Monday, June 28, 2010

Prince Edward Island

Agriculture meets aquaculture. This is Prince Edward Island. Indeed, the water is never far away, and farms are everywhere. 1/4 of the surface area of the island is farm, and most of that seems to be potatoes. I was aware of the mussel farms, as most every seafood restaurant I've ever dined in has PEI mussells on their menu, but potatoes? Who knew? The land is very flat - the highest point is around 550', and the earth here is brick red. There's red sand beaches, and also white ones. It's nice. Quiet. Relaxing.

We took a drive around on one of the marked scenic routes which brought us past some nice vistas, and through Anne of Green Gables country. Mown lawns everwhere - these folks must spend a LOT of time mowing. We drove past some harbors full of fishing boats, others full of mussell farm bouys; fields of lupine, hay, and potatoes:

There is a rail-trail that runs end-to-end, with lots of branches, offering hundreds of miles of car-free biking. We did a short ride, towing both dogs for a while, then letting Toby run until he got tired. We were overwhelmed by the pungent aromas coming from one enormous potato processing plant. We watched a red fox bound along on a parallel path, pausing to give us a look. This is what it saw:

And every night the sky has put on an hour long sunset extravaganza. It starts up about quarter to nine, and is pretty much given up to lingering twilight by ten. This is the phase that lasts the longest: the post-sunset rose-pink fadeaway:

Friday, June 25, 2010

Hopewell Rocks; P.E.I.

We spent just two nights at Ponderosa Pines Campground in Hopewell Cape, New Brunswick. A caravan of motorhomes had most of the big sites reserved for the weekend, so we couldn't stay longer, and indeed probably wouldn't have wanted to once they all descended upon the place.

Just around the corner, and in fact visible from camp, is Hopewell Rocks. These are sandstone formations, carved by erosion away from the steep shoreline, even as trees still grow on their tops. The result is an otherworldly landscape that can be paddled through at high tide and walked through at low tide. We did both.

Here I am paddling the chocolate brown waters amongst the towering monoliths:

There are the free standing towers to paddle around, but also there are arches and cavelike tunnels that can be navigated, which was great fun. The water is always brown because the huge tides move over mud flats of this color, and the sediment is always suspended in the water this high up in the Bay of Fundy.

Here is Nancy emerging from behind one of the rocks:

Here is a scene that we caught both with the tide in and with it out:

This morning we packed up and headed north, crossed the Confederation Bridge onto Prince Edward Island, where we made camp at Crystal Beach Campground in New Annan, and watched the sun set over the island at 9:15 local time:

(It's 10:00 now, and still light enough to see outside)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Saint John, New Brunswick

Crossed the International Border from Calais, Maine, on Monday. We were a little concerned, mainly due to our fairly well stocked bar coming up against a 1 liter per person quota. The booth attendant asked many questions:

Have you been to Canada before?...........When?..........
.......................... When before that?....................
How long are you staying?..........How do you have that much time off of work?
................How much alcohol do you have?....................
Do you have any firewood?..........Do you have any plants?....

Ooh, it was this last one that had me pulling over and trotting inside for my full body cavity exam. NO, just kidding, ladies and gentlemen. I'm here all week. Tip your waiter. But, seriously, I did have to promise never to let any of the soil from my evil, contaminated American house plants touch Canadian soil, and I did have to hand over the few sticks of firewood that I had with me. That done, we were through and into the province of New Brunswick, and drove from there to the city of Saint John.

It seemed like a good idea at the time: camping in a city, spending our 14th anniversary downtown, dining at our choice of fine restaurants. In retrospect, screw the city - give me the peace and quiet of the country, and I'll cook my own damn food! But, we went into Saint John, and quickly found their city roads to be labyrinthian and poorly marked, but at least they were narrow and potholed!

We got off track, not realizing that we were supposed to on the lookout for postage stamp sized signs showing a little tent and trailer, and we ended up driving the rig downtown, along the cruise ship docks, and through the shopping district. Not good, but we didn't hit much. Then, when we found our way through a series of loops and pretzel shaped overpasses that should earn the city planner a trip to the electric chair, we finally arrived at the park, within sight the whole time, and found a barricade and detour sign awaiting us. We followed the detour, and went round and round through the city neighborhoods trying to make sense of it. Finally, a nice gentleman approached us as I sat stewing over my map, and offered to guide us in. "I saw you go arooond abooot three times already. Follow me, eh?" Relieved and grateful, we followed him, amazed as he led us right past the detour sign and through the construction site, amongst excavators, steam-rollers, saw-horses and cones. We hadn't notices the little sign saying that park traffic need not detour. We were so stressed out that we happily parked in the open lot that was the city park's campground!

