College president and family climbing 40 peaks in Acadia
What better way to spend a glorious summer morning than hiking in Acadia National Park with Darron Collins leading the way on the Beachcroft Trail up Huguenot Head.
The president of College of the Atlantic, a Bar Harbor college whose curriculum focuses on the relationships between humans and the environment — human ecology — knows the national park well, having hiked its 125-mile network of hiking trails. Maybe even twice.
As if this wasn’t enough, the 45-year-old outdoorsman last year challenged himself to make 250 climbs, covering 1,000 miles, in Acadia. He and his black Labrador retriever Lucy wrapped up the challenge on the Bernard Mountain summit last December.
“This challenge was a way to force myself to get out of the office,” Collins related as he led way to the Beachcroft trailhead from the parking lot at The Tarn, a glacial lake, on the outskirts of Bar Harbor.
This year, he aims to climb 40 or so peaks in Acadia “as a family” with his wife, Karen, and 12- and 14-year-old daughters Maggie and Molly.
It’s not just the panoramic views that drew Collins up Huguenot Head 13 times last year. It’s the 1.2-mile trail’s diverse terrain.
Hikers ascend a flight of granite stairs, which switch back and forth, follow stepping stones, scramble up over boulders and cross ledges along the Beachcroft Trail.
Clad in khakis and a loose sweatshirt, Collins swiftly negotiates the trail’s narrow paths and granite rocks patterned with delicate white and green lichen. The Atlantic Ocean and Cranberry Isles swing into view along the way.
The Beachcroft Trail doesn’t actually go to the Huguenot Head summit. But Collins leads the way through across granite ledges studded with jack pine.
At the top, he takes in views of the Tarn and Dorr Mountain to the west and then takes a seat on a flat granite shelf.
“Not a lot of people come up here,” he said while gazing out at Frenchman Bay, Porcupine Islands and the open sea stretching to the horizon. “The trail [detour] isn’t even on the map.”
Originally from New Jersey, Collins credits his mother for instilling in him a love of the outdoors. He hiked with her from a young age.
“She was definitely my inspiration behind walking,” he said smiling.
Mount Desert Island’s wild beauty factored in his decision to attend COA. The college’s location was again an incentive when the president’s job became available over four years ago.
“We have Acadia National Park in the backyard and the ocean in the front,” he said.
As Mount Desert Island prepares to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Acadia’s founding next year, Collins says he often wonders what the next century will bring and how more people can be encouraged to experience to enjoy and treasure the national park as he does.
“Few people find solace in the outdoors,” he noted while retracing his way down Huguenot “There is such a focus on technology, which I think has come at an expense of nature.”
What to bring: A hiking guide, drinking water, windbreaker, sunscreen and sunglasses.