I was sick Sunday and yesterday, alas, but on Saturday my friend Judy drove me to Westport, where we ate fish and chips and we went to the Maritime museum where I got to see their magnificent first order Fresnel lens before I went back to her van and took a nap, while she toured the rest of the museum (I’d been there several times before and I was pretty tired after the 2-hour drive), then went out to the promenade where I actually walked all the way to the first bench, which has a wonderful view of the ocean.
Then I slept most of the way back, but that’s okay.
Here’s the usual photographic proof! I have a video I want to post as part of this as soon as I figure out how to crop video, too.
And the next morning, Judy and I started the process that will end with her taking over the distribution of my books and the upkeep of my website when I’m gone. So my legacy will live on without me. This makes me so happy.
This afternoon, since it wasn’t raining for a change, I decided to go down to my new neighborhood and explore around. Before I left, I checked the city of Lacey’s website to see if I could find any interesting trails close to my new place. I found what I thought were two, marked them on my map, and headed out.
The first one was something of a bust. I found the park all right, and I found what I thought was the beginning of a purported mile and a half trail that was supposed to lead from this park to views of the Sound, but the trail itself petered out pretty fast, and I couldn’t find anything else that looked like a trailhead.
So I headed on to the other possibility, which was actually only two miles from my new place. Woodland Creek Park has a nice little lake, a senior center, a community center, a disc golf course, and playgrounds and picnic shelters, and is located at one end of a six-mile rails to trails path that leads from Lacey to Olympia. Not only that, but the trailhead was easy to find.
First, I walked over by the lake (the trail doesn’t go all the way around it, alas), where I saw a flock of Canada geese bedded down on the grass. Then I took the paved path leading to the long trail, which T’d into it. I could go either left or right, and I’m not sure why I went left when I knew the main trail went right, but I’m glad I did.
It was peaceful and quiet out there. You always know you’re home when you’re on a first name basis with most of the plants you see. Or at least I am. The pavement gave out soon, and there was a sign saying that this part of the trail was not developed yet. The path was still smooth and lined with the gravel and pebbles leftover from where they’d pulled the railroad tracks out. Eventually I reached a small bridge over a stream, with some rather unfortunate graffiti (edited out of my photo because I found it offensive), and, on the other side of the bridge I could still see the old rusted railroad tracks.
That’s where I turned around. It was probably a bit under a mile one way. I managed to get back just in time not to get rained on, which was a good thing. Next time I come here I’ll have to walk the other way and see what I can discover. All in all a very good day.
I’m glad to have a good trail like that near my new home. And a pretty little park, too.
I need to quit showing up at Yellowstone for a couple of days at the end of trips, and devote a whole trip there again one of these days. With adequate advance planning so that where I’ll stay isn’t an issue. Because if I could have found a place to stay for less than $100 a night in West tonight I probably would have stayed there before camping some more, but oh, well. I was thinking about it on my way out of the park this afternoon, and the last time I spent more than three days here at a time by myself was in 2005. I’ve spent a whole week at a time here several times since then, but always with a friend. I want to spend more time wandering around geyser basins waiting for things to erupt.
Anyway. At least I got to do that today. I got up at the crack of dawn this morning (it wasn’t even good light when I pulled out of my campsite) and drove into the park. One advantage of doing that is that there is no line at the entrance station, very little traffic, and I get my choice of spots in the ginormous parking lot at Old Faithful. Yes, it’s still pretty crowded here, even in late September.
I packed up my day pack with all the stuff I might need for the day – water, lunch, camera, Kindle (for the inevitable waits), etc., etc., etc. – doused myself in sunscreen, and went to the visitor center to check on predicted eruption times.
Two strokes of luck later – Riverside was due around 11:30 and Grand somewhere between 11:45 and 3:45 so not too late in the afternoon – I headed over to the lodge to get some hot tea, then watched an eruption of Old Faithful before I headed out. And an eruption of Lion, off in the distance. A good start to the morning.
