Category Archives: lighthouses

to the coast

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.

A first order (the largest size) Fresnel lens, which is the most beautiful utilitarian object in the world. I have video of it rotating, throwing off rainbows, that I will post as soon as I can.
A woolly bear caterpillar on the sidewalk.
This little dude was singing his heart out along the promenade.
A view from the boardwalk.
A view from the first bench on the promenade (coming from the Gray’s Harbor lighthouse end of the path).

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.

 

September 7: My third ferry of the trip, believe it or not.

I’ve ridden ferries in Virginia, Maryland, and now Ontario. This one was by far the longest ride, though, almost two hours.

I got a late start this morning, and was eating breakfast at the picnic table at my campsite when I heard a soft rat-a-tat-a-tat. I looked up, and saw a woodpecker. Bigger than a downy, considerably smaller than a pileated, I’m assuming he’s a hairy woodpecker, but I’d love confirmation (hint, hint, Katrina [g]). Anyway, he was a brave little fellow, and just looked back at me as I walked over to get a better look at him. A nice way to start the day.

A friendly neighbor this morning.
A friendly neighbor this morning.

I went back to Tobermory, looking for somewhere to go out of the humidity, and also looking for wifi because I wasn’t sure if I was going to end up somewhere that had it tonight. The librarians at the Tobermory library were very nice about letting me charge my computer and use their wifi, so I sat and scribbled for a while, then uploaded blog posts. Then I walked over to the local bookstore just around the corner, and bought another fridge magnet as well as perusing the books.

By that point it was time to get in line for the ferry. There were rather a lot of us crossing over to Manitoulin Island. The ferry holds 143 vehicles and I’m pretty sure it was full. The boarding process was smooth, if a bit slow, and we pulled away pretty much on time.

The beginning and end of the ride are dotted with islands, but for at least an hour the view is nothing but lake. I am told it can get pretty interesting during a storm, but today the ferry was gliding across still water, which made me very happy. And the views, even when it was just water, were so pretty.

The first of four lighthouses I saw on my ferry ride today.
The first of four lighthouses I saw on my ferry ride today.
Looking back at the Tobermory ferry landing.
Looking back at the Tobermory ferry landing.
Islands on the Bruce Peninsula side.
Islands on the Bruce Peninsula side.
The second lighthouse of the day,
The second lighthouse of the day,
At times, because of the humidity, it was hard to tell where the lake stopped and the sky began.
At times, because of the humidity, it was hard to tell where the lake stopped and the sky began.
The last two lighthouses of the day, on Manitoulin Island.
The last two lighthouses of the day, on Manitoulin Island.
The South Baymouth ferry landing on Manitoulin Island.
The South Baymouth ferry landing on Manitoulin Island.

We arrived on Manitoulin Island right on time, unloaded much more quickly than we loaded, and off I went up Highway 6 towards the tiny hamlet of Manitowaning, where I found a motel room for the night. Showers and wifi and TV [g]. The desk clerk/owner directed me to the only place serving cooked food in town, a place called Loco Beans, which mostly serves coffee, but which served me a chicken veggie wrap and a butter tart, so I’ve now eaten one (they’re pretty tasty, and not as much like a pecan-less pecan pie than I thought they’d be) and can officially cross the border into Manitoba when I get there without getting in trouble [g].

The road cuts were unusual and pretty along the highway.
The road cuts were unusual and pretty along the highway.
What most of the drive to Manitowaning looked like.
What most of the drive to Manitowaning looked like.

I haven’t decided how much dawdling I want to do here, vs. heading on west. We’ll have to see how I feel about it in the morning.

August 16-17: November in Washington, aka August on Cape Breton Island

Yesterday was mostly a driving day, from Halifax to Cape Breton Island, and a nice relaxing afternoon at Cape Battery Provincial Park’s lovely waterfront campground.

Satin clouds over Nova Scotia's north shore.
Satin clouds over Nova Scotia’s north shore.
The drawbridge section of the Canso Causeway (there's what looks like a lock under that bridge).
The drawbridge section of the Canso Causeway (there’s what looks like a lock under that bridge).
The view from across the road from my campsite last night.
The view from across the road from my campsite last night.
Purple loosestrife at the campsite.  If it weren't such a noxious weed, purple loosestrife would be gorgeous.
Purple loosestrife at the campsite. If it weren’t such a noxious weed, purple loosestrife would be gorgeous.

