Trail magic casts its spell on Acadia National Park hiking trails, virtual race

There’s trail magic in Acadia National Park, and it shows up in the most wonderful ways.

acadia virtual race

Maureen Fournier, left, celebrates reaching the 100th mile of the virtual Acadia Centennial Trek, by hiking for the first time with Kristy Sharp. They virtually met while logging their miles for the race, and might have never met if not for the Trek to celebrate the park’s 100th anniversary. (Photo courtesy Maureen Fournier)

Just last week, 2 hikers who might never have crossed paths except for the virtual 100-mile Acadia Centennial Trek – an official event to mark the park’s 100th anniversary – climbed together for the first time on the Acadia National Park hiking trails.

“We’ve never met before,” said Maureen Fournier, seasonal park ranger, of Kristy Sharp. “But now we’ve become hiking buddies,” e-mailed Fournier. “We have a lot in common too, besides hiking…and share our love for Acadia.”

Fournier, who goes by the Trek name @MG, and Sharp, who goes by the Trek name @TrailWitch, had a couple of close encounters while hiking Gorham Mountain separately as part of the virtual race, but only discovered they’d missed each other at the end of the day, while logging their miles for the Trek. On Wednesday, they met and scaled Acadia Mountain together, celebrating Fournier’s completion of the 100-mile route in 24 days.

“Maureen has a great knowledge of the park, a true passion for being outdoors and was great fun to hike with!” said Sharp, who retired to Mount Desert Island with her husband in 2011, after a career in criminal justice in Ohio. “I am truly thankful for meeting her through the Centennial Trek,” e-mailed Sharp, who is now a certified personal trainer and teaches fitness classes at the Harbor House Fitness Center in Southwest Harbor.

acadia centennial

Be part of history by joining the first-ever 100-mile virtual Acadia Centennial Trek, sponsored by Acadia on My Mind and hosted by Racery.com. There’s an optional finisher’s medal to help raise funds for the park. The free race ends Dec. 31.

You won’t find a definition of trail magic in the dictionary. But for those who’ve done Acadia hiking trails, the Appalachian Trail or any other walking path, you know trail magic when you experience it.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy calls trail magic “an unexpected act of kindness” that’s part of the AT experience for long-distance hikers. But the term has been used by many to refer to any unexpectedly wonderful thing happening on the trails, for day hikers or thru-hikers.

What trail magic have you experienced on Acadia hiking trails, or during the virtual Acadia Centennial Trek? Let us know in a comment below, or on the About page.

What trail magic on Acadia National Park hiking trails have you felt?j

Maybe the trail magic you’ve witnessed came from being enchanted by the wonders of nature from the top of Cadillac, whether it’s seeing a double rainbow, watching fog enshroud the Porcupine Islands below, or catching the first sunrise in the United States. Or maybe it’s from experiencing the kindness of strangers, who freely offer an extra trail map or bottle of water when you’re in need.

acadia virtual race

This represents @TrailWitch on the Acadia Centennial Trek map for Kristy Sharp. (Image courtesy of Kristy Sharp)

Sharp, who is more than halfway done with her Trek, said she came up with the @TrailWitch name for these reasons: “Acadia is ‘magical’ to me. Magic happens on the trails when people, often strangers, meet and get to know each other. Magic happens when you take time to ‘exercise and be active.’ Magic happens when you reach a mountain summit and take in the beauty around you. I’m definitely a good TrailWitch and I like speeding around on my broom!”

Here are some instances of trail magic on Acadia hiking trails that we’ve experienced, in our years visiting the park, researching our Acadia hiking guides, writing this blog and now sponsoring the Acadia Centennial Trek as part of our Acadia Centennial Partners commitment:

  • Accidentally meeting former Friends of Acadia president Marla O’Byrne, former park superintendent Sheridan Steele and park consulting botanist Jill Weber on a small island accessible only at low tide
  • Chance meeting with Facebook friend Nick SF on Isle au Haut, the most remote part of Acadia, just as we were about to get on the mail boat back to Stonington

    acadia virtual race

    This hiking boot is @MG’s map icon for Maureen Fournier’s Trek. (Photo courtesy Maureen Fournier)

  • Running into park trails crew foreman Gary Stellpflug on his day off, just before he was about to launch his canoe onto Long Pond, as well as chance meetings with him and fellow park staff Charlie Jacobi and Chris Barter (also Acadia’s first poet laureate!) on the Bowl Trail and elsewhere
  • Seeing the elusive spruce grouse on the Hunters Brook Trail and on one of the new Schoodic Woods hiking trails
  • Spotting a barred owl staring down at us from a tree, during an early morning climb of the Beehive
  • Finding a hidden colony of pink and white lady’s slippers that we’d seen a decade earlier, when we mistook the white ones for the rare yellow lady’s slippers

