Canadian Tour
Maine, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Ontario, Michigan, Minnesota

Travels from Maine through the eastern Canadian provinces:  September 6 to September 30 
(Pictures are thumbnails. Click on them for a larger view. You may click on the subjects listed to go directly to them.)

Subjects:    Boothbay Harbor    Bar Harbor    Acadia National Park    Nova Scotia    Bay of Fundy Whales    The Ovens Park    Lunenburg Maritime Museum    Peggy's Cove    Halifax Citadel    Bay of Fundy Tides    Pictou    Green Gables    Prince Edward Island    New Brunswick    Quebec City    Montreal    Vermont    Ottawa    Ontario    Canadian Bush Plane Museum    Mackinac Island    Iron Mountain Mine    Twin Cities

This update is heavy on pictures showing the striking beauty of the Northeast, the St. Lawrence Seaway, and the North Woods, so sit back, pour a cup of coffee while it downloads, and enjoy! 

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A great example of the striking beauty of the Northeast is Manitoulin Island which is in Lake Huron. It is reached from Espanola, Ontario and is the largest island surrounded by fresh water in the world.  After a 2.5 km hike (about 1.6 miles when applying the conversion factor that Stephanie is now expert at) to the top of a cliff, Stephanie makes a cell phone call home to her friend Emma.  She misses all her friends at school and welcomes e-mail from one and all.

Our travels in September have taken us across new territory to us all: the US and Canadian Maritimes, in glorious fall color (or colour in Canada). We've lucked out at LL Bean, eaten from paper bags at a lobster pound and had glorious biking and canoeing weather in Maine. We enjoyed a Celtic Ceilidh (kay lee) or house party on Prince Edward Island, seen whales on the Bay of Fundy Tides, eaten grenouille (frog legs) in Quebec and been tantalized by miles of canoe trails in Ontario. Canada has had many special secrets to share, and we're determined to return. Back in the US, Mackinac (pronounced mack i naw) Island charmed Stephanie so much we're plotting how she might return for a college summer (and we could come to visit).

Stephanie has a new written report in her Schoolwork section on Space Camp and there are three new maps in the New Maps section (older maps are now archived to speed downloads). 

After a few days in the North Woods and Twin Cities, we are taking a short jog back into Nebraska (for business, no less) and then on to Yellowstone and Oregon. We'll send our next updates from California.

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Boothbay Harbor

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Boothbay Harbor is a tourist town around a picturesque harbor, but becomes very pleasant after the high season subsides. It also provided a convenient base for visiting the LL Bean complex in Freeport. As we packed up to go the last morning we met a family--in the next site--with a 10 yr. old girl and 13 yr. old boy who were in the midst of a trip similar to ours! We exchanged cards and itineraries, and hope Stephanie and Stacy can become e-pals. Perhaps our paths will cross again as we both plan to be in Europe at the same time. Wish we'd had more time to get to know them...

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Bar Harbor

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Bar Harbor is the "big" town on Mount Desert Island, better known as the site of Acadia National Park. The first picture above shows the sand bar, big enough to drive on at low tide, which gives the town its name. We visited a small church which has dozens of fabulous stained glass windows including several by Louis Comfort Tiffany himself. Finally, this van reflects the real personality of down east Maine. Now that most tourists have gone, the advertising turns to more practical matters.

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Acadia National Park

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Given to the Park Service by the Rockefeller families among others, Acadia reflects both the natural beauty of mountains meeting sea and its history as a summer resort for the family and friends. It's honeycombed with carriage trails, carved out of the granite expressly to be enjoyed by bikes and cars allowed. We enjoyed a long ride with the Brestels, who joined us for the weekend. Stephanie found a nice bench where she could spot fish in Eagle Lake. 

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This was one of those places where our campsite had a brochure-quality vistas. While Martha, Ron and Denny watched the Nebraska football game, Jennifer checked tide pools. Steph found lots of red moon jellyfish at low tide. They apparently have nasty stingers, but they were pretty harmless on the rocks. The company and the sunsets were superb. 

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Blessed with great weather, we drove up Cadillac Mountain, the highest coastal mountain on the East Coast, and were staggered by the beautiful view. Steph is pulling the canoe uphill after exploring Long Pond later in the day. (Mom is just steering!)

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Nova Scotia

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We took the high speed "Cat" ferry from Bar Harbor to Nova Scotia right after the Coast Guard completed its inspection. We thoroughly enjoyed the 3+ hr trip, but Java got very seasick locked in his box in a box in a box. The northwest shore of NS is known as the Evangeline Trail after Longfellow's epic poem about the Acadian expulsion by the British. Many of the towns are still very French, and every town has a church with a different style. The Norman one shown is built out of granite! 

