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Now THAT’S a dog park

Those who loyally follow my travels with Ace know that we feel a far stronger connection to the poor than the rich, and that our compassion for the former stems largely from our envy of the latter, along with our liberal bias, and the fact that we are, for now, living a few steps under the poverty line.

From time to time, we come close to bashing the wealthy — mostly for good reason, sometimes for no reason at all.

In our travels so far, we’ve noticed that some of the nicest parts of this country — be they desert, mountains or  oceanfront — have, in effect, become playgrounds for the rich, sometimes to the extent that the not so rich are nudged, pushed or priced out.

From Santa Fe to Cape Cod, we’ve seen communities that were established and long occupied by the working class – miners and fishermen and the like — that have refocused on tourism and are appealing to an upscale demographic, turning them into places everybody wants to come, but not everybody can afford.

So it was a bit to my surprise, and ran counter to my thinking — namely, that rich people achieve that state through selfishness — when I learned that the postcard-pretty, wonderfully open, unfenced and totally free dog park Ace and I were walking through in Bar Harbor, Maine, was a gift from a rich man’s family.

The philanthropy of John D. Rockefeller Jr. and family — donors of much of the land that would become  Acadia National Park — included ensuring that there would also be a place on the island where dogs can run free. And you don’t have to be a Rockefeller to go there.

Dogs on leashes are permited in Acadia National Park, but if you ever head up that way with your dog — and by all means you should — you need to know about the trail around Little Long Pond. I don’t have a problem with National Parks enforcing leash laws, but it always strikes me as incongruous that when walking through our country’s most free and open lands we must rein in our dogs’ spiritedness by means of a rope.

At Little Long Pond, dogs can romp through woods and grasslands, run on the deck of the boathouse, leap into the pond and sniff nature to their heart’s content.

Ace and I worked in two visits while on Mount Desert Island, and while he seemed to thoroughly enjoy peering over rocky cliffs to the ocean below, being the first dog in America to see Sunday’s sunrise, and spending time at the home we were staying at, with two cats and two horses, Little Long Pond seemed his favorite place.

Unlike Sag Harbor, the now upscale, former working class fishing town in Long Island where we started this leg our journey, retracing the route of John Steinbeck, Bar Harbor was pretty much upscale from the get go. Mount Desert Island  was settled by the rich and for years was their mostly private vacation spot.

When it opened up to the public, it did so carefully, and under the guidance of the wealthy families who came here first. That’s why, in Acadia National Park, you can still ride in a horse drawn carriage, along paths designed by Rockefeller, to get tea and popovers. That’s why the roads for cars are designed not in a way that get’s you where you going most quickly, but in a way that affords the best view.

Yes, the island is still pricey — that’s in its heritage — but there are lots of affordable options, and even some freebies, like the dog park, which adjoins the park service lands and is still owned and maintained by the family.

Acadia National Park is well worth the price of admission, and well worth spending more than the two days I scheduled.

Steinbeck didn’t include Bar Harbor on his route; instead, he visited Deer Isle, located on the next peninsula south, where he stayed at the home of a friend with an unfriendly cat. Rereading that part of the book, it doesn’t sound like either he or Charley had a real good time there.

In that way, given our days on Mount Desert Island,we’ve already got them beat.

Comments

Comment from Cyndi
Time October 5, 2010 at 8:50 am

Down East is the gem of the Atlantic, as far as I am concerned! Doesn’t matter the season or the weather!

Comment from Holly Edwards
Time October 5, 2010 at 9:36 am

Hi Ace,
We want to meet you. If you are still on MDI, please call 288-3311 or stop in the office of the Bar Harbor Times. We have dog treats for good dogs like you.

Holly Edwards
Editor
Bar Harbor Times

Comment from Kelly
Time October 6, 2010 at 5:02 am

Your photography is getting better all the time, John! Awesome pics…

Comment from Anonymous
Time October 8, 2010 at 9:08 am

Really enjoying your posts on traveling around Maine with Ace.

Is there already a travel guide for the area that is specifically about dog-friendly spots? If not, you should write one.

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