Fabulous Fundy

When we initially started planning for our trek into Canada, on the top of my Must See list was the Bay of Fundy. This basin between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia is known for having the highest tides in the world. Admittedly, the numbers don’t quite match up to the visual reality – a 12 meter tide (over 48 feet) is not like standing on the edge of a pool that is empty then 48 feet deep six hours later. Yet, it’s striking. Here are the commercial docks in Alma at low tide. And again, a bit later as the tide creeps in…

We watched them all sail at high tide a day later.

At low tide, we could walk out on the shoreline for about a quarter-mile.At high tide, the water extended all the way to the distant wall in the photo.

Low tide. High tide.

None of these photos were taken at the moment of highest or lowest tide, but it’s amazing to see. We were so lucky to be at Fundy on October 14, which was the start of the fall lobstering season. (Oct-Dec. The other season is April-July) That meant that at 2am (the first high tide of the day) the commercial fleet leaves the wharf. Fireworks! A bagpiper, dressed in a lobster suit and kilt! All the Alma townsfolk, some dressed in pajamas and blankets. We were happy to drag ourselves out late on a cold night to witness this event, the lifeline of the local economy.

The dock had been busy the day before, with boats being loaded with dozens of traps, each filled with fish guts, heads, and other assorted goodies that lobsters love. Some were strung together, as many as 20 to a single buoy. Smaller craft have traps/buoys on a 1/1 basis. It’s big business on any scale. Lobsters collected here supply not only the local market, but everywhere North Atlantic lobsters are available.

At 2am, the sleepy crews joined their ships, carrying backpacks with their personal stuff for a few days. A few obviously looked like they came directly from a warm bed to the dock. I inquired, and was told that the first run would last about three days. Ships would then return to port, empty traps, reload, and head back out. In and out as long as he season lasts. It must be extremely hard work in raw weather.

The stark beauty of the Fundy shoreline is special. We wandered from point to point (breaking our no-driving-in-the-truck rule) and found terrific views at every turn.

As you can tell. These were shot on different days. We did have one sunny day while we were there and it fortunately coincided with our visit to Hopewell Rocks. This would be a great sight anywhere, but being able to walk around the base of these spectacular formations at low tide was unworldly.

i can’t tell you how happy we were to have a sunny day for this excursion. We had thought about hanging out here for the six-hour, low-to-high tide experience, but just couldn’t swing it with Jezzy. By the time we included out travel time to the site, it would just have been too long of a day for our girl. So we elected to wander the base at low(ish) tide. I think we made the right decision.


They warn you about the mud there. I made a few mis-steps, and will probably be cleaning this out of my boots forever.


I’ll w up now. I took a hundred photos, and would still be sitting on the shore somewhere along this amazing coast if I could figure out how to do that. It is beautiful. Stark and rugged.

But one last note. Quietsolopursuits, this is for you. We wandered through some of the other campgrounds (we were at Headquarters Campground, the only one still open at this time). In the Point Wolfe Campground, we found this fabulous thing – I don’t know the name. Kind of like the oTENTiks we found in other Parks, but designed for one or two. I want one! Just another reason to return. Inside it had a sleeping platform, and kind of a gear trampoline suspended above. Or, perhaps you sleep on the trampoline and stow your stuff below??

We’re headed on to our last few days before plowing home. It’s hard to find open campgrounds, and we’ve developed another serious leak which is drowning our new floor somewhere from below. Time to shut off all water and head home. ☹️☹️☹️

Still More Canada

It just keeps getting better here in the Maritime Provinces of Canada. I’ll admit to initially being lukewarm to visiting this area, but am happy to admit to being totally wrong. I can’t wait to revisit to see everything we missed on this brief visit.

October is such a great time to camp, with one big problem. So many campgrounds close on Columbus Day (National Indigenous People’s Day, or Thanksgiving in Canada), which came early this year on October 8. Our campground on Prince Edward Island was the only campground open on the entire island. And, we were so lucky to find this spot at New Glasgow Highlands Campground. It was a gem. Private campgrounds are never this nice, but this one excelled in every aspect.

PEI was a big surprise. Very rural and agricultural – a big potato growing area. Trucks filled with potatoes ere everywhere, and there are even a few distilleries featuring their own potato vodka. Long, rolling country roads are punctuated by ocean views. And, the Confederation Bridge connecting Nova Scotia to PEI is spectacular. At 42,323 feet in length (about 8 miles), it’s the longest bridge over ice covered waters in the world. Of course, most of it was shrouded in rain and fog when we crossed. But, amazing still.

The view through the windshield looked like this, something we’ve experienced time after time on his trip.

