Home Too Soon

Somewhat unexpectedly, here we are back home. Sometimes camping just becomes a pain in the ass. That’s when it’s time to pack up and head home. That’s the situation in which we found ourselves.

Upon leaving Fundy National Park, we were geeked to return to the States and revisit Acadia National Park. We’ve been there just one time, and it was an odd one, coinciding with the government shutdown in October 2013. The park was officially closed, but we could duck beneath the barriers on foot or with our bikes. In many respects, it was ideal – zero car traffic – we cycled the scenic drive with abandon. But, the Visitor Center had been closed, and we felt like too many stones were left unturned.

So, we rolled in to Acadia on a Monday morning in late October, expecting to camp for five days or so, and check out everything we missed the first time around. Who would think that the campground would be full? The loop that allowed reservations was completely booked! We were assigned a site for one night in a section due to be closed the next morning. There was some hope that it would remain open for at least one more day. So, we grabbed the site, leashed Jezzy up, and headed off on a nearby trail. To get a glimpse of the ocean at least.

What a relief! We could camp one more night. So, we decided to hike the Ocean Path Trail, combined with Gorham Mountain to soak up as many great views as possible. We were not disappointed.

A few hearty climbers were working one of the steep faces, so we stopped to watch. Believe me, there wasn’t much room to inch your way up that crack between the rocks.

One popular stop along this trail is Thunder Hole. The tide rushed into a narrow crevasse, and the backsplash can be quite powerful. We were not there when the tide was high enough to provide a good show, but check out this video from YouTube. Wow! https://youtu.be/voWhZRtBgF4. (This is not my video)

To find a great aerial view, we decided to detour up to Gorham Mountain. Good choice!

Altogether, it was a good day on foot – about 9 miles, great scenery, and blue skies. Success.

Our plan, upon leaving the campground the next morning was to stay in a nearby Bar Harbor campground to continue our exploration for the next few days. However, the only campground open within miles was a total dump. With at least one day of rain coming, we were unwilling to spend it in some nasty parking lot of a campground.

Instead, we landed at Pawtuckaway State Park, NH, an absolute gem of a park. We tucked into a solitary site in the Turtle Island campground (yes, an actual island), and hunkered down for rain.

At least, we enjoyed sitting outside, enjoying this pristine Park from the shelter of our awning. We congratulate ourselves every week on our good fortune in owning this awning. Because it attaches directly to the Campsh@ck, it’s very durable for wind and fowl weather. We can still cook outside, eat outside, and not feel trapped when we have day after day of crappy weather. It’s a godsend both to our camping life and our marriage.

The following day brought another change of plans. The New York State Park we planned on staying at for a night or two, was actually closed. The only thing open were some rental cabins. We were fortunate to find a nearby private campground where we pulled in, just as darkness fell. Our site was right alongside a creek, which was jumping with salmon. We could actually have reached in, and grabbed dinner, had we not been so bushed. Sadly, they had just winterized their bathrooms, so what we were directed to use instead was cold, odd, and nasty. Enough said.

Camping options for the rest of the trip were nonexistent. So, we ground our teeth, and drove eleven hours home.

Here’s a map of our campsites for reference. Sorry I haven’t done this all along. I think you can touch on the mappoints to find the campgrounds.

https://tinyurl.com/y8q4yyqp

Home. House and yard work awaits. But, it was a spectacular trip.

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.