I strolled slowly down to Morning Glory Pool (about a mile and a half), stopping to see several more geysers along the way. Castle wasn’t due till about suppertime, alas, so I didn’t get to see it erupt, but I saw Sawmill, which is one of my favorite little (as in about 25 feet high max) geysers, as well as Tardy, which is sort of Sawmill’s little brother.
On down a piece, I saw that Grotto, aka the phallic geyser (look at the photo and tell me I’m wrong) was erupting, as was its neighbor Grotto Fountain, the latter of which, to the best of my knowledge, I’d never seen erupt before. Any day is a great day when I see a geyser I’ve never seen before. Trust me.
Then it was on to Riverside Geyser, which is pretty much the most regular geyser in the park (yes, more regular than Old Faithful), and by far one of the most graceful. I took video of it – the first time I’ve ever taken video of a geyser (I didn’t know how to do video until last year, and I haven’t been to the park since year before last). By the time Riverside’s half hour eruption was over, it was time to head over to Grand.
Oh, Grand. It has a four hour eruption window (that is, 90% of the eruptions happen within that window), and today was one of the 10% of times it was late. While I was waiting, out there in the sun (thank goodness it was only in the low 70s today and breezy), I read, and chatted with my fellow geyser gazers (yes, that’s what we’re called – go check out the Geyser Observation and Study Association – gosa.org – website, if you don’t believe me) and helped explain the Grand’s logic puzzle of a prediction cycle to the newbies (more in a bit), and ate my lunch, and was patient along with everybody else [g].
The Grand finally went off just before 4 pm, two lovely, fantastic, beautiful bursts, and it was, as always, worth every minute of the wait, and every bit of the, okay, the pool’s overflowing, are there waves yet? there goes Turban (Grand only goes off just before or after Turban starts), oh, ptui, there goes West Triplet again (if West Triplet goes off while Turban’s doing one of its every twenty minute eruptions, then Grand won’t go off until at least the next Turban cycle), etc., etc., etc.
It always reminds me of those kinds of puzzles where Mr. Smith lives in the blue house and Mr. Gray is the plumber, but the green house is next to Mr. Jones, so who lives in the yellow house sort of thing.
Oh, and I got video footage of Grand, which makes me very happy (my comments on the audio portion of the thing are kind of embarrassing, I was so excited, but that’s okay).
After that I needed to hit the road, because the only relatively reasonably priced place I could find to stay tonight (I needed a place with a shower) was 25 miles outside of West Yellowstone, which in turn is 30 miles from Old Faithful, through animal jams and so forth.
I’m in a cute little cabin (with no wifi and no TV, alas, but that’s okay) up by Hebgen Lake, which is rather nice, and it’s on my way home (I still can’t believe I’ll probably be home the day after tomorrow), so that’s worked out for the best. But I do need to plan a whole vacation around the park again soon. I will. Maybe next year.
Otherwise known as a national park named after a Shakespeare quote (it’s from The Tempest), which has got to be one of the coolest things ever. Unlike the weather. The whole time I was at the Forbers’, the weather was relatively cool and dry and lovely. Today we’re back to heat and humidity, but not nearly as bad as some of what I’ve been through on this trip, at least.
This morning I drove down to the Bruce Peninsula/ Full Fathom Five National Parks visitor center, which had one of the best national park visitor center museums I’ve seen in a while. Too bad I wasn’t here in June to see the forty different kinds of orchids that grow here, but I did get to learn more about the Niagara Escarpment, which is a huge land formation that runs from Wisconsin way up into Ontario and then back down to New York State. Niagara Falls is a result of that escarpment. Also, the Bruce Trail, the oldest long-distance trail in Canada, follows the top of it from that visitor center to within a few miles of Niagara Falls, almost 600 miles long.