It was gorgeous and sunny and everything (although breezy and cool, not that I was complaining about the cool part, anyway), then, in the middle of the night, I heard rat-a-tat-a-tat on Merlin’s roof, and was suddenly really glad I hadn’t left anything outside, oh, like my folding camp chair, because when I woke up this morning, it was to the kind of rain I normally associate with a Pineapple Express in the winter back home. Well, it wasn’t that cold (although it never got above 62dF today, according to Merlin’s thermometer), but it was easily that wet. This is the kind of weather that words and phrases like “driving rain,” and “teeming” were invented for. Oh, and it was windy, too, so it’s been raining sideways pretty much all day.

I didn’t want to spend the day cooped up in the back of my van, so I went ahead and drove to the town of Baddeck, on Lake Bras D’Or (did you know that Cape Breton Island has a huge lake in the middle of it? I didn’t – although since there is a water passage from the lake to the ocean, I’m not sure it really qualifies as a lake, even though it’s named that way), where Alexander Graham Bell had a summer home, and where there’s a National Historic Site dedicated to him.

You can read the caption [g].
You can read the caption [g].  By the way, Bell got married the year before Charley did, and the same year as the Little Bighorn.
The view of Bras d'Or Lake from the front of the Alexander Graham Bell Museum, taken the one moment today when it wasn't pouring rain.
The view of Bras d’Or Lake from the front of the Alexander Graham Bell Museum, taken the one moment today when it wasn’t pouring rain.

There was a visitor center/museum, which was very crowded because I wasn’t the only one looking for something to do indoors out of the rain, but it was still well worth visiting. I didn’t know much about Bell, except for the obvious that he invented the telephone and that he and Helen Keller had met several times (which isn’t as ironic as it, er, sounds – his wife was deaf, and one of his major passions was helping deaf people). I had no idea how much of an inventor he really was. Among other things, he was involved with early aviation and hydrofoils.

But the most arresting thing, at least sensorily, was the “try it!” display of an old-fashioned (omigosh, really?) dial telephone. The sound of it was just – wow, it was weird. I hadn’t heard the sound of a dial phone in decades. That seriously made me feel old. When I walked up, a woman was teaching her little kid how to dial it. So. Very. Weird. Sorry.

So. I really wanted to be indoors (not just in the van, but real indoors) tonight, and there were no rooms to be had in Baddeck (ba-DECK, not BA-deck), so I got a late lunch at a café with terrible service called the Yellow Cello (a 12” hot dog dressed like a Philly cheese steak, which was better than it sounds), and headed the thirty or so miles north to the Sydneys (there are three of them, Sydney Mines, North Sydney, where the ferry to Newfoundland leaves from, and just Sydney, which is the biggest city on Cape Breton Island), where I found a nice, warm, dry motel room.

The weather is supposed to improve somewhat, at least so far as the rain goes, by late tomorrow, but it’s supposed to stay windy and chilly, and that’s about what’s decided me to not take the ferry to Newfoundland. Four hours one way on the open ocean in weather like this (I get seasick unless the water’s pretty calm, and I should have realized long ago that it wasn’t going to be) does not sound like fun. Plus, the whole trip would probably take me at least a week, what with a day each on the ferry on either end, plus two days driving each way to get to L’Anse aux Meadows once I arrived on the island and just one day there. And that doesn’t even count seeing any of the rest of it (the other part I’d like to visit, St. Johns – Great Big Sea territory! – is clear on the opposite corner from L’Anse aux Meadows – probably a three-day drive one way, plus three more days back to the ferry). It seems like so much effort and time and money without as much return as seems reasonable. I’ve spent a lot of time driving through rather monotonous taiga in the last few days, and a lot of getting anywhere in Newfoundland is going to be 99% taiga.

So I’m afraid that’s just not going to happen. Still, I’m glad I got this far. Tomorrow I will probably go see Cape Breton Highlands National Park if the weather is improved enough, and I also want to see Louisbourg National Historic Site before I leave Cape Breton and head west, once and for good.

I can’t believe I’m saying that. Wow.

August 15: I love, love, love Halifax, Nova Scotia

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 very cheerful young man with a very fuzzy thing on his head who greeted me at the Citadel.
The very cheerful young man with a very fuzzy thing on his head who greeted me at the Citadel.
The inside of the Citadel.
The inside of the Citadel.
A 19th century British naval sailor's uniform.  So natty, especially the straw hat!
A 19th century British naval sailor’s uniform. So natty, especially the straw hat!
A peekaboo view of Halifax Harbor from the Citadel's ramparts (the view is mostly obscured by high-rises, which is kind of sad, if understandable).
A peekaboo view of Halifax Harbor from the Citadel’s ramparts (the view is mostly obscured by high-rises, which is kind of sad, if understandable).
Bagpiper and friend next to the flagpole on the Citadel's ramparts.
Bagpiper and friend next to the flagpole on the Citadel’s ramparts.

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.

