A Family Treasure for Generations

Acadia National Park Saved to future generations as it has been to us The Maine THing Quarterly
Chapter 4

Phil Savignano awoke to the sound of his alarm.

He rolled over and looked at the clock: 3:30 AM.

He got up, and then started to nudge his family. “Come on. It’s time to go,” he said, half-whispering.

His wife, Chris, and son, Sean, were having none of it. After all, 99% of the people living in the Eastern Time Zone were still asleep at that very early hour.

But his five-year old daughter, Margaret, pulled herself up, and let out an epic yawn. She looked up and gave her Dad the “I’m ready” sign. Phil wasn’t going to make this crack of dawn trip alone.

And this wasn’t just any trip. It was a pilgrimage of sorts: A journey to see the sunrise at the top of Cadillac Mountain, where hundreds of people gather every morning to say they were some of the first in the United States of America to see the sunrise that day.

It’s a place where 9,000 years ago the early Wabanaki would gather. It’s the place where people like George Dorr, Charles Eliot and John D. Rockefeller fell a little deeper in love with this place of scenic grandeur. Today, families and adventurers, the incurably curious and yes, the insomniacs, find their way to the peak early enough to catch that first glimpse of the sun. There’s no other place in this country like it.

The ride to the top is an easy one by car, a curvy two-lane road with breathtaking views all the way up.

When Phil and Margaret arrived at the top, they parked their car and joined their fellow followers of the sun and stood amid the lawn chairs, the tripods and the binocular-wielding vacationers.

The two of them found their spot, huddled in jackets and bracing themselves against the crisp early morning air. The sun just barely peeked out at first, lighting the horizon gradually and making its way up into what was the night sky only minutes ago. It is a new day. And what an amazing sight; it reminds us of the wonders of the earth.

Margaret slept in the car all the way down the mountain until they got back to their camp; now the mother of two, she still remembers the day—and the moment with her father—perfectly etched into her memory forever.

This is an experience that echoes the millions of experiences people have had in this majestic place for thousands of years.

Phil and his family have visited the park once (sometimes twice) a year for the last thirty years. Today, Phil describes the atmosphere at the top of Cadillac as one of “reverence.” It seems that visitors treat just about every inch of the park with that same feeling whenever they come.

Phil and Chris’ family has grown since that day. Margaret is married and has two small children of her own, and their son, Sean, is a dedicated outdoor enthusiast who spends time hiking, biking and trail running through the wonders of Acadia. They have done and seen it all, and have a deep passion for the park. It is simply an integral part of their lives.

Everyone has a favorite place in Acadia. These places have a way of vividly coming back to you when you happen upon that old Kodak print at the bottom of a box. Recently, when Phil was asked to name his five favorite places in Acadia, the limitations proved a little too daunting. He and his family have at least ten favorite places. And of course, Cadillac is near the top of the list.

Phil sums it up pretty well himself:

One Family’s Story
It’s hard to pick the best because we’ve been going so long, [and] we keep finding a surprise. We’ve been going forever and there are still things we haven’t seen. Every time we go we find something different – we find something new. And the seasons change the whole spirit of the park.

Acadia’s Carriage Roads are a must for visitors, says Phil, and he recalls fondly how he taught both his kids how to ride a bike on the historic roads.

It’s inconceivable to imagine how many thousands of young visitors have learned that very same thing on the very same roads.

Phil also calls hiking the Sargent and Penobscot Mountains a favorite adventure, and easy to do with kids of just about any age. “It’s a pretty cool hike up and back down to the carriage roads. The trails are beautifully marked; the stone markings are pieces of art themselves,” he says. The trail leads down to the famed Jordan Pond House, the renowned restaurant famous for their signature popovers. Phil speculates that he has probably eaten more than 60 popovers over the years. It’s something you simply can’t get at home. Hey, after a hike on an 80-degree day, Phil figures, “I earned this.”

The popovers are just another example of the escape that is Acadia National Park. As you drive Park Loop Road or take the Carriage Roads, the park has a way of engulfing you; the scenic wonders are nearly as abundant as the mile markers. No two are alike, and there are sites that call you to explore even more. It’s a place of endless discovery.

Whether you seek out scenic Somes Sound, scale the Beehive or relax along Sand Beach, there is a plethora of unique experiences that line the landscape. Good Morning America recently dubbed the park:

America’s Favorite Place.

It’s likely because there are few places more diverse, more open, more breathtaking, more inviting, and most importantly, accessible. The park’s unique geographic location puts it within a day’s drive of millions of people.

Those millions, including the Savignano family, have etched a part of their history in the park, making it a place that has tremendous meaning in their lives.

It’s a place where you’re not far from anything, but can feel like you are.
– Phil Savignano