Sailing and hiking go hand in hand. Northeast Harbor, as well as being a beautiful harbor, happens to be a trailhead on the water.
Last September, after a short row to the public dinghy dock at Asticou Landing on the harbor’s eastern shore, we stretched our legs on the trail up Asticou Hill and Elliot Mountain to Thuya Gardens and Lodge.
Thanks to the well-placed switchbacks on this crafted trail, the pleasant ascent affords increasingly spectacular views of the harbor and ocean beyond. A short side trail leads to an upper lookout hut you should not miss. Bring your camera. The hut has a stunning view and this is the perfect place for a family portrait.
Back on the main trail which leads through mature woods, all too soon we stumbled upon a simple cabin in the woods. Like an old clock that finally stopped ticking, Thuya Lodge is frozen in the year 1928 when Joseph Henry Curtis, a Boston landscape architect , died and entrusted the grounds and lodge to the residents of MDI. The old lodge is well maintained and remains the quiet haven in the woods that Curtis enjoyed for many years.
The beautiful gardens, created by Charles K. Savage in the 1950s, are adjacent to the lodge and tucked into the thick stands of northern white cedar, or Thuya occidentalis, the lodge and grounds’ botanical namesake.
There was an enjoyable calm within the surrounding plants and blooms of these gardens in the woods that I found recharging. That’s welcome because from Thuya Lodge, you can peel off on a trail to the top of Elliot Mountain overlooking Northeast Harbor or go in the opposite direction on a trail to Jordan Pond, Sargent Mountain, and the Azalea Gardens near the Asticou Inn.
We enjoyed the hike up so much, we took it back down. The descent brings out the kid in everyone. Gravity does most of the work back to the harbor and new views that were missed on the way up are revealed through the leaves as we easily coasted down the mountainside.
It was over all too soon as we reached the dinghy dock again and cast off. We left a few foot and pawprints on the trails, and then our wake behind.