Friday, November 21, 2014

THE GREEN MOUNTAIN RAILROAD PATH

Once upon a time, as the children's story goes, "There was a little train that could."  Well, in the 1800's there was just such a train, and it was called the Green Mountain Railway.  It was a small cog train that ran from one end of Eagle Lake up to the summit of green Mountain- renamed later to Cadillac Mountain.  The company would go bankrupt and the rails and tracks were torn up and sold, but the railroad spikes had to remain in place because they had been driven so deep into the granite of Cadillac Mountain they could not be removed.  And though accounts state all of the rail was removed, this is not the case, one sole section of rail remains in place on the side of Cadillac Mountain.  The path the train took remained very popular with hikers for many years after that, until it was abandoned by the park.
Cadillac Mountain - Green Mountain Railroad Path - Acadia National Park


The Green Mountain Railroad - Acadia National Park

  It took me a few years of searching for it off and on, and one afternoon we ended up tripping over a railroad spike in the brush.  That's how I located it, anyways.  One big problem was that on Google Books, one account states it knows the location of the lost trail, and than goes on to give the wrong  information. 
Once the railroad company went out of business, and all but one section of rail was removed, people still  hiked along the train route to reach the summit of Cadillac Mountain.  It was treated for many years there after as if it had been an official trail.  But over the years the wide path through the woods and up the mountain side slowly began to become overgrown, and partly through park efforts, branches and tree limbs found their way onto the trail, so the once popular hiking route began to fade away.  Amazingly, after all these years of neglect, the trail is still in pretty good condition, marked along much of the route by railroad spikes sticking up out of the granite.  The trail is easiest to locate along the Park loop road, and begins in the woods on a knoll about half way between the Cadillac Summit Road and Bubble Pond.  On a calm day you can hear the rushing waters of a nearby stream.


The Green Mountain Railroad - Acadia National Park

Once in the woods and up the knoll, the path is at an angle to the left, there is usually a tiny rock pile by a railroad spike, and the ground there will be worn down as it leads up into the woods.  There are very few railroad spikes on this end, but there should be a rock pile here and there, and the further you go the more worn the trail becomes.  At a couple places the trail may seem to end, just keep in mind for the most part, the train tracks ran in a straight line, turning direction only once, so if the trail seems to end at a tree or two, simply look on the other side of the tree's, and the trail will be right there.
Now there is one spot o the lower end where there is a section of brush you have to cross, walk straight ahead in the same direction you were walking.  Not far ahead of this section is one of the surprises you will come upon - a section of railroad bed built up along a rising cliff.  Once you get there, the trail is really easy to follow because now more and more railroad spikes can be seen.  It is also at this point the trail begins to get very slippery in places - I suggest you wear something with good footing.  The granite is covered with moss made slippery from over flowing waters from a nearby brook.  The Trail also begins to climb more here.  Up through and under some tree's, and your not far from the next surprise.




The surprise is walking through a line of tree's and suddenly seeing that lovely piece of rail that is still on the mountain side.  At this point everywhere you look you see piles of rusting railroad spikes, the few they did manage to remove, and than simply left behind in small piles.
Here the trail slopes upward some more, and at first the granite appears to be safe to cross - but in all the times I have hiked this trail, this area is more slippery than any before it.    From here the trail enters and exits the woods a few more times, before the granite gives way to dirt, and the trail is very easy to follow without the aid of spikes.  But just when you think things are going to good, the trail suddenly ends by thick brush and woods.  Clearly the brush has grown up over the trail here and it can't be seen again.  At this point your not very far from the Cadillac Mountain Summit road - either walk straight ahead for a short ways until you come to the summit road, or wait until you hear a passing car and walk toward its sound.
Cadillac Mountain Railroad Spikes - Acadia national Park
At this point you can either go right and follow the summit road a short distance to the summit of Cadillac Mountain, or turn and head left down the summit road to the park loop road.  Once at the park loop road, turn left, and head for the second pull over where you parked.



They say the hike is a moderate one, and I would agree, I would also warn anyone attempting it that the trail can be very slippery in places and I know of one hiker who slipped and banged up their knee. 
In days gone by, the train went beyond this point, not much beyond, to where a tavern was located on the summit.

