19 September 2018
Where to start? Well Ontario was a disappointment. We took the scenic route (Highway 17E), but the scenery didn’t change much for almost 300 miles – a corridor of trees. Pretty, but nothing dramatic. There are a lot prettier places within the United States.
We did stop for an oil change before leaving the United States. The oil change took about 10-15 minutes – Sweet!!! Although I did want to work on reviewing my Minnesota/Wisconsin/Michigan blog and then posting it. Guess it will have to wait until we return to the United States. That may occur sooner than we anticipated. The plan was to drive through Ontario and Quebec, heading to the Atlantic Provinces of News Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia. When I was looking at the map today I realized that one of the places I had hoped to camp wasn’t really a campground, and once you get close to Montreal there are a million little cities, all with speed zones. Since we don’t want to drive the interstate – to avoid all the trucks, we travel the back roads and byways. Not that going through small towns is bad, some have an unique character, but it does lengthen the time you need for traveling – and thus cuts into birding time…
So instead we are thinking of heading down into New York, across Vermont and New Hampshire (upper portions of the states), and then into Maine before accessing the Atlantic Provinces. We still want to visit New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia. And I’m thinking we should have left a couple weeks early, or planned to see the fall colors a couple weeks later. Based on the lack of color in Ontario, we may be disappointed by the lack of color in Vermont. Oh well.
We stopped for ice cream at “Get Lucky” (or something like that) on Trans Canada Highway 17. A “single” cone actually had five scopes of hard ice-cream. And the small soft serve is the largest small serving I’ve ever encountered. They gave us the ice cream and then said, “Have a lucky day”. Cute. I personally like the sign near the bathroom entrance – “Men on the left, because Women are always right”.
Speaking of Highway 17. The speed limit (when you aren’t near a community) is 90 km or about 56 miles per hour. No one, and I mean no one, goes that speed. I told Jack if he ever gets pulled over to tell the Mountie that he thought the speed limit signs were only suggestions since everyone passes us like we are standing still. I suspect the Mountie would not be amused.
We are staying the night at the Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park. The campground is strange – not very well laid out. They do have showers so that is always a plus. And recycling. The cost for a non-electric site is $41.00 – ouch. That is Canadian money however. But remember Canadians like to charge us the same amount in U.S. dollars – $41.00. Luckily for us they take credit cards so it should be around $32.00 instead of the $41.00.
So tomorrow, we hope to make it to upstate New York – just across the border from Ontario. I am hoping we get there early because I would like to chill out and not drive all day long. It really does get tiresome.
20 September 2018
Well we decided to re-enter the United States in northern New York state so today was mostly a travel day – again. Not much happened, although the first New York campground we sought out was already closed for the season. Surprised us. So we continued on another 100 miles or so to Cumberland Bay State Park located along the eastern shores of Lake Champlain in eastern New York near the Canadian border. A large campground and an okay one. Nothing special. I wouldn’t want to be here during a busy day as you wouldn’t have much privacy from your neighbors. Tomorrow our goal is Maine, a campground near Bangor. Once we get through our “fall colors” trip, it will be nice to go at a more leisurely pace. I want to do more than drive.
One thing I do want to say about our travels through Ontario, there are a lot of roadside wetlands with cattails. We also saw a lot of Canada Geese. And yesterday we saw several large flocks of Sandhill Cranes. One flock probably had around 150-200 cranes. Then there was the single crane we saw. I always wonder why a bird would be traveling alone. Did it lose its mate?
21 September 2018
Today is another travel day – okay yes, they all are. We left Cumberland Bay State Park under very strong winds and rain – the van is like a sail. With such lousy weather, we decided to stop for breakfast. Not a good day to try and heat water for coffee or make breakfast under those conditions.
Vermont, here we come. Since it was so windy, we by-passed Missisouoi National Wildlife Refuge. We’ve been here before so I didn’t feel too bad about not stopping, and maybe when we come back this way in early October for the fall colors we can spend some time at the refuge. Not sure what birds will be there at that time of year. We took a lot of back roads, however in Vermont almost all the roads are back roads. We did get lost a couple of times, and once almost went back into Canada. Google maps isn’t always helpful and we didn’t always have cellphone service. Along the way we did see several places where there was a lot of tubing within the maple trees – used for collecting and transporting the sap for maple syrup.
