived each day in the summertime making the Mount Desert Ferry Terminal a very busy place.  Steamboat ferries  carried passengers 8 miles of Frenchman's Bay to the Maine Central Railroad Wharf located where today's Bar Harbor Town Pier is.  A train station and motel once  was located on Ferry Road in Hancock where train passengers would step off the train and board the Ferry which would drop off it's passengers at the terminal at the Bar Harbor pier.  Two ferries were used to transport passengers to the Bar Harbor terminal, the steamboat Sebanoa, which could haul 12, 299 passengers, and later the steamboat Sappho was added.  The ferry service thrived and in coming years stops were added to the villages of Seal Harbor, Northeast Harbor, Southwest Harbor and Manset.
  In 1911 a third ferry was added, The S.S. Moosehead, said to be a luxury liner, and later a forth ferry was added, the Rangely.
At first the Bar Harbor Express was made up of five cars, and in 1906 the Maine Central Railroad added dinning cars for passengers traveling between Portland, Maine and the Mount Desert Ferry Terminal in Hancock.
The Bar Harbor Express -

  Famous people who traveled on the Bar Harbor Express included President Benjamin Harrison, Vice-President Adlai Stevenson, and the Vanderbilrs.  But train service was not for just the wealthy, the Maine Central Railroad also ran "excursion trains" over the same tracks at a much lower fare.  These trains are said to have carried up to one thousand passengers a day to the Mount Desert Ferry Terminal, where they would take a ferry to Bar Harbor.  These less expensive trains usually began to make their runs near the end of the season, after many of the wealthy families are left the island.
The Bar Harbor Express as it might of looked had the train line reached Bar Harbor

  Two major events marked the beginning of the end for the Bar Harbor Express.  First, the laws were changed in Bar Harbor and for the first time cars were allowed to operate on the island.  Some time later the island was connected to the mainland by a bridge.  The second was World war 1 - the luxury ferry the S.S. Moosehead was taken into government service and would never return to the island.  Than in 1919 John D. Rockefeller transported family and guests to the island in five cars, and other wealthy people also began using cars instead of trains to reach the island.
  By the fall of 1931 both train and ferry service was discontinued from Mc Neil Point.  The Bar Harbor Express would on to continue to make runs, but now the train stopped at Ellsworth, Maine,  where passengers boarded buses to reach Bar Harbor.    In 1957 the train line was shortened again with the Bar harbor Express now only going as far as Bangor, Maine.  On September 5, 1960 the Bar Harbor express went out of business because automobiles and planes were now the preferred way to reach Bar Harbor and its surrounding villages.  
  Perhaps one of the darkest days for the rail line was on August 6, 1899.  A rumor went around that day that there was too many passengers for the ferry to carry and that some would not be able to make the 8 mile crossing  to Bar Harbor.  Large numbers of people rushed to the gangplank leading onto the ferry, so many people that their weight caused the gangplank to break, sending 200 people 15 feet below into the cold water.  20 people drowned before help could reach them as groups of people grabbed and hung on to one another.  It was said that many of the victims that were pulled from the water alive were unconscious and near death.
  The list of victims who lost their life that day included Murray, Mrs William, Brewer; Bridges, Irving, W. Hancock; Colson, Albert, Levant; Oakes, Mrs Alonzo P, Bangor; Summer, Miss Grace, Bangor; Murphy, Joseph, Old Town; Estey, Mrs Hollis W. Ellsworth; Cushman, Clifford, Corinth; Ward, Miss Lizzie, Bangor; Downes, Charles W. Ellsworth; Sweetser, F.E. Portland; Lank, Ora M, Danforth; Bennett, G.H, Brewer, Bennett, Mrs G.H, Brewer; Stover, Mrs Charles, Ellsworth; McCard, Melvin, Corinth; Billings, Mrs A.H, Bangor; Derwent, Mrs George, Bangor; Lewis, Miss, Hampden; Unknown woman, believed to be from Boston.

In recent developments, Downeast Rail Heritage Preservation Trust is purchasing  the old 470 locomotive that has set on display off of college Avenue in Waterville, Maine.  The city of Waterville has agreed to sell it, and the trust hopes to resotre the train back to its former glory days by once again making it an active train.  The 470 was one of the locomotives which hauled the Bar Harbor Express.  Back when my first child was born, we would take him over in the car to where the 470 was on display and enjoy a picnic before all climbing up into the locomotive.  You could look back at the coal cat that set behind it even, it was a pretty cool experience which we did many times over the years.  Now that I live in the Downeast area, it is nice to know that one day soon I will be able to ride on a train being pulled by the 470, the very engine that pulled passengers to the Mount Desert Ferry so many years ago.

