Island Hopping 4: Isle au Haut

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In summer, the daily boat to Isle au Haut is packed with kids and dogs, hikers and freight. Not so in September. As I write this, I’m sitting at the Black Dinah Chocolatiers Internet Cafe, having nibbled my way through a couple of selections and a cup of tea. That alone is reason to visit this lovely oasis about a 45-minute boat ride from Stonington.

Frankly, though, most folks come for the hiking. Isle au Haut is home to a remote section of Acadia National Park. On most mornings, a park ranger boards the boat in Stonington, passes out trail maps, points out highlights en route, and answers questions as the boat stops first at the town landing, then continues on to Duck Harbor. Also here are a handful of lean-to camping sites.

What an idea time of the year to hike. The temperatures are coolishly warm, or is that warmishly cool? A nice breeze keeps it that way. The trees are beginning to blush. And the trails are all but empty.

From Town Landing to the park is nearly 4 miles, so it’s smart to exit at the park for hiking only. But, if you want to visit the Isle au Haut General Store, see the tiny post office, visit Black Dinah for to-die-for truffles, or shop at the island’s lone souvenir store, The Urchin Shop (you can purchase all of local celebrity swordfishing captain-turned author Linda Greenlaw’s books here), then Town Landing it is.

Truth is, if you want a ride, it’s a safe hitch. Everyone slows down, waves, smiles or nods. it would be easy to request a ride on down the, even if that means hopping in a pick-up bed. Island cars aren’t fancy, but they do the job. But walking provides other pleasures, like watching the dragonflies dance and deer nibble on fallen apples in forgotten orchards.

Truly, there’s not much on Isle au Haut, and that’s what’s so appealing about it. You can hear yourself think and, if you’re lucky and in the right frame o’ mind, achieve Zen.

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