After spending about four hours driving 100 miles, we finally made it in to New Hampshire. We had less than 100 miles of New Hampshire roads to travel before entering Maine. And guess what – the trees are barely turning colors. Ugh!!! We will be back in two weeks for what is supposed to be the peak of the fall colors. A lot has to happen between now and then. When planning the trip, I got online and found a website where you pick a date on a calendar and it will tell you (for 2018) when the colors will be peaking. That is what I used to plan our trip. I should go back online again and see if I get the same result.
We made it to Lake St. George State Park in Maine around 4:00 pm. We were told all the sites were filled, although with one site, they weren’t sure if the woman who wanted the site would make it to the park or not. So they gave it to us. We were told this is the only weekend where campground reservations are required.
This is another strange campground. I really wonder who designs campgrounds. I don’t think it is anyone who actually stays in a campground. And have you noticed that in many campgrounds the restrooms are nearest the loops with utilities – next to the people who have rigs outfitted with restrooms. And those of us who tent camp or have vans without bathrooms have to walk the furthest to use the facilities. This isn’t true of all campground, but many where we’ve camped. And, Jack’s pet peeves, no coat hooks, sink shelves, and tiny shower stalls with no hooks or bench seat…okay, and a few more complaints but enough…
Our site wasn’t too bad, although we were in the open. It was still somewhat windy, although not as bad as the campground in New York we left this morning. And luckily no rain. Lacking those two conditions cooking was much easier.
The reason for the full campground was because of the “Common Grounds Country Fair” in Unity, a small town nearby. The fair is a big deal attracting an estimated 60,000 people over a three day period. The event is put on by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (See: http://www.mofga.org/The-Fair). We were told the the fair is known for its food vendors and the food is quite good. I told a friend that two of those 60,000 individuals would not be us. I wouldn’t have mind going except I really don’t like large crowds (parking hassles, long lines for food and restrooms), and the entry fee seemed steep – $15 for me and $10 for Jack. I don’t quite qualify for senior status yet.
Two people stopped and asked us how we like our van. One woman had visited Alaska this past summer, including Homer. She stayed at Seaside Farms (Mossy Kilcher’s place). The other woman used to be a nurse in Anchorage and had visited Homer several times. Small world.
22 September 2018
Today we re-enter Canada to visit the Atlantic Provinces of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia. But first, a stop the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in Maine, located near the Canada border. This is a revisit, as we were here in 2014. From a parking lot near the refuge headquarters we took the Raven trail. Surprisingly there was some good birds – Pileated Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Black and White Warbler, Blue-headed Vireo, Tennessee Warbler, Red-eyed Vireo, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and Black-capped Chickadee. A great day to bird the refuge.
One thing I noticed about Maine is they have a lot of antique shops, oh and ice-cream shops too. Unfortunately, most of the ice cream shops are closed for the season. I wonder if they close down after Labor Day like everything in Homer. I really like Maine. I think I could live here (during the spring, summer, and fall months). But the black flies…maybe not.
The Canadian border crossing was easy – no lines. The young man was gracious – no scowling. He asked if we had tasers, stun guns, or weapons because they are banned in Canada. Good for them.
We are staying at New River Beach Provincial Park. This is a nice little park on the Bay of Fundy. They have trails that go out to several coves, so off hiking we went. It was nice to get some hiking in, rather than sitting in a car all day long – unfortunately, we didn’t see much in the way of birds here. There were some ducks on the tidal water that had me stumped. I was trying to make a White-winged Scoters into a Common Eider. They both look similar in their transition plumage, although the birds were starting to get that “white” tear drop shape around their eye evident in male White-winged Scoters.
We haven’t traveled through much of News Brunswick so far, but we like what we’ve seen. Tomorrow we are headed to Prince Edward Island for a couple of days.
23 September 2018
Brrrr was it ever cold this morning, a chilly 39 degrees F. Quite a difference from the previous three weeks. I think I like the night-time temperatures around 45-50 degrees for sleeping in the van. Not so much after waking up.
We are camping at the Cavandish campground in the Prince Edward Island National Park. The campground has 200 sites, but since this is considered the off-season, they’ve closed several loops, which means all the campers are crammed into the open loops (few or no trees). If you are a tent camper your choices are few and you are stuck out in the open, except for about ten sites which are nestled in the trees. All sites are really close together so you have to really like your neighbor.
