Monday, August 31, 2009

Caribou Beach, Pictou Resort, Nova Scotia

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

It's just glorious, that's all. The swimming here as well as the beach, in my opinion, is the best we've thus far experienced. The water is crystal clear, chilly and ever so refreshing. I didn't need to wear sandals because there weren't any rocks or sharp shells, just nice soft sand. Carol, to everlasting loss, remained on shore. Nicky, however, at least did some toe testing. Not sure if it's the weather or if we're just lucky, but we had the beach, for the bulk of our time, to ourselves. Out in the distance one can easily see Pictou Island and farther away one can see the outline of PEI. In my minds eye I see giant, tall, three masted ships with billowing white sails dotting the horizon; however, in reality, I see the building block outlines of car ferries from Wood Islands. I wonder if someday in the distant future, someone will have a similar reverie thinking back to the glorious days of square, building block looking, car ferries.

About a mile and a half further down the beach is the famous Pictou Resort complex. They have a wonderful, first class restaurant, overlooking their beach. Although I love my wife's infinitely creative cooking, I thought tonight we'd do something different. Donning our best outfits (Carol, anyway) and grabbing two flashlights, we locked Nicky in the Casita and started down the beach. It was still twilight so the going was easy. The sound of the waves rolling up the beach blended perfectly with our conversation. We passed a lovely mermaid in the sand and said hello. We are like salmon in some respects: we came from the sea and we return to the sea. It calls us like no other siren. Why do 75 percent of the worlds' population live on or near large bodies of water?
The buggy outside the restaurant evoked the old world grace and charm that we were soon to discover inside. The giant fireplace and wood beams reminded us of our time at the Yellowstone Lodge. The food, Carol had salmon, I attacked the catch of the day, was superb. We took our time, we enjoy each other's company. I thought about my father and all the meals we had at the Mariner Sands Golf Club. The same, formally dressed servers attending to our every need. I miss him.
After paying the bill, without any tempting treats on the dessert tray, we strode out into the pitch black night and onto the beach. The first part of our return journey was uneventful. However, somewhere in the middle leg, my flashlight went blank and Carol's starting getting wobbly. In the meantime, the tide had come in forcing us up toward the rocky part of the beach. Like two lost children holding hands in the forest, we inched our way back. Once we were safely back inside the Casita could we laugh about it but when the outcome was still undecided, there were a few moments of, “I can't believe this is happening.” We only hoped that the mermaid survived the evening unscathed.

Pictou Harbor, Nova Scotia

Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Moving day. In case we decide to go to Newfoundland, we need to move further northeast to North Sydney, on Cape Breton Island. With that aim in mind, we looked over the map and headed to Pictou Harbor. This turned out to be only a hundred miles or so from Amherst but for us that's a good day. The problem with Nova Scotia is that there are just too darn many interesting places to see and stop at. This, in turn, makes any substantial progress very slow. It comes down to a matter of choices; we can't see everything. As soon as we say, “we are not going to make any more unscheduled stops”, boom. Up pops some extraordinary must see pullover that begs for a quick look. So it goes-slowly.
Entering Pictou we saw smokestacks and the attendant odor of a pulp mill. I really thought they were a thing of the past, that environmental laws had closed them down or at least modified them to be less toxic. In an otherwise picture perfect little town, there stands a blight on its shores. We need paper but there ought to be a more environmentally friendly way to go about to producing it. Carol noted that since most of the smoke looked pure white, it was could be mostly steam. One can hope.
Anyway, other than a unleashed Golden Retriever blindsiding Nicky, we loved this town. The replica of the Hector, the ship that brought the original Scottish settlers here in 1773, was a marvel. How they crammed 33 families into that boot, as that style of ship is called, is probably something I don't really want to know.
About 6 miles out of town we found the Caribou Provincial Park. It looked to be another great campground. As it was getting dark I quickly got the bikes off the rack and took a ride around the park. After dinner, our evening stroll to the beach took less than five minutes. The trail wound through the woods before bursting out into a huge grassy meadow that was situated on the bluff overlooking the beach. Although there are no hook ups in provincial parks, the prices are about half as much as the more popular national parks. The locations might not have the notoriety of the National parks but I found this park to be every bit as interesting as their more pricey brethren.
After a long walk along this deserted beach, which allowed dogs, we returned to the Casita. It was a clear, cloudless night and Jupiter was bright in the southern sky. I got out the huge astronomy binoculars. We saw at least 4 moons of Jupiter. Love thinking about stars, solar systems and all manner of cosmic questions. A fitting end to another great day.

Amherst, Nova Scotia

Monday, August 24, 2009
With hurricane Bill behind us we ventured into Amherst, the town closest to Loch Lomond, our campground. Nonetheless it was a gray day, swirling clouds and a brisk wind to remind us to keep our jackets on. The directions to the local library were excellent and we were soon ensconced back in the Internet world. Carol updated the blog while I perused news from the financial and political worlds. During a break from the computer, I took Nicky for a quick tour of the town and met a woman making a similar round. While our dogs did their ceremonial dance, she mentioned she was originally from Newfoundland and missed it terribly. She had married a man from Nova Scotia and, to hear her tell it, was practically dragged kicking and screaming from her beloved island to take up her wifely duties here in Amherst. Everywhere we go we keep hearing about how wonderful Newfoundland is. I wonder. . . .
Meanwhile, nothing so increases one's appetite than a long library editing session. Carol was famished by the time she'd finished uploading three weeks of blog. Driving along the quiet streets in search of a cafe we encountered several lively murals. Seems like the locals periodically turn to color to raise their spirits. Anyway, we finally found a terrific little restaurant on Main Street. Carol had the fresh fish and chips while I elected for the less calorically challenging veggie wrap. Unfortunately I wound up consuming most of her chips (french fries) thereby negating my good intentions.
Back at the Casita we took our customary evening stroll before settling in for the night. I found a chess game that came with the laptop and got wrapped up trying to beat the computer. This of course was a futile effort and consumed most of the night. Carol, not to be outdone, grabbed the Blackberry and wrestled with Wordmole for an equally absurd length of time. One more level, one more game: True compulsives at work.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Happy Birthday, Molly. I hope you had a great day.

Meanwhile, back at storm central, the winds howled and trees were being uprooted. The RV next to us was picked up and hurled into the lake. As it swept past us I waved to our neighbors as they flew away. Just last night I said they seemed like such nice people. Oh well…
Since none of this actually happened and Hurricane Bill landed without doing any damage, I can laugh at my earlier apprehensions. It was more of a typical rainy day than a serious storm.

In between breaks of rain we took Nicky for her daily constitutional. The lake was a little choppy and I saw Canadian Geese circling overhead before landing high up in a tree. I'm not sure if it was a nest or just a rest stop. Hope they found someplace safe and warm for the night. All in all, we enjoyed a cozy day of rest snug in our little Casita. In its own way, it was a welcome change. All this vacationing is hard work.

Finally, Nova Scotia...with a hurricane approaching

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Another moving day. We had thought about touring the Acadian side of the island but after further map and calendar consultation, realized that something had to be cut out. At Summerside, we searched in vain for a library or other facility offering wi-fi, with no luck. Before crossing the Confederation bridge back into New Brunswick, we stopped at the same visitor center which marked the beginning of our island stay. Carol tried to update the blog using a flash drive on one of the center's public computers but even that was unsuccessful. Oh well, one of these days we'll get it updated. I keep telling her it doesn't matter. Few if any people are actually reading it. Make no mistake, we are doing this for ourselves. This is our scrapbook. A better title might be be: Jim & Carol's Most Excellent Adventure.

The return trip over the bridge was sunnier and brighter than when we'd first crossed over, and we were finally close to our ultimate destination; Nova Scotia, the Far Side of the World.

