I’ve returned from our camping trip to Mount Desert Island off Maine, home to America’s oldest, and most eastern, federal park: Acadia National Park. Mount Desert is more than the park: its dramatic landscape, characterized by the close encounter of sloping coastal mountains and sea, also includes several pretty towns and villages (Bar Harbor, Northeast Harbor, Southwest Harbor, Somesville, Tremont) but this was a camping trip dictated by nature. Nevertheless, Acadia, like all national parks, is a product of both private and public initiatives, and few people in the former sector contributed more than John D. Rockefeller, Jr., son of the founder of Standard Oil, who donated more than 11,000 acres to the park and financed and oversaw the construction of one of its most notable features, the network of crushed-stone carriage roads topped by quaint cobblestone and granite bridges and lined with broken boulders, occasionally referred to as “Mr. Rockefeller’s teeth”. To me, these roads are the perfect blend of human achievement in harmony with nature–and they also afforded a welcome escape from camping.
Mount Desert Island: harbor, coastline, and the view from Mt. Cadillac.
Mr. Rockefeller designed, financed, and oversaw the construction of 57 miles of carriage roads between 1913 and 1940, using local labor, local materials, and the island’s landscape as his guideposts. The roads run through fir forests, around glacier lakes and mountains, and over streams and chasms, offering perfect vistas at every opportunity. To stand on one of his 16 bridges, several of which have built-in viewing spaces, is literally to be served up nature: they represent multidimensional access. No cars (which Mr. Rockefeller apparently detested): only feet, horses and bicycles. I remember walking down one of these roads a few decades ago when they were not in such superlative condition; now they are pristine.
The Jordan Pond Gate Lodge, commissioned by Mr.Rockefeller and designed by Grosvenor Atterbury, and several bridges of Acadia; Mr. Rockefeller’s teeth along the road.
More tomorrow: fog and sun.