Friday, July 7, 2017


Our first impression of driving through Ontario was the immense scale of the place. What looks like a small drive between towns on the map takes a good hour. Algonquin Provincial Park fits the same massive scale as the rest of the Province. The road is long, the lakes are huge and there is way more to do here than could be done in one trip.

We snagged a campsite at Kearney Lake and were lucky to get one on the water. We set up our tent lickety-split and headed down the road to while away the afternoon on Cache Lake. Historically, this was the hub of activity in the park, so it made sense that we would start our activity there. We launched amid the water-taxi shuttling people to and from the lodge.

We embarked following the paddlers map that we had just purchased. Weaving between islands, we managed to accidentally follow a river into Tanamokoon Lake where we found some day sailers and quite a few nice campsites. The motor boat traffic was minimal (yet polite to paddlers…and limited to 20 horsepower…and only 12 of the 2400 lakes allow them) and the camps were small and far-between.

We meandered back to Cache lake to weave around islands on the southern part of the lake. It gave us a scope of the size of this wilderness since we had spent all afternoon paddling on a tiny blue area on the map….sheesh!

The next day we scarfed some muffins at our campsite and embarked on the rail-trail heading south. We were afforded some excellent views of Whitefish Lake but had to turn around due to wet conditions on the trail. Chris saw a bear cross the trail, Lisa thankfully did not see it.

In the afternoon we headed to Opeongo Lake which gave us another feeling of the massive nature of this park. We paddled for ten miles and covered about a third of the lake, not even dipping into the North or East arms. We scouted campsites and soaked up the sunshine in the middle of Jones’ Bay - our northernmost point travelled on this trip (by kayak!). I got to show off a slick maneuver when landing by propelling my kayak onto a submerged dock where I stepped out keeping my shoes relatively dry.

Hankering for some fried food, we went to the cafeteria at the visitors centre for poutine! After enjoying our grease covered with fat and topped with melted cheese, we whiled away the evening trying to burn green campfire wood at our campsite and playing tunes around the smoke. At least the smudge fire helped keep the bugs down…

The next morning, we headed on bicycles on the northern section of the rail trail. Despite the fact that we were constantly pursued by swarms of deer flies, we managed to keep ahead of them and had a very nice ride. We just couldn’t stop for long. The scenery changed from lake front to wetland to meadow and ended at the dam on Cache Lake.

On the return trip, we grabbed a lunch at Lake of Two Rivers before bringing the kayaks to canoe lake - it seemed deliciously sacrilegious to the lakes’ handle. The launch site was busy; it was full of adult campers and members of child camps on the lake. After some entertaining people-watching, we sailed in the wind around some northern islands before turning around to follow rivers into Bonita and Tea lakes. On the return we were pushed by the gusty winds back to the launch, which had become much less congested in the late afternoon.

With showers forecasted for the evening, we packed the car for sleeping and spent the evening trying to burn the firewood for the second time. It smoldered about as well as a wet sponge. We played some tunes and ate some pea-soup, but not at the same time. Luckily we only had a few sprinkles that night and got to pack up dry bikes in the morning.

Before we left the park, we finally stopped at the visitor centre to get a feel for the ecological and human history of the area. I inquired to the ranger about acquiring backcountry permits and how the system worked for our next trip.

Our impression of Algonquin Provincial Park is of a wilderness area that would rival that of Yellowstone. However, with so many lakes it is a paddler’s paradise. It is amazingly massive and so much of it is wild…they have wolves for Pete’s sake! We will be returning someday with pack boats and backpacking gear to get further into the backcountry.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Bon Echo

We are heading north through quite the wilderness in Ontario. After leaving the thruway, the traffic got sparse and the landscape swampy as we headed north on highway 41. The buildings were few and far between and we knew that we were really in the middle of nowhere due to the fact that we didn't see a single Tim Hortons en route.

We persevered sans donut and spent the night at Bon Echo Provincial Park. It was jarring as we pulled into the park after driving through wilderness for so many miles that we encountered long lines and traffic. We stood in line (twice...) to get a campsite and finally got a spot to pitch our tent without a level spot in sight. Not wanting to stand in line again, we went to lake with our kayaks and launched across from a giant rocky cliff. It looked like it had the capability of producing a good echo!

For the rest of the afternoon, we paddled along the cliff face looking for Native American pictographs. They were faded, but still visible which is quite surprising since they are right at water level where they must be quite weathered.

Dinner was at the beach - chicken chili doctored with olives...yum!

We spent the night using the side of the tent as a hammock and we are now on the road heading towards Algonquin Provincial Park.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Grand Manan and Campobello

The ferry to Grand Manan island turned out to be a nice excursion as we passed many craggy shores and saw a whale playing in the boat's wake as we travelled. Arriving at North Head, we headed south on the main road looking for lunch. We found the Fundy House and without looking at a menu I inquired whether they had chowder. The waitress said that they had seafood, lobster and clam chowders and I knew this was the place for us!

After lunch we secured a campsite at The Anchorage Provincial Park which was surprisingly empty. We found a campsite with good shade and firewood before walking along the beach. Soon enough, we heard Karen's voice on the walkie-talkie and we headed back to meet them for the evening. We spent the evening sharing stories and having a perfect steak dinner over the fire. Yum!

The next day, we explored the rest of the island by first heading through Seal Cove to the Southwest Head Light House. The wind was intense and we then drove north to enjoy the picturesque Swallow Tail Lighthouse and Whale Cove. After we had satisfied ourselves with the views (from inside the car mostly as we would blow away if we stepped out...), we boarded the ferry back to the mainland.

Our drive then took us into the United States for the first time in almost three weeks. It was a brief stint however as we then doglegged back into Canada, across the bridge onto Campbello Island. This was the summer home of the Roosevelt family early in the 20th century and now the home of an International Park. We got a campsite at Herring Cove Provincial Park (like Grand Manan, it was surprisingly empty for a Friday night in July) with Mary-Ellen and Karen where they cooked us up an amazing meal of chili mac n' cheese. We licked our plates clean before going to bed early that night.

The next day, we got breakfast at the Herring Cove Club House while we waited for the Roosevelt Cottage to open. We then toured the building, admiring the porches and open space. This was certainly an idyllic place to spend summers - the Roosevelts kept it simpler than some of the great camps in the Adirondacks although they still required servants to keep things running. 

We parted ways with Mary-Ellen and Karen, noting that we had never seen each other on the mainland during this trip. Lisa and I biked on the Glensevern Road to a cobblestone beach on the eastern shore of the island. Other than getting wet feet and losing (then finding) the camera, it was a smooth trip.

Our car is packed and we are now in the United States heading west to Vermont for the rest of the summer. It's time to get the kayaks off the wall and get into the Adirondacks!

Thursday, July 21, 2016


Upon arrival at Fundy National Park in southern New Brunswick, we grabbed a campsite for two nights and went looking for a place to hike. The ranger recommended a loop called “Moosehorn” that follows a series of waterfalls along the Broad River. We put on hiking boots and set off along the path, descending steeply in the first section. The river had many swimming holes along the way, which appeared to be quite popular with hikers. We snapped our last pictures of Laverty Falls before returning on that trail.

In the evening we went into the town of Alma (the home of the worlds largest tides – fluctuating from thirty-eight to fifty-three feet!) to inquire about kayaking and get dinner. We made our reservation for a guided morning paddle and grabbed some chowder at the local diner. Returning to our campsite, we spent the evening playing music in the kitchen shelter before hitting the hay.

We awoke early the next morning and got ready for a big paddle. When we arrived, it was clear that we were the only experienced kayakers in the group. We rolled our eyes when the guides showed us how to hold the paddle right side up and what to do if you fall out of your boat. When we finally launched and looked back at the group, half of them had fallen out of their boat like a bunch of floppy tuna. I would imagine that leading this tour is similar to teaching kindergarten.

We tried to stay ahead of the group since they were out of control in the rolling ocean waves. We would still get cut off occasionally and Lisa had one great save when she got t-boned in a kayak (who knew that you could get t-boned in a kayak?). I had a baby seal playing and splashing around my boat before sniffing and snorting on my port side. I gave him a little scooch on the head and he swam off. The guides were quite jealous since seals are apparently rare in this part of the Bay of Fundy.

So peaceful....
AHHHHH!!! Under attack!

We stopped for a snack in Herring Cove where all the floppy armed tourists got to rest and eat sticky buns, something with which they clearly had much more experience. After enjoying the scenery and watching the tide come quickly in, we journeyed back to Alma where we grabbed some lunch at the local bakery.

The afternoon was spent hiking, first on the Coppermine trail, which based on the tiny amount of tailings was probably the site of an unsuccessful mine. It offered some nice views of the ocean though, and we found some comfortable Adirondack chairs in which to while away the afternoon. We also made a short hike to Dickson falls for some nice cool mist and mossy views.

With a hankering for pizza, we headed into town for the last time and demolished a pizza before spending the evening playing music again in the acoustically perfect kitchen shelter. We are currently on our way to Grand Manan Island for a night. Hopefully there is room on the ferry!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Nova Scotia

After leaving Cape Breton Highlands National Park, we headed south along the Cabot Trail to Baddeck. We found the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site and used our Parks Canada pass to cover admission. The exhibits showed the life of a man curious about a myriad of subjects. More of the museum was dedicated to flying machines and hydrofoils than the invention of the telephone.

We had to backtrack a bit as we headed north to Sydney, Cape Breton’s only real city. We found a grocery store and stocked up, since we had been in smaller towns for most of the past week. The town itself appears to be a slightly depressed former industrial area. Apparently, the coal mines closed in the nineties…

Looking on the Internet, Lisa found a Ceilidh in Louisbourg that night – only a half hour east of Sydney. Since we were planning on heading to the fortress in the morning anyway, we headed over to get tickets and find a place to camp. The RV park turned out to be more than adequate. In fact – the tent sites had a small covered pavilion for the picnic table. Since rain was forecast, we moved the table and set up our tent under the roof – in the morning we would have a nice dry tent to pack.

The fiddling was fantastic yet again. The show took place at the Louisbourg Theatre which was a recreation of the Globe Theatre in London. Apparently, Disney built the theatre for a movie in the nineties and donated it to the town afterward. The show featured traditional Cape Breton fiddling by Jennifer Roland with interludes of country and jazz vocals from the piano player. We even got tea and Scottish oatcakes at intermission!

The next morning we headed to the Fortress of Lousbourg National Historic Site. It was a recreation of a French fortress on the site from the early to mid eighteenth century. Upon arriving at the sod-roofed houses outside the wall, the tenants joked about being able to harvest their carrots from the ceiling.

We enjoyed the open houses with period actors and found ourselves fawning over the boat-builder’s shop. We opted to eat lunch at the “commoners” restaurant where we were only given a spoon for the three-course meal. We ate our fill and decided to head out as we were both feeling the “museum lower-back.”

We decided that we had seen the best of Cape Breton and that we would start heading towards New Brunswick again. We decided to skip Kejimkujik National Park in Nova Scotia since our guidebook described: “hummingbird sized mosquitoes” and “eel sized leeches,” thanks Susie Mick! We are now on our way to Fundy National Park on the southern shore of New Brunswick for some hiking.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Cape Breton Highlands

The ferry from Prince Edward Island to Nova Scotia was an interesting and claustrophobic experience. The boat was running about an hour behind schedule and we sweated it out in the car. When we boarded – we were one of the last cars to be put below deck. The ramp was steep enough that you couldn’t actually see it while driving but we made it in and stopped the car before making our way up to the top deck for the ride. I bought some shortbread from a stand and we enjoyed a game of pinochle while making the crossing.

When we disembarked on the Nova Scotia side, it was getting close to evening so we made a grocery store stop for dinner and started heading east. There didn’t seem to be much listed for camping on the map but we did see a tent sign on the road leading us to downtown Antigonish. We set up camp and had a small dinner (since we had eaten most of a pack of shortbread on the ferry) before heading to bed.

We awoke the next morning to the sound of rain on the tent. We had not put on the rain fly the night before, so we quickly packed up the tent in four minutes and got in the car. When we looked at the clock, it was only 5:30…we shrugged and started driving.

The cloudy weather and rain persisted throughout the morning and we arrived at the Cheticamp entrance to Cape Breton Highlands National Park around 8:30. We took showers at the campground and then followed the road to Corney Brook, to see if there were any tent sites available. When we arrived, we were pelted with rain and gale force winds. We hid in the shelter and waited for it to blow over….it didn’t.

We got back in the car and headed back to the Cheticamp campground and inquired about tent shelters. They had one available and we snatched it before going back into town for hot turkey sandwiches and hot chocolate. We also bought a loaf of French bread at the boulangerie!

It was still raining when we came back to the campground so we took a quick nap and played some music on the porch. After a few tunes, we looked up and saw blue sky!

Donning our hiking boots, we headed back to Corney Brook for a hike into the waterfall. The trail was perfectly maintained with a slight uphill grade and we arrived in half the time that we calculated. We tend to think of hikes in terms of the “Adirondack Mile,” which is one mile per hour. We enjoyed the view and then made the hike out.

Arriving back at the campground meant dinner and we had big plans. I started a fire in our pit, which took quite a while with the soaking wet wood that we had. We had some baked potatoes with grilled brussels sprouts and pork chops with french bread and goat cheese for appetizer. Quite a feast indeed!

After dinner we watched the sunset from “Le Bloc.”

The next morning we were pleased to find the weather still cooperating and we went to the Skyline trailhead. This trail was listed in our guidebook as the one “must-do” trail in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. We started our hike into a cloud, but as it got closer to noon, the clouds started to burn off and we were given a nearly panoramic view of the ocean and mountains. We saw Mary-Ellen and Karen’s car drive by on the road, but they didn’t stop to say hello…

We grabbed some lunch at the Rusty Anchor in Pleasant Bay, before venturing back into the park for a short walk into MacIntosh Brook for another waterfall. Lisa was determined to see a moose and kept calling for them. Personally, I think she needs to work on her moose call.

We followed the Cabot Trail to the eastern side of the park and got a campsite at the Broad Cove Campground before heading into Ingonish for ice cream. We found a poster at the ice cream shop for a Ceilidh that evening at the Anglican Parish Hall in Ingonish. We made plans to attend and headed to Ingonish Beach for a short hike on the Middle Head peninsula. We enjoyed the views from both sides of this trail. Lisa called for whales at the end but had no luck. Personally, I think she needs to work on her whale call.

After a picnic at the beach we headed to the parish hall which filled with seemingly equal parts tourists and locals. The music featured three fiddlers and a pianist for a night of high quality music. The crowd was tapping their feet along with the music and the fiddlers kept changing from marches to strathspeys to reels without losing the beat. We didn’t want it to end, but eventually we had to crawl back to our tent.

The next morning we drove to our third waterfall: Mary-Ann Falls for some pictures. We considered doing a bike ride from here, but the deer flies looked a bit too thick for our liking. We headed back to Ingonish Beach and walked along the shore of the freshwater lake. Lisa tried to call the loon for a picture, but she needs some work there as well…

We are heading south on the Cabot Trail to see the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site before snaking back up to Sydney, Cape Breton’s only city. After that…who knows?

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Prince Edward Island

Driving the eight-mile bridge connecting New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island gave us an expansive perspective on the island. We noted that there is no toll to cross the bridge onto the island, but quite a hefty toll to leave…odd.

When we arrived on PEI, we were amazed at how different the landscape was compared to New Brunswick. The roads were suddenly quite straight and flat and we were surrounded by bright red sandy soil much of it with potato plants flowering or dairy cattle. There were many signs along the way for rural town centers and it reminded us much of Grand Isle in Vermont…if it was surrounded by the ocean and much larger in land area.

We chose Linkletter Provincial Park for our first evening of camping, just outside the community of Summerside – one of the two “urban” centers of PEI. We set up camp overlooking Northumberland Strait and headed back into town to bike along the Summerside boardwalk. It followed shops and restaurants at ocean’s edge and transitioned into a separate bike path with views of the farmland across the bay.

Returning to our campsite, we were SWARMED by mosquitoes, thicker than we have ever experienced (yes – even thicker than Pharaoh Lake, Tom…). We must have been camping next to a salt marsh just after these bloodsuckers had hatched. In long sleeves, we ate chocolate fondue from a can with strawberries as quickly as possible and ran for the car where we would spend the rest of the evening. Suddenly, the fact that they only charge to leave PEI via the bridge made complete sense as we imagined a bidding war at the tollbooth after each visitor experiences these bugs!

Luckily, we had entertainment as the neighbors that just pulled in started wrestling with their overly complicated tent. The husband refused to help, electing rather to smoke cigarettes at the picnic table while the wife struggled. It wasn’t until an hour and forty minutes later that the tent took shape…we would have been willing to help had the husband been willing to help…sheesh!

