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.

Up North, for real

Urban Quebec is just a dim and distant memory after just a week or so on the road. We (foolishly) abandoned our original travel plans in favor of a route that would take us farther along the St. Lawrence River into northern Quebec. After all, we can see forests and rolling hills anywhere. But how many chances does one get to travel along a great shipping channel?

So, we headed out of Quebec City toward National Parc du Bic. Hello??? We knew there was a pet ban in nearly all Quebec National Parks, but did we confirm that for this location? Obviously not. After a scenic drive, we arrived at our destination, only to be reminded of the pet ban. We were chased northward to Rimuski Camping, a funky little motel/campground. We spend another night being pounded by rain, and departed to Sugarloaf Mountain Provincial Park the next morning.

Canada’s Provincial Parks are the equivalent to our State Parks. We’ve been in several now, and all have had huge, relatively private campsites with pristine bathrooms. All seem have extensive recycling programs, and superb maintenance. Camping here is a real pleasure. Sugarloaf has not only a ski hill, with challenging runs for all abilities, but also a popular bike park, full of twisty mountain bike trails with crazy jumps and long rickety narrow bridges, jammed with crazies sporting full face helmets and protective gear. The ski lift is equipped with special hooks for bikes to make the 800′ trip to the top effortless and quick. See that the chair ahead has a bike, but nobody in the chair. Attendants at the top snag the bikes and have them ready to go for the rider approaching in the next seat.

Although there weren’t any great vantage points from which to watch this spectacle, we saw lots of guys (only two women) risking life and limb to race down. Not for the faint of heart.

For us, we decided to hike to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, which is totally separate from the ski area. The trail circled the base of the Mountain innocently, until we hit Trail #9. In less than a kilometer, we climbed about 800 feet! That’s steep. A portion that section had a vertical ladder-like thing to assist the assent. Here’s the view going up and down. Seriously steep.

The photos really don’t capture the grade of this ladder. At the top, we were rewarded with a fantastic view.

Across the River is the province of Quebec. We are in New Brunswick.

Our other day at Sugarloaf, we split up – I was dying for a bike ride, and John wandered on foot. I rode about 40 miles to Dalhousie and back, following the River. Several great views and farm market were my reward. These photos are from downtown Campbellton, near the Park. The green bridge connects Quebec to New Brunswick. Salmon fishing is the name of the game in these parts. The shoreline is beautiful, beginning to show fall colors (not very evident in these photos)

Our next stop is one we were excited about – our very first National Park of Canada – Kouchibouguac – pronounced koo-she-boo-gwach, meaning ‘river of the long tides’. Oh yeah….

We had this great, 300-site campground nearly to ourselves. Our neighboring campsites are what they call oTENTiks. These are a cross between a lean-to and a cabin.

inside, they have built in bunks with mattresses, heat, and a beautiful sturdy fat wooden table/chairs. Outside, there’s a big gas grill, and a big overhang with Adirondack chairs. It’s so inviting. At Sugarloaf, they were even better – elevated on stilts – so each was about 5′ aboveground, with green metal roofs. As we were getting pounded by rain, all I could think of was how wonderful it would be inside, listening to the rain, safe and dry. Bring your sleeping bag, food, and you are camping! This seems like a great way to introduce families to camping without a big cash outlay. Most of these structures were designed to sleep up to six people comfortably.

We cycled around the 25 mile path at Kouchibouguac, packing regular shoes to get off our bikes to walk the scenic trails. By far, the best one was the boardwalk out to the Bay of St. Lawrence. It was calm and beautiful (it can NEVER hurt to have such a place all to yourself).

At the beach, we had custody of two perfect chairs. There was nobody else in sight.

Sadly, the rest of the day was down hill after this. We strolled the salt Marsh trail, surrounded by shoulder-high vegetation, then visited the Mi’kmaw Big Wagwam area where activities celebrating the indigenous culture are celebrated.

 

So, I’m a bit short of photos to account for a pretty great, albeit wet, week of camping in New Brunswick. We are still coming up short in our quest to sight a moose. Perhaps they are the mythical snipe of Canada. But, roadside warnings make you BELIEVE they do exist. Who wouldn’t be watchful after seeing this sign every few miles along the road? (Shot through the windshield, apologies for the photo quality).

Perhaps I really don’t want to see one! Our Vermont friends had an unfortunate nighttime encounter a few years ago when an 800 pound yearling moose darted into the front passenger side of their Prius. The moose died, their car was destroyed, but they escaped unscathed. So, maybe the mythical moose is best unseen.

We’re in Halifax now, battened down for more than 2″ of rain tonight. Looking forward to bike rides, ferry transit into the city, lobster and scallops. On to remote Cape Breton after that.