​An Ill Conceived Journey


I don't often embark on driving trips across the US, but when I do I like to maximize my odds of getting lost or stranded as much as possible. Any good psychiatrist could probably read something into this bizarre, self destructive behavior and work towards dealing with the underlying problem. Unfortunately, the result might mean me coming back from a trip subjecting coworkers to mundane stories about how great my vacation was and forcing them to look at pictures of me in a bathing suit. As opposed to enchanting epic tales of intrigue resulting in me breaking someone's nose in a Paris subway, starting a riot between German and Danish soccer players that required police intervention, or riding in the hold of a plane in Mexico sitting in a fold-up lawn chair with a chicken on my lap. So it is for the sake of others that I continue to embrace my irresponsible travel patterns.
Now, sometimes you come up with a new twist to an overdone sojourn that adds an extra dimension to the journey making it fun and unique. A good example might be a hot air balloon ride over Sao Paulo. Or riding a blind yak across Nepal. Or maybe even pogo sticking your way to the summit of Aconagua.
Then other times, you come up with a plan that adds a new dimension to a vacation that really didn't need any help, but just results in making the trip kind of stupid. Like, oh I don't know, just throwing something out there, driving to Acadia National Park , guided by nothing but a compass. I don't know if the term guided is really appropriate. I didn't actually use any specific compass points or have any knowledge of how to use a compass. I simply said to myself, "Maine is, more or less, northeast of Illinois. I'll head northeast til I get there."
The most frightening thing about the experience? It worked. I found Acadia - eventually.
Driving a car across country by compass is rather challenging - as well as stupid. Until this trip I never realized how many times seemingly endless roads abruptly, and without warning, end. Oftentimes, just before plummetting into large bodies of water, requiring hours of backtracking to find another route heading, more or less, northeast. I have to confess, the Great Lakes were a major help. I can't tell you how many times they directed me to veer further east, rather than driving into them. Canada, likewise, deserves some of the credit, by pushing me east and south until I accidently discovered the Atlantic Ocean, which led me south to my destination.
After arriving at the park it was simply a matter of finding one of the trails to the top of Cadillac Mountain. Any old trail would do I thought. Soon enough, I spotted one - Precipice Trail the sign said. Looking back later I thought, "Perhaps the name should have represented a clue." The Webster's definition of precipice includes: "A point where danger, trouble, or difficulty begins." Furthermore, if the name failed to induce the proper concern, perhaps the signs warning of impending death should have resonated somewhere in my psyche. Again, failure.
In fact, it wasn't until the point I was sliding toward the overhang of what appeared a bottomless cliff that it occured to me this might be more than a typical stroll through a park. Clinging to the east face of Champlain Mountain, the Precipice Trail bolts, essentially, straight up the cliff 1000 feet. It then, if my memory is correct, did a couple of full loops like a roller coaster. I remember standing upside down anyway, staring into a toxic, boiling swamp filled with mutant harbor seals with one giant eye on a venomous stalk and flippers that spin like saw blades. Followed by flame spurts, lightening sand, and ROUS's. Okay, those last three were from Princess Bride, I admit. But they did cover all the hand and foot holds with tetanus bacteria to create a dangerous lockjaw obstacle to enhance the challenge factor.
Despite all this, Acadia National Park is stunningly beautiful. The views are amazing, and in fact, add to the danger aspect. I frequently found myself distracted by the beauty to the point of forgetting I was clinging to the edge of a cliff surrounded by man eating puffins. Again, I can't confirm the puffins were eaters of human flesh, it was just a sense I had.
Well, somehow I made it to the top alive. I walked through the great cairn monument gardens. Cairns are, if you are unfamiliar, rocks stacked atop one another in places to represent significant acheivements or as important landmarks for travellers. Cairns might represent important places where a victory in battle turned the tide of war or where Bob from accounting got out of his car and walked 100 yards to a creek bed one time. But seriously people enough with the freakin cairns. Unless you're an armless and legless torso wriggling through the wilderness I don't think your two mile hike warrants a memorial.
The view from atop Cadillac Mountain is sublime. But then, so is the view from most points at the bottom. Even Bar Harbor deserves a visit. (Athough their odd arrogance over a population wide speech impediment restricting pronunciation of the letter "R", seems rather misplaced). Acadia, in short, warrants a journey, but a conventional one should suffice.
Still, I had done it. I had earned a treat. I found an ice cream shop, which is fairly simple to do in Maine. The way to do so is as follows:  
Step 1: If your eyes are closed, open them.
Following this step you should immediately locate 3 to 4 of them. I went to the closest one and ordered a Maine blueberry cone. My treat for success. I survived the ill-conceived drive across the eastern US and the journey up the most dangerous trail in Acadia National Park. What could possibly hurt me now?
One small lick later I was spawled over a curb I hadn't noticed and lay bleeding with a sugar cone buried in my brain.