One fine estate in Bar Harbor was built by the Dorr family of Boston. Young George B. Dorr, a Harvard graduate and an ardent conservationist, was alarmed by the increasing pace of development across the island. To counter it—and to preserve land for public use—he and several affluent colleagues founded the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations. By 1913 the corporation had acquired some 5,000 acres (2,000 hectares), including lands donated by Dorr. The trustees then offered the tract to the federal government, and in 1916, the year the National Park Service was established, President Woodrow Wilson declared the donated land a national monument. Three years later, as more acreage was added to the monument, the government made it a national park, the first east of the Mississippi, and later renamed it Acadia, in memory of the maritime colony France lost to Britain in the 18th century.
Many of the island's trails predate the park, having served as connectors between some of the roadless villages. But as recreational hiking came into vogue, George Dorr and his colleagues began to introduce stone stairways and iron rung ladders to conquer the cliffs of the taller mountains. I didn't know it at the time of my own ascent that long-ago morning, but a fellow named Rudolph Brunnow conceived the wicked design of the Precipice Trail, an almost vertical thousand-foot climb up the eastern escarpment of Champlain Mountain. Fortunately, the fog obscured everything except the granite in front of my face and the next iron rung awaiting my outstretched hand. Don't look down, the climber below me kept repeating unnecessarily. And don't look up, warned the one above me.
Now, with time marching on and with a handsome endowment from Friends of Acadia, park crews and volunteers are rehabilitating the park's 135-mile (217-kilometer) trail system and resurrecting some older trails long abandoned. As for my old nemesis, the Precipice Trail, it continues to chill and thrill climbers to this day, though the Park Service suspends its use mid-March through mid-August to protect nearby nests of peregrine falcons.
A Friends endowment also maintains the park's winding carriage roads, open to hikers, bikers, and equestrians but not to motorists. These byways are the legacy of John D.