Third grader Otto Erlandsen has spent the pandemic climbing Acadia's peaks. PHOTO COURTESY OF ROBIN ERLANDSEN

Third grader hikes Acadia’s 29 peaks


BAR HARBOR — During the pandemic, 8-year-old Otto Erlandsen has not only been glued to his iPad, but has also been climbing the peaks of Acadia, all 29 of them to be exact. “I’m not that into sports, but I love fishing,” he said.

The Conners Emerson student has always enjoyed the outdoors but developed an interest in exploring Acadia’s mountains shortly before he began remote learning. Otto’s favorite part about hiking is arriving at the top because he is not afraid of heights and enjoys the view. “The steeper the better,” he said.

In the summer of 2019, Otto set his first personal goal, which he has since achieved, to climb every Acadia peak on MDI. Though some people say there are 26 peaks, and others say there are 31, he went with what was on his map.  “Any trail with a peak sign on the map…my favorite are the ones with ladders and rungs to climb up,” he said.

Accompanied by his mother Robin Erlandsen, they completed one separate hike per week, hitting each peak individually whenever the park was open, around 7 p.m. to avoid large crowds. “They are roughly two-and-a-half- to four-hour hikes, always the whole way up and the whole way back down,” said Robin. Otto makes sure to pack three bottles of water to stay hydrated throughout the hike and food for fuel after reaching the top.

Even Otto’s grandparents were said to have joined him on a hike. According to his mom, he hiked 20 of these peak trails during the pandemic with different family members to safely spend time together.

For every trail climbed, Otto marked his map with different colored pins for each family member he hiked with. PHOTO COURTESY OF ROBIN ERLANDSEN

“We’ve only been seeing my brothers and parents outside since the pandemic hit, so it’s been a great way for Otto to spend time with his family during these long months,” said Robin. For every trail climbed, Otto has marked his map with different colored pins for each family member.

As it turned to fall, it got darker and less crowded, so the last few hikes were done on weekends. The third grader recently completed his last peak when he reached the top of Cadillac Mountain on Nov. 20. “Though it was a bit chilly, we went the long way because his uncle has a bad knee,” said Robin.

Having completed all the peak trails, Otto has mentioned completing all of Acadia’s trails at some point. Although he has not fully committed to that just yet, his mother says he entertains the idea from time to time.

Ninah Rein

Ninah Rein

Writer at Mount Desert Islander
Ninah Rein, an MDI native, covers news and features in the Bar Harbor area. She is glad to be back in Maine after earning a bachelor's degree in San Diego from the University of California.
Ninah Rein

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