Friday, April 22, 2016


I have been going to Compass Harbor for many years and had never once considered it to be an abandoned trail, but it is in fact just that.  I only recently learned that the Park Service wants as few people as possible visiting the area of Compass Harbor, which explains why for all these years there has never been a sign there.  The park did disclose that there is an ongoing debate over just what, if anything, should be done with Compass Harbor.


 An excerpt taken from a newspaper story recently read, "A “cultural landscape assessment” of the former Bar Harbor estate of George Dorr, a founder of Acadia National Park and its first superintendent, will be conducted to find and inventory remnants of the main house, outbuildings, gardens and other significant features."
The newspaper story goes on to say, " The privately funded landscape assessment will help Acadia officials make decisions about the future management and protection of the property."

Some who are in the loop on this want Compass Harbor to remain just as it is - unmarked and hard to locate if you don't happen to be from this area.  Others want the site marked and brought in line with the parks other official trails, while others are pushing for the Park Service to erect some type of memorial to George B. Dorr at the site, which was once the home of Old Farm - the George B. Dorr estate.  It is worth pointing out that Mr. Dorr is often referred to as the Father of Acadia National Park.  I am in the later group, for if it was not for Mr Dorr's efforts and money there most likely would not be an Acadia National Park.
Even though Compass Harbor is a small area in the National Park, there is a lot there to see and explore.  For one thing Compass Harbor is home to not one but two beaches, the smaller beach being the most popular with the locals.  There is also an area some call Lookout Point where you can go to and watch huge cruise ships as the approach or depart from Bar Harbor, as well as see working lobster boats and sail boats pass by.  The smaller beach lies in the shadow of Dorr Point with high steep cliffs over looking it.


And than there's the foundation of Old farm itself, the name of the Dorr estate, perched up on a hill top with old towering tree's all around it.  If you find Compass Harbor you will have no problem finding the site of Old Farm - the trail is well worn.  Exploring off the worn trail you can find areas of old stone work that were once park of Mr Dorr's gardens, as well as one or two other foundations that were most likely where the servants quarters were located.


The main trail itself pretty much does a loop through the woods and along the ocean with a very long section of stone steps leading uphill to the site of Old Farm.  I had always thought that was the only area with long stone steps, but the other day I located a second set of stone steps which lead down to the area of the larger beach - though this second pathway is not well worn and not so easy to find.

Abandoned Trails of Acadia - Compass Harbor Trail

At one point you come to the only trail marker at Compass Harbor, which marks the start or end of the Schooner Head Trail.  Many years ago I believe this trail was called the Red Trail.  Follow this trail a short ways and it crosses the Old Farm Road and enters the woods on the other side.  To your right you will see a body of water through the tree's, when Mr Dorr was alive this was known as Dorr Pond and on some old maps is labeled as such.  Some of my best duck photos have been shot from the high banking overlooking Dorr Pond.  There is a large fallen tree which nearly cuts the pond in half and wild ducks like to nap in the sun along that area.


If you follow the Schooner Head trail onward it comes out onto the Schooner Head road, and continues on to Schooner Head Overlook.  A narrow paved trail from the Parking lot there leads down to high cliffs overlooking the ocean, and just below those cliffs is Anemone Cave, which can only be entered at low tide.  Over the years I have read and heard about people being trapped in this old sea cave and drowning and for years I tried to find some documentation  on this.  Recently I did find an old newspaper article of just such a case where two students from a local college entered the cave and got trapped in it, one narrowly escaped and the other drowned - I have the story posted on my blog DEATHS IN ACADIA NATIONAL PARK.

Back to compass Harbor, like I said, if your not from the area it can be a bit tricky to find, as it is unmarked.  Even the parking lot is tiny and only fits a few cars and it is hidden somewhat from the main road by tree's and brush.  As your driving along Main Street in Bar Harbor heading toward Otter Creek, you will pass the Grand Motel, the Bar Harbor YMCA and the town ball fields - all on the right.  The road rounds a corner and heads down a section of flat roadway, but just as the road begins to go uphill, to the left look for a tiny parking area on the left, it is unmarked and that is the start of Compass Harbor.  If you drive pass the Old Farm road, the Schooner Head Road or the Jackson Labs complex, you went too far.
To the far right corner of the unmarked parking lot is the start of an unmarked trail, that is the Compass Harbor Trail.
Below I will post a few other photos we took the other day at Compass Harbor.

With all of its beauty and wildlife, along with its historic value, one has to wonder why the national Park Service refuses to acknowledge George B. Dorr with some type of monument, after all, the man often referred to as the Father Of Acadia national Park deserves to have the ground he called home acknowledged in some fashion.  Without Mr. Dorr's vision, and more importantly, leadership and money, Acadia national Park may very well never come to be.