Our PEI time was limited. Fortunately, we were close to Prince Edward Island National Park. This was the main area we wanted to explore, so we donned our familiar yellow rainjackets and headed to the shoreline. It’s a crazy feeling to have miles of beautiful beach to yourself, but we are getting used to that sensation. It would be easy to get spoiled.

There are variations to the view. These two guys in their neon rainsuits were methodically working their metal detectors on this dark afternoon.

At the other end of the Park is Dalvay by the Sea National Historic Site, which is an enormous summer home, built by oilman Alexander McDonald (crony of JD Rockefeller of Standard Oil) in 1895. You can stay in one of its 25 guest rooms, so tempting in our damp state.

What a treat to stroll in and find a welcoming bar, complete with roaring fireplace and huge leather chairs. We were more than ready for a bit of pampering. A beer and a shared scallop crudo eased our chilly misery. Did we feel out of place in our grubby camping duds? Not a bit.

Day 2 on PEI sent us over to the Anne of Green Gables House, which inspired the book of the same name (insert gagging sound here). No photos – the area was swarming with busloads of tourists. John was interested enough to download and read AoGG, but I just wanted to run. We finished our day on PEI with one of the most fantastic meals I’ve had. Mussels, chowder, halibut (by far the best-ever), and a baked seafood thing in a cozy restaurant. Again, no photos, but do yourself a favor and visit the Blue Mussel Cafe if you are in the area. Five stars, with five star staff.

We headed back to New Brunswick to check out Fundy National Park. This is such an amazing place that it deserves its own post. So, read on to the next one…

Cape Breton Highlands National Park

About 225 miles from Halifax on the northern tip of Nova Scotia lies this magnificent National Park. We’ve spent four nights here – ambit of sunshine, some clouds, a spot of warmth, and some very cool nights.

I’m tired of my voice, so just enjoy these photos….

We took a hike one day, and were treated to some of the most intense autumn color I’ve ever experienced. About seven miles of splendid color, much of which was supplied by low-lying blueberry plants, whose dark scarlet leaves dominated the scene.

Along the way, there was an old survival cabin, equipped with two wooden bunks, a woodstove, two old sleeping bags, and a lantern.

What was really fun was the notebook with a stub of a pencil for inhabitants to leave notes for those yet to come. Lots of people commented about moose sightings (oh, sure…) and weather conditions. But this one made me laugh.

Tomorrow, we move on. This has been a great stop.

Sun, Wind, Rain – Repeat

Lately, each time I decide to start a new post, I’m amazed to see how much time has elapsed since the last one. Has it really been two weeks? This is our sixth campground since my last post, so I’ll just hit the high spots.

You are probably sick of hearing me rag about the Texas spring winds, but they were truly incredible and uncomfortable. When your camping plans include cooking and eating outside everyday, the last thing you want are howling 30mph winds.20180412_130530-1799708842.jpg They plagued us at our stops at Lofers Bend West and Ratcliff Lake. Both were pleasant spots to camp – Lofers Bend (on the water), and Ratcliff Lake (more of a woodsy, rustic spot). Nothing really remarkable about either of them, but both nice enough for a return trip for a quick overnight. I did have a horrifying encounter with this gigantic spider in the shower at Ratcliff Lake, but I think a few years of therapy will help me get past this. That’s a quarter placed in the vicinity for size perspective. That thing was a monster!20180414_1101071864957766.jpgNearly every year since we’ve been on the road, Galveston Island State Park has been a place where we’ve tried to land for several days. Although the Beachside campground is nothing more than a parking lot with decent-sized lots, firepits, and picnic tables, it IS right on the Gulf of Mexico. Listening to the roaring surf every night, having miles of beach to wander every day, in addition to all the historical sites of the area is a treat. (It was slightly less of a treat because of the extremely high winds when we were there, but…)20180415_1627591612159452.jpgFrom the campground, we can cycle on the beach, then down the Seawall all the way to the historic end of town – about 15 miles one way. It’s a great ride. Although you can’t tell from this photo, the seawall is about 6-8 feet above the sandy beach.20180416_1201491253756854.jpgThis year, we tried to do a couple of new things – we cycled all the way to the south (or west?) end of Galveston Island down the beach. The sand on the island is perfect for cycling. Just find the sweet spot between the not-too-wet, and the not-too-dry sand and crank away. It’s doable, but still much harder than trail or road riding.20180418_1043002011903451.jpgBy the time we made it 15 miles down the beach, we were whipped! But, we would not have been able to do this (with our mountain bikes) on the sand at San Clemente in CA, or along the Lake Michigan shoreline. It’s all about sand texture, baby.

