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Posts from the ‘Canada’ Category

Labrador

Our guidebook describes the Labrador Straits as cold, wet, and windy. Even so, we could not drive this far north in Newfoundland without seeing it.20170909_111103After a turbulent ferry ride, thanks to remnants of hurricane Harvey, we can’t wait to drive off the boat. Bring on the wind and rain.20170901_161329We quickly abandon plans to camp, and wild ideas about driving the 775 miles on the mostly gravel road to Labrador City.RoadInstead, we find a cottage with a sea view. There must be a sea out there somewhere beyond the rain and fog.red bay 2Fortunately, the beauty of this pristine, rugged land reveals itself to us the following morning when the skies clear for several hours.road 1Let’s drive north as far as the paved road permits, which isn’t very far.signArtifacts from Basque whalers at the Red Bay National Historic Site describe how this area was the largest whaling port in the world during the 16th-century.red bayHard to imagine how fishermen braved the wind in these icy waters. Many shipwrecks lie under this ocean. Shoot, even the mud puddles have wind-blown whitecaps!shipwreck betterFew restaurants in these parts, so we cook comfort food in our cottage. Fresh cod tongues sauté with scallops in the kitchen tonight. Melt in your mouth.dinnerLabrador’s population is under 27,000 people. We think half of them attended the wedding held in our hotel. As the party spills into the parking area we receive numerous invites to join the celebration.River Time to catch the ferry this final morning. A clear, sunny day allows us to see what we missed when we first drove in from the dock.

Lab 2We have only scratched the surface of this cold, wet, and windy land and its hearty people. So grateful to have seen it.
 

 

 

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Nova Scotia, Loving New Scotland

Tide coming inWelcome to the highest ocean tides in the world. Folks around Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia adapt to tides from 47 to 54 feet.

IMG_2389We start to set up camp in Advocate Harbour, when a woman calls us over to her car, which contains seven small yapping terriers. “I know a campsite with much better ambiance,” she says. “Get your money back and follow me. It’s a bit hard to find. I’m Glenda. I’ve had three concussions.”Eagles on Bay of FundyOkay, how can we refuse that offer? Fifteen minutes later we set up camp on the edge of the Bay of Fundy at low tide, and watch eagles feast on easy prey. Yes, this former shipyard turned campground turns out to be a gem. Thank you, Glenda!Camping on Bay of FundyIn the morning as we watch the tide return, two women walk past our campsite carrying bags full of what we surmise to be clams. “Oh no,” Jan says. “This is dulse.” She grabs a handful and shows us. “Seaweed?” I ask. “Yes. We come here every year during a new moon to collect enough to last all year.” She explains that you dry it out in the sun until it gets crispy. “I like to leave the sea salt on it, but some people wash it first. It’s good for the blood.”Drying DulseDulse contains a bunch of minerals like potassium and iron. Supposed to improve vision, immunity, bones, thyroid, lower blood pressure, and strengthen the brain. We now carry a bag of it in the truck and chew some every day. Thank you, Jan. We need all the brain help possible!Cape dOr LighthouseAfter an outing to explore the Cape d’Or Lighthouse, we return to camp and watch the tide surround us. Soon we sleep to the sound of waves lapping within a few feet of our truck.Cape Chignecto 2Let’s hike part of the Coastal Trail in Cape Chignecto, an isolated wilderness area. Filled with many sea cliff views, this heart-pumper provides a sweaty workout.Three sistersDuring the drive back to camp, we must wait in the truck for the road to clear from high tide. Good opportunity for a cold one. high tideWe have lots of fun driving around Nova Scotia, stopping in cool fishing villages for tastes of local craft beers and seafood delights.LunenburgMarilynn finally finds some oysters to her liking, and I find scallops. As you can tell, folks are beyond friendly. Nova Scotia scallopsAfter a week of camping, the rains decide to pour, presenting perfect timing for some luxury. We splurge on a harbor view room at the Cambridge Suites in Halifax. The hotel feels so good that I don’t leave it, not for one step, except from the parking lot. Marilynn walks around town in the rain, while I write in the luxurious room.