Rockwood Park is actually a nice city park, over 2000 acres, riddled with roads, trails and ponds. But the campground is old, unkempt, and crowded. And, there's those harsh noises from this city of heavy industry! An enourmous rail depot sprawled at the bottom of the hill, issuing forth a cacophony of clanging, banging, and impossibly loud horn blasts at 3:00 in the morning. A gargantuan oil refinery belched smoke and flame into the atmosphere across town. And a herculaean and sorely overdue road improvments project was fully underway throughout. Sound lovely?
Just look at the natural beauty!:

The next day we did make the best of it. I found a decent network of mountain biking trails to rip on, and we took a drive up the coast to the Fundy Trail, a serpentine road and parallel multi-use trail along a gorgeous piece of coastline cascading into the Bay of Fundy. In these parts when the tide goes out, it goes WAY out, and boats are tied so that they don't tip over when they sit on the ocean floor at low tide:

Here is Nancy at one of the many overlooks:

The bay was mirror smooth:

In the evening we went back downtown, this time on purpose, and had a nice dinner at Billy's Seafood restaurant in what is actually a fine downtown district.

The waterfront has dockage, a Coast Guard station, and lots of shops, restaurants and bars:

And a bunch of cartoonesque statues of regular people doing regular things in the city:

So, that was our Saint John experience. It was good for a few stories, but I could do without the inner-city RV driving, and am once again grateful that we did not get in anywhere that we couldn't get out of. We've moved on now, back to the less populous countryside, and relieved that when we turn off the diesel, all we hear is the wind, waves and the songs of the birds.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cobscook Bay

We found Cobscook Bay State Park to be an excellent place to camp: big sites spaced well apart, natural woods setting, gorgeous waterfront. Even the sites down on the water were spaced out, but they were reserved, so we couldn't get one. I put out a section of dog fence across our driveway, but did not find it necessary to enclose an area for the dogs. Our site was well defined by woods and low brush, so Kinsey and Toby got the run of it. It was also a nice grassy site, which is much better for dirt management.

The only trouble is: no cell service and no internet. A big inconvenience for Nancy as we had checked the coverage maps and expected to have decent connectivity. Luckily we were there on the weekend, so it wasn't too much of a problem.

We walked down a nice trail to the water and found it to be flat calm - nothing around except for a couple of lobster boats sitting at their moorings:

The water was like a mirror:

The next day it was stinking hot - very un-Maine-like. No breeze, near 90 degrees. It quickly became unbearable at camp. Cobscook has no hookups, so we couldn't run our air-conditioner, so we took a drive to cool off in the truck. We headed out towards the easternmost point of the USA at Lubec, Maine, and there saw a sign for Quoddy Head State Park, so we headed down that way. There was a breeze off the water there, and it felt great. There was also a nice lighthouse and view of the mouth of the Bay of Fundy:

They say 100 billion (with a B) tons of water flows out of the Bay of Fundy every tide, and thats equal to the water that flows out of every river on earth in a 24 hour period. The tide at Cobscook rises and falls 24 feet on average. Deep in the Bay it's more like 50 feet. Back in Freeport it's only 9', and in CT a paltry 3'.

The next day was slightly less ridiculously hot, but we took another drive anyway, this time down to Machias, Machiasport, and Bucks Harbor. Down to Bucks Harbor we found a beautiful little beach on the harbor:

but weren't able to shop at the mall because it was closed:

We took the kayaks down to the water to have a paddle, but found it too choppy, but we also found the tide to be low, and I picked a bunch of mussels to have with dinner, and they were delicious!

Coming back to camp we saw a red fox crossing the road, its huge tail flowing as it trotted along, and then in the campground we came across this portly, prickly porcupine, which was so laid back that I came within about four feet of it while taking its picture:

So, Cobscook Bay State Park is high on our list of favorite parks. Check it out if you ever find yourself this far down-east.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Yesterday, which was Tuesday, I think (I really don't know or much care what day it is anymore, now that I don't have one of those, whaddya call ' Toby and I climbed Cadillac Mountain via the North Ridge Trail. Its just 2.2 miles from the trailhead to the 1500' summit, but it's rugged terrain, and the pines and birch give way to scrub pines and low brush, then bare rock with tiny alpine flowers clinging to life in the sun and wind. The view is panoramic: the broad arc of the Atlantic, Camden Hills, the rugged Maine coast and New Brunswick, and back inland, even distant Mount Katahdin is visible. The auto road brings visitors of all shapes and types, but Toby and I were among the most deserving of such a vista, having ascended under our own power. Here is the dog on the trail:

And the two of us at the top:

On the hike back down Toby twisted something in one of his front legs, and I was afraid that we'd have to cut over to the auto road to hitch a ride down, but after a rest and some massaging, he was sound again and made the rest of the descent just fine. He's a tough little dog. We went back to camp, had some lunch, and then Nancy and I (and both varmints) drove back to the park to do the park road loop. It's mostly a two-lane one-way, newly re-surfaced, no shoulder, lined with chunks of native granite, and winds its away around the park to provide visitors with views of all the best features of the park. Along the east coast we stopped at Thunder Hole, which, when the tide is right, is a kind of blow-hole where the water funnels into a rock formation and makes a loud thunderous boom and sprays all over the delighted tourists. The tide was not right, but the coastline was gorgeous and the sun was getting low enough to make for good lighting:

We continued on, finding our way to Jordan Pond, where, the marketing folks say it is tradition to stop for tea and popovers. Well, who are we to argue with tradition? So, we partook in afternoon tea, sitting out on the lawn with Jordan Pond stretching away until the mountian lurchs skywards to frame the view. The tea was excellent and the popovers buttery and perfectly popped. It's a good tradition. Here's Nancy about to enjoy:

The park road continues to form a loop, but we turned onto the spur road to the top of Cadillac Mountain so that Nancy could have a look around. Here we are up top:

Today I took Toby on a paddle on Long Pond while Nancy worked and Kinsey begged for treats. It was a pleasant paddle, although the wind shifted during my trip such that it was against me both ways. C'est la vie. Got this shot of a cooperative loon:

And, this afternoon, to cap off our Acadian experience, we took the bikes out (sans dogs) for a ride on the famous carriage roads. Nancy and I rode a nice loop, seeing several beaver ponds and some of Rockerfeller's bridge designs. Then, I continued on at a less leisurely pace to get the heart-rate going and work up a bit of a sweat.

That's it for Mount Desert Island. Tomorrow we go as far as we can before the coast ceases to be Maine and comes under the jurisdiction of New Brunswick. We'll be camping at Cobscook Bay State Park.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Mount Desert Island

We had a pleasant drive up U.S. Route 1 from Camden, not only in the sense that we didn't blow any tires or get stuck under any bridges, but also in the sense that we passed through some nice waterfront countryside. We didn't have reservations, so we were able to stop at a campground to check it out before committing, and ended up paying for a week's stay at Smuggler's Den in Southwest Harbor. We mostly camp in trees, so it's kind of nice to get some sunlight for a change.

Our first day out we took the kayaks down to Bass Harbor and found a place to launch. The tide was ripping strongly into a deep estuary with great view of the mountains. Our paddle started by shooting a mini rapid under a small bridge, which was great fun. I was a little concerned that it might be a challenge later when we came back - more on that later...

Here is Nancy framed by a smaller, but calmer, bridge:

The Rapid:

After a nice paddle on flat water with great views, we returned back hoping that the tide had changed and that the rapid we'd shot earlier would be either calm or running the other way. No such luck. So, we could either pull the boats up a steep rocky bank and then dash across the road to the truck...or...try to paddle up the rapid. I gave it a try, and couldn't overpower the strong current, but then Nancy poked up along the edge in an eddy and found that she could pull the boat through by grabbing the edges of the granite blocks the bridge is made from. She didn’t quite make it - got turned around and shot backwards, but I saw that she was onto something, and I was able to get my boat through using that technique! So then I walked back and hopped into Nancy's boat to take hers through. Kinsey was still on board as I cut across the current to get to the eddy. Then, I caught an edge, and rolled! Kinsey and I and a bunch of loose items were in the shockingly cold Maine water being swept downstream. It was not very deep, and I was bumping along, holding the boat, gasping from the cold and sputtering, and realizing that Kinsey was not accounted for!!! Before I could take any action she popped up from under the kayak and swam right into my arms! I caught a foothold, flipped the boat over, put Kinsey on board, and climbed in after her. I saw my paddle downstream a ways, so hand paddled the boat to catch it, then retrieved the other lost items! I made it through the bridge on my next try, but it was an exciting mishap!

Hiking Mt. Acadia:

Toby and I also took a hike up nearby Mt. Acadia, which was a beautiful but challenging trail, consisting of steep, rocky terrain. In many places the trailbuilders had posisitioned large hunks of granite to form rough steps, but some of these were too tall for Toby, especially on the way down the other side, where I had to carry him over the steepest sections of trail. Here is Toby waiting for a lift:

Views from the broad, granite ledges at the top were outstanding, offering vistas to the East, South, and West. To the east were a couple of other minor peaks on M.D.I. and much of Penobscot Bay, Camden Hills, etc.. To the West was Somes Sound and Cadillac Mountain. To the south was Southwest and Northeast Harbors, the Cranberry Isles, and the Atlantic Ocean, shown here:

Touring the West Side

We all took a drive around the west side of the island, stopping at the natural seawall:

A nice, easy hike down to the water on the Wonderland Trail brought us to fantastic waterfront: pebble beaches, boulder beaches, and huge chunks of pink granite "beaches", like this one:

We also stopped to check out pictoral Bass Harbor Light:

Bah Hahbah

What trip to MDI would be complete without a visit Bar Harbor? This iconic town, crowded with cute Maine-themed gift shops and seafood restaurants, is bustling with tourists hailing from as close as Ellsworth to as far as China. We went in for a night on the town: dining out and an entertaining improv comedy show.