Green Mountain Railroad Trail - Acadia National Park



The bottom section has now also been located, though its no way close as scenic as the upper portion.  It is however well hidden.  We located the beginning point of the lower section by crossing the Park Loop Road and making our way down the embankment directly across from knoll where the upper section begins.  You only need to go down into the brush a short ways not far from that stream to locate a gully, if you follow the gully you will soon discover railroad spikes as you make your way down toward Eagle Lake and its carriage road.   At the start of the gully we found several fallen tree's and branches, but walked around that first section and went down into the gully.  We followed it down hill and came upon a number of places where we found old railroad spikes sticking up out of the granite.  At one point the gully comes closer to a nearby stream and we crossed over to it and found a nice little water fall.  The gully soon ends and from there you can see the eagle Lake carriage road, the lake, and just to the right a wooden bridge on the carriage road.
Sadly we found no evidence of railroad spikes near the lake edge, nor any sign of an old pier, but after searching for a long time, it was nice to finally be able to add the lower section to the upper section of this once very popular hiking trail.






VIDEO OF THE GREEN MOUNTAIN RAILROAD TRAIL 



 HISTORY OF THE GREEN MOUNTAIN RAILROAD


A DEATH ON NEWPORT MOUNTAIN

Back in 1853 there was no Acadia National Park here, and the town of Bar Harbor back than was called Eden.  But even back than locals made their way to the precipice on the side of Champlain Mountain, and made their way up to a popular spot on the side of the Precipice known as The Great Cave.  The cave was a popular picnic site.  In those days Champlain Mountain was named Newport Mountain.

The Precipice - Acadia National Park

Now if you have read about this tragic accident on here in the past, you will now find new information which I recently came upon from a man who is recalling the tragic accident 5o years later.  For the first time missing gaps have now been filled in on this story.
The date was Aug. 3, 1853  and wild blueberries were ripe for the picking.  The men and boys that day took off to do some fishing, and the women and girls decided to hike over in the direction of Newport (now named Champlain) Mountain to do some blueberry picking.  Two of the young girls in the group that day were Lucreatia K. Douglas, who was just shy of being 12 years old,  and Almira Conners, who were neighbors with Conners living  in the Zack Bijar Higgins house at Cromwell Harbor, not far from where the George B. Dorr estate was, and Miss Douglass living in the old house which was on the spot in which Gardiner Sherman first built his house.  Once up the side of Newport Mountain, the group had a picnic and than continued to look for blueberries.  The main group than started back down the mountain side, but the two girls remained behind, saying they wanted to continue to look for more blueberries.  At some point the two girls made their way close to the edge of a cliff, one account says  Lucreatia stepped upon a large boulder to see if she could see a relatives farmhouse below on Schooner Head Road, when  12 year old Almira Conners  climbed up on the boulder as well, and the huge boulder suddenly gave way.
The other account is that both girls spotted a patch of blueberries and raced toward them, not realizing just how close to the edge of the cliff they were, and both girls fell over the cliff.  It was a tragic accident regardless of which version took place, but I believe the first version might be correct, because a huge boulder was found on top of  Lucreatia K. Douglas body and had to be removed in order to get her body down off the mountain.
When I first  read of this accident it stated the other girl had been thrown off to the side with minor injures, but in this man's memory, he writes that while   Lucreatia had been crushed by a large boulder at the bottom of the cliff, a large tree spared the life of   Almira Conners , its branches catching her.  She did end up with a broken arm and a number of cuts and bruises and lay caught up in the tree top all that evening and night.
The following day, a farmer was out preparing to mow hay when he heard far off cries and went to investigate.  He was shocked when he arrived at the location and saw the figure of a young girl caught high up in the trees branches and went for help.