I also learned that the fisher is the only real predator of porcupines, and that the way they catch them is to bite them in the face and flip them over so that they can eat from the spineless stomach and avoid a mouthful of quills.
After that I went into the tiny town of Tobermory on the very tip of the peninsula to find lunch – which was basically a choice between fish and chips or fish and chips, but that was okay. Then I went back to the visitor center and walked a trail to the water’s edge, which was lovely. Heavily wooded all the way to the end, and a nice little deck above the water with the obligatory Adirondack/Muskoka chairs (Ross, I was told in the Maritimes that calling them Muskoka chairs is an Ontario-centric thing).
I also went to a place called the Singing Sands, which was a lovely little beach, but the sand didn’t sing today, at least not so that I could hear it.
Then I came back to the campground and kicked back for the evening, and here I am.
Tomorrow is a two-hour ferry ride! And the biggest freshwater island in the world, apparently, with at least one lake on the island that has islands of its own.
So. They call the stairs that run from the upper part of Old Town to the lower part the Breakneck Stairs, and when they’re wet, as they were this morning, yeah, the name fits. But I was careful, and I made it to the bottom just fine. All almost 300 steps of them, or so I’m told (and, no, I didn’t have to climb back to the top, thank goodness).
Anyway, I knew there was another whole part of Old Town, but I don’t think I’d realized just how much more was down there. I’d gone down there because of a history museum (which turned out to be much more), but there’s a whole other warren of streets and shops and stuff (and a cruise ship dock, of all things).
The weather was still awful, but I was headed for a – hopefully air conditioned – museum, so I grinned and bore it.
The Musee de Civilization is, at least in part, a museum about Quebec-the-province’s history, so the local equivalent to a state history museum like the ones I’d visited in Kansas, Kentucky, and Maine. It was extremely well done, and since before I arrived here I knew next to nothing about how Quebec came to be Quebec (including the name, which is from an Indian term meaning where the waters narrow – the waters in question being the St. Lawrence, which narrows appreciably at Quebec City), I found it enthralling.
But that wasn’t all they had to show at the Musee de Civilization. There was a temporary exhibit about Australian Aboriginal art, which was fascinating (and completely unexpected by me), and an another temporary exhibit about cats and dogs, including a virtual reality thingy where you could see what they think it’s like to be a cat or a dog. That was hysterical, actually, esp. the part where the mouse went into the garbage can, the cat went in after it, and the garbage can lid fell on the cat, completely freaking him out [g]. And yet another temporary exhibit about Nanotech, which, for some reason, had a lot of SF stuff in it [g].
But the best part of all was the huge exhibit on Quebec’s First Nations (the Canadian equvalent, so far as I can tell, for Indian tribe). Artifacts were just the beginning. It was the stories that were the best part (and the part that’s really impossible to photograph). And these wonderful enormous screens in the background running this incredible film of Quebec’s natural world and how its original inhabitants relate to it. I could have watched that film for hours, and I did sit and watch it for a long time. It was moving, the same way I found the Women’s Rights National Historical Park in upstate New York moving when I was there on my last Long Trip seventeen years ago. I wish they’d had DVDs of that film for sale in the gift shop, but they didn’t.
Anyway, that’s how I spent most of today, and after I left (I ate lunch in the museum’s café – you know you’re in a place that values food when even the museum café has great food), I wandered through the lower Old Town towards the funicular.
The funicular is why I didn’t have to climb all those stairs back up. I’m not normally big on that sort of manmade height, but even though the weather had dried out a bit (and warmed up, but drier was better) while I was in the museum, I put aside my nerves and rode it back up to Dufferin Terrace.
The last thing I did today was go inside Chateau Frontenac. It’s got quite the lobby, but my favorite thing was a sculpture that you can see below. And then I stopped at a little grocery store for supper fixings, and realized about three blocks after I left it that I’d left my camera there. So I ran back, got it (thank goodness), and came back to the hostel for one more night. And here I am.
