One of my bucket list items was to be in Maine in Autumn. So when I found out there was a National Park there, I knew exactly where I was headed. I just didn’t know what or who I would find.
When I arrived, I headed straight to the visitor center. There, I climbed the 52 stairs (which btw is not handicap accessible…not sure who designed that), made my way past the crowded lines and grabbed a map. The peopley-ness, my hunger, and my exhaustion from the long drive made a perfect combination for my anxiety to kick in. I scurried to my car and focused on my breath. After consulting the park map, I decided my best and safest option would be to find a campground. So I did.
Once I found my camp spot in the Backwoods Campground, I made some food and studied the shuttle route map. Acadia National Park offers free shuttles (busses) around the island. Which is great except there are 7 different routes and limited times for all of them. Limited because apparently Fall is their slow season. In fact they don’t run at all mid October till sometime in Spring. So as I’m studying this map, I realize if I’m going to attempt to make the large loop around the campground, I’m going to have to catch the bus in 15 min. Then I’m going to have to change busses mid way. And if I get off to explore, I may get stuck walking back to camp. My anxiety was still present and I contemplated just crawling in my car and going to sleep and trying again the next day. As I debated with myself, I packed a bag with my camera, water, snacks, a warm hat and my headlamp. Then I grabbed my maps and headed to the bus stop. With a deep breath and anxiety still lurking, I climbed onto the number 3 bus.
At some point I decided I was going to just see what happens despite my anxiety…
Finding a seat was not a problem. There was an older couple and the driver…and me. Some panic resided. As we sat waiting, the couple spoke with the driver while I consulted my maps. Confused by the overlapping routes, I politely interrupted the conversation to get some clarification.
“Excuse me? Am I interpreting this map correctly?” I brought the map to the front and explained what I wanted to do. “If I get off this bus at this spot,” pointing at Sieur de Monts “can I catch the number 4 bus?”
The driver glanced at her watch, “well usually, yes.” She shut the door, started the bus up and continued explaining as she departed the stop. “See right now that location is under construction. So neither bus actually stops there right now. But I’m gonna call the other driver and let him know to expect you.”
I sat back not sure where my anxiety level was. But I was thankful for the help of the driver.
When we arrived at Sieur de Mont, the driver turned to me and said. “Oh, so see that parking lot?”
I glanced across the street and nodded.
“There’s a trail over there. You will need to follow it thru the woods to another parking lot. Then find the main road. That is where he’ll pick you up. You’ll want to hurry as he should be there in 10 or 15 minutes.”
Oh great. My anxiety skyrocketed. With sweaty palms and heartbeat racing, I somehow managed to thank her and find my way to the parking lot. I even waived as she and the couple drove away.
As I searched for the trail, my chest began to squeeze. Being under a time crunch was taking hold of me and pumping anxiety thru my blood. I wanted to just sit down and cry. And then I saw a person emerge from the other side of the parking lot.
I rushed over to the man. “Is there a trail here?”
“Yes. It’s on the other side of that tree. It’s difficult to see until you’re right on it. But it’s there.” He assured me. I thanked him, wished him a good day and made my way.
The trail starts off by a pond. I stopped and took a couple pictures. My camera seemed to calm me. At least for a few minutes.
After my brief calmness I turned to read the trail sign for some clue that I was indeed on the right path. The trail split. One way went to the woods around the pond and the other deep into the woods. Crap. Which way do I go? I took a deep breath and headed deep in the woods as if I had just flipped a coin. Feeling like time was running out, I began running.
Anyone who has ever gone trail running with me knows I love it. And that I run like a child on a playground. Flailing arms, hopping over stumps and rocks, and lots of giggling. Very different from track or street running where I’m focused on technique. Trail running in the woods is where I find easy and delightful grounding. My anxiety began to float away.
At the end of the trail, I happend upon a parking lot with a building and a bunch of construction equipment. Phew! I think I choose correctly. I followed the signs to the main road. No bus. Just me, the road, and a bunch of trees.
As I waited, I looked around and began taking pictures. I even crawled down in a ditch to get a better angle. And that’s when I heard the bus. As I climbed out of the ditch, I waived at the bus driver. He slowed down and I successfully stepped on to the number 4 bus.
The bus had the driver, an old hippie looking guy and a man with two young children…and now me. I took a seat on the right side as everyone else was on the left. Not that this mattered but it made me feel a little more balanced.
The hippie looking guy kept glancing back at me. I smiled at him and then buried my head in my map.
“Did you just come from the woods?” He inquired.
I smiled, glanced out the window and back at the man, “yup.”
He proceded to ask me several more questions. It was obvious I wasn’t going to be able to concentrate on my map, so I gave into the conversation.
“Hi, I’m Jerry!” He proceeded to tell me how he was newly retired, bought a van and is traveling the country. “Some days I might go as far as 50 miles.” He was practicing slowing down and enjoying each day. He had met many other travelers and was delighted he met me. He told me how he had recently been in NH and decided to drive up Mount Washington. It was there that he learned what virtigo was and that he had it. So to ensure he could make the drive around Acadia, he decided it was in his best interest to take the shuttle tour. And that’s how he ended up on the number 4 bus. “And then this woman emerged from the damn woods and here you are!”
I was amused by this guy. But I was still cautious and my anxiety wasn’t fully gone. So I invited Jerry to continue our conversation at the next stop, Jordan Pond. I figured if I needed to ditch him, I could do so there.
Ditch him I did not. In fact that old hippie kinda guy, who insisted he was not a hippie but rather a biker (with hippie values), and I enjoyed each other’s company so much, we spent the next 5 days exploring that island together. And now we are friends for life!!
I am so thankful I just kept going despite my anxiety. Here are just some of the many things we discovered in Acadia: