Acadia : Arcadia ? part 1

Acadia : Arcadia?
Part 1 : Acadia  
Photographs made in Acadia National Park 

   Acadia : Arcadia ?  part 1           

Acadia : Arcadia?  Like its title, this project is divided into two major parts:  Part I : Acadia describes in photographs and text the beautiful national park in the state of Maine on the northeastern coast of the United States.  It functions as a kind of travelogue for my three day visit in the park, a travelogue such as one might create to share with friends and family.   

A park ranger told us that visitors to Acadia National Park frequently confuse the words "Acadia" and Arcadia when speaking about this amazing place of primal beauty.  Part II : Arcadia will visually explore the idea of a Paradisal landscape of Heavenly Beauty through the transformative process of the symmetrical photograph.  The photographs in Part II function for me as Icons rather than descriptions, that is to say, the images symbolize Earth as seen with the "eyes of the heart."  Henry Corbin and Tom Cheetham would define this mode of vision as an unveiling of the transcendent Arcadian, Imaginal World.  

The question mark at the end of the title Acadia : Arcadia? has to do with many questions I must necessarily raise within the project regarding the physicality of the world as opposed to the imaginal: does this world we live in actually have substance or is it Imaginal?  


My wife Gloria and I decided to take a road trip in late September, 2014 to Acadia National Park.  We made several stops along the way: we visited relatives in New York State's Hudson River Valley area; we stopped in Boston to eat at a Turkish restaurant The Sultan's Kitchen; we stayed overnight in the famous, haunted, Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, and toured the small (haunted) historic town by night (click here to see pictures I took in Salem); and then we drove up the coast to Bar Harbor, Maine, where we arrived late in the afternoon of September 23 at our motel on the outskirts of town near the Hulls Cove entrance to the park.  We had all of Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to explore the park before heading back home to Canandaigua, NY via Vermont where we would stop to visit some other relatives outside of Brattleboro.

We drove multiple times on the famous Acadia Park Loop Road.  Since I was finishing up another photography project at the time, The Angels, I was trying to keep my attention focused on making photographs for that project.  However I would often become so overwhelmed by the dramatic, beautiful views of Acadia's majestic landscapes and seascapes that I found myself being seduced into making either tourist-like snapshots, or dramatic pictorialist views inspired by my love of the Hudson River School painters who frequented the park in its earlier years.  The photograph I took below is an example of an image inspired by the Hudson River School. (I'll write more about this later, below.) 

Hudson River School inspired image of  Acadia National Park's  Schoodic Peninsula

After we got home from our trip and I began editing and processing the Acadia photographs, I found several images that worked well for the Angels project.  I actually got the idea for the Aacadia-Arcadia? project as I was completing Part VI of the Angel project which contains several photographs I took in Acadia.  see Parts VI and VII of the Angels project which contains Acadia photographs 

The collection of photographs I've included below represents what I consider the best of the images I "took" during our three day visit in the park.  The photographs you will see in Part II : Arcadia, and Part III Epilogue, are what I call symmetrical photographs, image "constructions" using photographs I took in Acadia.


A Light Modulating Kaleidoscope
Acadia National Park is located on Mount Desert Island on the Atlantic Ocean.  As we drove on the Island's Park Loop Road (see the bold dark lines on the map), and along the park's Schoodic Peninsula (about an hour's drive from Desert Island--see the upper right corner of the map), we were confronted with a continuum of dramatic views: of the ocean, of lakes, ponds, wetlands, marshes, mountains, forests, prairies, beaches, and the primordial, rocky shorelines which were left behind 15,000 years earlier by glaciers which gradually retreated north from the area.  The taste of wilderness was vitally alive on the island, and at the same time there was an ever-present sense of stillness; a primordial silence pervaded the land, the space, the waters . . . despite the constant flow of cars and buses . . . and wandering tourists that would enter into our views.

Driving through the park is like moving inside a kaleidoscope of constantly changing light, colors, spaces, reflective surfaces.  The Island is a great light modulator: one moment the light is crisp and contrasty, making surfaces jump with detail; the next minute the light can be flat, making polished rocks look soft like flesh.  The light would come from multiple directions as we moved through the winding roads and spaces of the island; I was constantly seeing the world from new and changing perspectives.  As the direction of the light changed the shadows changed direction and shape and intensity; the moisture in the air became more or less visible; there would be clouds in the sky looking in one direction, and then the sky would be clear as I looked in an other direction.  All these variable elements dramatically transformed what I was seeing and feeling as we explored the island. 

The time of day made a big difference especially in how the water looked: as the sun moved across the sky, colors of the sea and rocks changed, and the reflection of light on the landscape from the water created a different mood at different times of the day.