Our arrival at the Nova Scotia visitor center was the first we learned about Hurricane Bill. Having been on an idyllic island for 11 days without news or television, we were oblivious to the fact that a hurricane was on its way north, with Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island directly in its path. The friendly girls at the visitor center informed us that all of the Provincial Parks and campgrounds were closing for the next couple of days. Seeing that the storm was fast approaching and it was getting late, we decided not to push on any further but instead were directed to a nice private campground, Loch Lomond, only 5 miles away. After detaching the van, we drove into the little town of Amherst for supplies. There was nothing to do but hunker down and let Bill blow himself out to sea.

Later in the evening, after the prerequisite bike ride around the campground, the winds started really picking up. Nestled snugly in the Casita's double bed we were ever so grateful not to be tenting. Back on PEI Carol had purchased a couple of used movies, one of which was The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Popping that one into the DVD player, we pulled up the covers and entered a most strange and fascinating world. We both enjoyed the film immensely.

Cavendish, Prince Edward Island - another golf day

Friday, August 21, 2009

Woke up to, you guessed it, another beautiful sunny day. Since we had been to the beach yesterday I thought we'd do something different. While driving into Cavendish I saw a sign for a public golf course with a driving range. I figured if we both hit a bucket of balls then perhaps we'd get some of our worse swings out of the way beforehand.

The course at Forest Hills was a delightful, slower paced, course than the one at Eagles Nest. We only had to let one twosome play through us. I think that helped our game. Not feeling rushed contributed to overall better play. We still need lessons but I could possibly see buying a membership to the Pueblo Del Sol country club in Sierra Vista. My father once remarked to me that he'd made more money on the golf course than almost any place else. Not that I'm in his financial league, or that the members at PDS would have inside trading information, but it wouldn't hurt to expand our social world nonetheless.
Anyway, we had a good time. I don't know if we will play much more on this trip because the green fees ($80 for 9 holes) could wreak havoc with our budget, but surely back in Arizona we will. Another thing I learned is that we should get a golf cart. By the time we returned to the Casita, Carol went right to sleep. It may not seem like all that much exercise but walking a course, pulling a rollcart over several miles, takes it toll. The conclusion of The Civil War would have to wait.

Cavendish, PEI - another beach day

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Awoke to another bright and sunny day. The plan called for us to leave Nicky in the Casita and spend the day at the beach. Carol put on her new bikini, I whistled approvingly, and we set off. Unpacking the chairs we sat and looked out over the sea. The waves had increased dramatically, making for more exciting swimming. Splashing and laughing through the surf I know these days are precious, as I don't know what the future holds. Should war, pestilence, political turmoil and financial collapse visit us in the years to come, at least I'll know that for one day, one summer, we had it all.

Back in the Casita after a pleasant nap it was time for more bicycling (not that kind Vinnie), this time going a little further afield. The trail took us through the natural wonders of marshlands, dunes and coastal forests. The rolling landscape produced further Blue Heron sightings. In the forest we came across an abandoned apple orchard that had several untended trees still producing fruit. We picked a dozen or so and took them home. The 8 kilometer ride ended just about the time the sun was setting. The clouds reflected a reddish hue that swept over the marshlands. We stopped and tried to get a picture but I doubt any camera could do it justice.

Over the last couple of weeks we have both become regular night owls. Carol has taken to playing “Word Mole” a game she thoroughly enjoys that came with the Blackberry. I usually will read or write for awhile before watching a movie. It wasn't until after midnight until we were ready to return to “The Civil War”.

Cavendish, PEI

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I brought along Darwin's “Origins of Species” thinking I'd like to read the original of the monumental work that has had such a profound effect on the direction of human civilization. The essence of the book is his explanation of natural selection and the impact it's had on all facets of human life. His style of prose is ponderous at best so the book is best read in small bites. Still, it took an enormous amount of courage to publish this book, considering the implications and inevitable backlash. That being said, I still struggle with it. To reach the next level in nature's endless struggle for survival, one must master the changing technology and data streams that it provides. Survival of the fittest must give way to survival of the smartest. Discipline and will power are the great engines one must possess to be successful in any enterprise, even one as modest as a vacation in Canada. How much easier it would be to pick up some cleverly entertaining bit of fiction, like the all engrossing, “Feast for Crows”. I will finish Darwin's tome, though, before returning to Arizona.

