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    Posted April 28, 2014 by
    danstainer
    Location
    Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania
    Assignment
    Assignment
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    The world's best national parks

    You Can’t Shut Down Mother Nature! (Acadia National Park)

     
    This is the story of my serendipitous trip into Acadia National Park during the great federal government shutdown of 2013 (which lasted from October 1-16).

    So what did it feel like to spend nine months planning my big trip to Acadia National Park during the peak of fall foliage season – only to find out that the park was being closed? Well, it sort of felt like getting a root canal or breaking up with a girlfriend. But in all seriousness, I was devastated. After all, I’m a working stiff with limited time off, so I tend to hold on to my “once-a-year” photo trips rather tightly.

    Needless to say, I wasn’t going to let a bunch of bickering school kids in Washington D.C. derail my plans. After all, you can’t shut down Mother Nature, can you?

    After consulting with some of my photo buddies and writing to some local artists who were familiar with the current situation on Mount Desert Island, I decided to stay the course. Either the government shutdown would end while I was there, or I’d figure out a way to get into the park. Truth be told, if you can’t find breathtaking scenery along the entire Maine coast, you should probably consider choosing a new hobby.

    As I had been told, if you could hike or bike into the park, the rangers would pretty much leave you alone. It was a different story altogether if you tried driving around one of their security traffic barriers. Also, much of the island is privately owned, so there’s a huge network of public roads that criss-cross the entire island, with easy access into the park. You just needed to know where to go (by asking the right people), and have a good map.

    I think it took me all of ten minutes my first morning in the park to get over any anger. There I was, walking right smack down the middle of Loop Road with not a soul in sight. No caravans of buses whizzing past me belching out diesel exhaust fumes; no gawking carloads of tourists armed with their point and shoot cameras; nothing but wide open spaces, the sound of crashing waves and the fresh smell of wet autumn leaves. It was like my own personal slice of heaven.

    At one point during my hike, I came across a friendly chipmunk and we locked eyes. In that moment, I think we were both thinking and feeling the same thing. Yes, even the animals appreciated the rare Acadia silence and solitude.

    In the end, the park closing ended up being a real blessing in disguise. I got a ton of wonderful exercise hiking throughout the park, and got to experience an intimate and private side of Acadia that most people will never get to see. It literally felt like I had the whole park to myself. Acadia did end up opening up the last few days of my trip, although I was happier when it was closed, a thought that even surprised me.

    Everything happens for a reason – and I think I was meant to visit Acadia during the park closing. Like photography itself, the best pictures often happen when you release expectations and embrace serendipity. While we often can’t control our circumstances, we can most definitely control how we react to them.

    Had I chosen to cancel my trip, I would have missed out on experiencing this magically quiet side of Acadia; a side that harkened back the days without technology or throngs of tourists overtaking the stark and simple beauty.
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