On the way back, we mostly took the road, which was a comparative breeze! (pun intended) Along the way, we stopped to chat with an old hippie guy who had a bunch of kites up in the air. His biggest was 19 feet long! At one point, he had nine kites up at once.20180417_170808823855851.jpg20180418_1327161389457496.jpgFunny thing – the shark kite on the far right took a dive just as were were leaving – it punched over the string of the kite to its left, which then got tangled up in the string of the gigantic blue octopus kite. Both crashed onto the roof of a closed-up beach house. Lesson: Sharks are dangerous. Hope the owner was able to retrieve them. We didn’t hang around to find out.

The other new thing we did was to explore the Ocean Star Museum. This is an 1970s era Gulf of Mexico drilling rig/platform which has been turned into a museum. It was fascinating. Did you know that the oil company that President George HW Bush was an owner of the company that developed one of the first offshore drilling platforms? This particular rig was put into service in 1969, and decommissioned in 1984 – a reliatively short life, due to rapidly changing technology. Much of the original equipment is still there to see, as well as lots of photos and artifacts of life on the rig. Can you imagine having 28 people evacuate into this emergency “bell” lifeboat? It had food, water, and automatic sprayers on the outside to spray seawater on it to keep the occupants cool until rescue. It’s hard to tell size from the photo, but I can guarantee you that 28 people would be nose to nose inside. 20180419_1334521414555063.jpgA diving suit from the same era was also featured. Again, I was horrified at the thought of being encased inside.

The Ocean Star was designed to drill up to 5 miles deep, and to accommodate 100 workers. There were scale models of many types of platforms, and an area devoted to the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf off the Louisiana coast.

What was most fascinating to me was how these platforms are installed. They are erected onshore then towed into place on huge barges, which then tip the platforms off into the sea where they are fastened down by underwater robots and secured by cables stretching miles out from the platform in every direction. Wouldn’t it be amazing to see one on the move?20180419_1409251212290084.jpgFrom our campsite at Galveston Island, we could see several working platforms in the Gulf – there are hundreds of them out there. At night especially, the lights twinkle in the distance. Three other mothballed platforms, either undergoing repairs or waiting for a new assignment waited in the harbor. These smaller exploration platforms are called ‘jackups’, because they can be jacked up on a base, then moved when their task is finished. The larger production platforms are permanent until decommissioned after approximately 30 years.20180421_133503675878780.jpg It was an interesting afternoon. There’s much to be learned here – a bargain for the $10 entry fee.20180419_1402071281299882.jpgOf course, we had to wander around Galveston for a few hours. After Hurricane Ike in 2008, many homeowners turned their downed trees into sculptures, primarily by three chainsaw sculptors. How about this one with a Wizard of Oz theme?20180419_1528511278978464.jpgLots of interesting things to do and see in Galveston. We’ll be back again.

Our next camp was a fisherman’s dream at S. Toledo Bend State Park, just across the border into Louisiana. If you’re into bass fishing, Toledo Bend is sacred ground. Ours was one of the few campsites that didn’t have a bigass bass boat parked alongside.20180420_1816101022983571.jpgWe had a great site there, and enjoyed all the commotion of a busy weekend. Kids and bikes everywhere – 50 Cubscouts, a gigantic thunderstorm, and a free concert by a group of mountain dulcimer enthusiasts. 20180421_155536650940952.jpgWhile I have to admit that each song sounded pretty much the same (even the ones they sang), their warmth and dedication was infectious. This guy tapped on the board (secured by his butt), and it forced the little wooden dolls to dance. 20180421_1559351717086712.jpg

I did a bit of wandering on my bike, as I wanted to see the dam that formed Toledo Bend. I managed to get down a sandy road on the back side of the dam. There were folks fishing everywhere, although there didn’t seem to be too many fish being caught. Sometimes it’s more about the fishing than the fish, I guess. I did see one guy down at the shore who was bowfishing. Ugh – I gave him a pretty wide berth.20180421_1226111968847915.jpg20180421_12332946344939.jpgThere was just one gate open in the dam releasing water to the back. Probably 100 white pelicans were hanging around there, watching the water rush down the backside of the dam, waiting for a fish to fly past. Pity the poor fish who thought he had finally made it to freedom from the pursuit of 100s of fishermen to be nabbed by a pelican on the final burst to freedom.20180421_13070898435999.jpgWe spent a single night alongside the Natchez Trace in Mississippi as we plow eastward. Perhaps on a different day this would be a pleasant stop, but we were terrorized by thousands of mosquitos, each easily the size of a Buick. We could hardly cover up enough to run down to the bathroom. omg – it was awful at Rocky Springs Campground

