Having been year decades ago, and more recently twice on a cruise ship, my wife and I vowed to drive up here and spend some time. “You can even take a day to hike.” Welllll, of course! The first issue was what the heck to do. There's so many great choices. A repeat of the Precipice Trail was high on the list, but I found it was closed due to falcon nesting. That made things simpler. Check out some somewhat lesser visited peaks west of Cadillac. I really wanted to see Sargent and Penobscot, so the Bubbles came into play, and then Pemetic to make for some nice distance, but not overly so.
I got up at 4:30 and hit the trail at 5:30, but not before realizing I had completely forgotten to get liquids. Oh crap! Fortunately, I found a store that opened at 5 AM, and then by fortune spotted a deer slowly walking around the visitor center.
Two cars in the lot already, I headed up the trail in the (for the moment) cool air up to Bubbles Divide. I came to the S. Bubble junction and headed right to continue over the divide, saving the Bubbles for later. The trail got steep, and I started wondering how high up the divide was. A quick check revealed the answer. I was already heading up N. Bubble. I had forgotten the S. Bubble junction was after north. Oops. Oh well, guess I'll do N. Bubble now. I declared it “nice.”
I also had a nice view of Sargent and was pleased to see how open it was. Heading back down, I heard some hikers coming up, turned at the junction, and never heard them again. Coming down the divide, was, umm, rough. Steep and bouldery. I was not looking forward to coming back up this. The trail did flatten and I came out at the north end of Jordan Pond.
Another break on the shore, and then back up again. Some rough patches, a nice view of the only double arched carriage road bridge in the park, and across the enticing carriage road. Again, some more rough patches, and views start to pop up here and again, with the trail skirting some ledges. This spot set my vertigo going. The trail is the skinny flat wet spot going into the brush ahead. Definitely a place not to fall.
The slope lessened, treeline approached, and I was getting exceptionally happy again. When you have terrain and unique looking vegetation like this, what's not to be happy about?
It seemed to take a while, but I topped out on Sargent, the summit completely to myself, and the views were indeed excellent as promised.
I made a frantic call to the hotel, I forgot the privacy sign. Turns out Neesh got up an hour earlier. I looked around and saw a nice ridge walk ahead of me. Sweet! And indeed it was, and Penobscot started getting closer with what looked like a big drop in between. A quick check of the map said otherwise, however.
As I hit the trail junction where I'd drop back into the trees, I heard frogs that sounded very near. Way too near for Sargent Mountain Pond, but as I dropped down, that was the source. They're very loud frogs! I purposely worked this pond into the itinerary, and it was most definitely worth it. Didn't see any fish, however.
A very quick climb up brought me to Penobscot, and again, I had the summit to myself. There's a lot to be said for getting up early, much as I am decidedly not a morning person. Views again were also excellent. This is looking back at Sargent.
I had been looking along the ridge at Beech and Western Mountains on the western side of the island, which I had scoffed at for their lack of elevation, but once again ledgey goodness beckoned a future visit.
Back down to the col, and down Deer Brook Trail, which got rough near the bottom, to really rough as it was right next to the brook. Oof. I still had two peaks ahead of me and this was getting a bit tiring. Back to the pond, where I could finally see some fingerling trout milling about, but I had to wonder if there's places with enough drops to fish the bigger trout (answer as I saw later: oh yeah). I had considered skipping South Bubble at this point, but I really wanted the views from there, so I sucked it up and did the bouldery climb back up to the divide. It was only 300 feet, and I just set a steady slow pace and made it up without stopping. Phew!
An easy climb to South Bubble, where of course, I ran into people for the first time, and after some confusion I found Bubble Rock, more wondrous than Glen Boulder for how it stays put.
And the views were well worth the small extra effort getting up.
Time for a steep climb back down to the pond, which the map indicated was less steep than the climb up to the divide. HA HA HA! Maps lie. Maps lie. Maps lie. Repeat.
My legs were getting shaky with a precipitous drop to the left, a gravelly surface, and occasional sit on your butt drops. At one chute, my Gatorade bottom slipped from the pack, slammed on a rock and exploded the cap off, spilling 2/3 of the contents. Crap, that's all I have left after downing the other quart. Sigh. Boy, was I glad I brought my water filter, but there was no use for that here. I focused hard on being extra careful, cursing my decision to come down this way. At last the cliffs let up and I was merely on rocky steeps. A large group was heading up with a dog. I silently wished them luck getting the dog up some of those ledges.
Arriving at the pond for the 3rd time, I got some water from an brook flowing into it, and started out on the 0.9 flat walk south to connect with the trail heading up the south ridge of Pemetic. Again, lots of people out walking the pond, some friendly, others very stand-offish. Felt like the Lincoln Woods Trail. The pond walk was awesome with views of Penobscot and South Bubble, including the group with the dog on the nasty section who apparently did well.
I was happy to hit the turn away from the pond and get back to solitude. Well, after I crossed the road that is. Back to a flattish walk, and I turned onto the South Ridge and started up again. Oof. This was hurting. I had barely been able to choke down any food, and it was time to force it. Dried cranberries to the rescue again. Feeling better, I chugged up and for the last time broke treeline to my relief.
But there was still some distance to cover, with some ups and downs, and I was looking forward to just going down. Ha ha again as I finally looked at the map and noticed it was a steep drop all the way down. Well, Pemetic was again worth it. Here's looking back at the Bubbles and Sargent.
The south ridge of Cadillac was very long and open, so put that into the to-do list. And perhaps the most excellent shot of the trail south of South Bubble. Yoiks.
I had to share this summit with three groups, pretty excellent when you think about it. After a while, I headed down, getting confused in a couple spots, and this time the map didn't lie. Watch your feet and in places grab onto branches for fear of a painful slide. Now all I could think about was getting back to the hotel, but first things first. I saw a loop in the trail, not knowing what that was about, until I came to a sign. Ledge one way, Ravine the other. I stared at the Raving side. What? In that chasm? Seriously? No, that can't be right. Screw that. It's wet, it's steep, it just can't be right. The chasm was interesting though, looking to be about 20 feet deep and 3 feet wide in places. As I came to the other end of the loop, I saw indeed that the trail ran right through it. OK, that's pretty cool. That goes onto the to-do list now. It's starting to look like I'm going to have to hike nearly every trail in this park to see what I want to see!
More steeps after that including a nasty section where they had to put in rails. Down, down, down. The trail did flatten a few hundred feet from the road, and I was awfully happy to see my car. Yippee! What a great figure 8 hike, loaded with views. But now I was hot, sticky, and dieing for a shower. A quick drive back to Bar Harbor, a shower, some lunch and many ice cold (one literally) Miller Lites. I can't wait to come back again!