The Working Waterfront

Children’s guide book offers fresh vision of Acadia

National park seen through eyes of child opens new vistas, insights

Laurie Schreiber
Posted 2017-06-19
Last Modified 2017-06-19

Ten Days in Acadia: A Kids’ Hiking Guide to Mount Desert Island

By Hope Rowan/Art by Jada Fitch

Published by Islandport Press, 2017

Twelve-year-old Hattie and her family take a 10-day vacation to Acadia National Park, where they enjoy hiking the trails, eating lunch on the mountaintops, swimming in the lakes, exploring tidepools, discovering ancient sea caves, climbing a fire tower, and eating wild blueberries.

Along the way, they discover deer, rockweed, clams buried in the mud, sweet-smelling balsam firs, giant cairns, granite slopes, loons, beaver dams, the park’s famous carriage roads, and much more.

The specifics of this wonderful family vacation—where to go, what to do—are described in Ten Days in Acadia: A Kids’ Hiking Guide to Mount Desert Island. The book, by Southwest Harbor resident Hope Rowan, is pitched for children, and Hattie is the fictional character who leads the way.

Rowan herself discovered Acadia as a child, and has been in love with it ever since. Originally from Massachusetts, her family chose Mount Desert Island for all their vacations.

“My mom fell in love with it,” Rowan said. “And I fell in love with this place, and with Maine.”

Although the idea for the book has been in her mind for a while, she came to the writing circuitously. As an undergraduate at Colby College in Waterville, she was a music major.

After that, she worked for a variety of land trusts around New England, usually mapping trails  and documenting natural resources. On MDI, she worked with the Maine Coast Heritage Trust and for Acadia National Park, each for a season. Eventually, she enrolled at College of the Atlantic, in Bar Harbor, to study geographic information systems mapping and land use planning. Today, she creates, designs, and teaches children about maps as a GIS professional.

About 10 years ago, her mother suggested she write a hiking guide to Acadia specifically for children. Although Rowan does some public relations writing, she had never tackled a book before.

“I always enjoyed writing in school, but it was never something I pursued in any way,” she said.

Ten Days in Acadia

The research came easily, since she already knew the trails quite well.

“I’ve spent 40 years of my life on these trails,” she said. For the most part, she wrote trail descriptions first, then hiked each to see if there was more to add. It was particularly important to get the trail names right, since some have changed over the years.

It was also easy to achieve the book’s child-friendly tone, with Hattie as the first-person voice.

“I’ve worked with  kids a lot, mostly through the Island Institute,” she said. “It wasn’t hard for me to put myself there, thinking about my own experience in the park. Even today, I enjoy the same things in the park that a 12-year-old girl like Hattie enjoys.”

Plugging away at it, she’d write a chapter here and make a map there.

A page from the book.

“Then I’d get busy with life, then I’d work on it more,” she said.

A year and a half ago, she was homebound with the flu for five or six weeks. She took that as an opportunity to focus on the guide. It all came together, complete with maps, info boxes, tips, photos, field notes, and directions to trail heads, all interspersed with Hattie’s excited observations as she discovers this “lush, tree-covered island.”

Writing the book was a discovery for Rowan, as well.

“It reopened my eyes to Acadia and what it has to offer,” she said. “I do know the trails well, but it gave me a different perspective. I remember, one time, I was up early, writing the chapter for Acadia Mountain. I hiked that trail the next day, and I heard loons calling from across the way. Having just written about that,  it made me notice it in a different way and pay more attention to it. So it’s given me a refreshed vision of the park. And seeing it from a kid’s perspective, I’m enjoying it all the more.”