Meanwhile, back in the campground, I had to return to the contemplation of more immediate needs. Sadly, I looked around knowing this was a moving day and I’d be unlikely to see this place again. Once the work is done, the Casita re-attached to the van and all our belongings stowed away, my mood changes to excitement. “Carol,” I say. “Get that beast in the van and let's roll. There are places to go and things to see”. The engine turns over and so does our world.

Still not ready to leave the island, we knew that the Cavendish side of the PEI National Park was just 40 miles away. Yeah, probably more of the same, but the same is pretty darn good, so we drove in that direction. The entire area in and around Cavendish is a noted tourist destination. There are amusement parks, restaurants, golf courses, parasailing, boat rentals and charters, tons of cottages and motels plus shopping malls loaded with gift shops; in short, this is the entertainment capital of Prince Edward Island.

Since the weather has been so sunny of late, Carol naturally decided she ought to buy a bikini. Now I must say, for a fifty something woman, she still looks pretty darn good. However, there was no way I was going into a beachwear store and witness the endless changes while submitting to a rhetorical question for which there can be only one answer. Therefore, Nicky and I waited in the van and hoped for the least expensive outcome. Carol was out in a jiffy, having bought the first one she liked and tried on, and it was a bargain. Good wife.

Cavendish National Park is a very popular destination. By the time we arrived there was a sizable line waiting to purchase a campsite. Most of the sites were reserved in advance so we felt fortunate to get one with electricity and water; however, there was one problem. Directly behind the picnic table was a fresh water bog which could only mean one thing: mosquitoes. Therefore, I resolved to go back to the registration booth and see if there was anything else available. As it turned out there was but it was more expensive. Reluctantly, I parted with the extra cash but soon came to the realization that it was money well spent. Not only did we see and feel few mosquitoes, the pull thru afforded us more privacy, space, and a significantly better view than the one on mosquito coast. Sometimes it's the little things in life that make a big difference.

Our quick bike tour around the new campground yielded some valuable information. The beach was nearby and picture perfect, the laundromat and showers were within hailing distance and perhaps most interesting of all, our immediate neighbors had a Pomeranian that looked exactly like Nicky. Same face, same coloring, but gnashed her teeth at the sight of our Nicster. The owner told us that her name was Princess. Say no more. Later we tried attending the ranger program whose title “Salty Tales” sounded interesting. Unfortunately, it turned out to be more of a sing along than a serious account of pirates and sea battles. So instead, we turned around and walked down the beach into another russet red sunset.

Back at the Casita, we settled in for the next installment of Ken Burns' masterpiece, “The Civil War”. Two hours later, I was returned to my world. It's that good.

Stanhope Beach, PEI

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

We followed the trail discovered last night to an immense cove behind the campground. Here we saw some of the more luxurious homes and golf courses. PEI is also home to the fabled great blue heron. Along the waters edge we saw many of these strange and beautiful creatures. Hopefully, some of the pictures will show them arrayed in all their glory. Their wingspan is huge. We went home shaking our heads at the wonder and beauty of this land.

After a sizable lunch, we locked Nicky safely in the Casita and went to the beach across from the campground. The beach was much less crowded and the water here was shallow and calm, which added a serene tranquility to the day. We had a wonderfully relaxing time without the dog to look after. We were finally able to go in the water together. One of the nice things about dogs as opposed to children is that you can leave them alone without worry of being arrested for it.
The weather, the people, everything here has been just about perfect. The only complaint I have is with the mosquitoes. One has to be fortified at all times with a strong repellent otherwise they can ruin your day.

After all the rich foods and cheeses of Quebec, Carol and I vowed to undo their effects here on PEI. We're both pedalling harder on the bikes and trying to run further than usual. I've made an effort to swim more, while Carol has devised a new exercise regime. She now does her yoga in the water. Quite an amazing feat, as you can see. The picture of me slumped over in the chair might look like I'm dozing but I'm actually hard at work, dreaming of another day just like this one.