Ahhhh… I just had a Red-breasted Nuthatch in the tree outside the van. So cute. After we found a site acceptable to yours truly (yes, I’m very picky), we decided to walk the beach. Not too many people on the beach, which was nice because the tide was high and there were shorebirds – Sanderlings and Semipalmated Plovers – feeding along the surfline. I love watching the Sanderlings as they travel along the beach with their run, run, run, stop pattern as they follow the receding ocean waves, only to the hustle back as an incoming wave hits. Their beaks are like sewing machines – in and out, in and out of the sand in search for food. We did see a dead Northern Gannet on the beach, and what looked like a dead Muskrat, either that or a VERY LARGE woolly rat. It had been partially buried in the sand and I didn’t want to pick it up and shake the sand off in order to get a better look (and photo).
We had intended to stay here two nights, but Jack isn’t thrilled about the campground. We will explore more of the park tomorrow, and then find a Provincial park (think state parks) campground.
Okay we made a tactical error in planning out this trip in only planning for a week in the three Provinces. I think we should have had two weeks minimum. Something to plan for a future visit – spending more time here. We should also include Labrador and Newfoundland.
24 September 2018
Brrrrrr…… It was cold again this morning (40 degrees F) and very windy (15-20 mph), but luckily the sun was out, which helps warm one when out walking/hiking.
I do want to say that Prince Edward Island National Park is poorly signed. We even got lost exiting the campground. The first fork in the road we took lead to a beach. As we were driving that road there must have been at least 50 American Robins on the side of the road and these were just the birds that flushed when we drove by, even at around 15 mph. We also saw a Northern Flicker just sitting by the side of the road. When I looked at the bird with my binoculars I noticed it had a deformed beak. The beak was long and de-curved. Poor thing. I hope it can still eat sufficiently.
The town of Cavendish, near where the campground is located, is a town that thrives on the tourists. There were a lot of tourist related accommodations (cottages, hotels, motels, and cabins), tourist activities (miniature golf, regular golf), and eateries (lots of ice-cream stores). Like Homer, these places close down early. Even the campground we stayed at closes on September 30th.
Today we visited the other two segments of the Prince Edward Island National Park: Brackley-Dalvay and Greenwich. At the Brackley-Dalvay segment we hiked the Bubbling Springs Trail (approximately 2.2 km). We also walked the beach a short distance – very windy out. Fun to watch the Semi-palmated Plovers and Sanderlings feeding along the shoreline. One bird I saw reminded me of the Great Knots I saw while in Australia last year. Maybe this bird was a Red Knot in non-breeding plumage. I was going to get a photo of the bird when it was flushed by a gull flying low. At one point during our walk on the beach we had around 15 Semi-palmated Plover in a small area. Many of them were hunkered down behind rocks or seaweed trying to stay out of the fierce wind.
DId you know that spotting a dragonfly symbolizes “change, transformation, adaptability, and self-realization. The change that is often referred to has its source in mental and emotional maturity and understanding the deeper meaning of life.”? (Source: https://dragonflytransitions.com/why-the-dragonfly/).
At the Greenwich site we walked the boardwalk trail. This is a nice boardwalk through wetlands/marsh and leading to the sand dunes/beach. While on the boardwalk we could get within 5-10 feet of feeding Semi-palmated Plovers and Semi-palmated Sandpipers. No Sanderlings, they prefer the beach. We also had a single Greater Yellowleg.
Now we go searching for a nearby Provincial parks for the night. When we were planning for the trip we thought it was interesting that the only campground open during the period we wanted to visit the island was the Cavendish campground. I guess we forgot that little tidbit because we tried two different Provincial parks and found them both closed. At the last one, we merely parked outside the closed gate and stayed there for the night – Site #0, cost $0.
25 September 2018
Since we weren’t at a campground last night we decided to eat breakfast at a restaurant and found one in nearby Charlottetown that was open early. The food was okay – nothing special. Jack, however, was just happy to have a cup of hot coffee. The downtown area where we had breakfast is comprised of both old and new buildings. The old buildings give the downtown area character, and there seemed to be some interesting shops – hmmmmm. But we continued on, headed towards the Confederate Bridge, which connects Prince Edward Island with New Brunswick.
Near the bridge, was a little museum commemorating the various methods of access to the island. The woman at the museum asked us where we were from and we said Alaska. She asked us how we got here. We said we drove? She said you mean you flew and then you drove. We said no, we drove the entire way. She said she didn’t know there was a highway that went to Alaska. She then asked how long it took. It’s hard to answer that question because it wasn’t a straight shot. We stopped and visited family and friends along the way.
I was very impressed with the homes and property on Prince Edward Island. There weren’t a lot of junky properties – Alaskans know what I mean. That changed when we got to Nova Scotia.
I checked in advance to be sure that the campground we want to stay in tonight was open. It is, although it closes October 8th (Canadian Thanksgiving day). We got to the campground around 2:00 pm, found our spot and then hiked the Red Head Trail, which lead us to several vistas overlooking the beautiful red cliffs. We also got to see some great birds: Red-eyed Vireo (including a family – parents still feeding the youngsters), Downy Woodpecker, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Song Sparrow, Black-throated Green Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-backed Woodpecker (woohoo!!!), Northern Flicker, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. A good afternoon to bird and hike.
After our Red Head hike we walked down to the beach. The beach here doesn’t really have any sand. Instead it is quite rocky. We didn’t walk far as walking was difficult with the rocks. Along the way we encountered a large flock of American Goldfinches busily feeding on the seeds of the Canada Goldenrod.
We had a small red squirrel in our campsite that decided (okay demanded) it wanted to be fed. Obviously other campers have fed this particular squirrel. Jack tried chasing it off about ten times and nothing worked – it kept coming back, even came onto the picnic table. We turned our back and it jumped up onto the picnic table, chewed through a plastic bag, and began munching on some bread. I rewarded the squirrel’s bad behavior by giving it the ruined bread. Guess it satisfied the squirrel since it left us alone after that. I called it the “ninja” squirrel.
This is a nice campground with great views and I would definitely visit here again. Tomorrow we head back to New Brunswick. Jack wants to spend a couple of days at Campobello Island. This island is where Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt had a summer home. If we didn’t have reservations at Acadia National Park (Maine) or for campgrounds in Vermont (fall colors) we would stay longer in Nova Scotia – next trip.
26 September 2018
It is wet, wet, wet, and more wet outside today. I haven’t seen it rain like this in a long time and all day long too. The wind was up again today, making for a not so pleasant day. That turned out okay as we spent most of the day traveling. First we stopped for breakfast in Parrsboro, Nova Scotia, located a short distance from our campground. We couldn’t find any open restaurants on the main drag so we stopped at a coffee house to inquire. We were told of two places, one in town and one a short distance from town. Being as Jack need his hot coffee and we were both hungry we opted for the restaurant in town – the Harborview Restaurant. Turns out we were there yesterday (it’s near the beach) where we got an $8.00 milk shake. Yeah, kind of expensive. Luckily that is only about $6.00 in US money – we used a credit card.
The food was good, and I would definitely eat here again. They are only open seasonally, and they told Jack yesterday they would be closing soon for the season. I wonder where locals or visitors go to eat for breakfast when this place closes. Maybe the other restaurant???
We took the scenic route to get to our campground for the night. We are staying again at New River Beach (New Brunswick). We liked this campground and they give a senior discount. They also close soon – Canada’s Thanksgiving. Along the way we stopped at the Hopewell Cape. This is an area with interesting “rock” formations just off the coast. In fact, at low tide you can take a beach walk out among these rocks. Unfortunately, the tide was high – quite high as it is a full moon, and we are at the Bay of Fundy. Considering it was high tide, raining hard, and with blowing winds there were surprising number of people visiting, including two tour buses. Would be a great place to visit when it is sunny and a low, low tide.
They advertise “walk on the ocean floor” as a unique experience promoting the extreme Bay of Fundy tides. We do that all the time in Homer Alaska, especially during an extreme low tide. They do give talks about the tide and the guy giving the talk asked if anyone had ever been to Anchorage Alaska where they also have extreme high and low tides (30 feet was mentioned). Anchorage is only second to the Bay of Fundy for tides, I understand. Tidal differences in the Bay of Fundy is 38 mean feet (at Burntcoat Head, Minas Basin, Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia). In Homer our tide differences (low and high) can be as much as 27 feet to 28 feet.
The rest of the way to the campground was wet, windy, and foggy.
27 September 2018
Wow, did it ever rain last night!!! Granted when the rain hits the van roof it sounds like it is raining more than if you were standing outside in the rain, but last night it was really loud, fast, and steady – woke me around 2:00 am. Then came the thunder and lightening. Luckily that didn’t last long, whereas it seemed to rain all night long. I should have put out something to collect water to see how much it rained.
Luckily when we woke up later, the rain had stopped for the day. Today we are headed to Campobello Island. This island is located just north of Lubec, Maine. There is a bridge to the island, or you can also take a ferry from Deer Island (New Brunswick, Canada). So how do you get to Deer Island, you take another ferry. So off we went to get the first ferry from New Brunswick mainland to Deer Island. Seemed convenient since the ferry terminal was only about 20 miles or so from our campground.
Driving through the town of L’Etete, where the ferry to Deer Island is located, the garbage cans are actually boxes, although a few have the standard garbage receptacles you find in the U.S. Some of these boxes are quite creative. One was in the shape of a treasure chest. One had false bird boxes (front only) attached to it, and the person’s address was on the boxes (one number for each box).
When we got to the ferry terminal for Deer Island we saw a sign letting us know the ferry from Deer Island to Campobello Island was not operating. Dang. That means we could only access Campobello Island via the bridge at Lubec, Maine. For some reason I really wanted to take these ferries. Oh well. We turned around and headed to Maine. Actually the drive was only about 100 miles. Not bad.
We got to Lubec, Maine, around 12:00 noon. When we crossed over the bridge to Campobello Island it was 1:00 pm. We lost a hour traveling less than 1/8 of a mile. I’m not sure why the Atlantic Provinces are on “Atlantic Time”. Seems to make more sense to be on the same time zone as the eastern seaboard and Quebec. Of course when we leave, we will gain a hour, which will be sweet.
We are staying at the Herring Cove Provincial Park for two nights. Two nights is a rarity for us. The campground isn’t very crowded, which is nice. When we got to our campsite (#4), there was a mixed flock of warblers (Black and White, Northern Parula, Pine, and Yellow-rumped), sparrows (White-throated and Dark-eyed Junco), Black-capped Chickadee, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Downy Woodpecker, and Red-breasted Nuthatch flitting about. What a treat.
The park has a number of trails and we took one to Herring Cove (you can also drive to the cove) and another leading beyond the Herring Cove to another cove.
After the short hike we went to Roosevelt International Park. This park is the former summer home for Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. At the visitor center we watched a short movie and went through the exhibits. I thought it was well done – the exhibits anyway. We then took a tour of the Roosevelt Cottage – ‘only’ 18 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms. Now that is my idea of a summer cottage. This park is the only “international” park in the world – jointly created, managed, and funded by the U.S. and Canada.
After visiting the Roosevelt International Park, we went to check out a couple other local spots on the island, including Friar’s Head, Mulholland Point Lighthouse, and Head Harbor Lighthouse. Both of these lighthouses are quite small. Campobello Island itself is quite small and quaint.
On the way back to the campground we stopped for a Ruff Grouse standing in the middle of the road. Another car was approaching from the opposite direction. Luckily it too stopped. We watched the grouse “ruffle” its feathers and posture to two other grouses on the side of the road. After a minute or two, each of the grouses flew off into the woods. Photos aren’t too bad considering I took them looking out the front window of the van.
28 September 2018
Woke to cloudy, misty skies this morning. Then the rain began in earnest. So what are we to do? How about laundry? We drove across the border from Campobello Island to Machias, Maine, to do laundry as there is no Laundromat in Lubec, Maine.
It’s fun to watch the faces of construction flaggers when they see our license plate. Their eyebrows go up in a surprise. We mostly saw this in the Atlantic Provinces. I suspect they don’t get a lot of travelers from Alaska, although we did see another Alaska license plate while on Prince Edward Island.
After doing laundry we drove the scenic byway (Highway 191) between East Machias and East Lubec. Pretty area. We stopped at a natural area and did a 2.8 mile hike (out and back), that took us to the rugged Maine coast. Yesterday the tour guide for the Roosevelt Cottage said the best way to see Campobello Island is by taking a boat trip around the island. I think that is true also for the Maine coast. While you can see some of the rugged coastline by driving, I bet it is much more dramatic from the water.
We did stop at Quoddy Head State Park. This is still an active lighthouse, managed by the U.S. Coast Guard. I saw a couple of lobster boats coming back to the harbor. These boats are so different than the fishing boats in Alaska, but then we don’t have lobsters to catch.
Tomorrow we head to Acadia National Park in Maine. Our farewell to Canada until we return home via western Canada next Spring. But, remember…..
IT’S A GREAT DAY TO BIRD