Sunday, October 27, 2013

O' Canada

Hmmm, time for a new tire?
Our final days in Canada involved a temporary fix for some tire trouble in St. John, followed by a quick dive into Maine for about 2 hours before arriving back in Canada for a boondocking site on Campobello Island.

Our front right tire has been wearing unevenly for some time and finally demanded immediate attention when the steel belts started showing and causing a front end wobble at low speeds. Way back in Michigan we had tried unsuccessfully to get an alignment done and had decided to wait until we were ready to put on new tires. Well, we are now ready to buy new tires. We have replaced the bad one with our spare, and have four new Continental 215/65R16Cs waiting at my brother's home on Cape Cod. The spare is a new tire, so I'm just hoping the other front tire lasts, as it is looking worn also. The roads we have traveled are not the lovely interstates, and tires can take a beating on the rough backroad potholes. Besides, most Rialta's come with four tires of two different sizes (yes, there is a reason) and we have been looking forward to getting all four tires and spare to a common size. Now is the time.

Tour guide Peter and me
Campobello Island is a small Canadian island that sits just off the eastern most tip of the United States. When the summer ferry isn't running you must drive through the US to get to it – sort of like Point Roberts back in our Pacific NW. Our hosts, Peter and Bea, are Europeans who have come through Norway and Alberta to Campobello, where they run a sight seeing business during the summer and migrate south in the winter. Upon arrival we were welcomed with tea and freshly baked cookies, which totally made my day. Peter then offered to guide us around the island and gave a marvelous tour, complete with historical facts and anecdotes, local color and current events. During the early part of the last century the island was the summering grounds for wealthy New Englanders who would flock to the area, many of them building summer "cottages" or staying in grand hotels. Most notable was the F.D. Roosevelt family. There is an international park here devoted to the family containing many beautiful acres of beaches, forests, bogs, miles of hiking, and a nice visitor center. The original Roosevelt home is now gone but they have created a nice representation of the home. Sadly, it was closed for the season and we were not able to visit. The next day, after it stopped raining, the four of us went for an excellent walk on several sections of the International Park trails. We saw seals and lots of birds, this area reminds me greatly of our own San Juan Islands.

Peter, Bea, Thayer

Much of the economy of the island is dependent upon tourism which is hardly enough, but many more locals still make their living from the sea. There is a salmon farm in a nearby bay and fishing boats tucked into snug harbors. A lighthouse at the north end has been adopted by the community and refurbished after years of neglect. You can only get to it during the low tide and must be very careful to get back before the tide turns. Even here the tides are tremendous.
Beach covered with beautiful rounded rocks!
Head Harbor Light station

Our time here in Canada, much longer than we anticipated, has been so wonderful. We have enjoyed each and every beautiful park, village and city that we have visited. The well tended, wonderfully tidy farms and homes are a joy and inspiration to see. The people have been so friendly and helpful at every stop, and are generous with their advice and time, taking a break from their day to visit and share what they know about their communities. We often drive away from a place saying "I could live here!", but happily move on after considering the frigid wintertime season. The National Parks and Historic Sites have opened our eyes to new and exciting landscapes, fascinating cultures and thousands of years of history. I am inspired to learn more about the people and places we have only just started to get to know. We have enjoyed expanses of wilderness, agricultural lands and seascapes, dotted with small cities and villages and flavored to perfection with friendly local people. Thank you Canada, for a wonderful 6 weeks!!

It is with some trepidation that we journey into the northeastern part of the US. When I look at the map filled with criss-crossing highways, huge cities, and dense populations I can just feel my blood pressure rise. Adding to my unease, the weather is getting colder and wetter with temperatures dipping into the 20's later this week. Brrrrrrr!  Where has our summer and early fall gone so suddenly? 
Mill Falls, KNP
Colorful, detailed doorway
Cape Breton seashore

Cape Breton Highlands
Aspy River trail



Nova Scotia, the final days

Sculpted granite
Quiet lakes, fall color
Peggy's Cove lighthouse

Fun with perspective
Peggy's Cove was next on our "must do" list and it was not that far down the road. We took the slow road, around each beautiful bay and inlet between Halifax and Peggy's. Its longer that way. The colors continued to entertain us but we got the feeling that we were beginning to see the end of the peak. Bare trees started showing their barky trunks and branches. We arrived in Peggy's Cove just as the sun was going down, another postcard kind of sunset. The lighthouse at Peggy's Cove is perched on sculpted bedrock of beautiful, light gray granite that has been ground and polished by glaciers. It is a stunning sight. There is a restaurant nearby with a large parking lot that serves the busloads of tourists who come everyday. We were lucky to visit when there were very few people around. We hopped around taking pictures for a while, shared a dessert at the restaurant, and camped out in their nice parking lot. The next morning I was up and out early to catch the sunrise which was equally beautiful to the sunset the night before. We heard that there were some buses coming soon so we decided to bug out before being left with the memory of the lighthouse surrounded by gobs of people.