I have a motel reservation for tomorrow night just outside of Montreal. I still haven’t decided if I’m going to spend much time there. I’m sort of leaning against it right now, because I still have Toronto and Ottawa to go before I head across western Ontario (more people have tried to warn me against western Ontario in the last couple of weeks, for some reason) to the prairies.
I woke up to more than 100% humidity this morning. Not all that hot, maybe 80dF by afternoon, but that wasn’t the point. I know more than 100% isn’t physically possible, but trust me, I think it was more like 142%. It did rain a bit, but mostly it was just air so thick you had to drink it. I sweated far more than I did in DC, and that’s saying something, especially since sweating in weather that wet does nothing but soak your clothing and drip into your eyes, making them burn.
Dear godlings. Seriously.
I went to the parking garage to look for my umbrella (no way could I actually put my raincoat on in this – it would be like wrapping myself in saran wrap or something), but I couldn’t find it, so I put my camera in a plastic bag and resigned myself to getting soaked. But by the time I came back out of the parking garage, the rain had stopped.
I had decided that today was the day I’d go to the Citadel and the Plains of Abraham, where British General Wolfe and co. fought French General Montcalm and co. to decide the fate of North America. Well, sorta. Or part of it. Or something. Anyway, I wound up in the Battlefields Park Museum (the official name of the Plains of Abraham is Battlefields Park nowadays – back about 100 years ago they turned the whole thing into a big, gorgeous city park). The museum about the battle was very interesting, but the bus tour through the park (the rain had begun to come down again, so a dry, air-conditioned bus was just the ticket) was what was worth the price of admission.
It was driven (he called it the Devil’s Chariot) and conducted by a young man playing the part of one of Abraham Martin’s sons (Abraham Martin was a local landowner the field was named after back in the 18th century), in full costume, and, yes, he was informative and interesting to listen to, but he was also fall out of your chair hilarious. His tongue was so far over in his cheek I thought it was going to come out of his ear. I really do wish I’d asked if I could take his photo, but I didn’t. That bus tour was one of the top five best things I’ve done on this entire trip so far. Seriously. I haven’t laughed so hard and learned so much simultaneously in my life before, I don’t think. If you ever get to Quebec City, go to the Battlefields Park Museum and ride Abraham’s Bus. It was so worth it.
After I caught my breath from laughing, and the rain stopped again, I walked over to the Citadel. Apparently it’s in dire need of reconstruction work or something, though, because the labyrinth to actually get through the equipment and stuff was quite the to-do. I did finally make it to the gate, however, and took a photo of one of the guards, but then the skies opened up again, and I was already so sweaty that I looked like I’d just taken a shower fully dressed, that I decided, you know, I’d seen the one at Halifax and I needed to call it a day.
Maybe tomorrow. Or maybe not. I’ve got another museum I really want to see tomorrow.
It was only a bit over two hours’ drive from my campsite to Quebec City this morning, mostly on the autoroute (what they call freeways here). I managed to navigate my way to the old town and to the hostel without too much trouble, and was exceedingly relieved to discover that the hostel has a deal with an underground parking garage only a couple of blocks away so that I had a place to stow Merlin for the duration (I had already decided that I wanted three nights here, because there’s so much to see and do). Driving in Quebec City is interesting, in the Chinese sense, and I wanted as little to do with it as possible.
Anyway, I parked Merlin, gathered up my camera, and went exploring.
I like Quebec City. I love the narrow, winding, hilly streets (once I was on foot, anyway), and I like the shops and the scenery and even the crowds of tourists aren’t that big a deal. I mostly explored the upper part of the old town (the walled part of Quebec is divided into two sections by a huge cliff) this afternoon, just prowling around and getting oriented. Oh, and having lunch in a café called L’Omelette (no, I didn’t have an omelette, not today, at least) next to a very pleasant couple from Saskatchewan who were gave me some advice about what I should see in their province (apparently there is more to see there than endless prairies [g], just like in Kansas).