But tonight is our reward. A lucky pick of a campground at Deerlick Creek Recreation Area (Corps of Engineers) in Tuscaloosa has rewarded us with probably the most beautiful campsite we have ever had.20180423_1620001136378522.jpgOur own deck, water/electric, and a great view of Deerlick Creek. Every now and the a barge rumbles past, pushing some unknown commodity down toward the Gulf. All this for only $13/night with our Senior Pass. Although we’ve only been here for a few hours, we’re already sad that we can only stay two nights. If any readers of this blog are Spartan fans, you’ll be happy to know that we thumbed our noses as we passed Nick Sabin’s Crimson Tide cathedral on the way in. We may have to cycle over there to explore a bit tomorrow.

Wild Animals and Wilderness

Wow! What a week. If you don’t want to plow through all the yadayadayada, just skip around and take a look at some of the photos…we’ve had some interesting times. One of the reasons I started this blog was to keep a record – for us – of our adventures. In a few years, when we’re in The Home, drooling on ourselves, we’ll be able to re-live these times. These are some of the things I hope we’ll remember.

We decided to leave Valley of Fires a day ahead of our plan, and shorten the lengthy drive to our next scheduled stop. Oasis State Park (NM) seemed like a good choice for an intermediate stop. Well, maybe….we drove through miles of flat territory, studded with cattle feedlots. Oasis SP is an odd spot – a small campground stuck out in a huge flatland. There is absolutely nothing nearby. I’m not sure why anybody would actually plan to camp here. It’s barren. 20180410_171905944341651.jpg20180403_1832351700276330.jpgThe wind was roaring – we sat outside for a few minutes, and congratulated ourselves with having a shorter drive for the next day, then dove inside to seek shelter from the wind and cold. It wasn’t pleasant.

Several years ago, we stayed at Caprock Canyons State Park (TX), and my most best memory of it was the prairie dog village.20180404_171509487528699.jpg With my cellphone camera, it’s impossible to get a decent photo of this experience – prairie dogs and their environment are nearly the same color, and I couldn’t get close enough for a clear shot. But this video gives you a great idea of  what the experience is. Enjoy. It’s crazy. When I walked past the village with Jezzy, the activity and chatter between prairie dog ‘condos’ increases. Jezzy is entranced. Prairie dog is the new squirrel.

But, this trip to Caprock was all about the bison. Their stately presence is something we’ve enjoyed at Custer State Park and Teddy Roosevelt National Park, but this was contact on a whole new level. (This guy is nuts for turning his back as he did.)C9C05651-69C9-45BB-B219-E9CDB2C50C69 They wander everywhere – disrupting traffic and foot-flow whever they pass. Our campground was a prime target. I awoke one night at 4am to a strange noise directly outside the window that I couldn’t identify. When I opened the shade, all I could see was the huge body of a bison, standing three feet from my reach – right at the edge of the trailer hitch! Apparently, the Campsh@ck was perched on some tender shoots he wanted to have. Although he never bumped the camper, it took a long time to get back to sleep that night. In the morning, we discovered a delightful ‘hostess gift’ which he left for us. 20180410_1734141033266775.jpgOur new neighbor the next day had a similar experience. She rolled in with her small camper to the sight of the bison hanging out in her campsite. 20180410_1742562001968800.jpgHe was nearly as big as her camper.IMG_20180407_173257.jpg There was a bit of cat-and-mouse as she tried to wait him out before leaving on her bicycle. Nerve-wracking, to be sure.

It’s impossible to explore the Canyons without a bison encounter. 20180410_173218708221960.jpgWe hiked the 6.5 mile Rim Canyon loop, and met up with a few surly-looking beasts. For sure, we gave them a wide berth, and moved on. But, I believe it was this same group who caught up with us as soon as we entered the enclosed campground for people camping with horses. Although it looks like I’m right next to them, we were (thankfully) separated by a thin strand of barbed wire.

 

Bison may look stupid and docile, but they are quick and agile. From the protection of our truck, we viewed one lone bison racing across the prairie – apparently waking up from a nap to find the herd had left him behind. Believe me, he was hauling ass! It was amazing to see. I was even attacked by a bison statue. Nobody was injured.20180406_1151231800038015.jpgOn one particularly cold morning, we left in the truck to explore nearby Turkey TX. Upon returning, we met our neighbors who told us that we had a big bull bison using our electric post as his scratching post. He inadvertently turned on our water spigot (we had turned it off and disconnected the hose due to 20 degree temps the night before). Water was spraying everywhere! They waited for him to wander off, then turned off the water.

