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President begins vacation in Maine

President Obama spoke to tourists in Bar Harbor, Maine, yesterday. He had gone cycling with his family along a lake. President Obama spoke to tourists in Bar Harbor, Maine, yesterday. He had gone cycling with his family along a lake. (Jim Young/Reuters)
By Mark S. Smith
Associated Press / July 17, 2010

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ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, Maine — Cheered by a key victory in Congress and good news from the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, President Obama began a weekend holiday yesterday on a sun-dappled mountain peak overlooking the rocky Atlantic coast.

Within hours of landing at the Bar Harbor airport in a smaller version of Air Force One, Obama, his wife, Michelle, and daughters Malia and Sasha were clambering over the granite outcrops at the summit of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park. At 1,530 feet, it’s the tallest peak along the coastline of the East Coast, according to the National Park Service.

The family also went cycling for an hour on a secluded bike trail along a lake.

Their visit was scheduled to end tomorrow morning; no public events were planned.

The brief vacation quickly yielded plenty of photos of a president who knew he had a good week. Before leaving Washington, Obama went before TV cameras in the White House Rose Garden to bask in the latest news from the gulf — that for the first time in 12 weeks no oil was flowing from the ruptured underwater well.

Obama, clearly relieved, called it “good news’’ but stressed that the cap in place was at best a temporary measure, pending the permanent cementing of the well. That is expected to happen next month.

Still, the news was welcome after weeks of rising public frustration that often forced Team Obama on the defensive.

It also came a day after the Senate sent him a package of new financial market rules that Obama insisted are crucial to the economic recovery and necessary to prevent a repeat of the financial collapse of 2008.

But in Maine, for a couple of days, Obama seemed happy to leave the politics behind and concentrate on his family.

After leaving the mountain, they stopped at Mount Desert Island Ice Cream. “I went with coconut,’’ Obama said as he walked out of the shop. Licking his cone, he said: “This stuff is terrific.’’

The area around Bar Harbor is a scenic retreat favored by the rich and famous, from Rockefellers and Vanderbilts to movie stars. Aides said the Obamas planned to spend much of their time in the 47,000-acre national park.

Their first stop was Witch Hole Pond and a bike trail cleared of users by rangers and the Secret Service. The Obamas rode in private as an ocean wind ruffled the trees, aides said.

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