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Bay of Fundy Whales

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We were lucky enough to go whale watching. Though it's late in the season, several species are still in the Bay feeding before they go south for the winter (smart mammals that they are). It's a very rich feeding ground due to the enormous tides which fluctuate up to 52 ft! We followed this pod of three humpbacks for nearly an hour, and saw tons of dolphin too. The whale watching boats all collect data on their sightings which is helping preserve the species in trouble, like the Atlantic Right Whale. Except for these tourist operations during the summer, though, all of Nova Scotia is commercial fishing country. The wharf scene is typical when the boats are in port.

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The Ovens Park

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We stayed at a brochure-quality campground in a scenic park where the cliffs have eroded to form seven caverns called The Ovens which are connected by trails. Some make booming sounds at high tide like cannons or thunder. Others are just very picturesque. 

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Lunenburg Maritime Museum

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Lunenburg, just down the road from The Ovens, is an old shipbuilding port, famous for having built the Bluenose and Bluenose II schooners which won the international racing trophies for years and years. Many of the old seacaptains now work at the museum, demonstrating tools, boat building, or just explaining how the schooner, long-line and trawler boats really worked. It's a rich heritage and wonderfully preserved. Stephanie is shown assisting in the launch of a boat using the wedges and braces used  in real boat launches. The second picture shows a few of the many boats moored there with crew aboard to explain the intricacies of their craft.

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Peggy's Cove

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En route to Halifax we stopped at Peggy's Cove, a tiny, pretty place overrun with tourists of every shape and stature. The parking lots were full to the brim with buses so we parked Betty and walked in. The ant-like figures all over the lighthouse rock tell the story, but Denny and Steph found a piece of rock to themselves. Be grateful we didn't include ALL the pictures that were keepers on this page...this really is a photogenic spot, and we got dozens.

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Halifax Citadel

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Halifax is mostly known as a strategic port for the British throughout their occupancy of North America, and as a result they poured tons of money and armament into Halifax's fortifications. With each new war, the guns got bigger and the fortifications spread up and down the river. The Citadel overlooks the harbor and city and has reenactors (in ostrich plume hats) who portray the guard and officers of the fort during late 18th century. This was our first acquaintance with US history from a "foreign" viewpoint. We are not always the good guys!

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Bay of Fundy Tides

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The Bay of Fundy, between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, has the highest tides in the world...over 50 ft. We picnicked on the shore to watch it come in, and the pictures show about a half hour duration during which it came up easily 20 ft of shoreline. It's hard to imagine how far out the whole 6 hr. tide would take it. The fisherman next to us had to move his chair every five or ten minutes!! We've seen satellite dishes everywhere, but many houses here, even the modest ones, have two.

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Pictou, on the north shore, was the site of the first Scottish landing on Nova Scotia in 1773. To commemorate the landing, they've built a replica of the ship, Hector, and were ready to launch. After 10 years of work, they had done a great job of preparation and the excitement was tangible. The Bluenose II which had been built in Lunenburg (see above) was in port and open for tours. Though the Hector's launch was to be held the next day, the wedges and greased rails were in place, techniques very similar to those Steph had used in Lunenburg. The tale of the Scots and their emigration to Canada is probably similar to what we'll learn in New Zealand in a few months, too. It's been very exciting to see the history come alive and the facts and culture be reinterpreted as we go from place to place. 

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Green Gables

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Next stop was Prince Edward Island, best known as the setting of Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. We visited the Green Gables house which is part of a large provincial park. Anne's room in the real house (which belonged to Montgomery's grandfather) is exactly as it is described in the book. The haunted wood is as described too, if you can ignore the golf carts on the paths nearby! Steph had read part of the book, but the house refreshed her interest, and she's now halfway through the second of the six books. 

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Prince Edward Island

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PEI is bounded by a  long national seashore with fine white granite sand and "the warmest waters north of the Carolinas". It is also very agricultural, and we couldn't resist comparing this "world's largest potato" with the larger one we saw in New Brunswick and the great potato fields of the San Luis Valley in Colorado. 

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We drove to the northernmost part of PEI to see the two tidal basins come together in a big churning line. The seals and gulls define the boundary between the waters as much as the water, but it is eerie to see water coming at you from three directions at once. North Cape is very windy and the site of an experimental wind turbine research center.

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New Brunswick

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We left PEI via the new 8 mile bridge to New Brunswick. Java is impressed. We hoped to catch the tidal bore in Moncton where the Fundy tides purportedly create a standing wave which reverses the flow of the river in one sweep. It didn't show up that day!! So we can tell you where in the guidebook to look, but not what day to look.

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We had more brochure quality views from our campground on the St. John River, but it was just too late in the season for the Grand Falls. Fortunately, they had pictures in the visitor's center showing what it looks like when 90% of the water volume of Niagara Falls comes over this drop. It's veeerrrry impressive...say, in March?

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Quebec City

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Quebec is the one province in Canada which has held adamantly to its French heritage. Quebec City is the high point, with its old city sitting on top of a cliff overlooking the St. Lawrence River, and its quaint Victorian buildings and small French restaurants. It truly is French, in look, feel and sound. And the view from the cliffside, which you get to by funicular (a sideways elevator-like car that seems to go straight up), is spectacular.  The day and night scene overlooking the St. Lawrence River give you a sense of how spectacular the view is from the cliff.