I'm pretty sure this is about as quintessentially Canadian as it gets -- seen on my way from the Citadel to the waterfront.
I’m pretty sure this is about as quintessentially Canadian as it gets — seen on my way from the Citadel to the waterfront.

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.

See, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic had me when I first walked in.  This is a *first order* Fresnel lens, right in the lobby where I could adore it up close.
See, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic pretty much had me when I first walked in the door. This is a *first order* Fresnel lens, from the lighthouse at the entrance to Halifax Harbor, right in the lobby where I could adore it up close.
A miniature (about a foot long) replica of an Inuit kayak and accessories.
A miniature (about a foot long) replica of an Inuit kayak and accessories.
Yes, that label says colored guano (as in bat poop).
Yes, that label says colored guano (as in bird poop).
A deck chair from the Titanic (they re-caned the seat).  They also had a replica nearby that you could actually sit in.
An actual deck chair from the Titanic (they re-caned the seat). They also had a replica nearby that you could actually sit in.

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.

The Halifax skyline from the ferry to Dartmouth.
The Halifax skyline from the ferry to Dartmouth.
An interesting exhibit on the Dartmouth waterfront.  Those rocks in the exhibit case are from all over the world (including a piece of the Berlin wall from Germany).
An interesting exhibit on the Dartmouth waterfront. Those rocks in the exhibit case are from all over the world (including a piece of the Berlin wall from Germany).
The MacDonald Bridge in Halifax, from the ferry.  I can't get over how much it looks like the old (as opposed to the new, and also as opposed to Galloping Gertie) Tacoma Narrows Bridge.  It's even the same color.
The MacDonald Bridge in Halifax, from the ferry. I can’t get over how much it looks like the old (as opposed to the new, and also as opposed to Galloping Gertie) Tacoma Narrows Bridge. It’s even the same color.
Two of the lighthouses at the entrance to Halifax Harbor, taken with tons of zoom from the ferry.  I had no idea until I opened this photo on my laptop that there were *two* lighthouses in this photo.
Two of the lighthouses at the entrance to Halifax Harbor, taken with tons of zoom from the ferry. I had no idea until I opened this photo on my laptop that there were *two* lighthouses in this photo.

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.

A mural I walked by on my way back to the hostel this evening.  I love the colors in it.
A mural I walked by on my way back to the hostel this evening. I love the colors in it.

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…

August 14: Quaint is the word, I believe

My Seahawks won their first pre-season game last night.  17-16, on a last-minute Hail Mary pass and a two-point conversion.  I can’t believe it’s football season already, but Go, ‘Hawks!  (no, I didn’t have the bandwidth at the campground to watch the game, but I did see and hear some highlights)

It was wet when I woke up this morning. Not raining hard, but the air was seriously saturated. I felt like I needed gills.

Along Highway 103 on the way to Halifax.
Along Highway 103 on the way to Halifax.

I drove north on the highway till I got to the turnoff for Peggy’s Cove. Peggy’s Cove is one of those iconic places you’ll recognize from the photos (I bet), supposedly the most-photographed lighthouse in Canada [g].

Along the road to Peggy’s Cove is a memorial to a plane crash in 1998, on a windswept bluff south of town. 229 people died in that crash, out in the Atlantic off of the coast here, and the memorial is lonesome and peaceful.

The view from the Swissair crash memorial, looking northish towards Peggy's Cove.
The view from the Swissair crash memorial, looking northish towards Peggy’s Cove.

Peggy’s Cove itself is tiny, with a visitor center (complete with composting toilets) that I suspect was built in self-defense. It’s also adorable, as is the lighthouse itself. The granite shield the town and lighthouse are built on is rather amazing, too. Anyway, it was very pretty, and very damp, and I enjoyed strolling around it very much.

Part of the Harbor at Peggy's Cove.
Part of the Harbor at Peggy’s Cove.
The lighthouse at Peggy's Cove.
The lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove.
Granite field at Peggy's Cove.
Granite field at Peggy’s Cove.

I stopped at a farm stand somewhere between Peggy’s Cove and Halifax, and ate fish and chips from a food truck parked nearby. I bought blueberries and a cherry bar (a bar cookie) at the farm stand to round things out. Wow, those blueberries are good (I ate about a third of them, and put the rest in my cooler).

And so on to Halifax, where I’d called last night to make a reservation at the local hostel, so that I didn’t arrive there only to discover they were full up. It’s right downtown, within walking distance of everything I want to see in Halifax, which is great. I will be staying here two nights in order to see everything I want to see here.

