11 Pristine Facts About Acadia National Park

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Maine’s Acadia National Park was the first national park east of the Mississippi River, and while it might not be as renowned as some of its Western brethren, it’s every bit as spectacular. 

1. Most of the Park Sits on Mount Desert Island. 

While the park extends to some surrounding islands and a peninsula, the bulk of the park is on Mount Desert Island off the coast of Maine. While the park is known for its incredible, lush vegetation, the “desert” part of its name makes some sense when you know the history. Famed French explorer Samuel de Champlain sailed by the island in 1604, noticed the bare, rocky tops of its mountains, and gave it the French name L'Isle des Monts Déserts, or “the island of barren mountains.” When this name migrated into English, it became Mount Desert Island. 

2. Two Men Helped Bring the Park to Life. 

In the 19th century, wealthy East Coast residents realized Mount Desert Island was an ideal vacation destination, and many of them started building opulent, mansion-like “cottages” on the island. Harvard president Charles W. Eliot was one of these “cottagers,” and his son, a landscape architect also named Charles, was a fan of the island as well. The younger Eliot passed away when he was just 38, but not before passionately advocating for the state of Maine to preserve its coastal areas against encroaching commercialism. 

Charles W. Eliot heeded his late son’s words and sprang into action in 1901 by forming the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations to buy up local wilderness lands and maintain them for public use. One of Eliot’s key recruits was George Bucknam Dorr, an island resident who became so committed to the cause that he would later be known as “the father of Acadia National Park.” 

3. Almost All of the Land Came from Private Donations. 

In Dorr, Eliot found the perfect point man for preserving the island. Dorr spent decades buying up available parcels of land with his own money and convincing other wealthy landowners to donate their own tracts for preservation. By 1913 it was clear that in order to preserve their work, Dorr, Eliot, and their allies would need the help of the federal government, and in 1916 the land – which had become an irregularly shaped plot that wrapped around tracts that were still in private hands – became a national monument. 

Even after getting this monument status for the project, Dorr continued spending his inheritance and coaxing other landowners to donate property, and the park kept on growing. Eventually, the park would grow to over 35,000 acres with another 12,000 acres of private land managed by the National Park Service under conservation easements.

4. It Hasn’t Always Been Called Acadia. 

The park has had three official names, all of them sporting heavy French influences. When the park opened on July 8, 1916, it was called Sieur de Monts National Monument. This name reflected the impact of Pierre Dugua, Sieur du Monts, a French nobleman and colonist who served as the early 17th century lieutenant governor of New France. While Dugua’s title remains on a spring within the park, when the area became a national park on February 26, 1919, it took the name Lafayette National Park in a nod to the Marquis de Lafayette. On January 19, 1929, the name again switched to Acadia National Park, a callback to the 17th and 18th century French colony of the same name that included the park’s land. 

5. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Made a Lasting Contribution to the Park. 

Oil heir and philanthropist Rockefeller was one of the most generous donors to the park, eventually contributing 11,000 acres of land. His bigger impact, though, came from designing, funding, and overseeing the creation of an intricate system of carriage roads that crisscrossed the island. Rockefeller wanted to be able to traverse the island without interference from cars, and the 45 miles of carriage roads he helped create between 1913 and 1940 gave visitors an easy way to enjoy all the beauty the island had to offer. 

6. Rockefeller left his “teeth” on the island. 

Rockefeller’s meticulously designed and landscaped carriage roads contain several notable features, including cedar signposts and striking stone bridges. Perhaps the most memorable are the large coping stones that serve as the roads’ answer to guardrails. These massive, irregularly shaped and arranged blocks of granite are nicknamed “Rockefeller’s teeth.” 

7. The roads had to be reclaimed from the wilderness. 

Rockefeller maintained the roads until his death in 1960, at which point the National Park Service took on the massive task of keeping the network clear. As manpower and funding became tight, road maintenance fell by the wayside, and by the mid-1980s, Rockefeller’s byways had become overgrown. Luckily, Friends of Acadia and the park service teamed up for an $8 million restoration project, and today the roads are again enjoyed by horseback riders, hikers, and other outdoorsy types. 

8. A Fire Gutted the Park In 1947. 

Picturesque Mount Desert Island suffered a crushing blow in late October 1947 when a fire sparked following months of drought. The wildfire quickly spread, and by the time it was finally extinguished, it had engulfed 10,000 acres of Acadia and millions of dollars’ worth of local residences and businesses. Luckily for nature lovers, it takes more than fire to keep a good park down. Locals rebuilt their homes, and many of the sprawling estates of 19th century vacationers gave way to amenities for parkgoers. Nature took its course, and trees quickly began growing again. The National Park Service explains that while the island’s forests have seen their composition change with birch and aspen replacing pre-fire mainstays like spruce and fir, these evergreens will gradually work their way back into the mix. 

