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The Heart of New England
Celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine ~ New Hampshire ~ Vermont
Wild Acadia by Jerry and Marcy Monkman
(University Press of New England: cloth, 122 pages, $26.00).

Book Review by Rebecca Rule

Jerry and Marcy Monkman of Portsmouth, New Hampshire may have the best
job ever.  Even I’m jealous -- and it’s hard to beat what I do, i.e., not a heck of a
lot except read good books, interview nice people, and write about it.  

Like me, I’m sure, the Monkman’s have, over time, carved their own freelance
niche -- photographing and writing about our beautiful New England wild
places for magazines like Yankee, National Geographic Adventure, Outdoor
Photographer,  and Down East.   And for their own books, including White
Mountain Wilderness, published by University Press of New England in 2005.  
In their new book, Wild Acadia, the Monkmans train their lenses on Acadia
National Park, which lies (mostly) on Mount Desert Island near Bar Harbor,

If you haven’t visited Acadia, Maine you’re missing out.  Jerry and Marcy’s
photographs, plus historic photographs, with accompanying essays by Jerry
will tell you what you’re missing.  If you have visited Acadia, the photographs
and essays will lead you to spots off the beaten track you might have missed.

As is true so often in life, Acadia’s strength is also its weakness. Both beautiful
and accessible (you can drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain), Acadia attracts
crowds.  Big crowds.  In 2005, it attracted more than two million people, which
beats the population of the entire state of Maine by nearly 800,000. These
crowds do not enhance the wilderness experience.  

Jerry Monkman writes:

"During my day on Cadillac Mountain, not a moment passed on the summit
when I did not hear one of the following:  car doors slamming, children
crying, people talking, diesel engines rumbling, cell phones ringing, walkie
talkies, cars starting, car alarms, car horns. . . .All this noise happens in a
beautiful place, of course -- that’s why the crowd is there, and it is why I am
often part of the crowd.  Looking away from the parking lot and gift shop, I
focused my eyes on the deep blue waters of Frenchman’s Bay and the emerald
green Porcupine Islands. Classic puffy summer clouds floated across the sky,
and I saw circling vultures and a sharp-shinned hawk flying west with a
seeming sense of urgency.  Twisted firs stood above the pink, lichen-
encrusted granite chiseled smooth by centuries of moving ice and water, and
mustard yellow goldenrod bloomed wherever enough soil had collected in
the cracks in the rocks.

Foot traffic has eroded much of the soil on top of the mountain, a metaphor, the
author says, for how Acadia is being “loved to death.” (On a greater scale,
maybe it’s also a metaphor for how we human beings are loving our whole
planet to death.)

On the other hand, solitude can be found by the visitor willing to step away
from the big attractions like Cadillac Mountain with its spectacular views of the
sea or Sand Beach, where in hot weather the parking lot is always full, and
walk, bike or kayak to more remote locations.  With 48,000 acres  including a
string of islands, Acadia affords plenty of opportunity  to escape the crowds,
sometimes simply by walking a short distance down a side trail or exploring
the back side of a pond.  A trip to Isle au Haut, six miles out to sea, guarantees
peace, if not quiet.

Jerry spent a day alone -- except for a man and boy who passed through -- at an
“unnamed cove” on Isle au Haut:  

"...the beach cobblestone, the ledges pink granite, and the forest -- just above
the high-tide line -- spruce draped with old-man’s beard lichen, which flutters
in the wind like Buddhist prayer flags...

Though the cove is sheltered, the sound of crashing surf on the outer ledges
and offshore rocks was very loud. The consistent noise quickly became
mesmerizing, and I found myself staring west for several minutes watching
the spray of waves landing against headland spouting like the blow of
humpback whales, which feed on the shoals near Mount Desert Rock . . . "

Jerry Monkman’s observations are engaging and his history of the park
fascinating:   from geologic formation through the devastating fire of
1947 that sterilized the soil in some places; from the era of the Wabanaki to its
time as playground for America’s elite (Rockefellers, Kennedys, Carnegies,
Vanderbilts, Morgans), and now playground for all.

But the photographs tell the real story.  The photographs show Acadia’s wild,
unmatched beauty.  The photographs are, like the crashing of surf,
mesmerizing.  Rocks, sand, surf, spray, sea, trees, lichens, ledges. From
mountainscapes to close-ups of ferns, the Monkmans’ photographs
paint this place with admiration, affinity, and affection.

Some people come strictly to admire the incredible scenery and watch the
diverse collection of wildlife.  Others come to test their physical skills on a
variety of hiking, climbing, or paddling routes, or to find solitude in a quiet
forest or secluded cove.  Still others come here as an excuse to spend quality
time with friends and loved ones.  

Most, including the Monkman family, come for more than one of these reasons
and a long list of others . . . Acadia is here for all of us, and though the crowds
might keep me away from time to time, I feel privileged to be able to regularly
come to this place and seek out those priceless moments of solitude,
wilderness, and inspiration that both refresh and define my life.

How much do Jerry and Marcy Monkman love  Acadia National park?  They
named their daughter after it:  Acadia Nationalpark Monkman.

Just kidding about the middle name.

Click here to see Jerry Monkman's gallery on this site.

Buy "Wild Acadia" here:

About the author
Rebecca Rule is a humorist, author and storyteller, who is the author of  short
fiction, including
The Best Revenge, winner of the NH Writers Project award for
fiction, and her most recent book,
Could Have Been Worse: True Stories,
Embellishments and Outright Lies.
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