With only three days in the Park, I found it frustratingly difficult to re-visit places and views I liked.  We drove up to Cadillac Mountain twice, the second time later in the day.  This provided me with different qualities of light in which to see the same view. Everything looked different in the lower, more angular sun light of the afternoon.  The atmosphere looked thick; everything was turning blue in the distance.    


Place Names : Acadia A Brief History    
The park's name, Acadia comes from a complex history of European claims to ownership of  the land originally occupied by the North American Natives.  The Algonquian language speaking First Nations people known as the Wabanaki were some of the earliest Natives to encounter the Europeans.  The Timeline of Wabanaki History is important to know about: within decades after encountering European visitors in the 1600's the Wabanaki population of around 32,000 was reduced 90% by disease and warfare; and their traditional society was dramatically impacted by trading with the Europeans for firearms and alcohol, and the Christian missionaries who righteously wanted to change the native culture.  

As the Wabanaki population grew smaller, they gradually lost much of their territory to the white man.  There were constant battles between England and France which involved the Wabanaki in Maine until shortly before the 1763 treaty of Paris, which granted England control of New England.  It was then that Mount Desert Island began to receive its first permanent settlers from Europe, and by the late 1700's the white population grew from 54,000 to 300,000.  


The origin of the name Acadia is credited to the Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano (1485-1528) who led a French expedition to the New World in 1524.  He applied the French name L'Aacdie to his map of North Carolina and the entire Atlantic coast all the way up to what is now the state of Maine.  L'Aacdie was chosen because of the Eden like beauty of the region.  This land became a major point of contention between the English and the French.  By the time of Champlain's voyage to North America in 1603 (see below) both the French and the English claimed that they were the rightful owner of North America.  For over 150 years many battles ensued between the French and English on Mount Desert Island.

The French got it's name L'Acadie from the Greek Archadia, derived from Classical antiquity, which has the extended meanings of "refuge" and "idyllic place."  Another interesting note is the similarity in the pronunciation of the Mikmaq syffix - akadie, which means "a place of abundance." 

Mount Desert Island
Rumors of gold in Maine spread throughout Europe in the late 1500's, and thus England and France sent out expeditions to explore the area.  Reports came back of a ragged seacoast island with seven or eight visible mountaintops, all bald with only rocks on them.  The reports also noted that the slopes were covered with pines, firs, and birches.  In 1603 France sent an expedition to North America led by Samual Champlain.  When he sailed down the coast from Canada and came upon the bald peaks of Mount Desert Island he named the island L'isle des Mont-deserts--Island of Barren Mountains.

Cadillac Mountain
The majestic Cadillac Mountain surly must have been named by the natives of the land--I foolishly thought.  No.  Here is the sad story of how the Mountain got's its present name:  In 1688 the King of France gifted a French Lawyer named Antoine Laumet 100,000 acres of land along the coast of Maine.  Laumet sailed to oversee "his" domain, and upon arrival at Mount Desert Island he changed his name to the more noble sounding Sieur de Cadillac, complimented with a noble-looking, fabricated coat of arms.  However, he was unimpressed with the area and traveled west a year later.  He became the founder of Detroit, Michigan and today a modernized version of his fake coat of arms still graces the hood ornaments of Cadillac automobiles. 

In 1786 Cadillac's granddaughter, Maria Teresa de Gregorire, claimed ownership of Mount Desert Island.  The newly independent American government granted her the eastern half of the island as a show of goodwill to the French.  She and her husband moved to the island and sold "their" land at $5 dollars per 100 acres.  Today, there are only two places in the United States where real estate titles can be traced back to the King of France:  Louisiana and Mount Desert Island.   

Cities, Trains, Tourists & Painters 
By the mid-1800's American cities became over-populated and polluted from the rapid changes occurring from the Industrial Revolution.  As poor living conditions in the cities prevailed, more and more city dwellers began to long for the refreshment of wide open scenic spaces, fresh air and water.  Tourism grew steadily with the advancements of railroad lines, and the demand for landscape paintings soon followed which then further fueled the demand for more transportation options so tourists could venture into scenic destinations themselves.

