Kayakers enjoy scenery, sunset off coast
BAR HARBOR, Maine — With temperatures in the low 50s just before sunset, couples paired up and gathered their gear. Life vests, wind breakers, aqua shoes and spray skirts in tow, the crew gathered on the dock with their instructor preparing for another look at Acadia National Park.
|At right, a group of kayakers paddles offshore at dusk near Bar Harbor, Maine. Below, more views of the kayaking tour offshore of Acadia National Park (Photos by Mikayla Vielot).|
Instead of hiking or biking through the park as many tourists normally would, the group was preparing for a guided kayaking tour circling the park during the federal government’s shutdown.
The government shutdown began on Oct. 1 and still had not been resolved two weeks later. All federal offices and facilities were closed, including national parks. With the tourist season winding down at the end of October, many businesses surrounding Acadia began to worry about lost revenue.
Hotels were not booked and flights were a little cheaper than usual. However, the cruise ships kept the flow of tourists coming. None of the cruise visits were cancelled due to the shutdown. Many guests ended up spending more time in the downtown Bar Harbor area instead of in the park, so businesses were able to stay open.
Activities such as the kayaking tours with Aquaterra Adventures, located right on the harbor drew people in.
Mike and Joan Charles, pilots from Palm Beach, Fla. flew to the harbor for the weekend before heading overseas for a two-week trip.
“We already planned this trip so we didn’t want to cancel it despite the shutdown,” she said. “We just had to find different things to do since we technically can’t go in the park.”
Many couples signed up for the sunset tour to see the romantic side of Acadia. The changes in color of the skyline were breathtaking. The blues, oranges, pinks and purples of the sunset were like no other.
“It was beautiful. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Charles said. “It was definitely much colder on the water but the view was so worth it. My husband and I truly enjoyed ourselves.”
The sunset tour was led by recent University of Maine graduate, Devon Whitbeck. Only a tour guide for six weeks, Whitbeck loves giving the evening tour because he enjoys seeing the sunset over the mountains.
“Earlier in the year we have more families. But at this time of year, there are definitely more newlyweds. Couples tend to visit us at this time of year to see the change in season and squeeze in a quick getaway before the holidays,” Whitbeck said.
Since the tour is open to everyone from beginners to pros, each tour begins with a short intro on how to kayak and what to do if the boat capsizes. Afterwards, it’s smooth sailing— literally. On his tours, Whitbeck makes an effort to educate the participants on the wildlife and areas of the park as they pass by. With his degree in outdoor recreation and tourism and his training with the company, he is well educated on Maine and its wildlife.
“I have always loved the outdoors, so this job was perfect for me. Many people travel from all over and have never seen anything like this. I’m so happy I can share this experience with them,” he said.
While out on the water, tourists pull cameras and cellphones out of their dry bags to take pictures. Despite being in the water, the views are too beautiful not to capture. Cameras are passed from kayak to kayak to snap photos of one another. Whitbeck allows for photo time, even pointing out certain scenery that they will want to be sure to capture.
|Kayakers enjoy the natural sky light and sunset colors as well as the October cool weather.|
October marks the end of busy season for Bar Harbor before everyone flies south for the winter. The leaves have already fallen and the temperatures have dropped to the low 40s. Many store owners and locals are ready to pack and fly south. Mark Fletcher, an Aquaterra employee says the company has not lost any business.
“The cruise ships are still coming in so we’re still making money. We still fill up each of our three tours a day. If anything the shutdown is helping us because people can’t get into the park. We give them something else to do that still allows them to see the park,” he said.
If You Go
- Layers (as it is colder on the water than on land)
AquaTerra Advertures provides:
- Personal Flotation device
- Spray skirt
- Hooded paddling jacket
- Dry bag
- Aqua shoes