Lucreatia K. Douglass
For many years as I found out more and more about this accident on Newport Mountain, I had always thought the accident took place at the Great Cave or very close to it.  And books and articles talk about only one spot on the side of Newport Mountain where people went to for picnics, and that is the Great Cave.  And on an old map I came across once there was an X marked just above the Great Cave and stated, "Where the young girl fell to her death'"

Map of The Precipice - Acadia Nation al Park
The man recounts how the women returned back to compass Harbor, believing the two girls would soon show up.  As evening came on, than darkness, a search party was rounded up and headed out toward the area of the great Cave, but using touches, they were not able to find the girls.  They returned home and were about to go out the following morning when word reached them of the tragedy.                                          
The family of Lucreatia was poor and could not afford to purchase a headstone for their daughter, who lay in an unmarked grave for years between two churches along mount Desert Street in Bar Harbor Maine.  It was said that the family did go up near the spot where their daughter had died and placed a small wooden cross at the location.
In all the deaths in Acadia National Park that have taken place on the Precipice, this one is perhaps the safest for me, simply because the victim was only 12 years old, which also makes her the youngest person to have fallen to their death off the Precipice.
Lucreatia's brother did return back to town some years later and purchased a headstone for his sister, and the headstone tells part of the story of his sister's death.  That headstone is located between two churches in a tiny graveyard almost across the street from the Jesup Library on Mount Desert Street.


TRAGEDY ON NEWPORT MOUNTAIN video

DEATHS IN ACADIA NATIONAL PARK

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

STORY OF THE GREAT CAVE OF ACADIA NATIONAL PARK

 THE GREAT CAVE AND SECRET OATHS

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 it, 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.


Acadia National Park Trail Map
 The map above not only shows the loop trail that  Rudolph Brunnow constructed to the Great Cave, it also has listed a second trail he built, the Hanging steps trail.  Below is a close up of the Great cave loop, with an arrow pointing to it.  It was not the main trail, but served its purpose back than to lure more hikers to the Precipice.  Once you enlarge the photo above you can better see the loop trail that Rudolph Brunno's constructed.

Map of The Great Cave - Acadia National Park
If you look at modern maps you will quickly see that the area around the Precipice has but one official trail today, the Orange and Black Trail, also designed and  built by Rudolph Brunnow.  There is a story in and of itself concerning the Orange and Black Trail, but I will get to that in the next piece.  Let's just say for now that the official orange and Black Trail that is there today is only half of what use to be there.
Great Cave Steps, submitted by Nick Thorndike
The problem still facing Rudolph Brunnow was that he didn't need another trail as much as he needed a main attraction, a show piece to drive people into the area, and for that Mr. Brunnow turned his attention to a spot on the side of the Precipice where locals had been hiking up to since the 1800's, a location known as the Great Cave.  He first had to get permission to construct a trail to the cave, once he laid out his plans and the reasons why he needed to add the cave to the main Precipice Trail, he was granted permission to go ahead with the project.



The Great Cave - Acadia National Park
Rudolph Brunnow wasted no time in rolling up his sleeves and getting to work on what must of been a sheer joy, he, Mr. Brunnow, would have his name forever attached to the Great Cave.  He carefully selected the route his newest path would take, leading off of the Precipice trail in an area close to where the official Orange and Black trail joins the Precipice, his path would follow up through the center of a boulder field.  I know, by now you have pulled out your modern trail map of Acadia National Park and can find no such Great Cave, and that is for good reason.  Many years ago - with no real treason behind it, the Park Service closed and abandoned the Great Cave Trail.  When they did so, they asked the map makers to remove it from future maps, so the words Cave or Great Cave can only be found on older maps.

ABANDONED GREAT CAVE OF ACADIA NATIONAL PARK
The above photo was submitted to one of my sites on the Great Cave by David Schortmann.