Here we are in front of the harbor. Note the 4-masted wind-jammer moored there:

I had to have at least one lobster while in Maine! Here I humor Nancy by donning the obligatory lobster bib:


We got to know our neighbor, parked next to us in a shiny aluminum Airstream. It was great to get to know someone who is, like us, living and working on the road! Sharon, her exuberant husky-mix Harley and aged cat Peyote live in her stylish 20' trailer, staying between a week and a month at each destination. This is her second trip; she's already done a two-year tour of the country, so I think this time she will stay longer at her favorite places, including the great state of Maine. We had her over for dinner, and had a great evening sharing stories from the road, getting advice on this lifestyle, talking pets and drinking wine. Sharon is the first person we've met on our trip that we hope to keep in touch with and to meet again someday. Here we are sharing a grilled salmon dinner:

Lots to do and see on this island, so another blog entry coming up soon...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Camden & Monhegan

From Freeport we drove just under 2 hours "down-east" to Camden, and camped at Camden Hills State Park, which offers sites with water, electric, and even WI-FI. We tried to pick a site that would be unlikely to have neighbors, but as luck would have it, ours is the only one in the park with another camper next door! No worry, though, as they have been quiet, and have somehow managed to keep our dogs from seeing their dog, and that makes us quiet neighbors too.

Camden is a lovely seaside town, with a harbor that is popular with the cruising community, but also home to an active lobstering fleet, and a number of windjammers: beautiful two to four masted gaff-rigged sailing vessels that take toursists out on cruises. The town has lots of artsy ($) shops and seafood restaurants, no chains, and impeccable classic new england homes with gardens in full bloom. It's the quintessential Maine village.

Here's a shot of the harbor, with the highest of the Camden Hills, Mount Megunticook, in the background:

And here are Nancy and Kinsey atop the lookout tower on another of the hills, Mount Battie, looking out over Camden Harbor and Penobscot Bay:

The park is very nice, with grassy areas cut to provide a view of the Bay:

There is an extensive trail system, many of which are open to mountain bikes, so I went for a ride which gave me a deeper understanding of the hills for which this park is named. I happened to spot some moose droppings, and took a photo so that I could share with everyone I know! My glove is for size reference, which I thought you'd appreciate:

We also took a trip into Rockland, but after seeing Camden, Rockland just wasn't worth photographing. Today, however, I took almost 100 shots, because today we took a ferry from the fishing village of Port Clyde out to Monhegan Island! The boat is a classic trawler type vessel, 2 decked, 65 feet long, single screw diesel, and carryies the island's residents, goods & supplies, mail, and of course tourists back and forth the 10 miles out into the Atlantic. On the way out the boat slowed to allow passengers a good look at the several dozen harbor seals sunning themselves on a rocky islet:

A quick hour ride and we stepped off onto Monhegan. The picturesque community of fisherman and artists surrounds the harbor, but most of the island is protected and open for public use. Its a special place. We grabbed sandwiches and drinks at the Barnacle, and walked to a little beach for lunch. The beach had lots of "glassies" - bits of broken glass that have been smoothed by tumbling among the pebbles and shells. After the dogs were sure that we weren't going to share our food, they went swimming in the clear blue 50 degree water:

Fortified, we walked uphill past weathered gray homes with natural gardens, painters sitting hither and thither capturing their visions in oils. Here is a view of the village from the hilltop:

We walked across the island to Burnt Head, the trail opening up suddenly at the edge of a jagged rock cliff dropping 140 feet to the crashing swells. It was breathtaking! We then picked our way down a narrow footpath, suitable for alpine goats, to near sea level, where the dogs swam in an enormous tidal pool, and we watched eider ducks feed where the surf washes over seaweed covered ledges:

We climbed back up to White Head and sat on the edge looking out over the island and the endless horizon of the Atlantic. Here is the view northward from White Head to Little White Head, to Black Head (perhaps Dr. Monhegan was a dermatologist?)

Along the way we encountered countless scenes that practically cried out to be photographed. Its easy to see why so many come here to take, or paint, pictures of the amazing landscapes, gardens, and homes. If you haven't been, put it on your list to visit this island. Well worth the trip. Here are a few more pictures from the days outing: