Saturday, August 27, 2016

GTT Day 26

August 26 - Pistolet Bay Provincial Park, NL.
Another early morning and fast getaway. We stopped for breakfast at Arches Provincial Park:
I grabbed this shot before it rained on me! These rock formations are totally different from anything else along this coast.
We continued all the way up to the top of the western penninsula, mostly along the west coast and through little fishing villages with interesting names like Cow Head, Plum Point and Flower's Cove. We're poised to head to L'Anse-aux-Meadows tomorrow to view the site of the 1000-year-old Viking settlement. We both have always wanted to see this area ever since we were kids. The weather was foggy and spitting most of the way but of course it cleared up later in the evening. We did manage to catch a glimpse of the Labrador coast across the Strait of Belle Isle but didn't stop for photos.
There are no trails here but a small pond (aka lake) with a swimming beach. It's much too chilly for swimming though! We walked along the road and got a glimpse of the bay along with a little lily pad pond:
There were moose tracks and scat at the side of the road:
Did you know the moose were introduced into Newfoundland? Now there are over 100,000 of them! And we also saw this big bunny:
We named her Star for the blaze on her forehead. She was very brave and kept eating even as we were going in and out of the van.    

GTT Days 24-25

August 24 - Gros Morne NP, Berry Hill Campground Day 2.
We were told by at least 4 separate groups of people that we had to go on the boat tour of Western Brook Pond. Okey-dokey then. With the 11am sailing as our goal we went into Rocky Harbour for ice and then drove up the coast to the parking lot for the trail to the pond. The weather was iffy but we were ready for anything with our rain jackets and stashed umbrellas. The trail is quite long, nearly 3.5km but hard-packed gravel or boardwalk all the way. This was a pond and view of the escarpment on the way:
After the hike it was quite civilized down by the boat dock with washrooms, food concession, ticket sales and really good wifi. It was not a cheap trip but for 2 hours it was very interesting. Just the story of how they got the boats down there was fascinating. The smallest one came by sledge over the frozen bog in winter and the other two were dropped in pieces by helicopters! The pond (yeah, it's as big as a lake but Newfoundland calls every body of water that isn't salt a pond!) was formed by glacial action and was actually a salt water fjord once but the land rose when the glaciers melted and became higher and closed off from the sea. The escarpments on either side are spectacular:
Lots of waterfalls and we actually saw our first Newfie moose, two of them in different spots so small in the distance that a photo would just be a dot. And this is both my favourite waterfall and has the best name ever:
Pissing Mare Falls. No, I did not make that up. Can you tell that the weather remained iffy? It sprinkled. It rained. It even showed a ray of sun. But mostly it just remained dark and cloudy. No matter. It was a fun trip and welcomed us back to the wharf with recorded Newfoundland music. What does it say about my education that I knew the words to a couple of the songs? CBC radio in the 1950's. Heh. We took the time to check out the nature interpretive signs on the way back. This is the provincial flower:
Those red things in the middle of the pic are pitcher plants. They are carnivorous! The cups hold water that drowns insects which are absorbed into the plant. Mwah-ha-ha!! Plus they're actually pretty. Also in the photo but much smaller are sundews which are also carnivorous plants. Death in the bog. Plants turn the tables on the critters.
Whew! On our way back to camp we checked out the wreck of the SS Ethie, a local trader ship (sails and steam engine) that was lost in a gale in 1919. All the crew and passengers were saved, including a baby that was stuffed into a mail sack. The people from Sally's Cove nearby saw the ship in trouble and helped everyone to safety.
  The wreck is now just a few rusting pieces of metal strewn along the shore.
Next we stopped at Green Point and sat in the Red Chairs:
Obviously the sun finally made a proper appearance!
August 25 - Gros Morne NP, Berry Hill campground, day 3.
Our last day at Berry Hill and we didn't have anything planned. We took it easy for a change until after lunch when we decided a hike was in order. So we went up Berry Hill:
It wasn't very far but it was steep with lots of stairs to climb. The trail went around the whole hill with several look-offs (as they call them here). This view is towards the south and Bonne Bay and Rocky Harbour. After we had conquered Berry Hill we took the boardwalk out on the bog:
We learned about lots more of the plants that grow in the bogs here and on the way back we saw this quite large toad:
Can you see it hiding in there? We wouldn't have noticed except that it hopped in there and caught our eye. We missed the moose that several people mentioned farther up the trail. Oh well. They are scary and I would hope that it was far away from me!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

GTT Day 22-23

August 22 - Cheeseman Provincial Park, NL.
Well, today was the exciting ferry trip to Newfoundland! As I mentioned in my last post we had to be at the terminal in North Sydney by 8:45 - 3 hours early - and it was an hour or so from Whycocomagh so we had to get moving early. Good thing we're very well practiced on packing up efficiently.
It took a very long time to pack the ferry. A lot of the traffic is truck trailers full of goods shipping to the island. They take them aboard with a fleet of specialized tractors and a crew of drivers. There's a few separate 18-wheelers to get on too plus several buses, campers, motorcycles and of course cars. The ferry has 4 floors of space to stow all of them! We got loaded after the trailers and motorcycles and were directed in at the second-lowest level:
And then we had to go down one more, into the bowels of the beast:
We ended up on the very bottom deck. Upstairs (many many stairs since we didn't wait for the crowded elevator) we found a nice seat on the 7th deck looking over the stern. And then we waited for at least another hour before everybody was loaded and we finally got underway.
The seats were comfortable but kind of stinky and could definitely use a good steam cleaning! There was a handy USB port to power my iPad but no wifi. Also lots of television and movie screens that nobody seemed to pay attention to. Not much in the way of fancy facilities except a couple of coffee shops and a restaurant with a small menu. Since we were trapped on this vessel for about 7 or 8 hours (depending on weather and where your vehicle was loaded) we needed to bring our own entertainment along. Speaking of the weather, it was cloudy and occasionally drizzly when we left but quickly got very foggy. Not that there was much to see!
We were finally greeted in Port aux Basques, Newfoundland, with this lovely welcome:
Because we were on the bottom deck we had to wait a long time before we could go down and get into the van. They had to clear the whole deck above us first before we could drive off. Luckily the provincial park we were headed for was less than 20 minutes down the road. First thing we learned was here they call the Trans-Canada Highway 1 the "TCH" on all the signs. Good to know.   We got into the campground at Cheeseman and there were at least 6 other campers ahead of us and soon several more behind! We weren't worried because we had a reservation but all the others had obviously come off the ferry with us and had the same idea. We didn't really get to see much of the place because it was still raining so we just relaxed and went to bed early.
August 23 - Gros Morne National Park, NL, Berry Hill campground.
It was about a 3.5-4 hour drive to our next stop but we were glad we took the opportunity to drive down to the beach area at Cheeseman before we left. It was still cloudy but not actually raining. The beach was lovely:
And on the inside bay we watched the water birds:
Then the weather socked in again and we only partially saw the incredible scenery on our way up the coast. The Table Mountains were invisible and the nearby Twin Hills (aka Dolly Parton's Boobs) were missing their tips. (Ouch!). Just past Corner Brook there's a deep gorge that the Humber River goes through that's pretty spectacular. Then we drove past the long long Deer Lake and up towards the coast while the TCH splits off and heads east. We will eventually go that way but not yet!
We also missed the top of Gros Morne Mountain in the fog (the locals pronounce the "s") but saw quite a lot of Bonne Bay as we drove along the north side of it. For the next 3 days we're camping in Berry Hill campground. After we settled in we geared up for the drizzle and walked the trail around Berry Hill Pond:
It's big enough to be a lake and so pretty with wildflowers and glacially smoothed rocks decorating the edges. The forest around is damp and mossy:
The trail was a bit boggy in places but there were boardwalks over the worst parts. It actually stopped drizzling too so we had a very nice walk.
We're currently waiting for yet another boat - this time the tour boat that goes up the glacially carved Western Brook Pond. We just walked 3.5km to get here. They have wifi!
From the trail.

Monday, August 22, 2016

GTT Day 21

August 21 - Whycocomagh Provincial Park, NS.
We managed to squeeze on the 9:30 ferry from Woods Island, PEI:
Goodbye Province Number 8 and on to Province Number 9, Nova Scotia! We stayed at Whycocomagh on Cape Breton which is a convenient distance, both from where we were and where we were going. It's a pretty little campground and the facilities rate highly on my Clean-O-Meter. The weather was perfect with a nice breeze to take the heat off. We took a walk across the highway down to the picnic ground. The steps to the little beach:
This looks like Ocean but it's the Bras d'Or, a huge saltwater lake system connected to the Atlantic by narrow channels.
The locals have all sorts of jokes on the name like Brass Door and Arm of Gold (literal translation).
While in the park we also visited the Tsimshian pole slowly going back to the earth. 

It was a gift from BC and once stood at the visitors centre near the Canso Causeway, entry to Cape Breton. When it was retired in 1971 it was laid to rest here. I gave it greetings from its home province. Thought it might be lonely since it's the only one in Nova Scotia.
Now we're in North Sydney waiting to load our ferry, Highlanders, to Newfoundland! It's a minimum 6 hour voyage and it takes forever to get aboard so we had to be here 3 hours early. At least they have wifi while we're waiting.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

GTT Day 20

August 20 - PEI Stanhope campground, day 2.
We took a lazy day today. It was warm but overcast most of the day. I did some laundry, worked hard on my fire-orange Intersect sweater (nearly finished one half of the skirt!) and took another walk on the beach, in the opposite direction of course.
I also managed to fall in the drink when I slipped on a very smooth slick rock! Luckily I didn't get my bag very wet so my iPad was safe. Obviously waxing the fabric was an excellent idea. But Thom had to rescue my holey shoes which were being dragged off by a wave. No harm done except that I was very wet! Hopefully that will be my inevitable klutzy move for the duration of the holiday.
Currently we're stuck in the stand-by lineup at the Woods Island Ferry waiting to get off PEI and over to Nova Scotia. Who knew we should have had a reservation? Doh. I'm going to attempt to connect to their wifi and send a couple of posts. Fingers crossed.

GTT Day 18-19

August 18 - Kouchibouguac National Park, NB.
Our second day in Kouchibouguac. I was soooo nice to have a day to relax and not have to go anywhere! It was a totally domestic day. I hand-washed my bras and all our hand-knit socks:
We were running out of clean ones and I refuse to run these through the commercial washing machines. They will take awhile to dry though. Even though the sun is out everything around here is still very damp. We walked over to Ryan's Store (about 1.5km each way) to get a block of ice and an ice-cream bar each. It was warm enough that the block started dripping before we got back! Then we had showers and read books and rested for the rest of the day. Now that we're on the East Coast I've planned things a little more slowly. We've been pushing pretty hard and I think we're ready for more breaks on this end.
Have I mentioned how much I love Kouchibouguac? It's the perfect camping experience! It has relatively clean washrooms with hot water, free showers, outside sinks with hot water, free wifi (which was better the second day after Thom called in to complain the system needed rebooting), kilometres of trails for bikes and walking, beaches, and for those who want them, laundry and equipment rentals. Yet it doesn't come off like a tourist trap. I'm also very fond of northern New Brunswick
. The people are friendly and helpful and switch from French to English at the drop of a Hello vs Bonjour. The van's gas leak problem seems to be solved (touch wood) and we're on to our next stop tomorrow.
August 19 - Prince Edward Island National Park, PEI, Stanhope campground.
We needed some wine and groceries today so we stopped in at the town of Shediak, NB, self-described as the world's lobster capital. There's even a huge lobster statue at the visitor's centre but we didn't get a photo op because it was very busy. Instead we bought ourselves a couple of nice cooked lobsters to have later on for lunch. We were only going to get one but the nice lady in the Big Fish store said we definitely needed two. (She was soooo right!)
Next, on to our 8th province, the smallest one. I'm sure if the Fathers of Confederation hadn't signed the papers here in Charlottetown there's no way this place would have managed to be its own province! I'm pretty sure Vancouver Island is bigger. However, it's a lovely bucolic island, covered in farms and red soil. We crossed the really long Confederation Bridge:
And then zigzagged our way north to the national park thanks to my trusty paper map. We had already reserved a campsite yesterday using Kouchibouguac's wifi which was lucky because we got a really nice site close to everything. It was late and we were hungry for lunch.
So now please meet our friends, Georges and Jean-Pierre (aka Bud):
Aren't they handsome? Sadly with the help of some garlic butter (garlic from my garden!), knives, paper towels and napkins we quickly reduced them to just shells of their former selves:
Big yum! So. Darn. Good. Vow: this will not be the last lobsters we eat on this trip. We only had one between us last time. Opportunities wasted. Not happening again.
After our Lobster Feast we went for a walk on the red sandy beach:
The water here on PEI's north shore (Gulf of St Lawrence) is so warm this time of year! Even reluctant Thom went wading with me. There were lots of families enjoying the shallow waves. Maybe we'll go for a beach walk again tomorrow. We have another day here before we head towards the ferry to Nova Scotia.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

GTT Day 17

August 17 - Kouchibouguac National Park, NB.
Well, unfortunately the gas line fix didn't hold and it started leaking again in the middle of the night. We got up at our usual 0-dark-30 but we had to wait until nearly 8am before slinking back into Campbellton to get Daniel to check it again. Luckily they were able to squeeze us in and the mechanics ended up replacing the hose entirely. It was totally shot! We figured it was as old as the van and wasn't made to handle the ethanol that most modern gas contains. It should have been replaced when the gas tank was replaced but obviously wasn't. Growl. Now it's good. Crossed fingers!
We were happy that we didn't have as far to go to get to our next stop. Even after getting a few groceries and stopping in Miramichi for gas we still got into the delightfully named Kouchibouguac by lunchtime. The weather wasn't great though. It sprinkled on us all the way but happily lightened up after lunch. We dressed in our rain-resistant gear and headed out on the trails to Kelly's Beach.
Selfie in the Red Chairs! Can you tell it was windy? It was a warm wind though and I was having trouble holding the iPad steady.
We walked the boardwalk out to the sandbar:
1.2 kilometres out to the other side of the sandbar. I particularly love the outhouse built into the walkway! It's the only one near the beach. The wind kicked up some nice waves and we were happy to smell the sea again.
After a nice beach walk we went back to camp as the weather brightened up somewhat. I know if you're prepared for rain, it gets discouraged and stays away! Well, it works sometimes.
So we're here for a second day. I love this place! Bonus - we have (somewhat flakey and slow) wifi right here in camp. Stay tuned for more adventures!

GTT Days 15-16

August 15 - Point aux Oies campground, Montmagny, QC.
So I managed to post the last report from a very busy rest stop on the road. Quebec wins on having the best "Halts" of all the provinces and a number of the ones on the main highways also provide free wifi as well as fast food, gas and of course, washrooms. Yay! Gold star on that one.
The day began in the drizzle and fog at Mont-Tremblant in the Laurentian Mountains. We missed some of the scenery in the mist but you obviously can't control the weather! In order to miss rush-hour traffic in Montreal, we went east on country highways until hitting the freeway nearly at Trois-Rivieres where we crossed over the St. Lawrence. The sun had definitely come out by then and the air was heating up.
We stayed at Point aux Oies on the south shore of the St. Lawrence the last time we came this way. It's the only private campground on our itinerary and we chose it for a couple of reasons. One is that it's the perfect distance between stops and the second is that it's a very nice but busy campground. The name "Point aux Oies" means Snow Goose Point and it's quite famous for birdwatchers especially when the snow geese are migrating across the river in October. Even now in August there are many bird species to see including at least 4 different sandpipers which we watched as they foraged along the tidal shore. Occasionally they would all fly up in a cloud, chased by preditors. We saw a marsh hawk (which the francophones around us called a "merlin" and a peregrine falcon alternately swooping over the flocks of peepers and then landing in one of the trees right in front of us. So cool. Some of those objects that look like rocks are the sandpipers:
Best I could do! It was pretty far down the embankment. Here's more of the river, the view from our campsite as the tide was coming in:
And the spectacular sunset:
Yeah, and this was the area in the campground that I call the Cheap Seats - no frills parking spot with a water tap and a little picnic table. There's Thom relaxing:
We got the best view of all in this busy campground anyway. It was a lovely experience, until our early bedtime when everyone around us decided they needed a smoky fire and to sit around it conversing loudly non-stop in French (so we couldn't even eavesdrop!). They kept us awake laughing and chattering until at least 10pm. Can't begrudge them their fun but I was not at all embarrassed to slide our noisy door open and closed at 6am! Couldn't be helped, I swear.
  August 16 - Sugarloaf Mountain Provincial Park, NB.
This one was a rather long day's travel: Province Number 7 (New Brunswick) and Time Zone Number 4 (Atlantic). We continued down the St. Lawrence into the Gaspe Penninsula and then south-east to the very edge of New Brunswick at Campbellton. Lots of road work and delays on the way but at least we each got a Boston cream donut at Timmy's to tide us over! Sugarloaf Mountain towers over the town and is very distinctive:
This park is a big winter sports area with ski runs but it also has a mountain bike park, hiking trails and camping. The weather alternated between sunny, hot and humid, and spitting rain but still hot and humid. Frustratingly we didn't get a hike in because we had a mechanical problem with the Westfalia, a gas leak in the return line. Thom fixed it pretty well with a spare clamp but we had to go into town to find someone to do it properly so it wouldn't come loose again. It took 3 tries before we found an auto-repair that wasn't booked solid until tomorrow. By that time it was 4:30pm and nearly closing but Daniel and his crew hoisted her up and fixed the hose with extra clamps to keep it secure. Whew! Merci, mes amis!
Oh and here's my little buddy the squirrel:
Can you see him napping on the branch? Rumour has it that I hate squirrels. True! But only those evil black or grey ones that were imported to Vancouver from somewhere else. Those things are nasty pests and three times the size of this little red guy. Haven't seen any of the evil ones yet. Only these cute little ones, chipmunks and a couple of different types of ground squirrels. No hate there.  
Gee! Since we lost another hour today, why am I so sleepy? Off down the NB coast tomorrow. Hopefully I can get this posted in Kouchibouguac. It's a National Park and we got great wifi there last time.

Monday, August 15, 2016

GTT Days 13-14

August 13 - Reserve faunique La Verendrye, QC, Lac Rapide campground.
Now we're in Quebec, Province Number 6! We had great fun going grocery shopping in a Super C in Val d'Or. At least I can read the labels! My last French class was nearly 50 years ago so not too great on speaking it especially with the Quebec accents. We faked it all fine so far though. The campground attendants at Lac Rapide had enough English to get us settled but the weather has taken a turn for the worse and is dumping rain on us. Another problem is that we're running low on potable water since none of the last three campgrounds have had anything that we'd want to drink. Either "boil water advisory", "not tested or approved potable", and here it's distinctly marked as non-potable. Sheesh! At least our tank water isn't too bad. Hopefully there will be somewhere we can fill up our bottle stash soon.
The wildlife preserve La Verendrye is really huge and very beautiful, full of lakes and thickly covered in mixed forest. There are quite a large number of campgrounds, mostly primitive, and the popular recreations are boating, canoeing, hunting and fishing. No hiking trails! And I only managed to get this photo from our campsite quickly between the raindrops.
August 14 - Mont-Tremblant, QC.
Today we packed up in the rain and travelled south to Quebec's Parc national du Mont-Tremblant. The weather cleared up somewhat but it was still drizzly and foggy all day. The area is really pretty though we missed some of the scenery in the fog. Mont-Tremblant is kind of Montreal's playground park. We went through the main village which reminded us of a ski town like BC's Whistler. Except they were having a marathon race that we had to drive beside while watching the faces of all the poor tired runners! Then down a narrow winding road with a bunch of serious cyclists speeding beside us. Then finally into the Diable region where we got a campsite for the night - and finally some fresh water and a much-needed shower too. It's a really nice part of the park with a great bicycle/hiking trail which we used to get to the visitors centre. At least it finally stopped raining! There's lots of action on the lakes with paddle boards, canoes, small boats and picnickers - it being Sunday and all.
All the lakes are looking the same now, aren't they? Heh. Too bad I couldn't photograph the many fish we saw in the shallows. I had a slightly better shot but it filled up with people before I could take it. Hope they don't mind being on my blog! (Told you it was busy!)
We've managed very well with our minimal French. There's always been someone with enough English to help when we needed it. So far! One more day in Quebec and then we head to the Maritimes. We're still having a good time though! Wildlife spotted: blue jays. We don't have them on the west coast. Ours are Steller's jays, bigger and shading from midnight to indigo. These guys are more of a blue-grey and much less noisy!
OK, apparently I've used my allotted bandwidth for the day and the park's wifi won't let me post this. Boo. Next chance I get. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

GTT Days 10-12

Well, time flies when you're having a good time! And travelling so many days without an Internet connection. I currently have no idea when this will be published.
August 10 - Neys Provincial Park, ON.
Well, when last I posted we had stopped in Nipigon on our way to Neys, on the northern shore of Lake Superior. We got a campsite right near the sandy beach though the weather was quite cool and sprinkled rain on us when we went for a walk.
I'm always amazed at how much like an Oregon beach this looks. Waves and driftwood and there's even freshwater clam shells and gulls to heighten the similarities. It's only missing the tidal rising and falling and the salt tang in the air! Ontario provincial park campgrounds can be rather primitive though. The ground isn't levelled, the roads are potholed and the pit toilets are the pits! The one "comfort station" is the only relatively modern convenience in any of the parks we've been to in this province. I wouldn't mind so much if they didn't charge an arm and a leg for the privilege of staying there for a night.
August 11 - Ivanhoe Lake Provincial Park, ON.
However we are definitely getting our use out of Ontario provincial parks! On our way to our next campsite we stopped at Potholes to view the glacier-sculpted rocks:
The trail is short and it gave us a much-needed break from the long drive. You all know how much I love interesting rocks, right?  
Ivanhoe Lake is a long narrow lake nearly halfway across the province east from Lake Superior. It's a popular fishing and cottage area though it was pretty quiet while we were there. Half the campground was blocked off but we got a really nice site right by the lake with a view.
We went for a walk but got totally overwhelmed by the mosquitos and then it started to rain in earnest. So we had a shower in the comfort station (which was so far away we had to drive) and then relaxed the rest of the evening in the dry and bug-free van. The sunset was pretty anyway:
Wildlife spotted:  4 sandhill cranes and a cheeky red squirrel who tried to mooch off us and when that didn't work tried to climb on the roof. Took a lot of persuasion to get it to get lost!
August 12 - Kap-Kig-Iwan Provincial Park, ON.
We've developed a travel schedule that's been working well for us. The alarm goes off a 6am and we get up, make tea and coffee, pack up the van and get on the road by 6:30am or thereabouts. Breakfast comes later and is either granola bars, nuts and fruit on the road or we actually stop and make a proper meal. The sun is already up and it's quiet on the roads that early. Plus we get where we're going at a reasonable hour which is better for getting a good campsite.
Kap-Kig-Iwan is obviously more used as a picnic site in summer and a cross-country ski park in winter. The campground is small but all sites have electricity so we were able to top up all the electronics batteries and plug in the fridge for one night. The weather was still cool but only partly overcast so we were able to go for a good hike down to the series of waterfalls:
Pretty! But it was hot work getting back up the steep hill and I was picking little burs out of my clothes afterward. We were able to sit outside for awhile but there were these annoying little flies like noseeums but not so biting that congregated in clouds around our faces. We were eventually driven back into the van with the bug nets up. I am so happy that I made those things!