We hiked another day from the far end of the Canyon into a completely different landscape. A3B3AAB4-4125-4BDD-9B94-A65E55098D0F5C7F3612-5944-4650-BDD1-12D26625CF14 20180410_1743511652084639.jpgAlthough we were plagued by fierce winds and plunging temps, I’d go back there in a minute. It’s so beautiful.20180406_1043551261039530.jpg20180406_1043121373068015.jpg20180405_1239331453774573.jpgWe were sad to leave Caprock, but hopeful to find some warmer temps. The dry 30mph winds and below freezing temps at night were wearing us down. We couldn’t have a fire, it was too windy to keep our awning up to sit outside, and we were a bit tired of the close contact of being stuck inside a small space (small campers are even smaller after a few days of inclement weather)

One more curiosity about this area – on the road into the Park, there’s a fence stretching about 3/4 mile on which folks have decorated boots and hung them on the fenceposts. Here are a few of my favorites.

We didn’t have high expectations for our next stop – Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma. But, what an interesting spot! More bison, Oklahoma Longhorns, coyotes, turkeys, geese, a primo lakeside campsite for $10, and more.20180410_1803002120749914.jpg20180409_195102713387479.jpgOne big downside.20180410_1747531235530549.jpg This is the third time we have encountered a water-warning in a western State or Federal campground on this trip, and it’s worrisome. Twice, the warning was for high nitrates, but the e-coli warning to avoid all contact and boil water was scary. There were several pit toilets around the campgroud which had been de-commissioned, and I’m pretty sure that was related to the e-coli contamination. Creepy. Once our clean water is gone, what’s next? We had five gallons of drinking water with us (way more than enough), and we used water from our tank for dish washing. But, I did take showers there – yuck!

The Visitor Center in the NWR is amazing – videos and displays about rejuvenation of the prairie, saving the bison, and restoration of the prairie. Between 1830 and 1860, the American bison herd was reduced from 50 million head to a few hundred. For me, those numbers are incomprehensible. Old photos show settlers sitting in stacks of bison hides or amidst piled of bison-head skeletons. President McKinley signed the Wichita Mountains NWR into existence, and thus began the long, slow process of saving the bison from extinction. Hooray for that effort. Longhorn cattle are also prominent in the NWR landscape.20180408_1403421539330140.jpg20180409_12474982827992.jpgIn the middle of this National Wildlife Refuge in western Oklahoma is a curious area called Holy City. 20180410_175538681212606.jpgAlthough I can’t speak to the religious aspect of this site, it certainly was a fantastic photo op.20180410_175659957570438.jpg20180409_140056961592622.jpg20180409_140604206578278.jpg20180409_140644805783642.jpg Since is was just a week after Easter, I can only imagine what it must have been like the previous week. Holy City was built in 1926, and is the site of the longest running annual Passion Play in the US.

One other event affected our visit to the NWR. While we were there, there was a full-scale controlled burn of the prairie inside the NWR being conducted by the Forest Service. We planned to cycle to the Visitor Center, then on down to a trail around Scott Mountain. Once we passed the VC, we noticed an unusual amount of smoke. Soon, signs appeared about the burn.20180410_175436416705792.jpg In this area, the Eastern Red Cedar is an invasive tree, which (left uncontrolled) would totally dominate the landscape. Burning is a method used to eliminate the cedar, since they perish, the native oaks survive, and the prairie grasses re-establish themselves within a matter of days. It’s easy to see the effectiveness of this tactic. Areas which have been burned are easily distinguished from those that have not, based on the scrub, and the trees. The area to the right of the sign in the above had been previously burned.The smoke from the burn was horrible though, and we were prohibited from cycling through the area we planned. 20180410_175354836702364.jpg Here’s what it looks like – I would love to go back in a month or two and take a photo from the same corner to see the difference.20180409_1422391573388771.jpg20180409_142127435293032.jpgThe hazy smoke affected all my photos from the day, although we enjoyed our ride and the sights.

We loved the historic stone buildings there. The photo below shows John near an early gas station. 20180410_1752381222561205.jpgThere are several dams in the area, and we found a terrific spot for lunch. 20180409_143549378829547.jpgThe Wichita Mountains NWR turned out to be a terrific spot to explore, and we were sad to leave. There’s much to see here, and we will definitely be back.

Heading toward an old favorite site – Galveston Island State Park. On the way there, we’re staying at two new (to us) campgrounds. Stay tuned….20180409_1523241213192847.jpg