Update;  the meetings are through, and as one who has stood off to the side and watched the park operate for a number of years, their ruling came as no surprise - the area of compass harbor will remain as being treated as an abandoned area of the park.  No monument to the Parks founder will be erected, the tiny parking lots will remain as they are, unmarked and hard to find.  In fact, in part of the parks statement they said they want as few people as possible visiting the area of Compass Harbor.
It is sad and tragic at the same time that the man responsible for creating the park is so snubbed by them.  One only has to look at history to see the actions the park service has taken to help eradicate him from the history of the park.  The evidence is overwhelming,  we have the parks recent decision to keep Compass harbor as it currently is, treated like an abandoned site in the park.  Than there is Mr. Dorr's once famous bike path, a path he was often seen riding his bike along, abandoned as well.  And the Park Service dug up and moved Dorr's famous wild gardens to the site they are currently located in.  Those gardens were seen as a treasure to Mr Dorr, whose mother attended to them nearly daily, and it was the time and care she put into the gardens that had made them so well known from near and far.
Mr. Dorr's named the spring at Sieur de Monts spring "The Sweet waters of Acadia," and had that name engraved on a huge stone.  While it is true the stone can still be located if you are looking for it, clearly the park service placed it where most visitors would not see it.
I dare say that Mr. Dorr must be turning over in his grave to see how the park service he helped create has treated the very locations in the park the way they have, sites he loved with a passion and deeply cared for.
The time has come and is long over due for the park service to honor George B. Dorr with a monument at Compass harbor.  Stop trying to hide the past and instead embrace it.
A little bit of credit has to be given to the National Park Service, as on my last visit to Compass Harbor I found they had put up a sign giving a little information on Old Farm and George B. Dorr.  The sign is in the woods, near the start of the Compass Harbor Trail.  The parking lot remains unmarked and easy to miss unless your looking for it.   While it is not a monument, I guess one could say it is a baby step in that direction.






Saturday, April 2, 2016


We had thought this was the Old Buckboard Road that ran up Green Mountain, today called Cadillac Mountain, which competed with the Green Mountain Railroad company to get people to the summit of the Mountain.  I am not so sure this was the buckboard road, in part because old maps show the Buckboard road running much closer to the North ridge trail.  This is way too far down the mountain side and I tend to believe this may of at one time have been an old survey road which was said to have been built in this area.  This road is not too hard to locate and is in very good shape making it fairly easy to follow.

start of one way section of Park Loop Road

As your traveling along the park loop road, you want to pull over and park in the area where the One Way section of the Park Loop Road begins.   Now walk down the one way section, keeping to the right hand side of the roadway for a short ways, until you come to a storm  drain - it also has a very large rock in front of it just inside the woods which can easily be seen from the roadway (see photo).

storm drain with large rock

From the storm drain walk straight into the woods about 2 to 3 car lengths and you come to the old road.    Back than, you had only two options to go up Cadillac Mountain, by way of train, or by way of the Buckboard Road which required you pay a fee to the owners of the road, who were not connected to the railroad company.


So once you enter the woods at that storm drain and come to the old road, it will go in two directions, one to the left leads you back in the direction of the North Ridge trail, with the old road coming out onto the Park Loop Road just before a curve in the roadway,  and a short distance beyond that curve is the parking area for the north ridge Trail.  And if you do go left, the further you go the tire marks get harder to follow.

That is not the case if you go right, the tire grooves in the earth remain easy to see, and dispite some small tree's and brush growing up in the roadway here and there, the road is almost perfectly straight.  The road was pretty wet when we hiked it, and we had to often step around wet areas, and a few places where it crossed sections of smooth granite, the granite was some what slippery.

So here at last we have the GPS numbers;

Intersection where One Way section of Park Loop Road begins;
N 44 22 522
W 068 14 041

From intersection to storm culvert with large rock
N 44 22 640
W 068 13 964

From culvert to dirt road in woods
N 44 22 629
W 068 13 944

Follow road to the right to connect to the Cadillac Summit Road.

large cave size storm drain, Cadillac Mountain Summit Road

The hike is not too long and it comes out onto the lower section of the Cadillac Summit Road by a large storm drain big enough to qualify for a cave.
Just as a side note, the old Buckboard Road was once the scene of holdup's, with a gunman nick named the Gentleman Bandit holding up passing buckboards and demanding watches, rings and money from the men.  He got the name Gentleman Bandit because he did not rob from the women.  At one time a reward of $5,000 was placed on his head but he was never captured.
From the above map you can see the route the Buckboard road took - as far as I known of there was three  roads built to the summit of Cadillac Mountain, the old Buckboard Road, a survey Road and the current Summit road, the Survey road joins the Summit road at about a quarter of the way up the Summit road..
One thing we do know is that when the Green Mountain Railroad was operating the cog train up to the summit of Cadillac Mountain, the Buckboard road was also operating at the same time, carrying paying customers up to the summit by way of horse drawn buckboards.  I have read a piece by the park service which stated there is only one known old map that shows a road up Green mountain that has the words "Buckboard Road" written on it - I have not seen that map but would love to get my hands on a copy of it.

The above map dates back to the days when the Green Mountain Railroad was running - note the motel at the summit.  So the road leading to the summit in this map is clearly the Buckboard Road, since the owners of the Buckboard road were at war with the owners of the Railroad company.