After last night’s feast a quick breakfast was in order: something a little different, a breakfast sandwich (“the eggs only come one way!” we were informed by Angel at the Trailhead, who was feeling a bit abrupt today, I guess) and jalapeño bagel with plain cream cheese. We ate at the gazebo and took our time watching the insanely huge cruise ships send all their minions aboard on little tenders, and talking in the sunshine.
We planned on a very laid-back day for today. We were going to take the bus to Compass Harbor and then hike the relatively-recently completed Schooner Head Trail to its end, where we would cross to the Park Loop Road, catch a bus to Jordan Pond House and get some popovers. That plan worked out (almost) perfectly.
We’re normally quite early to catch the bus but today we were running a bit behind, not helped by the fact that we left our park pass in Rich’s pack (which we had not brought with us) and I had to run back to the room to get it. “Watch, the bus will be full of cruisers and will leave early,” I said. Well, I was half right. The bus left on time (and we arrived just two minutes before its departure) but yes, it was stuffed full of cruisers! We, along with at least half a dozen other people, had to stand in the aisle. I’ve never seen the bus (or town, or the park) this insanely busy! And it’s already so late in September.
Compass Harbor to Jordan Pond House via Schooner Head Trail (and bus)
Anyway, we got off at Compass Harbor without too much trouble, although all 4 people standing in front of us had to briefly alight too so we could exit. Instead of hiking east toward the ruins of Oldfarm, George Dorr’s estate (sorry, George!) this time we continued south on the Schooner Head Path. The path is very well marked with new signposts at trail and road intersections.
The first section passes through moderately deep woods in the Compass Harbor area. It was warm and pleasant here with a new gravel trail surface underfoot. The trail is the perfect width for one person, perhaps just a little too narrow in most spots for two, but that’s OK because it keeps the trail quieter overall. It was very quiet the whole length of our walk today. We saw one pair of women in the section just before crossing the road, and then one other couple later on who were coming down the Orange & Black Path, and one man running, but that was it for the entire 3+ miles we were on the Schooner Head Path.
After crossing the road, the path stays quite close to the road but is generally hidden by a row of trees in most cases and feels quite secluded. It is nice and shady (a welcome attribute on this warm, 100% sunny and humid day!). A few bridges and a high ridge in one area supported by a retaining wall add some interesting features. We passed by the intersection with the Orange & Black path which leads to the Precipice Trail on the west and to High Seas, the mansion built by Precipice Trail creator Rudolph Brunnow on the east.
Brunnow built the Orange & Black as part of his plan to offer more connections to the Precipice cliff. High Seas escaped the fire of 1947 and is now in use as a dormitory for visitors to nearby Jackson Labs. Part of the Orange & Black path is still an official trail. It descends from the Precipice, offering a different option for returning from a Precipice climb. The remainder of the Orange & Black is officially abandoned, although many people are aware of certain parts of it.
Actually, the Orange & Black is the trail that led, according to Pathmakers, “past Precipice Trail and Great Cave, south down hanging steps and past the Echo Point Trail …” Rich and I would love to find the connection between the hanging steps and the Precipice! I wonder if the hint of a trail I found last week in that area was really the Orange & Black.
The gentle Schooner Head Trail continued past an unnamed old road. I followed it for a short distance until it petered out into nothing more than a deer path, complete with a doe that I startled from her grassy meadow. Next we came upon the intersection with Murphy’s Lane, another recently reestablished path that also leads to the Precipice area. We have explored this path before, unlike the Orange & Black, this easternmost section of which we haven’t hiked yet.
Still following the smooth, level trail, we continued on until we reached a small pond with a clear view of the Precipice wall. From here we could see climbers in action and—we think—the area of the Hanging Steps and the Great Cave. We’re planning to come back in the early morning with a spotting scope to see if we can positively identify those locations.
We were nearing the end of the path, but before the trail crossed Schooner Head Road for the last time, it had one more surprise in store for us: a foundation in the woods. We have no idea what this might have been, but we speculated that the structure may have burned in the 1947 fire. The foundation is in excellent condition but nothing else remains.
The trail makes an immediate turn to the east, crosses the road and emerges at the Schooner Head overlook. This overlook seems less popular than some others, but for some reason it has a huge parking lot. We bypassed the trail down to Anemone Cave (it’s too late in the day to see anything there, even if the tide had been out) and crossed to the Park Loop Road right near the entrance station, where we walked through (good thing I went back for that park pass). A Park Loop Road bus came by just a few minutes later, and we were on our way to Jordan Pond by way of Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Otter Cliffs and Wildwood Stables.
When the bus pulled into the Jordan Pond House parking lot, we both gasped and groaned. THREE Cyr buses?! They are the tour buses that typically cart hordes of cruise ship passengers around the island. Three busloads would easily fill up the restaurant for probably over an hour. We scooted off the bus and sprinted into a nearly empty Jordan Pond House lobby. I still have no idea where all of the Cyr bus passengers were, but I’m not going to complain. We asked how long it would be for a table and were told no more than 15 minutes. Great!
Our camera has an adventure of its own
We went to sit down and this is when Rich said “Where’s the camera?” “Uh, you had it, I saw it in your lap on the bus,” I said. “Oh no!” we both said. It’s still on the bus! Yikes.
We had the number of the bus dispatch, but neither of us had cell phone service at this spot. We ended up calling from the information/reservations window next to the lobby. The dispatcher was very helpful, quick and on the ball. I was somehow able to give an accurate description of the driver despite not really being able to see him from my seat (I did catch a glimpse in the mirror) and I remembered the bus number.
Within seconds the dispatcher had contacted the driver, who confirmed that someone had given him the camera. They would put it on a bus bound for the Village Green and it would be waiting for us in the information building there. Whew!!! We could enjoy our popovers in peace.
Popovers: the new experience
And of course, we had popovers. They aren’t anything like they used to be under Jordan Pond House’s original ownership. Many more tables have been crammed into the indoor seating area so it’s hard to sit down or get up without putting your ass in someone else’s face. It was OK when seated but still too close for my comfort. The popovers were decent but not as steaming hot as we’d like! Rich had unsweetened blueberry lemonade and I had the JPH house blend tea, which is quite good. It’s just too bad they no longer have the blueberry black tea.
Our waiter, Landon, was something else. He was like a brown-haired Howdy Doody who kept saying the same few phrases (“No worries,” “How’s everyone doing today,” and “Al-riiight”) in exactly the same intonation every single time. It really sounded like everything that came out of his mouth was a recording, so it struck us (Rich was the first to mention it and I laughed uncontrollably out loud when I pictured it) that he was one of those dolls with the string that you pull and they say a few phrases, exactly the same way each time. It got to the point where we could predict what he would say next. One time we even got a completely random, bonus “Al-riiight” as he walked by our table.
After finishing up, we spent some more time on the lawn in the hot sunshine, and then figured it was time to head back to the Village Green to retrieve our camera, assuming it made its way there. It did, and all was well. (No, Rich, you can’t use it as an excuse to get a new camera! )
We rested for the remainder of the afternoon, and then went for an early, light supper at Rosalie’s. We checked out the Rock & Art shop, drooling over their soon-to-bloom Ferocactus (not for sale) and then I couldn’t resist yet another spectacular sorbet combination (sour cherry and blueberry basil) from MDI Ice Cream. On the way back to our room we stopped to make reservations for Sunday at the Black Friar.