The Old Burying Ground in Halifax, just down the street from the hostel.  They *stopped* burying people here in the 1840s.
The Old Burying Ground in Halifax, just down the street from the hostel. They *stopped* burying people here in the 1840s.
A statue of Winston Churchill in front of the Halifax Public Library, which I passed while walking to the public gardens.
A statue of Winston Churchill in front of the Halifax Public Library, which I passed while walking to the public gardens.

The first of which was the Public Gardens, which are about six blocks from the hostel. They’re supposedly the best example of Victorian show gardens in North America, and I’m willing to agree with that [g]. Lots of bright flowers in patterned plantings, a fancy gazebo where they sometimes have band concerts, several statues, and broad lawns dotted with huge trees. Fortunately, the air had quit being quite so soaking wet by the time I arrived in Halifax, so I didn’t get drowned wandering through them.

The entrance to the public gardens.
The entrance to the public gardens.
Gazebo/bandstand and flower beds at the public gardens.
Gazebo/bandstand and flower beds at the public gardens.
A statue of the Roman goddess Ceres at the public gardens.
A statue of the Roman goddess Ceres at the public gardens.
The facade of the municipal/court building in Halifax.
The facade of the municipal/court building in Halifax, taken on my way back to the hostel.

I haven’t been sleeping well for the last couple of nights, so I suspect I’ll be going to bed fairly early tonight. Wish me luck for a good night’s sleep!

August 13: These very nice people have serious Roots

Today started out as misty moisty and cloudy was the weather. Also in the upper 60sdF, topping out in the low 70s, which was wonderful. Wisps of fog, too, which were beautiful.

This morning I bopped back and forth between stretches of what passes for freeway in southern Nova Scotia (one lane in each direction, but with onramps and offramps and the occasional passing lane), and the coast road. The coast road is also a two lane, but it also adds more than twice as many miles to the same point-to-point, so I didn’t want to drive it the whole way. I passed through Yarmouth, where I stopped to pick up a few groceries, and my next stop was one of those serendipitous things that make me so happy.

Cape St. Mary lighthouse, between Digby and Yarmouth.
Cape St. Mary lighthouse, between Digby and Yarmouth.
The beach below the Cape St. Mary lighthouse.
The beach below the Cape St. Mary lighthouse.

I saw a sign for an Acadian historic village, so I followed it. What it turned out to be was a living history village of buildings preserved in the oldest continuously occupied Acadian village in Canada (the inhabitants came back after twelve years of exile, and, finding their old lands otherwise occupied, settled in the Pubnicos (there are several of them, ranging from Upper Pubnico to Lower Middle Pubnico and so forth)). It was interesting, and there were some beautiful quilts and other handicrafts, but the amazing thing was that all of the interpreters/docents/re-enactors I spoke with (and even the cashier) were descended from the families who had originally inhabited the buildings for centuries. It was amazing. “My great-grandfather was the last person to live in this house before it became part of the museum.” Stuff like that. For someone who grew up in four major metropolitan areas, it’s sort of mind-boggling. One of my fellow visitors pointed out someone in a photograph in on of the buildings and told her friend that this was her grandfather when he was seventeen, too. Amazing.

Looking down at the water from the Acadian village.
Looking down at the water from the Acadian village.
One of the houses at the Acadian village.
One of the houses at the Acadian village.
A wool quilt, which looked like one my mother has described to me from her childhood.
A wool quilt, which looked like one my mother has described to me from her childhood.
A very fancy baby carriage at the Acadian village.
A very fancy baby carriage at the Acadian village.
Notice anything unusual about this clock?  It has the days of the month as well as the time of the day.
Notice anything unusual about this clock? It has the days of the month as well as the time of the day.
That round thing is a butter churn, and the woman is one of the interpreters -- and a descendant of the people who originally lived in the house.
That round thing is a butter churn, and the woman is one of the interpreters — and a descendant of the people who originally lived in the house.
Dried cod, anyone?
Dried cod, anyone?
Low tide at the Acadian village.
Low tide at the Acadian village.

That wasn’t the only time I had that happen today, either. After I left the Acadian village, I drove out to the very southern tip of Nova Scotia, The Hawk on Cape Sable Island. I’m not sure why I did it, but I’m glad I did. The views were amazing, out over the Atlantic, and I struck up a conversation with an older gentleman who was sitting on a lobster trap [g]. He told me about how he’d grown up there, like his parents and grandparents and so forth, but that his son had followed his job to Alberta, and was home for a couple of weeks with his own son, the next generation. The gentleman was concerned that the baby would not remember Cape Sable. Then he asked me what my last name was. I told him, and he told me his last name was Atwood. Driving back to the main highway, I saw at least half a dozen Atwood references – street names and so forth.