Town of Peggy's Cove

Continuing along the rocky coast we charted our course to Lunenburg. Another historic city centered around the fishing industry, Lunenburg is a World Heritage site. It has a lovely harbor filled with fishing and sailing boats, a couple of streets in the business district, and neighborhoods of ornately built and brightly painted houses. We spotted the tall masts of a big schooner right away and went to investigate. It was the "Bluenose II", a replica of the original Bluenose. Unfortunately, it is undergoing some repairs and were not allowing people to get close or aboard so we had to admire it from a distance. The Bluenose was built near Lunenburg in 1921 as a racing and fishing boat. It won many races and set long standing records and worked as a fishing boat and freighter. It eventually was lost near Haiti. The Bluenose II was built in 1963 and for many years has been a major tourism draw. It is a beautiful ship! They are struggling so much financially that Thayer and I think we should be able to buy it and get it ready for next summer's cruise down the Atlantic seaboard. We drove the 5 km out to Blue Rocks, a fishing/summer cottage kind of community. It had a fabulous rocky coastline and many cute and interesting boat shacks, docks and boats. We talked to a nice older lady from New England whose family has owned a small house here for many years. Back in Lunenburg we met some other Rialta owners in the parking lot and joined them for dinner at the local pub. Nice folks from Wisconsin. They were on a quick trip to the Maritimes, only 3 weeks. They were headed to PEI next for only 2 days. We spent 10 days there and it wasn't enough. I guess we are just lucky to have all this time, not everyone does apparently.
Lunenburg is not afraid of bright colors!

Glacial carving in Blue Rocks
Boat house island
Lunenburg home

Bluenose II

The last big stop before leaving Nova Scotia was Kejimkujik National Park, located in the center of N.S. Yes, I had to go look that up to make sure I spelled it right. This special place is not only a National Park, it is also a National Historic Site. It contains Canada's treasure trove of Mi'kmaw petroglyphs, ancient sacred pictures carved into the smooth black rocks near the old villages. The Mi'kmaw traditionally spent their fall and winter seasons in the Kejimkujik area, fishing, hunting moose and deer, gathering berries and supplies for baskets and canoes. We did not get to see the petroglyphs because they are very protective of them and you can only  see them with a Mi'kmaw interpreter to guide you. The many lakes of the region were the Mi'kmaw's highways from the ocean shores 50 miles away to these wintering grounds. The campgrounds were deserted and mostly closed but we found showers open and electricity. During the summer season they provide all kinds of camping facilities: large tents, backcountry sites (with firewood and picnic tables provided), group areas, semi remote group sites... all beautiful, large sites. It would be so fun to have a canoe here, so many places to go and cool things to see. The trails I walked were lovely in the fall colors and delightfully deserted. In two long hikes I took I saw one other person. Canada does a wonderful job of providing opportunities to learn about the First Nation peoples, we have seen them represented in every park we have visited. They seem to have been treated much more fairly than the native peoples of the US.

Mill Falls on the Mercey River
Kijimkujik NP

With some regret, we turned toward Digby, our last stopping place in Nova Scotia. We missed the afternoon ferry so we camped in the parking lot at the ferry terminal, awaiting the 8 am ferry to St. John. Digby is the scallop capital of the world we hear, but we did not have scallops for dinner, I just haven't been having much luck with seafood and my stomach. Terribly sad, considering where we are. Anyway, farewell to Nova Scotia! 
Sunrise from Digby ferry
Enjoying fall sunshine!
Maple colors

Kijimkujik campground
Its not easy being a tree!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Our main objectives in Halifax were finding a shower and touring the Citadel. The YMCA welcomed us in for a free shower and we found a good parking place near the Commons Park, located right next to the Citadel grounds. I was still feeling under the weather but we ventured downtown for dinner at the Old Triangle, an Irish Pub near the water. The waitress kindly brought me some ginger ale, without ice, according to her mum. I started feeling better immediately. We had a nice evening eating and enjoying the music.
The Citadel
Changing of the guard
The next morning dawned clear and windy, a perfect day for viewing the hilltop fortress. The first fort built here in 1749 was a simple log structure staking Britain's claim to the harbor and lands around the harbor. The Mi'kmaq really didn't have much say in the matter as usual. Many settlers were shipped in from England and the continent to settle the lands and begin farming to support the growing town and it's shipping industry. Halifax played a central role in almost every war involving England, France, the US, for the next 200 years. The current Citadel dates back only to the early 1800's when Britain decided that if she wanted to keep a toehold in North America they had better protect Halifax and their great shipyard located in the Bedford Basin, a very safe and protected harbor inland of Halifax Harbor. The Citadel has undergone many changes over the years, all due to the increasingly sophisticated weaponry that would be used against it. When land based fortresses became obsolete with the advent of air dominated warfare, the Citadel was a state-of-the-art fortress. It was never attacked because it would have been impossible for any force to take it by land or sea. The British rotated their troops through their various empires, resting the regiments that were war weary and sending fresh troops to conflicts and active duty. Halifax was considered a resting place because of it's strong position in the area. The British Empire had an enormous army and navy. They were able to recruit large regiments by allowing the soldiers to keep their cultural identity, they created the Scottish, Irish, Wales and Indian brigades, to name just a few. The troops were allowed their own distinctive uniforms, music, and pastimes. 
learning about rifles
Changing of the guard
During our visits to the Citadel we were able to talk with many young men dressed in precisely replicated uniforms of the 78th Highlander Regiment. These fellows played their parts to the T! They knew the life of the soldier, the history of the Citadel and Halifax, as well as Canadian and English history. They played instruments, fired rifles and cannons and kept strict order among the unruly tourists. Parks Canada has done another fantastic job of making history come alive with the period actors, hands on activities and excellent exhibits and videos. Visitors were encouraged to try on uniforms, heavy woolen jackets and stylish feathered helmets. Every aspect of the soldier's life was explained and demonstrated. Every person we talked to could field any question we asked or would quickly find the answer for us if they didn't know it. 

squad for unruly tourists 

We were also lucky enough to visit the Citadel on the weekend when the WWI and WWII enthusiasts were dressed and ready for action. Halifax was a major player in both wars, the harbors and shipyard were the staging places for the convoys of ships cruising to England and Europe during those bloody conflicts. We talked to men representing British, Canadian and US soldiers as well as a few German, Russian, and Austrian soldiers. It is a fascinating way to learn about the history of the conflicts and, more importantly, the lives of the men serving their countries. War was not glorified in any way, I came away absolutely horrified at what the soldiers had experienced and the decisions they had been forced to make as leaders and warriors. By the end of each day that we were there I came away with my brain buzzing with excitement about what I had learned. Now if I could just figure out a way to remember it all! 

WWI and WWII interpreters
Saturday night was a big night in Halifax, it was "Nocturne",  an annual celebration of the arts. The town opened its doors for the whole evening, until midnight, with exhibits, shows, activities, performances, food, music... It was a beautiful clear night and the streets were packed! We started at the Citadel, where a local tech school had created a virtual reality, time travel, video, participatory game... They created a story where the folks at the Citadel were connected to some folks down on the waterfront through a computer and our job was to save the world from a devious evil dude. It was a little glitchy but we muddled through. Then we shuttled down to the waterfront and did the other end of the game, pretending to be the soldier who helps save the world. I'm not going to spend a lot of time trying to explain it. We were also able to visit the Maritime Museum and some of the ships in the harbor. It was a fun night but we were really tired when we finally got "home." I'm sure we could have spent a lot more time here in Halifax but we moved on down the road.

gas masks

Of Bores and Fundys

Before actually getting to Halifax we were determined to see the famous Bay of Fundy tides and tidal bores. We were a little confused about the big deal regarding these tides but as we observed and learned we saw the wonder of it all. The Bay of Fundy has some of the largest swings between low tide and high tide in the world. 50 feet of difference is not unusual and the record is 70 feet! In a 12 hour tidal cycle, 115 billion tonnes of water flow in and out of the basin. And this water sloshes in and out 2 times a day!(roughly) It comes in so quickly in some places that it causes a tidal bore which happens on the smaller tributaries of the Bay. A tidal bore occurs when the incoming tide actually reverses the flow of the river and creates a wave of varying height, depending on strength of the tide, that moves quite quickly upriver, bringing the incoming tide behind it.

sandstone shores
tide flats outside Thomas Bay
One of our guide books recommended Thomas Bay and Burntcoat Point as places to watch the tide come in so we chose Thomas Bay. We arrived just before sunset and quickly walked out to a point on the edge of Thomas Bay, which at that time was completely empty, covered with sea grasses and mud flats and interesting shelves of sandstone. The flats and ledges continued out from the point a good half a mile. While watching yet another spectacular sunset from the lovely sculptured rocks of the point, we could see the tide racing up, covering the flats ahead of us. This area of the Bay is too wide for a tidal bore but to actually see a tide coming in this quickly was astonishing. In lower places it flowed in as fast as a river or a flood, carrying mud and sand with its speed.  We were running out of daylight so we didn't get to see the whole event and had to wait until morning. The next high tide was due at 10:20 the next morning. I set out about 8:15 or so, not sure what I was doing or was going to see. I walked down to the bay that was empty last night and saw that it was beginning to fill at its furthest reaches. I took at different trail so that I could see across the Bay of Fundy as the high tide finished its work. I perched myself on a high bluff overlooking a rocky beach. Thayer joined me after a bit and we watched the water, flowing like a mighty river, quickly cover gigantic boulders and extensive beaches. It was a amazing amount of water to be sure. We had a wonderful hike back through the woods, around the once empty stream and back to the beach of the Thomas Bay, which was now full to the brim. 

Thomas Bay 8 AM
Thomas Bay 11 AM
woods walk
Hoping to be more impressed with a tidal bore we made our plan for the next day.  We got to the popular site near Truro several hours early because I didn't want to miss anything but really they are absolutely predictable, ours was coming at 11:29 am. The Salmon River was just flowing nicely along, curving around a large sand and mud bar in a broad river valley, doing what rivers do best: flowing downhill to the sea. At about 11:28 we saw a little wave rounding the bend downstream and moving rapidly upriver. The highest part of the wave was nearest the shores and there were several smaller waves coming in behind. At its tallest, the bore was about 2 ft. tall. The river stopped flowing downstream, got caught up in the wave and was pushed back upstream. The sand and mud bar completely disappeared in less than 10 minutes as the bore went past us and continued upriver. The river(and tide) was now flowing uphill. I can't actually say that it was jump up and down exciting, but it was quite astonishing and impressive.
Tidal Bore on the Salmon River
I probably would have jumped up and down in my usual fashion, but I had a touch of flu that kept me down the rest of the day. With an aching head and body it was good time for it to start raining. We found a place to hole up with some WIFI and I slept and rested most of the afternoon. The next day I felt a little better and we continued our travels into the fortress city of Halifax.

for my next trick...

Sunset on Thomas Bay

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The rest of Cape Breton

Having completed the Cabot Trail it was time to turn our attention to the east side of the island and devote some time to music! Thayer and I both enjoy Celtic music and were very happy to stumble upon one of the best festivals in the world devoted to it. This year's theme was the connection between Maritime Canada music and their European and Scandinavian roots. As I stated in a previous post the festival is about so much more than music. After saying farewell to our young friends we cruised on down to a medium sized town called Baddeck, where many events were scheduled. We wandered through an art show of local artists, and then took ourselves down to the Alexander Graham Bell Museum.
A.G. Bell Museum
A.G. Bell fell in love with Cape Breton after his success with the telephone. He built a large home, or small castle, that is still owned and used by the family, called Beinn Bhreagh. As a young man Bell was driven to help deaf and blind communicate and did much to improve their lives. Once Bell was awarded the patent for the telephone, which took many years, he came to C.B. to work on his other ideas. He was fascinated by flying and worked on enormous kites, thinking that might be the way to get man in the air. He had time and money to work on any project he could imagine and he had a lively imagination!  He had an amazingly scientific and inventive mind and was largely self taught. Bell developed a photo phone, improved the phonograph significantly, and developed hydrofoil boats to name just a few of his ideas. The museum was filled with artifacts donated by the family. I started reading a book called Reluctant Genius, a biography about him, that someday I will buy and finish. Bell was also a devoted family man and the museum is filled with wonderful family photos showing Bell's tender side. We spent several hours here but could have spent more. 
beautiful quilting!

Other activities in Baddeck included a fibre arts show with quilts, tapestry, knitting, applique', and many other creative and useful crafts. One gal was "up-cycling" old wool sweaters into very cute mittens, which I should have taken a picture of, but I didn't. There was some beautiful work displayed. We then found our way to the Baddeck Yacht Club for a couple of hours of live music and dancing. There is such an enthusiasm for music in this place, it is really infectious! The musicians will be playing away and a person of any age might just leap up and dance for a few minutes, always receiving an encouraging round of applause. As we were driving out of town to the potluck supper we had scheduled we ran into Klaus. He was on the final leg of his journey on his bicycle and would be leaving in a couple of days for home. After trading contact information we said our goodbyes. In Whycocomagh we loaded up our plates and chowed down on some great home cooked food and visited with some really friendly folks. Of course, there were a mother and daughter providing some nice music. There was a ton of leftover food so they let us load up a doggie box for the next day. But, soon enough, it was time for us to drive to Sydney for our first big concert. 
Each of the big concerts in the larger venues had 3-6 different groups lined up to play. They each played 4-5 pieces and then at the end they would all come on stage and play the finale together. We heard some fantastic music from an interesting variety of groups. Some groups looked like they had been working on the farm all day, dusted of the hay, and hurried to the concert to play. Others were very polished and looked really young. There were groups from Ireland, Scandinavia, the Shetland Isles, and Scotland as well as Canada. Some of the music was what you know: traditional fiddle tunes, jigs, reels and dances. Other music was a cross between Celtic and Rock- all very high energy! We really loved it! The skill of the players was fantastic. I'm running out of superlatives here so I will stop trying to describe it. If you like this kind of music you must someday come to this festival!
finale at Marion Bridge
Giant fiddle at Sydney concert hall
As we left the hall that night we noticed our friends, Jean Ramon and Lizette, parked in the concert hall parking lot. We spent the night just up the street and visited with them in the morning. They might be looking at getting a larger RV because Lizette has trouble accomplishing her yoga with the low ceiling in their pre-Rialta. I laughed, I will be starting my yoga practice completely from scratch when I get back, its pathetic. We spent the bulk of the day exploring Sydney, getting caught up with the internet, and enjoying the sun. In the late afternoon we wandered down to Marion Bridge on the Mira River, a small town about 30 km from Sydney, where we had a dinner and concert scheduled. We pulled into the parking lot of the community center next to a RV and within 3 minutes were chatting with David. We had a nice ham and potato dinner at the hall and then walked to the concert venue down the street. It was another great concert that I will not try to describe since I have used all the good words already. 

The next day was devoted to Fort Louisburg, an old fort celebrating its 300th birthday this year. We cut it a little fine, as the day we were there was the LAST day of the season. Fort Louisburg was built by the French, taken over twice by the British, burned at least once, abandoned in the 1760's, and left in ruins for almost 200 years. In 1961 the excavation and rebuild of the fort and town was begun as a make work project for a bunch of coal miners who were unemployed when the mines shut down. Working with archeologists, historians and master craftsmen they rebuilt the Governor's "Castle" and one fifth of the town outside the fort. They used many historical documents to rebuild the town and refurnish the buildings. Documents included building plans, maps, deeds, inventories, shipping documents, military logbooks, and personal accounts and diaries. Many original foundations were used in the reconstruction of the town. This year, in particular, they brought the place to life, filling it with authentically dressed personnel and period actors. I sat and talked with several of them since it wasn't crowded and learned a lot about their place in the town and in history. I had a long conversation with a Mi'kmaq tribal member about treatment of the native peoples through the settlement of the Maritime Provinces. Turns out they were treated quite a bit better than the native peoples of the US. The Mi'kmaq and the French frequently joined forces against the British or the Americans, depending on the conflict. 
Rebuilt town of Ft. Louisburg
Governor's digs
Thayer and I became separated early on, as we usually do, and didn't see each other until the end of the day. The fort is so big that there was no way to find each other. With it being so late in the season, not all of the usual buildings were open but there was more than enough to see and we were tired by the time we found each other.  Fort Louisburg is a must see for anyone planning a visit to Cape Breton. For the Music festival they hosted a night where attendees ate an authentic 18th century meal, walked the streets guided by lantern carrying villagers, listened to music and storytellers, and drank at the taverns. It sounded like a really fun night but the tickets were sold out months ago. 

Governor's Chapel
Mi'kmaq man
Lucille and me
Spruce branch=PUB
Main gate to the wharves

That night we spent at St. Peter's, attended a casual community music session, where our friend David bravely played his guitar and sang. The next morning I took a nice walk along the canal and into town. The canal is unusual in that it has to work both ways between the ocean and the lake. Sometimes the lake is higher than the ocean and sometimes lower so it has double locks at each end.
Community Jam
St. Peter's Canal and Locks
Farewell Cape Breton Island! It's on to Nova Scotia and the Bay of Fundy!