Spellbound in Acadia National Park

For Sharp and Fournier, trail magic doesn’t just come with the adventures to be found during the Acadia Centennial Trek. They feel it deeply every time they’re out in Acadia National Park hiking or running, and want to share the experience.

acadia virtual race

One of Kristy Sharp’s favorite photos from her Acadia Centennial Trek, in front of Hadlock Falls. (Photo courtesy Kristy Sharp)

“I love the thrill of being on the trails,” said Sharp, who coincidentally had planned to get in 100 miles of trail running in 2016, before learning about the Acadia Centennial Trek through a Facebook post on the Friends of Acadia page. She’s challenged a friend to join the Trek (@TrailWizard), and her twin sister in Ohio (@zoomy), for some virtual Acadia trail magic. Sharp has run the real-life MDI Marathon and Half Marathon, parts of which are incorporated into the virtual Acadia Centennial Trek route. She has also volunteered for Crow Athletics, the club that sponsors MDI Marathon and other races.

“I never take these beautiful trails for granted!” said Fournier, who has served as a visitor use assistant at the park’s Village Green Information Center for 6 years, dispensing advice about hiking, selling visitor passes and giving directions for the Island Explorer bus.

Originally from New Jersey, Fournier lived mostly in Gardiner, ME, with her family, until she and her husband Gerry moved to Mount Desert Island in 2010. “I always had the secret desire to work as a ranger and to live here!”

Fournier started an Instagram tag, #myacadiacentennialtrek, to share her photos from the Trek, which Sharp has contributed to as well.

acadia centennial trek

Maureen Fournier does her “victory pose” after completing the 100-mile Acadia Centennial Trek in 24 days, to celebrate the park’s 100th. You can find this and other photos on Instagram at the tag #myacadiacentennialtrek. (Photo courtesy of Maureen Fournier)

The Acadia trail magic goes even deeper for Fournier than seeing her own desire to be a ranger fulfilled, and sharing photos from her Trek.

“I marvel each day at the work our trail crew does for us,” she said.

At the same time, she’s filled with gratitude for the foresight of George B. Dorr, the “father of Acadia,” who helped found the park 100 years ago.

“There is not a day goes by I do not thank Mr. Dorr for ‘creating’ this beautiful park,” said Fournier, who wrote the foreword to a Dorr biography by historian Ronald Epp, which is being launched by Friends of Acadia at a  book party on April 7.

May Acadia cast its spell on all of us, for another 100 years and more.

CAUTION: Don’t necessarily follow the virtual Acadia Centennial Trek route on any of your real-life exploration of Acadia. The route was drawn for the convenience of coming up with exactly 100 miles, covering all 26 peaks of Acadia on Mount Desert Island, some of the Park Loop Road, carriage roads and the routes of Acadia and Fall Half Marathons, and ending at the MDI Marathon finish line. It could be that some of the virtual route doesn’t follow any official trail, or goes up the hardest way, rather than the recommended way, up a particular mountain, or along less-than-scenic campground roads. We’d recommend getting a good topo map and hiking guide, before setting out on the trails. We’re fond of our own guides, of course (see sidebar), but you can search Amazon.com for other books or maps, or try a free app like Chimani. The sponsors of this race assume no liability for accidents happening to, or injuries sustained by, participants in the Trek. The sponsors also do not make any representations as to the conditions of the virtual routes as they apply to the actual routes at Acadia. If you are hiking, running or biking in Acadia National Park as part of the Trek, be sure to follow the rules for park passes, safety, and trail and road usage, available at nps.gov/acad.

Dolores Kong & Dan Ring

About Dolores Kong & Dan Ring

Dolores Kong and Dan Ring are co-authors of the Falcon guides Hiking Acadia National Park and Best Easy Day Hikes Acadia National Park, and also blog at acadiaonmymind.com. They’ve backpacked the 270-plus miles of the Appalachian Trail in Maine, and are members of the Northeast 111 Club, having hiked all major peaks of the Northeast. Dolores is a former staff reporter at The Boston Globe. Dan is a journalist and former Statehouse bureau chief in Boston for the old Ottaway News Service and for The Republican, the daily newspaper for Springfield, Mass. They are married and live outside Boston.