Sunday, July 19, 2015



We knew from old maps an old trail once crossed  through the woods off of an old abandoned roadway.   
First, how to locate this abandoned road.  It begins directly across from the Cleftstone road on Eagle Lake Road (rt 233).

The start of it is very overgrown at the very beginning, but three or four large rocks block off the beginning of the road, so look for those large rocks.  It is also where telephone poles run all along the abandoned roadway, so the power lines and poles also tell you when your there.

Once you get behind the clump of brush, you see the abandoned road, which today looks more like a well worn foot path.  About four or five telephone poles in (pole #17) the phantom trail is located about four car lengths beyond on the left.
Cadillac Mountain North Ridge Phantom Trail -
Acadia National Park

  Its well worn and easy to find.
As you follow the main trail, which is more worn, you will come across a few minor paths, most likely deer trails, that end at dead ends, so you want to always stay right when you come to any intersection.
The path ends at an old dirt road, follow the road to the left a short ways and it connects to an official Park Trail, with the official North Ridge Hiking trail being to the right a short ways after stepping onto the official trail.

  From there we took the old road to the left, and in moments were on THE GORGE hiking trail to the left, and THE NORTH RIDGE TRAIL To the right.
North Ridge Phantom Trail - Acadia National Park

We returned back to the old road and followed that to its end.  The old road for the most part was in very good condition, easy to follow.  But just as you got near the end, where you could clearly see the abandoned road with the power lines you first came in on, the old logging road seemed to vanish before our eyes and I than knew why I had never seen it on hikes along the abandoned road.

North Ridge Phantom Trail - Acadia National Park

   In part, sections of fallen white birch and other tree branches where thrown across the end of it, helping conceal it.

North Ridge Phantom Trail - Acadia National Park
  The photo shows what I am talking about.  If you follow the direction of each section of log, they each point in the direction of an trail.  Bar Harbor's version of Stonehedge no doubt.

On the map below you can see how the Gorge Trail once began on route 233 - the Eagle Lake Road.  From there it followed an old road that is still there today, a line of telephone poles run along the old road, which is directly across from the Cliftstone road.  A section of the Cadillac North Ridge Phantom Trail was once part of the gorge Trail, and today you can still find where the gorge Trail parts from the Phantom Trail and heads over toward mountain Ave..  As you can see on the map, this section of the gorge trail, now abandoned, passed by one end of Mountain Ave, followed the side of a second street, before going off into the woods.  At an intersection the Gorge trail joined what appears to be the Kebo and "Strathlden Path." both those sections of trails also abandoned today.
A trail just before that intersection most likely was where the Gorge Trail turned, and if you followed it today, as we did, it joins a new trail recently constructed by the Park Service which connects the Cadillac North Ridge Trail to the Gorge Trail as well as the Kebo and "Strathlden Path." trail.  I have not placed the section of the Gorge Trail as it departs the Cadillac Phantom trail because a property ownert asked me to remove it, but it is enough to say the trail is easy to find and does run over to Mountain Ave, as does several other minor  foot paths.

North Ridge Phantom Trail - Acadia National Park
 The abandoned road as seen from Eagle Lake Road, route 233. 


Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Many years ago I began exploring the woods off of West Street, by the corner of Eden street, and discovered an old abandoned footbridge.  At the time I did not pay much attention to it and over the years pretty much forgot about that old stone footbridge.

Years later I came upon an old article on the Gurnee path.  It stated that the Gurnee path began on Cottage Street in Bar Harbor, cut across West Street, and ran along Eden Street before crossing the roadway, where it continued to follow Eden street, crossing Duck Brook  and continuing on to Hulls Cove.  It served to connect the village of Bar Harbor with the village of Hull's cove.
The Gurnee path did much more than simply connect two nearby villages.  A connecting trail once ran from the Gurnee path making its way up and across the Park Loop Road, than toward the general direction of Witch Hole Pond.  It came out on the Witch Hole carriage road, across from a section of wetland - that section of the trail between the loop road and the carriage road is still very visible and easy to follow.