It was a nice sunny day, but rather humid, and, like I said, the streets were hilly. I paced myself accordingly, and came back fairly early to rest up for tomorrow.
Okay. Is everyone familiar with Anne of Green Gables? The story of an orphan adopted by mistake (she was supposed to be a boy) who won everyone’s hearts over, anyway? The source of one of my favorite quotes? “Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it… Yet.” Well, today I visited Green Gables, or at least the house L.M. Montgomery based Green Gables on (it belonged to some of her cousins). I also saw what’s left (just the foundations, alas) of the house where she wrote the book, and the house where she was born.
Yeah, Cavendish, PEI, is to L.M. Montgomery and Anne Shirley what Hannibal, Missouri, is to Mark Twain and Tom Sawyer. There is one big difference, though. Most of the Anne sites are part of PEI National Park, so they’re not quite so commercial and in your face about it. OTOH, outside of the national park, there are amusement parks and wax museums and omigosh all kinds of silly stuff.
Touring Green Gables, and walking through the Haunted Wood was a lot of fun this morning, though. I took Lonely Planet’s advice, and parked Merlin at a little town park at the other end of the 1km long Haunted Wood trail, and approached Green Gables that way instead of from the huge parking lot and modern visitor center. They were right. It was much nicer. I had my parks pass in my pocket, so it wasn’t like I hadn’t paid or anything.
The Haunted Wood is just your basic spruce and birch woodland, but it’s a special spruce and birch woodland, because it’s the one where Anne got her wits scared right out of her because of her own imagination. Anyway, it was fun to make the pilgrimage, which is something I’d always wanted to do.
After a picnic lunch, I drove along the shoreline part of PEI National Park and admired the broad Gulf of St. Lawrence and the bright blue sky and the rusty red sands and cliffs. I’ve never seen an oceanscape quite like that one, and I enjoyed it very much. Then I drove around the island for a bit, and went back to my cabin, and chilled out for a while before I went out for dinner.
I had a lobster supper tonight [g]. I ate soup and a half bucket of mussels (that’s how they serve them, by the bucket) and salad and a whole lobster, the mussels and lobster accompanied by melted butter, and the best dinner rolls I’ve had in a very long time. I finished the whole thing off with lemon meringue pie, and they basically had to roll me out of there when it was over. That’s more food I’ve eaten at one time since before I left home, I think. And every bit of it was delicious.
Lobster suppers are a staple of New England and the Maritimes, and especially of PEI, so this was a splurge I’d been thinking about making for a while now. Since I’m headed off of PEI and across New Brunswick towards Quebec tomorrow afternoon (I want to spend the morning in Charlottetown), I knew this would be my last chance. The supper place was just a mile or so down the road, and it came highly recommended by Lonely Planet, so I thought why not? And I’m glad I did!
Although I do understand the climate can leave something to be desired [g].
Anyway, today I walked and museumed all day. First, I hiked up to the Citadel, an 18th century (reconstructed in the 19th) fortress in the heart of Halifax. I told you the hostel is in a great location – it was only about eight blocks, albeit most of them uphill.
The Citadel reminded me almost forcibly of Edinburgh Castle, and I don’t think it was just the bagpiper or the young men and women in uniforms including tall fuzzy things on their heads. The location, up on a hill in the heart of a bayfront city, the weather (cool and cloudy, at least in the morning), and the age of the thing (granted, not nearly as old as Edinburgh Castle, but much older than anything I’m used to at home), all made it seem similar, in a very happy-to-me way.
The museum inside was – eye-opening, yes, that’s the word. Okay, I watched Canada: A People’s History when it was on the CBC (I get the Vancouver affiliate on my cable when I’m home) a few years ago, and I knew they have a completely and utterly different perspective on the War of 1812 than we do, but it’s still odd to view exhibits talking about the U.S. invading Canada (which barely even gets mentioned south of the border, even in school). Anyway, it was fascinating. Well worth the morning I spent there.
