Sunday, September 6, 2015


The Precipice Trail was built more than thirty years before the Park Loop Road was built.  It trail was designed and built by Bar Harbor VIA  path chairman Rudolph Brunnow, whose home was The High Seas, located along the Schooner Head Road.  He would later construct the Black and Orange trail which included The Hanging Steps.

To attract hikers to his new trails  Rudolph Brunnow did two things, he constructed the Murphy's Lane trail, which was abandoned by the Park Service but reopened in recent years, and than he constructed his boldest trail, The Great Cave trail, a loop which began on the lower section of the Precipice trail, ran up through a boulder field to the woods higher up, where a dirt trail was made up steep grade to The Great Cave, which runs about a hundred feet into the mountain side.

From the cave,  Rudolph Brunnow continued his Great Cave loop by having the trail continue up the mountainside, at one point passing over a metal bridge, before rejoining the Precipice trail higher up the mountain side.  This trail was endorsed by the VIA as a way to attract more hikers to the main trail, the Precipice. 
For many years the Great Cave Loop and the Hanging Steps were popular hiking trails, but than the Park Service decided to abandon them, so today the only way you can access these great trails is by using old maps and getting information from websites that deal in abandoned trails in Acadia National Park, and there are several that do just that.

The Black and Orange trail was later renamed by the Park Service to the East Face Trail, but in recent years it's original name was restored back to the Black and Orange.  The Murphy's Lane trail was also reopened in recent years, but the section of Black and Orange trail that led to the Hanging steps, as well as the Great Cave Loop remain abandoned.
The old Red Path was built along the Schooner Head Road, also before the Park Loop  Road was built.  It ran all the way up to the Schooner Head Overlook.  This Trail would also be abandoned by the Park Service, but in recent years it was reopened, but renamed the Schooner Head Trail. Plans had called for the Red Trail to be connected to the Ocean Drive Trail, but plans to extent the Red Trail were abandoned when a new section of the Park Loop Road was built.
The High Seas was the home of Rudolph Brunnow.  It was built in 1912 by Princeton professor Rudolph Brunnow as a wedding present for his fiancĂ©e.   She was from England and would never see her new home because she was on the Titanic when it sank.  Not long afterwards he laid out his plans for some of his most famous hiking trails, including the Precipice Trail.
There are old reports that say because his estate was surrounded by such  tragedy the area around it is haunted, and this may very well be true.  Just consider for a moment the number of people who have been lured to his popular trails and who have fallen to their deaths, not to mention the countless injures from bad falls just like Rudolph Brunnow had.
Perhaps one of the most tragic deaths on his most popular trail, the Precipice, took place in the mid 1800's.  Two 12 year old school girls headed down the Schooner head road, passing by the property of Rudolph Brunnow, when one decided they should try and climb up the side of the Precipice to see if they could view a relative's farm from up high.  The two girls got about three fourth's of the way up the Precipice when one of the girls, Lucreatia K. Douglass, decided to stand on a large boulder for a better view.  Her 12 year old friend soon decided to join her on the boulder, when the large rock gave way, tossing her friend to the side and carrying Lucreatia K. Douglass down the cliff to her death.
Lucreatia K. Douglass

As if the story was not bad enough, she was buried in a small cemetery on Mount Desert Street in downtown Bar Harbor, than named Eden, between two churches.  The family was poor and could not afford a stone, so for many years she lay buried beneath an unmarked grave.  The family did return to the site where on the Precipice where body had come to rest and they placed a small wooden cross at the site.  Many years later her brother returned to Bar Harbor and bought his sister a stone, the very stone that marks her grave today.  She may of very well have been the youngest person to fall to her death from the Precipice.  I did check with the park service years ago and was told they don't keep such records.

Abandoned Trails of Acadia - The Devil's Triangle

Maybe it has nothing to do with the tragedy that surrounds Rudolph Brunnow, but I can tell you with certainty that on those occasions when I have been up on the Precipice or in the area of his other trails along there, and the fog is just coming in off the sea, you can almost sense the presence of that young girl, and some believe her spirit haunts the Precipice to this day.

Back in the year 1916, Edward P. Beckwith, along with Prof. Rudolph Brunnow  and others, made their way to an area above the Orange and Black Trail, cheecking out an area they wanted to built another trail in the near future.  At one point Mr. Beckwith placed a hand on a rock formation, which gave way with little warning, carrying Mr Beckwith some 50 feet below.  When the others reached his side they found him to be in great pain and nearly knocked senseless.  One of the children in the group was sent rushing back to the Brunnow Cottage to summons a doctor and a stretcher was brought in from town.  Ropes were used to lower the stretcher down the mountain side to the Orange and Black path below.  From there the stretcher was carried down to the roadway and Mr Beckwith was taken to the Brunnow Cottage.  He did have injuries, but nothing life threatening, and after a slow and painful period  was able to make a full recovery.


The High Seas stood empty for years until Eva Van Cortland Hawkes purchased the estate in 1928.  Shortly after purchasing High Seas her only daughter died.  She tried to remain at High Seas but insisted the place was haunted, especially at night when the fog came in off the sea.  She became so afraid at one point she hired a night watchman to guard the house while she slept.  It was Hawkes who had the name changed to High Seas, the estate was first named Meadow Brook by Rudolph Brunnow.  She herself would die at High Seas years later. After her death the property was taken over by Jackson Labs.
There are old accounts that go way back of the area surrounding the Precipice and the High Seas that state the area is haunted. Some old reports claim mysterious lights have been seen at night over the High Seas.  The spirits of lost souls will not allow that area to lie at peace.
It brings back the night I was walking the Park Loop road, having just come off the Champlain North Ridge Trail.  It had just become dark when we heard footsteps behind us.  My son turned with flashlight in hand to see this young man jogging up behind us.  He said he worked at Jackson Lab and asked if we had hiked Champlain Mountain.  I told him we had just come down from it and he stated that tomorrow evening he was going to hike up the Precipice trail.
I remember warning him of how dangerous that trail was and to be careful and he went off into the darkness continuing his jog.
The next evening i was setting at home when I heard that a worker at Jackson Lab had not come home that evening and that his wife was worried about him.  I thought of that young man from the night before and wondered if it was him.  Search and Rescue teams searched for him all that night, the next day they found his body - he had fallen from one of the narrow cliffs on the Precipice trail.