The beach at The Hawk at the tip of Cape Sable Island.
The beach at The Hawk at the tip of Cape Sable Island.
The tallest lighthouse in Canada, at the tip of Cape Sable Island.  It's undergoing some restoration work, hence the scaffolding.
The tallest lighthouse in Canada, at the tip of Cape Sable Island. It’s undergoing some restoration work, hence the scaffolding.

What it must be like to have roots like that is completely beyond me.

The rest of the afternoon was spent driving northeast towards Halifax, searching for a campground. I finally found one, and went to sleep listening to the rain fall on Merlin’s roof. It was a very pleasant sound.

August 11: Tidal bores aren’t boring, and neither are lighthouses

What a name.  It's on the northern shore of Nova Scotia.
What a name. It’s on the northern shore of Nova Scotia.  And no, I didn’t notice the historical site part of the sign until I was looking at my photos this evening.  Oh, well.

I drove past a lot of mudflats today [wry g]. But first, I needed to come back down from the northern shore (not all that far from the Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Island, which I am sorta saving for last before I start heading west for good – and I can’t believe I just wrote that) to the town of Truro, where two things happened. One, I stopped at a Tim Horton’s for hot tea (I miss being able to buy unsweet iced tea at McD’s so much — Canadian McDs only do sweet tea, blast them), and burned my tongue on it so badly I ended up putting ice from my cooler in it to make it drinkable. And two, when I started Merlin back up after getting the tea, one of his dashboard lights came on.

The stupid manual didn’t explain what it was, and it took me a few minutes to figure out that it was simply a reminder thingy. The thing was, it was trying to remind me that Merlin needed an oil change, except that he’d just had one yesterday. So I drove on into Truro, found a Ford dealer, and threw myself on the mercy of a young man who just happened to be walking out of the service department (he did have a Ford service uniform on). He said, oh, the place you had it changed must not have known to adjust the reminder thing after they changed the oil, and then less than three minutes later, he’d done it. I didn’t know Merlin had a reminder thing, because apparently it comes on at 5200 miles post the previous oil change or something. At any rate, he didn’t charge me, and I was on my way.

I missed my turn once I got back on the freeway, too, and ended up taking a slightly different route back over to the Bay of Fundy. Which turned out to be a cool thing, because I drove by a tidal bore interpretive center that I would have missed otherwise. The tide being completely out, I didn’t get to see the actual bore, which is supposed to be the biggest one in the world, something like nine times as tall as the average man, but the exhibits were very interesting, especially the one about a storm a century or so ago that combined with high tide and basically wiped a lot of the communities along the bore off the map. The exhibit panel was titled, “why is there an ocean in my living room?”

The bridge over the tidal bore at the place I apparently didn't make a note of, sorry!
The bridge over the tidal bore at the place the name of which I apparently didn’t make a note of, sorry!
This is apparently what one does at the highest tidal bore in the world.  It's called mudsliding.  This photo is from the interpretive center there.
This is apparently what one does during low tide at the highest tidal bore in the world. It’s called mudsliding. This photo is from the interpretive center there.

Once I got to the actual bay again, the tide was still really low, and that far up into the bay, you could actually walk clear across it from Nova Scotia to New Brunswick (or the reverse), if you could walk the whole distance in less than four hours. Which, of course, is impossible. But it’s so weird.

Looking out over the mud flats of the Bay of Fundy.
Looking out over the mud flats of the Bay of Fundy to New Brunswick.

This was the view from the first lighthouse, which I apparently didn't get a photo of [smacks head a la V-8].
This was the view from the first lighthouse, which I apparently didn’t get a photo of [smacks head a la V-8].
I saw two lighthouses along the way. One, at Burntcoat (a weird name, but apparently a corruption of something French), was a reproduction and not a functioning lighthouse, but the second one, at Petit Riviere, still had its Fresnel lens, which was very cool. The ladders/staircases to get up into the lens room of the second lighthouse were built for people with considerably longer legs than mine, though. Other than that, and the glimpses of the wide mudflats that are the Bay of Fundy at low tide, the scenery was bucolic and hilly, and the road was a bit rollercoastery, which was fun.

The second lighthouse of the day.
The second lighthouse of the day.
And the view from the lawn around it.
And the view from the lawn around it.  The flowers are just thistles.
And its sweet little Fresnel lens.  Are you tired of photos of Fresnel lenses yet?
And its sweet little Fresnel lens. Are you tired of photos of Fresnel lenses yet?

I arrived in the town of Windsor about 3:30, and decided to stop because a) there was an inexpensive campground on what I think is the county fairgrounds (it’s called the exposition grounds) and b) there was a laundromat nearby. The last time I did laundry was about ten days ago, on Cape Cod, and things were getting kind of desperate [wry g]. Anyway, I now have clean clothes again. Important details, as my ex used to say.

Since I’d picnicked at lunch, I ate dinner out tonight, pan-fried flounder, a baked potato, and mashed turnips and carrots mixed together, all of which was very tasty (I’d never actually had turnips before). Oh, and caramel ice cream for dessert.

Then I made a reservation at a hostel in Digby, about 100 miles down the coast, for tomorrow night, because it’ll be Friday in high season and I was a bit worried about them having room for me. On the way tomorrow is Annapolis Royal, and a whole bunch of history about a time and place I know very little about. I can’t wait.

August 10: More Fundy, and a second province (and baby’s second oil change)

The sticky bun wasn’t as good as I’d thought it was going to be, but that’s okay. Today wasn’t a stellar day for food all around, alas.

However. I saw some really unusual scenery, and that part was great. After I left Alma this morning, I continued north on the coast road until I reached the turn-off for Cape Enrage, which has got to be one of the more unusual place names I’ve run across (says the woman from Puyallup [g]). It’s apparently got to do with the area’s French heritage, although why the French were so angry there still escapes me.

Anyway, it’s a very winding, very narrow road (when I was coming out, I saw a motorhome coming in, and I did wonder how they managed some of the “I’m going to rear-end myself” turns, or if they had to turn around, and wouldn’t that have been fun). The road led to a very windy bluff overlooking the Bay of Fundy, and, as the tide was headed out this morning, I got to see quite a bit more land than I would have otherwise. When the tide goes out here, it goes OUT. There’s also an adorable little lighthouse (no Fresnel lens, alas), and a gift shop, and a zip line, and a few other attractions, all for the grand price of $6 Canadian (about $4.50 U.S. given the current exchange rate, which is one of the reasons I could afford this part of the trip to begin with). No, I did not ride the zip line. I have no desire whatsoever to ride a zip line, let alone one that runs over a rather steep cliff.

A beach on the road to Cape Enrage.  See the high tide marks on the cliffs?
A beach on the road to Cape Enrage. See the high tide marks on the cliffs?
The lighthouse at Cape Enrage.
The lighthouse at Cape Enrage.
From the deck at Cape Enrage.
From the deck at Cape Enrage.
And another view from Cape Enrage.
And another view from Cape Enrage.
Fireweed!  Just like at home.
Fireweed! Just like at home.
They've been taunting me with these signs ever since Maine -- and I have yet to see a single moose!
They’ve been taunting me with these signs ever since Maine — and I have yet to see a single moose.

A few more miles farther down (or up, I guess, since I was headed northeast) the road, I came to what looked to my skeptical eyes like another Trees of Mystery (my standard for tacky roadside attractions). But I’d seen pictures of what they were showing off here, and I wanted to see it, whether it was as hokey as the admission gate and gift shop made it look, or as magnificent as the photos of it I’d seen. The reality was closer to magnificent than tacky, I have to say. The Hopewell Rocks are the famous “flower pot” rocks of the Bay of Fundy, and I do mean famous – I’d heard of them even over on the west coast before I left home.

I was lucky – the tide was just before its ebb, so I could actually see them. Apparently they’re almost completely covered with water at high tide, which is pretty impressive when you get a good look at them. They’re huge, as you’ll see in the photos (lots of people for scale – the place was seriously busy). Anyway, you walk down a ½ km trail to a series of metal staircases that lead you down to what’s billed as the ocean floor [g], and you can actually walk around among the huge formations. It’s really pretty impressive, if a bit hard on your shoes. I had to wipe mud off of mine when I got back up – there’s a setup at the top of the stairs made for it, complete with water sprayers and boot scrapers.

The Hopewell Rocks at low tide.
The Hopewell Rocks at low tide.
And more of them.  They are so odd-looking.
And more of them. They are so odd-looking.  Oh, and that gray stuff is seaweed.
The metal stairs going down to the "ocean floor" where you can stroll among the flowerpot rocks.
The metal stairs going down to the “ocean floor” where you can stroll among the flowerpot rocks.
A view of the "ocean floor" at Hopewell Rocks.
A view of the “ocean floor” at Hopewell Rocks.

I’m glad I went to see them, and I’m really glad I landed there at low tide so I could see them.

After that, I drove on up towards Moncton. I found a really awful hamburger along the way (there wasn’t a whole lot of choice, I was hungry, and I didn’t feel like picnicking), then filled Merlin’s tank once I got to Moncton, for the first time since I crossed the border. The gas station did not have pay at the pump, which was weird. And gas cost me about $5 U.S. more than the same amount (about 8 gallons) would have south of the border, once I did the calculations from liter to gallon, and factored in the exchange rate, so it isn’t bad, all in all. The lady where I went to pay was very helpful when I asked her about where I could take Merlin to get his oil changed, and even produced a city map and marked my route to the place on it for me. The fellow at the oil change place also took the map and marked my route to the highway on it for me. Nice people!