The next morning, with mosquitoes still plastering the car, we drove to the showers and got out of the park with tires squealing. We followed the coast to West Point, where we walked along the red sandy beach, finding a striped lighthouse along the way.

We then drove to Tignish – a town on the northwestern side of the island, which happens to be the start of the Confederation Trail, a long distance rail trail that circles the entire province. We made lunch in the park (couscous, herring and corn wraps) before setting out. The trail was very flat and well maintained and we biked through forests and past many potato fields before making a quick u-turn.

Our next stop – after some dessert at the dairy bar was Cavendish, where we surprised Mary-Ellen and Karen for the evening. We spent the night sharing stories from our trips and playing music (and eating excellent second dessert), before hitting the hay.

We said our goodbyes that morning, before finding each other again at Prince Edward Island National Park. Lisa and I took our bikes on the bike path in the Cavendish section, which followed the shoreline overlooking many reddish bluffs along the way. It was the most scenic biking that we had seen to date on PEI, and the stiff wind offered some great exercise on the return trip.

We drove to the next portion of the National Park, for some views of interesting sand dunes and much more “normal” sandy beaches – rather than the reddish hue that we had become accustomed to on the trip. There seems to be no shortage of public beach frontage on PEI.

We found lunch at “Rick’s Fish n’ Chips” in St. Peter’s before following the road south towards Wood Island, to catch the ferry to Nova Scotia. They aren’t going to get that return toll from us after all – HA!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


Technology and wireless access has certainly improved since our 2010 road trip, since I am writing this from our campsite....on a picnic the woods...

After leaving Bathurst, we decided to continue heading east onto the Acadian Peninsula. We were impressed with the size of backyard woodpiles that we saw along the way and the laid back fishing villages dotting the coast. We soon found that we were still very much in French-speaking territory and people seemed much more surprised to talk to English-speaking tourists than in Quebec. We guessed that the main bloc of tourists for this area would probably come from Quebec rather than English speaking parts of Canada.

We settled for the night at the Maison Toristique Dugas which had a rambling campground behind the inn. We ventured into Caraquet for supper and ate overlooking the fishing pier. We were amazed at how this area felt like an extremely mellow version of Cape Cod - if they spoke French.

The next morning, the sky threatened rain but we started the day with a bike ride on the Caraquet Bike Path. It meandered along the shore before turning away into some neighborhoods. The weather was cool and we were bundled up.

After the bike trip, we packed our belongings and headed to the Acadian Village - a living museum of Acadian life from the eighteenth through twentieth centuries. The museum was excellent and featured many buildings moved to the site from around New Brunswick. Most buildings had an interpreter dressed in period clothing and making food over the fire! We enjoyed fresh baked sourdough bread and a traditional Acadian meal of roast-beef with turnip and mashed potatoes (together). Dessert was blueberry cake - yum! We even met a great pianist at the hotel and shared songs and stories.

We tore ourselves away from the museum before we tried to pitch a tent and stay there for the rest of the trip and continued following the coastal route around the Acadian Peninsula. After some spitting rain, we found ourselves at Kouchibouguac National Park, on the coast. It seemed like a nice place to spend the night and we bought a "Discovery Pass" which will provide access to Canada's National Parks and Historic Sites for two years.

We set up camp - and slept away a rainy night followed by a fairly lazy morning. When we finally rolled out of bed, we made some oatmeal with a generous portion of maple syrup - it honestly tasted like candy. The bike path went right by our campsite so we hopped on for a loop. We followed the river and walked along the sand dunes on the shore. We were particularly impressed at how wooded this coastline is - quite unusual compared to coastlines in the Eastern United States. We grabbed some lunch at the snack stand at Kelly's beach: poutine, cheeseburgers and chicken food.

After a short nap back at our campsite, we walked to the shore to rent a canoe. We got the red Old-Town that I had my eye on earlier that morning and followed the Kouchibouguac River inland for two miles. We watched the diving birds and even had a few fish splash our boats on the way. It was an idyllic way to spend the afternoon.

The next morning we packed camp and finished our candied oatmeal before biking the northerly path along the river. We enjoyed the scenery but kept moving to stay ahead of the deer flies. We now find ourselves heading south towards Prince Edward Island.