Tracadie Beach, PEI

Monday, August 17, 2009

Packed the van for a full day at the beach. The only problem was we couldn't find it. This dog friendly public beach of Tracadie was an elusive catch. After numerous wrong turns and dead ends I was ready to give the up the search. Carol however, persevered. Stopping at a gas station she managed to get precise directions. I was astonished to see that we had missed the correct turn-off not once, but twice. Anyway, arriving at the beach was like a flashback for me. Beginning in the parking lot I felt like I was transported back to The Hamptons, where my family had a summer home in the 1960's. This was the place was similar. Sand castles, frisbees, people playing guitar, dogs running free and best of all a beautiful, white sandy beach where you could actually dive into the water right from shore.

Here we walked, talked and even jogged along the beach. Nicky even followed us into the water, swimming far out to where we were floating. When we’re back in Arizona with the cold December winds blowing and I look out the living room window at the snow capped peaks of the Huachuca mountains, this is the one scene, the one day, I'll remember most. Sun, surf, and our little pack. After a grand time at the beach we returned to the Casita, showered off the salt water and napped. Since it doesn't get dark here until 9-10 o'clock we were able to get a long bike ride in and discovered a new trail, one that would have to wait until the next day to explore.

Prince Edward Island National Park, Stanhope

Sunday, August 16, 2009

This is what I've been looking for. Stanhope has it all: long sandy beaches, great hiking and biking trails. There was so much to do and see that I doubted we'd get around to inflating the boat for awhile.

The morning was clear and my hopes were high. I was still processing yesterday's debacle but using fewer brain cells. Getting the bikes off the rack, I was determined to put it behind me. And so we rolled on past miles of sand dunes overlooking beaches dotted with umbrellas. Bi-lingual exhibits explaining the flora, fauna and history of the area delighted us. We learned about the freak Yankee gale of 1851, which destroyed the American fishing fleet, sending more than 170 ships to the bottom. Many of the dead washed up on these shores and are buried in an old cemetery nearby.

We rode past Covehead Bay and watched kids jump off of a 40 foot bridge into the channel below. I noted with some amusement that whenever the occasional female would ready herself for the plunge, the boys on the beach stopped whatever they were doing and watched, doubtless they were hoping the drop would loosen her bikini top right off. Unfortunately, at least while I was there, this never occurred. Hope springs eternal. From this harbor one could go charter a deep sea fishing boat or go parasailing from the pier. This is where memories of an endless summer and life on a beach mingled in my mind, at least for a day.

Wanting to cool off after a long ride, we stopped at one of the numerous beach access points. Understandably dogs were not permitted, so having Nicky in the basket forced us to swim separately. While we were commenting on this situation an elderly local lady told us about a dog friendly beach not more than five miles away, just outside the park boundary. We thanked her and continued on our way back to the Casita, agreeing to find it the next day.

After various refreshments we were ready to check out some of the hiking trails. The maps given at the entrance stations are invaluable. We rode over to the trailhead and stepped back in time. The pictures of the cemetery speak for themselves, however, the rest has to be seen to be fully appreciated. The trail utilized many stretches of the old, Acadian road to Charlottetown, the island's capital, some 40 miles distant. I mentioned to Carol that if we had somehow fallen through a mysterious time warp and found ourselves in 1735, I doubted the trail and surrounding forest would look any different. “The sneakers,” I said, “might give us away. . . but wouldn't that be a grand adventure”.

Further down the trail we came to Bubbling Pond. At first we thought it was a natural hot spring. Had that been the case I think we might've moved here. As it turned out the pond was an artesian well and we could see it bubbling just under the surface, as it must've done for millenia. After having pondered the mysterious, we agreed to keep an eye on Nicky since she'd drunk copiously from the spring. If she started exhibiting any supernatural powers we'd know where to go.

After dinner and a Nicster snifter around the loop, we settled in to watch the first installment of Ken Burns' incredible documentary on the Civil War. Carol bought the series before we left knowing that we'd be going as far south as Virgina before heading home. She also knew that I've wanted to visit Gettysburg for some time. In one of the poignant opening scenes, Shelby Foote, a noted southern author, comments that it is impossible to understand America without knowing and understanding the Civil War. I couldn't agree with him more.