9. You Won’t Find a Higher View on the East Coast. 

One of the park’s peaks, Cadillac Mountain, is the East Coast’s tallest mountain. At 1,530 feet, it offers incredible views from its pink granite summit. As the Encyclopedia Britannica notes, if you want to find a higher peak on the Atlantic coast, you’d have to trek all the way down to Rio de Janeiro. 

10. It’s a Great Place to Spot a Bird of Prey. 

Cadillac Mountain may be tall, but it’s not too tall for raptors that migrate south for the winter. From August through early October, birdwatchers, rangers, and volunteers team up for Hawk Watch to monitor and count the birds flying through the region. As Friends of Acadia notes, these watchers typically spot around 2,500 birds a year, so if you’ve been curious about what a peregrine looks like mid-flight, Acadia is the place for you. 

11. Now is the Perfect Time to Visit. 

Everyone from U.S. News & World Report to the National Park Service itself say that October is an ideal month to visit Acadia. The summer crowds have thinned out, but the fall foliage is becoming spectacular. The Park Service says the autumn leaves reach their zenith in mid-October, but if you’re in the leaf-viewing mood, you can always track the state of the local trees with the state of Maine’s official fall foliage website.

Hundreds of Kangaroos Roam the Green at This Australian Golf Course

burroblando/iStock via Getty Images
burroblando/iStock via Getty Images

Anglesea Golf Club has all the makings of a regular golf club: an 18-hole golf course, a mini golf course, a driving range, a clubhouse, and a bistro. But the kangaroo mobs that hop around the holes add an element of surprise to your otherwise leisurely round of one of the slowest games in sports.

Person takes photo of a kangaroo
Anglesea Golf Club

According to Thrillist, the kangaroos have been a mainstay for years, and the club started giving tours a few years ago to ensure visitors could observe them in the safest way possible. For about 25 minutes, a volunteer tour guide will drive a golf cart with up to 14 passengers around the course, sharing fun facts about kangaroos and stopping at opportune locations for people to snap a few photos of the marsupials, which are most active in late afternoon and early morning. Kangaroos are friendly creatures, but Anglesea’s website reminds visitors that “they can also be quite aggressive if they feel threatened.”

Post-graduate students and academic staff from Melbourne University’s zoology department have been researching Anglesea’s kangaroo population since 2004, and some of the animals are marked with collar and ear tags so the researchers can track movement, growth, survival, and reproduction patterns throughout their life cycle.

One of the reasons kangaroos have continued to dwell on land so highly trafficked by people is because of the quality of the land itself, National Geographic reports. The golf course staff regularly sprinkles nitrogen fertilizer all over the green, which makes the grass especially healthy.

Kangaroos graze on Anglesea Golf Course
Anglesea Golf Club

If you decide to plan a trip to Anglesea Golf Club, you can book a kangaroo tour here—adult tickets are $8.50, and children under 12 can come along for just $3.50 each.

[h/t Thrillist]

House Boasting a ‘Harry Potter Room’ Under the Stairs Hits the Market in San Diego

Cupboard under the stairs featured on the Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter in London.
Cupboard under the stairs featured on the Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter in London.
Matt Robinson, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

When Harry Potter fans dream of living like the boy wizard, they may picture Harry's cozy quarters in the Gryffindor dormitory at Hogwarts. One home owner in San Diego, California is trying to spin one of Harry's much less idyllic living situations as a magical feature. As The San Diego Union-Tribune reports, a listing of a three-bedroom house for sale in the city's Logan Heights neighborhood boasts a "Harry Potter room"—a.k.a storage room under the stairs.

In the Harry Potter books, the cupboard under the stairs of the Dursley residence served as Harry's bedroom before he enrolled in Hogwarts. Harry was eager to escape the cramped, dusty space, but thanks to the series' massive success, a similar feature in a real-world home may be a selling point for Harry Potter fans.

Kristin Rye, the seller of the San Diego house, told The Union-Tribune she would read Harry Potter books to her son, though she wouldn't describe herself as a super fan. As for why she characterized her closet as a “large ‘Harry Potter’ storage room underneath stairs" in her real estate listing, she said it was the most accurate description she could think of. “It’s just this closet under the stairs that goes back and is pretty much like a Harry Potter room. I don’t know how else to describe it," she told the newspaper.

Beyond the cupboard under the stairs, Rye's listing doesn't bear much resemblance to the cookie-cutter, suburban home of 4 Privet Drive. Nearly a century old, the San Diego house has the same cobwebs and a musty smells you might expect from the Hogwarts dungeons, the newspaper reports. But there are some perks, including a parking spot and backyard space for a garden or pull-up bar. The 1322-square-foot home is listed at $425,000—cheaper than the median price of $620,000 for a resale single-family home in the area.

If you want to live like a wizard, you don't necessarily need to start by moving under a staircase. In North Yorkshire, England, a cottage modeled after Hagrid's Hut is available to rent on a nightly basis.

[h/t The San Diego Union-Tribune]

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