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Larger, and more cosmopolitan than Quebec, Montreal is nonetheless French at its heart. We saw this interesting statue in the bank next door to the McCord Museum of Canadian History, and caught another rendering of it later in Ottawa. The glass and wall paintings in Montreal's Basilica of Notre Dame show both English and French gothic roots. The Maison de Ville (city hall) looks like it could be in Paris. And the boulevard below captures the old city at its best. The wild architecture of the Biodome was created for the Montreal Olympics in 1962. The Biodome is similar to an aquarium with animals (tho not many) and four different habitats: rain forest, Laurentian highlands, Laurentian maritime and polar climes. The exhibits were good, but it appeared they're retooling the animal exhibits substantially.

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Jennifer loves New England, and since we'd abbreviated time in her old stomping ground we took a side trip to Lake Champlain and northern Vermont, right across the border from Montreal. It was an interesting afternoon with threatened rain, great light and turning leaves so we had beautiful views everywhere from the lake to Mt. Mansfield.

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Denny's business dictated redirecting our path toward Nebraska, so rather than retrace I-80, we headed across northern Ontario through Ottawa. Java made friends at a gas stop, and then we headed up to the central city. We walked around government hill and revered in the Victorian Parliament buildings with their gargoyles and copper roofs. We then headed to the National Gallery (with a view back to Parliament) to see the Group of Seven, early 20th Century  painters including Tom Thompson, who struggled with capturing the vast Canadian scenery, and figured out several techniques to do so. We also saw a smaller version of the statue we'd seen in Montreal and a fabulous collection of native Inuit art which set a very high standard.

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Continuing west, we swung through Ontario's huge Algonquin Provincial Park, nearly 3000 square miles of wilderness, which was just beginning to show brilliant red sugar maples at their best. We longed to see moose, but the visitor's center was as close as we got! That night we had a beautiful campground on the shores of Lake Nippissing. The following day we drove to Manitoulin Island (literally God's Island), the largest fresh water island in the world and the separator between Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. We took the afternoon to hike to the high point (1200 feet or 364 meters after Steffi applied her conversion factor) for a view of the Niagara escarpment, the exposed granite and limestone cliffs left when the glaciers retreated 11,000 years ago. We hiked along the cliffs for a view, and at the top Stephanie called her buddy Emma to share the view. Isn't technology amazing? The cliffs were sheer hundred foot faces, so no one felt much like dangling their feet.

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Canadian Bush Plane Museum

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Canada pioneered land management and forest fire management by using a wide variety of bush airplanes and fire fighting techniques. Samples of nearly everything used or designed for this purpose are on display in the Bush Plane Museum in Sault Ste. Marie. There are models to sit in and rare aircraft to tour as well as a fire lookout, wilderness camp and excellent interpretive displays. Stephanie is practicing flying a bush plane over a fire while mom 'cooly' looks on!  The plane shown is a DeHavilland Beaver. The coolest things were the first person stories of fires and crashes and near misses alongside the exhibits.

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Mackinac Island

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Mackinac Island was a modest resort until the Grand Hotel was built, bringing in money and tourists. In an attempt to restore its simple resort flavor, there are now no cars or trucks on the island, leaving it free for hikers, horsemen and walkers. It's quiet and full of funky B&Bs, any one of which would be a great weekend getaway or summer vacation. Stephanie was instantly charmed and wanted to stay. The roads are paved and rental bikes are plentiful, but we had a ball on our own bikes brought with us on the ferry. Fort Mackinac was built by the British, but changed hands several times as the War of 1812 and the fur trade impacted this part of the world. Now it's full of well-done displays and exhibits.

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Iron Mountain Mine

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We traversed the Upper Peninsula of Michigan along the Lake Michigan shore. The next morning we toured one of the largest Iron Mines of the last century learning about the transition from mules to steam to electric mining, and the transition to lower grade mining as the technology improved. Our guide was local and very knowledgeable (and very colorful). Here he is showing the type of drill that was used to make the initial exploratory tunnels.  Six companies went bankrupt looking for the high grade iron ore.  The seventh company made it work by using the device shown in the last picture.  Much like oil drilling, it was used to drill down from the surface and take core samples.  In that way, they quickly found the high grade ore and begin mining in earnest.  It was interesting to learn that most of the miners eagerly anticipated the closure of the mine at the end of WW2. Most had saved their extra earnings from the war years and used their savings to buy farms or businesses and stay in the community. 

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Twin Cities

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After three weeks in Canada traveling every day, we headed for the Twin Cities for some LMAs and hanging out. After visiting Denny's aunt and cousin's family, doing eight loads of laundry and Stephanie's American History and Constitution test (she did very well) we headed to MALL OF AMERICA!! For Steph, the highlight was the Camp Snoopy amusement park, with a real roller coaster in the middle, and the climbing wall. For the dad it was the novelty and for mom it was Nordstrom's. Something for everyone. 

See you next month!

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