Painters from New York traveled to Mount Desert Island and painted dramatic images of Acadia and especially its Sand Beach , Otter Cliffs, and Frenchman Bay.  Thomas Cole's work on the Island became popular with New York City public audiences.  Then he and Frederic Church, both members of the Hudson River School of Art lead the way to satisfying the public's demand for dramatic views of wilderness--which was rapidly disappearing due to the human, social-industrial-agricultural developments of the new landscapes of that time.   Click here--scroll down to "Art" section #8

My visit to Acadia National Park reawakened my love and fascination for the pictorial drama which the Hudson River School painters are well known for.  As a matter of fact, when we first moved to New York State from Milwaukee in 2008 I promised myself to visit the Hudson River Valley to make photographs there in homage to this great American Art Tradition.   In late September of 2010 I visited the area for a few days and made some photographs.  To see the Hudson River project Click here   And now, here I was! in late September of 2014, visiting one of the regions favored made popular by the paintings of Church, Cole, Lane and others of the Hudson River School!  

More History
By the turn of the century train service to Mound Desert Island became developed enough that visitors from New York could get to the Island in less then a day.  Tourists began flooding the area and it became obvious that Desert Island needed to be developed and protected.  Several wealthy citizens coordinated their efforts to purchase land so that Desert Island could be preserved for future generations.  In 1919 Lafayette National Park was created.  It was the first national park established east of the Mississippi, and the first national park donated entirely from privately owned land.  The name "Lafayette" was used for the park to reflect America's pro-French sentiment in the wake of the war.  

However, in the late 1920's a family of anglophiles donated Schoodic Peninsula to the park with the stipulation that the park's name be changed to something less French.   In 1929 the park was renamed Acadia--though, as we have just learned above, this name was based on an early French name L'Acadie.  Much of this history was taken from James Kaisere's excellent book Acadia - The Complete Guide.  I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to visit the park or learn more about it.  

Geology  400 Million Years in 4 paragraphs
Mount Desert Island has 26 mountains, and Cadillac Mountain is the tallest at 1,500 feet above its rocky shore.  The geological history of the land is quite amazing, going back five hundred million years when Maine was covered by an ancient ocean that pre-dates the Atlantic.

There were a series of three major geologic periods that created the rocks in the area:  the Ellsworth schist, the Bar Harbor Formation, and the third: ash from erupting volcanoes which settled on top of the Bar Harbor Formation. 

About 400 million years ago two continents collided which pushed up a massive mountain chain which caused huge pools of magma to rise up under the rocks.  360 million years ago some of the magma cooled into granite creating the fourth and most famous rock formation on Mount Desert Island, though at this point in time all four were still buried underground.

Around two million years ago the Earth entered its Ice Age.  Glaciers formed and pushed south consuming everything in its path creating a vast sheet of ice filled with rocks and trees, etc.  The glaciers were like sandpaper which began grinding down the bedrock and smoothing it out.  After advancing over most of North America the glaciers retreated abruptly; then they advanced again, and retreated again . . . nearly twelve more times.  They sculpted Mount Desert's original jagged granite mountains into the soft rounded forms we see today.


Having looked at the social and geologic history of Acadia National Park has impacted the the way I see my images below to some extent.  Still, there is more to Acadia then we know.  I'll address this point in Part II of the project.  For now, welcome to my photographs of Acadia:

The Acadia 

Four Related Views 
from upon
 Cadillac Mountain
Desert Island

 Image #1   Acadia National Park      View #1  from Cadillac Mountain   

 Image #2   Acadia National Park     View #2  from Cadillac Mountain (Eagle Lake)   

 Image #3   Acadia National Park     View #3  from Cadillac Mountain  (Eagle Lake)  

 Image #4  Acadia National Park     View #4  from Cadillac Mountain   


Jordan Pond
Desert Island

 Image #5   Acadia National Park       Jordan Pond

 Image #6     Acadia National Park     Jordan Pond (?)


Sand Beech
Desert Island

 Image #7   Acadia National Park    Sand Beach

 Image #8   Acadia National Park    Sand Beach


Schoodic Peninsula
13 photographs

 Image #9   Acadia National Park      Schoodic Peninsula

 Image #10   Acadia National Park      Schoodic Peninsula

 Image #11   Acadia National Park      Schoodic Peninsula

 Image #12   Acadia National Park      Schoodic Peninsula

 Image #13   Acadia National Park      Schoodic Peninsula

 Image #14   Acadia National Park      Schoodic Peninsula

 Image #15   Acadia National Park      Schoodic Peninsula

 Image #16   Acadia National Park      Schoodic Peninsula

 Image #17   Acadia National Park      Schoodic Peninsula

 Image #18   Acadia National Park      Schoodic Peninsula

 Image #19   Acadia National Park      Schoodic Peninsula

 Image #20   Acadia National Park      Schoodic Peninsula

 Image #21   Acadia National Park      Schoodic Peninsula


Bar Harbor at Sunset

 Image #22   Acadia National Park      Dusk view, from Bar Harbor 

 Image #23   Acadia National Park      Dusk view, from Bar Harbor , Porcupine Islands 


