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08
Jun-2018

Discovering Schoodic Woods

From the Schoodic Woods Campground, Acadia National Park Ranger Alexa Pezzano heads east along a bike trail that cuts across the peninsula to Schoodic Harbor. PHOTO BY JACK DODSON

Bikers will catch glimpses of the sea and distant islands, but it’s the spruce-fir forest, white pine and cedar woodlands that draw them in on the 8.3-mile trail system winding through Schoodic Woods in Acadia National Park.

Roughly 20 miles east of Ellsworth, Acadia’s Schoodic Woods comprises a 90-site campground and a network of hiking and biking trails crisscrossing the Schoodic Peninsula. Besides driving there, the less traveled, wildly beautiful area also can be reached by ferry from Bar Harbor to Winter Harbor.

“This area’s really rich with birds. We have a lot of songbirds, birds of prey, shorebirds as you get closer to the water,” Acadia National Park Ranger Alexa Pezzano said during an early spring outing along the wide, packed gravel trails.

A 2000 graduate of College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Pezzano directs Acadia’s Schoodic Education Adventure (SEA) program. She offers nature-based and hands-on activities and experiences mainly for middle school-student groups.

Along the Schoodic Loop Road, the Blueberry Hill outlook boasts a cobble beach and an expansive view of the Atlantic. Schoodic Island looms in the distance.
PHOTO BY JACK DODSON

Pezzano knows Acadia well, having worked as a roving “Ridge Runner,” canvassing the park’s hiking trails and educating the public about “Leave No Trace” ethics, rebuilding stone cairns and other duties. She eventually became a seasonal ranger and secured a permanent position in 2016.

Once a week, the park ranger will hike up Schoodic Head, the highest point on the peninsula. In the early morning, she’ll also run or bike on the trails before going to work. So she sees her share of wildlife.

Deer, moose and brown bears are among the hundreds of wild creatures that roam undisturbed in these woods. From the National Park Service website, visitors can print out a checklist, practice citizen science and record the species of animals they see during their bike ride through Schoodic Woods.

Generally, Pezzano cautions visitors to keep their distance from wild animals. If a person can put their thumb in front of their eye and cover up the creature, they’re at a safe distance. At the campground, bear boxes are provided to store food.

“The black bears we have here are pretty docile. They’re pretty much looking for food,” said the ranger, who has never actually seen a bear at Schoodic. She has seen them on the blueberry barrens farther Downeast. “They’re scared of you.”

Hiking on or off trail, visitors also are asked not to disturb the lungwort growing on tree trunks or tramp on the red-crested British Soldiers, Pixie-cups  and hundreds of other species of fragile lichens growing underfoot and on decaying stumps and logs.

Lichens, Pezzano noted, are often an indicator of air and water quality.

“We know that if their populations aren’t healthy, there’s something greater going on,” she said.

Elsewhere in Acadia’s Schoodic District, bikers can go for a scenic cycle along the park’s one-way, six-mile Loop Road that follows the shoreline.

As part of her tour, Pezzano pointed out various sights from the Loop Road. They included Frazer Point, where visitors can picnic, cast for fish and enjoy the view of Norris and Sargents islands.

Farther along, Mark Island springs into view. The tiny, nearly treeless isle is home to the Winter Harbor Light. Deactivated decades ago, the lighthouse and lightkeeper’s house have been maintained and served as a seasonal residence.

From the shore, visitors also can gaze across Frenchman Bay at at Cadillac Mountain on Mount Desert Island. Ned, Heron and Ironbound islands also appear in the distance.

Reaching Schoodic Point, Pezzano warns folks to stay well away from the edge and watch out for the big ocean waves that sweep in and strike the great pink granite bedrock forming the promontory.

The wet rocks, often coated in thick blue-green algae, are slippery and easy to lose one’s footing on.

“We really always encourage people to never take their eyes off the water,” she said. “It gets really slick.”

For the 2018 season, Acadia is predicting a particularly bad season for ticks. Visitors are urged to use bug repellant, and check for ticks regularly while they explore the area.

Biking Schoodic Woods

  • Get oriented first at Acadia National Park’s Schoodic Woods campground located at 54 Far View Drive off the Schoodic Loop Road in Winter Harbor.
  • Pick up a free map and figure out your biking route and how best to get back to your vehicle.
  • Fill up on drinking water
  • Put on bug repellant
  • Wear a biking helmet
  • Got a question? Call Acadia National Park headquarters at 288-3338. For more info, visit https://www.nps.gov/acad/index.htm.

* Bikes can be rented from Seascape Kayak and Bike, 8 Duck Pond Road, Winter Harbor. The cost is $20 per bike. To contact, call 963-5806 or email [email protected]. For more info, visit www.seascapekayaking.com.

Jack Dodson began working for The Ellsworth American in mid-2017, and covers eastern Hancock and western Washington counties. He grew up in the Mid-coast region before living in New York City for five years, where he freelanced in documentary filmmaking and journalism. He is particularly interested in criminal justice, environment and immigration reporting.