Today, as you stand at the beginning of the boulder field and look upward at the woods above, you can see a dark area, that is where the trail turns into dirt and is fairly easy to see.  It makes its way up through the tree's, ending at the entrance to the Great Cave.   
In an old account of the Great Cave I found in an old book, it states that the Great Cave is right up there with one of the World's great wonders.  It went on to say the opening to the Great Cave was 100 feet wide by 100 feet high and that the cave extended back into the mountain side another 100 feet.  The writer said that the cave was so large a small plane could fit inside it, and that locals made their way up to the cave on weekends carrying a picnic lunch with them.
Clearly the cave is nowhere as magnificent as the writer are told it, he was clearly "Puffing up" his story, but why?  You have to go back to the reason behind building a loop to the cave in the first place - it was to attract a large amount of people to the area of the precipice, and it worked, perhaps too well, because years later the loop was abandoned by the Park Service.
But make no mistake about it, the Great Cave is a very impressive cave, one you have to see in person to gain the full depth of just how Great the Great Cave is.
So I spoke of a loop, and in deed, Mr. Brunnow did construct a loop to the cave.  But where is the other half of the loop?   We all can give a big thank you to Nice Thorndike for uncovering the second half of this lost loop.  Stand to the left of the cave and look toward it, but off to the side to find an almost hidden set of stone steps.  These stone steps go on a ways, leading upward and passing ofer the top of the cave.  When the stone steps end the trail turns to dirt and you can follow it to the cliffs up ahead.  There is a narrow metal bridge which connects one ledge to the next which you have to pass over before the trail connects to the official Precipice trail on the upper end.  Nick's work and the photos he sent along to me helped complete the entire Great Cave Loop.

THE GREAT CAVE - ACADIA NATIONAL PARK
The above photo was submitted to one of my sites on the Great Cave by David Schortmann.

But the real work of locating the Great Cave took years in the making.  Remember, I had said the Park Service abandoned the Great Cave loop and had it removed from future maps, that is only part of the story.  I have been told by people who have worked for the Park Service that they themselves were told of the Great Cave, along with other secret sites within the Park, but that they had to take an oath not to reveal any of this to anyone.  As far as the Park Service was concerned, these sites were to remain secret and lost indefinitely, to be visited only by a select few.  If you work for the park, or do volunteer work there, chances are you took such an oath and have been taken  to some of these locations.  One Park worker told me a very popular spot that ridge runners go to on their lunch break was the stone arches of Eagle lake, some sites have named this the Lost house and I will get into that location latter on, because that site really earns the name The Lost House.
When I lerarned that the Ridge runners often stop there for their lunch breaks, that really got under my skin.  Why should these abandoned and hidden places within the park be a playground for them and their families, after all, does the park not belong to all of us?  and I was told the same secret oath had to be taken for park workers to be told of the location of the Great Cave.  Today, for a growing number of these hidden gems, there no longer is a need for secret oaths, they are there and documented for anyone to locate.
But because of that secret oath, and because the word "cave" on the old maps was written away from the area that the Great Cave was actually located in, it took years of researching and visits to the area to unravel the mystery.  Over those years I kept updating my blog on any new information I came across, hoping all the while that some one would come along to help in the effort to locate the lost cave.  I had narrowed my search down to two sites, but faced a huge problem, I was afraid of heights, and getting to those two locations required hiking beyond my comfort level.
Zhanna Galas  submitted the GPS numbers for us for which we are very grateful for as it was much needed.  I don't have a GPS device and encourage those who do to please get that information to me, I will give you credit by adding your name to the posting of the numbers.  We really would like GPS numbers for the start of some of these trails, such as the Hanging Steps, Compass Harbor, the Dorr bike path, Anemone Cave, the Bears Den, the lost house of Eagle Lake and the Stone tower...all much needed.  My email is fendermail56@yahoo,com if you can't reach me on here.


Thankfully Matthew Marchon came along and siad he would find the cave.  Wow, an answer to my prayers had come out of nowhere.  The day I heard back from Matt on his finding the cave, I also heard from David Schortmann,  who said he had hiked up into the area and had located the Great Cave.  So we went from one day not knowing its location to the next day having two parties locating it.  And both had the photos to back up their finds, and those photos remain to the best of my knowledge the very first photos made available to the public.  For years I had searched for a photo of the cave and come up empty.  So the real hero's of locating the Great Cave and helping document it was these folks, and Nick Thorndike did sealed the deal.  So as you can see, it was a team effort which yielded  the largest find as far as abandoned trails go, to date.  Without the efforts of these folks the Great cave would still remain a mystery but to a lucky few.




To learn more about the Great cave, visit one of the links below.

LOST AND ABANDONED TRAILS OF ACADIA NATIONAL PARK

DEATHS IN ACADIA NATIONAL PARK

LEAVE THE WORLD BELOW