20170824_064542We happen to hit the hotel on Wednesday, when they have free drinks and hors d’oeuvres for an hour in the evening. Of course, we make friends with the free drink guy. Follow up in the morning with free breakfast, a gym workout complete with sauna and jacuzzi, and we’re strong, clean, ready for more camping and hiking.WhycocomaughDriving the Cabot trail offers diverse scenery and excellent hiking opportunities.

Driving

Driving 2Perhaps we expect to see more dramatic vistas due to the hype, but it’s still nice and will be spectacular when the fall colors come.IvernessAlong the Celidh Trail, the scenery reminds us of Scotland. Of course, we have never been to Scotland, but almost feel as though we’re there.

Skyline Trail 2The Skyline Trail wraps around an easy five-mile loop through boreal forest and coastal views. Fenced-off areas keep moose out so that the forest can grow.Hiking Skyline Trail 1Otherwise, moose consume the saplings, leaving the terrain barren. Our good luck continues when we spot a mama moose eating the forest, despite the crowds and fences. MooseBack at camp, to hell with lobster utensils. We have an ax!LobsterThe first lighthouse in Canada was in Louisbourg. It’s no longer there, but they built one to replace it. Louisbourg LighthouseThe Lighthouse Trail traverses about 4 miles, weaving between boreal and Acadia forest, over bogs and fens, and Precambrian polished granite on the coastline.HIkeThe French fought off the British here, and many shipwrecks lie somewhere under that ocean.MareOkay, it’s time to clean-up again, this time at Mountain Vista Seaside Cottages in Bras d’Or. We’ll cook our own food and reorganize the truck for the morning ferry ride to…, drum roll…, Newfoundland!

 

 

Escaping the Eclipse in Northeast Canada

While hordes of folks in the US flock to the diagonal line of the total eclipse across the country, Marilynn and I take a road/camping trip in the opposite direction towards Nova Scotia (New Scotland) Canada. We’ll sleep under the cap of our truck for the next two months or so.

home

First, though, we revisit the Bar Harbor campsite in Maine where a few years ago (Click here for previous post) we ordered lobster dinner delivered to our tent. Well, they still deliver. Two lobsters, two ears of corn, and two dozen mussels delivered to the camp for $31.95!

Lobster delivered to campsite

Hello, New Brunswick, Canada! We camp for several nights, sleeping in cool, fresh air. Starting to mellow-out, Canadian style.

PEI

A short hike to the flower pots at Hopewell Rocks provides a worthy walk on the ocean floor at low tide.

Hopewell Cape

Time to drive the “longest bridge in the world over icy waters,” that strides the ocean for eight miles.

Bridge to PEI

It’s the only way to drive to Prince Edward Island, where red dirt, shores, and lush views of rolling farmland make for intense scenery,

Westcoasst PEI

Drink craft beers, and devour fresh seafood in one of the numerous small fishing villages.

Farm land

Could we ever get sick of lobster and other shell fish? We intend to find out.

oysters

Usually, we travel in the off-season, and enjoy cheap prices and scarce crowds. Currently, we travel in the heart of high season, when everyone that can is trying to take in one last holiday.

hay

Campgrounds with no vacancy surprise us, but we always seem to grab a tent spot where we can sleep in the back of our pick-up truck. Geez, many Canadians already live in the wilderness. I find it curious that so many go camping when on holiday.

PEI fishing village 2

Onward to North Cape, the northern tip of PEI. We spot three men raking in seaweed, sorting through it, filling up a truckload. Marilynn asks what they are gathering.

Harvesting 3

“Irish moss,” John says. He shows us a handful. “We sell it to a farmer who dries it for feed for his cows.

Irish Moww

They’ve found it to be an unlikely weapon against global warming. The combination of Irish Moss and other seaweeds has shown to nearly eliminate the methane content of cow burps and farts.

Invasive

John eats a spoonful of it every morning. “It’s rich in antioxidants and other nutrients.” He went on to explain that they extract carrageen from Irish moss, which is used as a thickener and stabilizer in milk products. It is also used as a clarifying agent in beer and some wine, and used to be produced industrially. Well that’s good enough for us.