And so I drove on east to Nova Scotia, and stopped at the welcome center to ask about campgrounds. The upshot of that is that I’m in a very nice provincial park campground a bit north of the town of Amherst, not far from the northern shore, in a lovely quiet wooded site. It’s windy as heck, but the trees seem to be keeping the worst of it above me. Very pleasant, and there are showers, too!

Self-evident [g].
Self-evident [g].
There are almost as many Baptist churches in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia as there are in Texas, but they're much bigger and older and fancier here.  This one's in the town of Amherst, NS.
There are almost as many Baptist churches in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia as there are in Texas, but they’re much bigger and older and fancier here. This one’s in the town of Amherst, NS.

August 8: The French Jamestown – why didn’t I know about this???

Anyway. Today I drove up the Maine coast, through a lot of very northern-looking forest. Much more northern than it should have looked, given that I passed the 45th parallel today (second time on this trip), which also runs through Oregon not all that far south of Portland. I also passed through the town of Machias (pronounced MaCHIus (the ch as in church and a long I), which had the only iced tea dispenser I saw today [g].

Then I went to the easternmost point of the United States, which, logic aside, is called West Quoddy Head (East Quoddy Head is in Canada). Quoddy, I’m told, is short for Passamaquoddy, which is the name of the local Indian tribe. It has an adorable little lighthouse with an intact third order Fresnel lens. There’s also a gift shop about half a mile back down the road that claims to be the easternmost gift shop in the U.S. I bought another magnet and a little cross-stitch pattern there. They had items made from some nifty quilt fabric there, but they weren’t selling the fabric itself, alas. I’d have loved the fabric with the puffins on it.

It wasn't until I saw people out picking them that I realized these are blueberry plants.
It wasn’t until I saw people out picking them that I realized these are blueberry plants.
West Quoddy Head lighthouse, Lubec, Maine.
West Quoddy Head lighthouse, Lubec, Maine.
The beautiful 3rd order Fresnel lens at West Quoddy Head.
The beautiful 3rd order Fresnel lens at West Quoddy Head.
The stone says that this is the easternmost point in the United States.  Which sounds impressive until you look at a map and see how much further east Canada goes.
The stone says that this is the easternmost point in the United States. Which sounds impressive until you look at a map and see how much further east Canada goes.
Looking out over the ocean at West Quoddy Head.
Looking out over the ocean at West Quoddy Head.

The countryside around West Quoddy Head made me homesick, though. Except for the lack of mountains and the fact that the ocean’s in the wrong direction, it looks so much like the Olympic Peninsula (esp. around Aberdeen and Forks) that it forcibly reminded me of home. I don’t normally do homesick, but it got to me, just a little.

Then I went to Canada, at least for the afternoon. Campobello Island is sort of the Point Roberts of Maine, in that it, like Point Roberts, Washington, is only accessible by going into another country. The reason I wanted to go there was that it was where FDR’s summer home was. They have a nice museum, and the cottage (not nearly as much a misnomer as calling The Breakers a cottage was, but it was still a pretty good-sized cottage) is open for visitors. It’s a lovely place, and there were flowers planted everywhere (that seems to be a Canadian thing, to plant flowers at their historic sites and in their national parks).

Flowerbeds at FDR's cottage at Campobello, with the cottage itself in the background.
Flowerbeds at FDR’s cottage at Campobello, with the cottage itself in the background.
Inside the cottage.
Inside the cottage.

Apparently honey locust blossoms make bees drunk [g].
Apparently honey locust blossoms make bees drunk [g].
I also drove out to the end of the road on Campobello because there’s a lighthouse out there, but it was high tide (Campobello’s at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy) and the lighthouse is only accessible at low tide. It was rather disconcerting to see the two metal staircases, one going down from where I was standing, and the other on the island with the lighthouse, leading down into the rushing water.

The stairs going down to where you can cross to the lighthouse at the tip of Campobello Island -- when the tide is low.
The stairs going down to where you can cross to the lighthouse at the tip of Campobello Island — when the tide is low.
The lighthouse at the tip of Campobello Island.
The lighthouse at the tip of Campobello Island.

After crossing back into the U.S. I headed towards the town of Calais (no, not pronounced the French way – CAL-iss – Cal as in California — is the local pronunciation, at least as I heard it on the radio).

