For more than 130 years, people have hiked the Asticou Path to a reward of freshly brewed tea and homemade popovers at Jordan Pond.
Starting in the late 1800s, Nellie McIntire began serving refreshments at her farmhouse situated at the pond’s southern end. Acadia National Park’s Jordan Pond House Restaurant replaced the rustic teahouse, which was destroyed by fire in 1979, but the views of the tranquil pond and the distant North and South Bubble Mountains remain. The tea-and-popover tradition still thrives there too.
Asticou Path is among the lesser known hiking trails in Acadia, which is celebrating its 100th birthday this year. The 2.2-mile gravel path, winds through dense forests of pine, cedar and striped maples. Hikers will only encounter a few steep inclines as the trail ascends Penobscot Mountain. Another striking feature is the Little Harbor Brook Bridge comprised of large stepping stones across the stream.
“It’s a beautiful path, and one of the quintessential gravel paths of the Village Improvement Society construction era (circa 1891-1933),” Acadia’s trails foreman Gary Stellpflug said. “It is an excellent walk not just because of its innate beauty as it passes through quiet woodlands, but also because of the multiple connections to other loop hikes and features of Acadia.”
Stellpflug has worked in the park more than 15 years and is charged with 148 trails. In the summer-fall season of 2014, he oversaw the Asticou Path’s historical restoration carried out by the 50-plus trail crew, Acadia Youth Conservation Corps and Friends of Acadia’s stewardship volunteers. The project entailed the construction of five wooden bridges, restoration of two stone culverts and 29 new ones and addition or resetting of 146 stone steps on Faint Hill.
To walk the recently restored Asticou Path to Jordan Pond, the route from Northeast Harbor affords diverse sights and vistas. Parking at Asticou Terraces parking area on Peabody Drive, hikers ascend Asticou Hil via a footpath to the rustic Thuya Lodge built by Boston landscape architect Joseph Henry Curtis in 1912.
Entering through hand-carved cedar doors, Thuya Garden unfolds within a wooden fence to keep the deer out. The multi-tiered formal garden was created the late garden designer and local innkeeper Charles K. Savage. At the rear, a wooden gate and footpath leads to the Asticou Path.
Taking the path, hikers pass by Savage’s Map House containing an area map made his gifted cousin Augustus Phillips.
On this summer day, park visitors Gary Cattarin and daughter Emily were planning to planned to hike up nearby Eliot Mountain after walking over from Jordan Pond June 15 on their 21st park visit. The Asticou Path is a favorite of the Cattarins, who climbed every peak in Acadia last year.
“That [challenge] hurt me a bit,” the father said as his daughter giggled.
Farther along, the Asticou Path intersects with the Hadlock Pond and Little Harbor Brook carriage roads. Eventually the woods open up, revealing Jordan Pond, the Jordan Pond House Restaurant and the much-anticipated tea and popovers enjoyed inside or out on the lush green lawns flowing down to the pond.