Afterwards, on my way to the waterfront, I stopped at a little sandwich place called As You Like It for lunch, which was cute, with a mural on the wall purporting to depict a scene from the play, and tasty, with a roast beef sandwich and a brownie.
At the waterfront was the other main thing I wanted to see while I was here, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, which is to Canadian maritime history what the Kansas Cosmosphere was to the space race. Which has pretty much become about the highest compliment I can give to a museum.
The exhibits were all over the place – arctic exploration, the ages of sail and steam, the Titanic (Halifax was the closest port of any size to the disaster, and they sent the ships that went to recover the bodies, or as many of them as they could), and the Halifax explosion.
What, you’ve never heard of the largest pre-atomic manmade explosion in the world? Which killed almost as many people as 9/11 did in New York, and leveled most of the north end of an entire city? The sound of which was heard hundreds of miles away? On December 7, 1917, a munitions ship loaded with thousands of pounds of explosives bound for the war in Europe accidentally collided with a Belgian relief ship, caught fire, and, well, you can imagine the rest. I’d known a little about the explosion, again thanks to the CBC and a historical movie about it a few years ago, but I don’t think the scale of it all registered until this afternoon. Apparently it did more damage than the San Francisco earthquake or the Chicago fire. Oh, and then the next day they had a blizzard. Those poor people just couldn’t catch a break.
My last stop of the day (so to speak) was at the ferry terminal, where I paid $2.50 to make a round trip across the harbor on a cute little passenger ferry, and strolled along the Dartmouth waterfront, where I had a great view of the Halifax skyline. That was fun.
By the time I hoofed it the ten blocks or so back to the hostel (stopping at a needlework shop along the way) my feet hurt, but it was a great day. I enjoyed the heck out of Halifax. It was an awful lot of fun.
Tomorrow, though, I’m headed to Cape Breton Island. I’ve been looking forward to that, too. And D-Day for my Newfoundland decision is getting awfully close here…
I finally crossed the border from Calais, Maine, to St. Stephen, New Brunswick, early this morning. No problems, even when I told the nice gentleman manning the station that I planned on being in Canada for a couple of months [g]. He just told me to have a good time and waved me on.
I stopped at an ATM and got myself some usable money, then headed north on Highway 1 towards then through St. John, on my way to Fundy National Park. No, not that kind of fundie, but the Bay of Fundy. Anyway, it’s one of those places I’ve always sorta wanted to see, and the park seemed like a good place to do it.
I got here about lunch time and found a little bakery in the hamlet of Alma, just outside of the park, to eat lunch. I may have to go back there in the morning for a sticky bun for breakfast, though, because they looked delicious. I then went looking for a room for the night, even though it was so early, because a) it’s a third night, and b) I wanted to spend the rest of the day in the park. I found one here in town, next door to the bakery, actually [g].
Then I went exploring. I like Fundy National Park. It was low tide when I got here, and all the fishing boats at Alma’s harbor were kind of tilted on their sides in the mud. But I went walking in the park, to see a waterfall (which a lady on the trail described as stunning, but well, I think that was overstating it pretty hard – it was a cute little fall, though, even though I couldn’t get a decent photo of it), and to get some views of the bay with the water surging in. It was a great way to spend the afternoon. But when I got back to Alma just now? The boats in the harbor were afloat! That tide really is pretty impressive, actually, which I suppose it should be given that it’s the greatest tidal change in the world or something.
The motel is right on the water, and they have a bunch of Adirondack chairs overlooking the bay, and I think I’m going to spend an hour or so out there this evening. It looks like a great place to watch the stars.
But I’m going to have to get my jacket out. Believe it or not, the high here today was in the low seventies (F)! With a breeze! It’s so wonderful. It truly is.