But on the way I saw a sign for the St. Croix Island National Historic Site. It wasn’t on my map, and it was a tiny place, just a visitor center and a three-hundred-foot trail leading down to a view of the water across to the island itself. But it commemorated a settlement that was even older than Jamestown by three years, when Samuel de Champlain and company landed on that island to create a settlement and claim the land for the king of France. As the very enthusiastic ranger lady in the visitor center said, the French part of our history tends to get ignored here in the States. The fact that the settlement only lasted one winter (a very bad choice of location, mostly) before they moved it up into what later became Canada may have had something to do with it, too. But still.

A closeup of one of the bronze statues at St. Croix Island NHS.
A closeup of one of the bronze statues at St. Croix Island NHS.
One of the statues at St. Croix Island, NHS.
One of the statues at St. Croix Island, NHS.
A model of the settlement at St. Croix Island.
A model of the settlement at St. Croix Island.
Looking out towards the island itself.  It's the sand bar-y looking thing, not the big piece of land behind it.
Looking out towards the island itself. It’s the sand bar-y looking thing at the center of the photo, not the big piece of land behind it.
And the back of another of the statues.
And the back of another of the statues.

I think it was the statues along the trail that enthralled me, though. Well, that and the whole concept of forgotten history. But I was almost afraid to touch the statues, because I swear it seemed like they would come alive. Which would have been equally scary and thrilling, I think [g].

Anyway, I need to read more about this, and I got several good suggestions from the ranger, which was good.

Then I drove on to Calais, where I spent the night just across the St. John River from Canada!

August 2: More lighthouses, more beach, more plants, more everything seashore

This morning I got a fairly early start, and, after a quick stop at a grocery store, I headed back north along U.S. 6 (the Cape’s backbone highway). The advantage of getting up and out before eight in the morning is that the roads aren’t crowded.

My first stop was at Nauset beach and lighthouse, the parking lot of which was full by the time I got to it yesterday. The sky was gorgeous this morning, and while the lighthouse itself wasn’t open to visitors, it was still pretty, perched up on its cliff where it had been moved back not once, but twice in its 150 years of existence.

A whalebone gate and a weird-looking house near Nauset Light.
A whale’s jawbone gate and a weird-looking house near Nauset Light.
Salt marsh and water at Nauset.
Salt marsh and water at Nauset.
More cool skies over the Cape.
More cool skies over the Cape.
Nauset Lighthouse.
Nauset Lighthouse.

I then went for a hike at Great Island, on the bay side of the cape, which looks very different from the ocean side. The trail was about four miles long, but I don’t think I went more than a mile and a half or so one way. Part of the trail crossed a huge dune, and it’s really hard to walk on all that loose sand. On the other hand, the sand is this lovely golden color and the views were pretty amazing.

Salt marsh and water at Great Island.
Salt marsh and water at Great Island.

The next thing I knew I was back up in Provincetown, where I ate a picnic lunch. It started to rain just as I finished up, which was good timing, and I thought I’d like to go and see the Pilgrim monument and its associated museum. I didn’t count on everyone else thinking that would be a good idea on a rainy day, too, and it was impossible to find a parking place within a reasonable walking distance, so I had to bag that. I did manage to get a picture of the monument, which is by far the tallest thing in Provincetown. This is where the Pilgrims landed before they decided it probably wasn’t the best place to start a colony and went on to Plymouth.

The Pilgrim Monument at Provincetown.
The Pilgrim Monument at Provincetown.

Provincetown is also the gay mecca of New England, and is famous for its drag queens and nightlife and so forth. All I can really tell you about that is that there are rainbow flags everywhere there. I liked that. The Pilgrims are probably spinning in their graves ululating at high pitch, to quote Lois Bujold (she was talking about Beta Colony and John Knox, IIRC), which amuses me vastly.

My last little hike for the day was at Pilgrim Heights, a few miles south of Provincetown, which, in good national park tradition, was a nature trail with plant labels. I saw bayberries and Virginia creeper and oaks and pines – and a little red berry with no label! I’m going to have to look that one up. The berries look like currants, but the foliage looks like plums. I’m wondering if it’s beach plum, but if it is, people make jam out of it, and, wow, it would take a gazillion of those tiny things to make just one pint.

Whatever this is, it doesn't look like Googled photos of beach plum.
Whatever this is, it doesn’t look like Googled photos of beach plum.
Bayberries, the stuff they make candles from.
Bayberries, the stuff they make candles from.
The trail at Pilgrim Heights.
The trail at Pilgrim Heights.

After that, I was chilled (yes! really!) and damp, so I came on back to my campsite and read for a while.

Tomorrow I will say good-bye to the Cape, after stopping in Hyannis to visit the John F. Kennedy museum, and drive up and around Boston to Lowell, Massachusetts, which has some history I want to explore, and to meet up with Ann from the Bujold list at an eggroll restaurant for dinner.