Monday, August 24, 2009

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.

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