Desert Island

 Image #24   Acadia National Park      

 Image #25   Acadia National Park

 Image #26   Acadia National Park

 Image #27    Acadia National Park


Otter Cliffs 
and related views 
from the Ocean Path 
 Desert Island

 Image #28   Acadia National Park   Otter Cliff  viewed from Ocean Path

 Image #29   Acadia National Park   Otter Cliff  viewed from Ocean Path

 Image #30   Acadia National Park   Otter Cliff  viewed from below Ocean Path

 Image #31   Acadia National Park   Otter Cliff  viewed from Ocean Path

 Image #32   Acadia National Park   Woods  just off of  Ocean Path

 Image #33   Acadia National Park   Otter Cliff  viewed from Ocean Path

Four Final Views 
Late afternoon 
 Cadillac Mountain

 Image #34   Acadia National Park     View #5  from Cadillac Mountain   

 Image #35   Acadia National Park     View #6  from Cadillac Mountain

 Image #36   Acadia National Park     View #7  from Cadillac Mountain:  Porcupine Islands 

 Image #37   Acadia National Park     View #8  from Cadillac Mountain:  Porcupine Islands 

Some additional photographs of Acadia 
can be seen in Part VI of my project 
entitled The Angels


Favorite Park Places and things to do
We could not see and do everything in the park in only three days, but here is a list of things we highly recommend based on our personal experience: 

1.  Park Loop in General, but especially the drive up to Cadillac Mountain.  Make all of the overview stops along the way up and down.  You can get out of the car and walk into the landscape as much as you like.  (Try to avoid walking on the plants.)  When on top of the mountain, walk the path that goes around the top of the mountain.  There are amazing views to behold up there!  We joined up with a Ranger for a Talk & Tour on top of the Mountain which focused on geological aspects of the park.  A very good thing to do.   

2.  Jordan Pond.  Walk around the pond; go to the outdoor cafe and have a popover as you look out over the pond toward the distant mountains (bubbles). 

3.  Sand Beach

4.  Otter Cliffs & Ocean Path:  park in the lot above the sign for Otter Point and go across the road to the path: you can go down to the cliff and tide pools, or you take the Ocean Path along the top.  The path it is a very easy hike with dramatic overviews.  (PS you will not see any otters.)  

5.  Abbe Museum:  There are two Abbe Museums; the older one is in the park next to the Wild Gardens and Nature Center.  Their signs on the Loop Road are not easy to spot.  The newer Abbe Museum is in Bar Harbor.  Both are devoted to the past history and the vital living present activities of the Wabanaki Nations.  It's very important to know about the Wabanaki History and what they are doing now.  The new museum is stunningly beautiful and very professionally curated with a contemporary attitude toward the arts inspired by the past.  The basket making in this tradition--which is carried over into the present by excellent contemporary artists--are extremely refined and beautiful.  Not to be missed.  Abbe Museum ~ Two Locations

6.  Schoodic Peninsula: Also not to be missed, though it's an hour's easy drive from Bar Harbor (or you can take a ferry).  It is a hidden gem, almost a secret, of the park.  Most visitors don't go there, but and once there you will love the quiet intimacy of the space and its sense of primal wilderness.  It feels pure, forever untouched there.   click here 


A Motel:  We stayed in Acadia Pines Motel click here.  It was great.  We parked right in front of our door.  The motel is close to the park entrance, quiet, clean, nestled under large pine trees.  We had the King room which comes with a king size bed, coffee maker, refrigerator, and micro wave.  Reasonable price.  

Bar Harbor & When to Visit  We did not like being in Bar Harbor.  It was for us too busy, mostly tourist shops, bars and places to eat.  We visited the park in the "off season," late September, before the days got too short and before the October leaf-viewing crowds came in.  Bar Harbor was crowded enough when we there, so I hate to think what the "busy season" would be like in that little tourist town.

Places to eat:  We are vegetarian.  Michelles is a high end restaurant, excellent food and service and they offered two excellent selections for vegetarians.  Two Cats offers wonderful breakfasts, but it closes early afternoon.

Resources: Besides James Kaisere's excellent book Acadia - The Complete Guide, the following website is a very good resource for more ideas and information, pictures, maps, etc:  http://www.acadiamagic.com/


This Part I of my Acadia-Arcadia project was first posted ithe
 "Latest Addition" section of my Photography website's 
"Welcome Page" on November 18,  2014.

Other Related Links:

Welcome Page  to The Departing Landscape website which includes the complete hyperlinked listing of my online photography projects dating back to the 1960's, my resume, contact information, and more.