Rockefeller, Jr., who purchased a summer home at Seal Harbor in 1910, cherished the island's motorless serenity, and enjoyed exploring Mount Desert by horse and carriage. Over the next 27 years, Rockefeller and his wealth presided over the construction of an extensive network of narrow carriage roads, surfaced with hand-laid stones and bordered with rough-cut blocks of granite—rustic guardrails some islanders affectionately call "Rockefeller's teeth."
And finally there are those other roads, including the Loop and the run up Cadillac Mountain. For years they have taken a pounding as hundreds of thousands of cars poured across the mainland causeway, creating backups and fouling the air. Notices are occasionally posted on busy summer days advising visitors that ozone has exceeded safe levels. But here, once again, park supporters have pitched in to ease the strain. Following an example first set at Yosemite Valley to get visitors out of their cars, Acadia since 1999 has operated a fleet of propane-fueled shuttle buses (17 now in service) and dramatically increased the number of folks happy to leave the driving to others. "It's going gangbusters," says Ken Olson, president of Friends of Acadia. "In its first six years the program has picked up a million and a half riders. That adds up to more than half a million vehicles off the park's roads—enough cars to stretch from here all the way down the coast to Charleston, South Carolina."
The shuttle service now extends into October to enhance the visitor's experience of Acadia's autumn palette: the golds and yellows of birch, beech, and aspen, the reds and russets of maple weaving their way across a black-green tapestry of spruce and fir. But wait! Don't turn away when those deciduous leaves begin to shrivel and flutter from the hardwood trees. There'll be new secret places and scenic vistas to enchant your eye in the forest openings. After all, when autumn retreats from Acadia, wonders of a different sort won't be far behind.