PEI potatoes

Okay, Canada. We love your clean air, laidback friendly folks, and fresh seasonal food, including new potatos. What’s not to love, eh? The scenery grows more intense the farther we travel. Stay tuned, it’s aboowt time to check out Nova Scotia in the next blog post.

 

The Polar Bears of Churchill, Manitoba

The terrain changes from farmland to tundra during our two-night train ride from Winnipeg to Churchill. This small town on the Hudson Bay greets us with 30 degree Fahrenheit temperatures. “Welcome to balmy Churchill,” says Shannon, executive director of the Great Bear Foundation. “I’m so glad that you guys decided to take our Polar Bear Ecology Field Course!”

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Good Morning Churchill!

About ten of us pile into a yellow school bus. Rows of small bench seats bring back distant memories of school days. Off to our first polar bear class at the Churchill Northern Studies Center, whose mission is “to understand and sustain the north.”

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Hey there big fella

Let’s head out into the field, tundra that is, and bounce along snowy, ice-covered roads to pursue our mission, which is simply to see polar bears.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Sleepy bear spotted in a snow storm

Ever try to spot a polar bear in a snowstorm on a vast, unforgiving tundra? Well, it’s not as hard as you might think. At least not in this part of the world. Approximately 1,000 polar bears gather here each year and wait for the shores of the Hudson Bay to freeze. They need ice in order to hunt for ringed seals. Eating seals is crucial to their survival.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Typical Churchill scene

These magnificent creatures descended from Grizzly bears around 250,000 years ago. This time of year, their metabolism duplicates that of a hibernating bear, but they don’t sleep like one. They saunter around until the ice comes. That’s when polar bears come to life, as well as lose tolerance for such close presence of other bears.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Don’t eat the yellow snow!

Once we spot a bear, Frank, our trusty driver/guide/photographer/instructor, turns off the engine. Classmates jockey for position by the windows. “Hush!”

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Sharpening claws? Probably foraging for food

We try to be quiet, but have difficulty containing the oohs and aahs during our first sighting. However, we become pros during future sightings, where the only sound comes from clicking cameras.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Otherworldly terrain

Watching these bears, just being bears in their natural environment, puts tears in Mare’s eyes, while I’m paralyzed in awe.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Gotcha!!

Red foxes pounce on unsuspecting rodents under the snow, while constantly on the lookout for bears as well!

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Check out that tail!

Polar bears that misbehave get sentenced to Polar bear jail. No kidding. A specially converted holding facility provides an alternative to killing a bear, who might happen to get too close to humans in the quest for food.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Actually this is bad human behavior NOT bad bear behavior

Bears who don’t respond to being “hazed away” are tranquilized with a dart, and then transported to a bear cell. They are held there without food, to avoid habituating them to humans. Nobody wants bears to associate humans with food.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Bear Jail

Eventually, each bear is placed in a huge net and transported via helicopter many miles away to a place where ice has formed. Yes, they do have about a sixty percent recidivism rate – repeat offenders! Still, this is an excellent alternative to euthanizing bears whose only crime is to seek out and eat food in order to survive.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

A “bad” bear headed to bear jail

Let’s break things up with a dogsled ride. Dave Daley is the “big dog” at Wapusk Adventures. He loves each one of his dogs, and gets to know their strengths, psyche, and motivations. If a dog misbehaves, he bites it on the nose. Then he gives it positive reinforcement within a minute. Dave sleds us around the “Ididamile” track. What a thriller, as well as fun exercise for the run-loving dogs!

Photo by Marilynn Windust

“Hike!”

Once back onto the bus, a mother with two cubs shows herself in temperatures of 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Ahhhhhh…

It’s starting to get more like polar bear weather around here. Hopefully, the ice will not take too long to form, as it seems to take longer each year.

Photo by Marilynn Windust

Just can’t capture the grandeur of the Northern Lights!

As if seeing polar bears and foxes cavorting in the snow isn’t enough, how about finishing the evening with a grand showing of the Aurora Borealis?  We live in a wonderful world. Thank you, Abundant Universe!

Ron Mitchell