The Gurnee Trail - Acadia National Park

The Gurnee Trail - Acadia National Park


Start of old driveway along rt. 3 Eden Street
latitude       44 24' 14" N
longitude    68 14' 3" W

stone steps
latitude       44 24' 15" N
longitude    68 14' 4" W

Worn Gurnee Trail
latitude       44 24' 15" N
longitude    68 14' 5" W

The Gurnee Trail - Acadia National Park

According to Pathmakers, the Gurnee Path began as a sidewalk in Bar Harbor, beginning on Cottage Street, this goes along with an old piece that I had read which stated that the Gurnee Path began on Cottage Street, and followed Eden Street.  The path cost about $2,000 to build and was funded through a donation by Augustus Gurnee.  In 1924 construction was begun on the path and two years later, shortly after Gurnee's death the path was completed.
If you are interested in visiting the abandoned Gurnee Trail, or at least the section that is still in good shape, head out of Bar Harbor along route 3 - Eden street in the direction of Hulls Cove.  You will pass first the Ferry Terminal and than Sonogee on the right, shortly after that the road rounds a curve before heading into Hulls Cove.  The key is that curve, just after the curve  there is an old abandoned driveway right there on the left hand side of the roadway.   I suggest you park at the Ferry terminal and walk to that driveway.  At the end of the driveway is a flat area where a building once stood.  To the left is a set of old stone steps.
Go up the stone steps, which end at a small flat area that is paved over.  Continue straight up the hillside, the Gurnee trail is about three car lengths up that hillside and you can not miss it.  Going right on the Gurnee trail takes you to the section that crosses the bluffs, going to the left takes you to the area destroyed in order to put in telephone poles.

So we returned back to the Gurnee Trail today in an effort to follow it further along up along the Bluffs, and I have to say it was pushing the limits of what I will do when it comes to following an abandoned trail.  I now feel pretty safe in saying this trail ranks as the third most dangerous trail in the entire park, but only in a few places does it become that dangerous.  We came upon stretches of the trail where the trail was three feet wide at best with sheer drop offs to our right and a wall of rock to our left.  It got so bad in one location I would not go any further and turned around.  The precipice and beehive are trails known for their narrow ledges, but the Gurnee Trail deserves a mention on that short list as well.  Today was an absolute nightmare for me because I do have a problem with heights,   and the drop offs just kept getting higher and higher above route 3 below.  And therein is the major problem with the Gurnee Trail, it sticks right up to the very edge of the hillside, and it now has become clear to  me why the Park Service has no plans of reopening this trail.
We began by arriving at the abandoned driveway and making out way to the stone steps.  At the trail, we followed it right heading toward the Bluffs.  We soon arrived to the area we had always stopped at because we could not find a way beyond that point, so today we made out way up a gully away from the trail, crossed through a short section of woods, and than made our way back down to the trail.  it worked out fine, but we did not have to go to far before we were walking very close to sheer drop offs.  At one point the trail slowly made its way away from the edge as the path became much wider, rising sharply higher as we went.  But up ahead was more dangerous drop offs and that was enough for me.

This photo above is a good example of the danger to this trail as it is today.  There are a couple of pine trees growing in the center of the trail, you can't go around them to the left, or through the center, you are forced to hang onto them and make your way past them with about a foot or less of space between the trees and the drop off on the right.  I did get past this point, but called it quits up ahead, I do not like cliffs or ledges..

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Sand Beach Trail

The Sand Beach Trail was once an official hiking trail, giving hikers at Great Head the option of continuing on to sand Beach.   I am not certain what if anything this abandoned trail was called, but locals always referred to it as the Sand Beach Trail.   Locals often used the trail to access Sand Beach for free by driving to the end of the roadway and hiking down to the beach.  In fact, as years went by, the line of cars parked along the roadway stretched for some distance.
  The Park Service didn't give it much attention until local motels, hotels, inns and campgrounds began giving their guests free maps showing how to access Sand beach for free.  Soon  long lines of parked cars became even longer along the roadway, which in turn got the parks attention.  They tried for years to get the inns, motels and campgrounds  to stop handing out free maps showing how to access sand Beach for free, some stopped giving out the maps, others continued to hand them out to their paying guests.
  Finally, some years back, the Park service abandoned the Sand Beach trail, blocking off the road near the Great Head Parking lot,  - the roadway is blocked off with signs stating cars, hikers, bikers and walkers are not allowed beyond that point.

Map of Sand Beach - Acadia National Park

 The Sand Beach Trail did more than get hikers from Great Head to sand Beach, it also connected hikers at the Great Head Trail with the Bowl and Bee Hive hiking trails.
 Near the end of the road, where the Sand Beach Trail began, the park service grows plants and such to place in areas of the park as needed.    I have only traveled this trail once since it was abandoned and saw several signs warning you not to enter on the Great Head end.  Trail was in great shape and very easy to follow at that time, but I would not be surprised to learn the Rangers have made some effort to conceal it.
  I know years ago there was a sign post just before the Sand Beach parking lot on the Park Loop Road showing where oneend of the trail began, I do plan on revisiting this area soon and doing an update.