Friday, November 21, 2014


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.

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.




People arrive here each year to enjoy the park, many finding their way to a spot called THE PRECIPICE.   and each year people are injuried, some serious, and now and than someone falls to their death from the mountain.  I remember the year me and one of my sons was hiking back down Champlain Mountain in Winter, along the Bear Brook Trail, by flashlight because the hike had taken so long due to recent snow, and the trail was icy.   as we neared the bottom of the trail we heard someone coming up behind us - it was another hiker.  We got to talking and he said he worked at Jackson Lab, and whenever he could, when he left work he would hike up the Precipice trail and than come down the Bear Brook trail before making his way for the Bear Brook Picnic Area, where he took a short cut to the Jackson Lab parking lot.
What shocked us about this guy was he was not dressed for winter, did not have proper foot gear on - it appeared he was wearing sneakers, had no hat or mittens, clearly he had not a clue as to how much danger he was placing himself in.   we exchanged a few more words than he was off, jogging down the Park loop road into the darkness.

The Precipice - Acadia National Park

I remember telling my son - "You just met a dead man."  My son asked what I meant by that, and I told him, one day that guys not going to make it home, he has no respect for the Mountain.
Sadly, I could not of been more right, the next evening we were in the middle of a huge winter storm, and a call came over the police radio, a Jackson Lab employee had not been home and his car was still in the parking lot.  They aslo said the guy in question was known to leave work and hike up the Precipice.  I just knew it was the same guy I had talked to the night before.
 As it turned out, it was him, once again improperly dressed, he had slipped off an icy ledge while making his way up the Precipice.  The park had done a search and rescue that night, but in the storm could not locate him.  The next day they spotted his frozen body below the cliff.  He was young, married, and left behind some small kids.

Lucreatia K. Douglass

It makes me think of another story related to the Precipice, but this story took place when Bar Harbor was named Eden.  In the summer of 1853, on Aug. 3, two twelve year old girls left the village of Bar Harbor, making their way toward Schooner Head, where one of the girls Uncle lived.  One report said they were picking berries as they went, following the Schooner head Trail.

Map of The Precipice - Acadia Nation al Park

At some point before reaching the Uncle's farm, the two girls decided to turn right, and began heading toward the Precipice.  It was decided between the two of them that they would climb the mountain side, to see if they could see the Uncle's farm from high up.  The two girls made it to a spot between a spot known as the great Cave and the summit of the Mountain, when  one of the twelve year old's, Lucreatia K. Douglass, decided to stand on top of a huge rock on the edge of the mountain.  The other 12 year old decided to join her on that rock, and also climbed up, when the rock gave way, tossing one of the girls off to the side and carrying Lucreatia K. down the mountain side to her death.
Her stone tells part of the tale, and it can be seen in that small cemetery on Mount desert Street, between the two churches. 


Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Rudolph Brunnow - the man who build sections of the Precipice trail, was looking for a way to get more hikers to climb the Precipice trail.  His plan, build a connecting loop from one section of the Precipice trail and have it lead to The Great Cave, and the loop would continue on to a second section of the Precipice trail.  His plan was to make the Great Cave on the side of Champlain Mountain as the gem that would get hikers coming to the much larger Precipice trail.  The VIA felt the new trail loop from the Precipice trail to Great Cave wold attract even more hikers to the trail as well, and gave Brunnow the go ahead for the trails construction.

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

The Great Cave is about 100 feet high and about 100 feet deep inside.  Brunnow constructed a trail that included stone steps and at one spot a rock and metal bridge.
 One half of the Great Cave Loop has now been found and documented by photos, maps and on blogs you can find online.   
   I recently heard from Nick Thorndike who brought us very good news, he has discovered the other half of the Great Cave Loop.  Not only has Nice discovered it, he has also sent in a photo of the stone steps leading upward above the cave - this is a huge find because I know a lot of you have contacted me asking if anyone has discovered that half of the trail yet.
So once at the Great Cave, When facing the cave begin to walk around the left side and being looking on you're right for the steps .(see photo below sent by by Nick) which run about the whole way up except for where you pass through a blueberry patch on the right.  The trail finally comes to a footbridge which leads you to the official upper section of the Precipice Trail.
Great Cave Steps, submitted by Nick Thorndike

For me, it seemed like the Great Cave would never get found, but it was.  Than the Hanging Steps came next, and just last week me and my son located the lost Rudolph Brunnow trail, so slowly but surely the Precipice is giving up her secrets.

The Great Cave - Acadia National Park

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 and iron rings so people could go there and practice before attempting to hike the real thing.

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