Backpacking The Sleeping Giant: Thunder Bay, Ontario

During the first week of June, Kris, Matt and myself travelled to western Ontario in the Thunder Bay region to backpack part of the Kabeyun trail in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.  The park’s unique name reflects a native traditional legend about a protector of the land, who had killed men to protect the silver mineral secret of the area and was punished by being turned to stone in a laying repose — hence the Sleeping Giant.

The Kabeyun trail runs the length of the Giant and the shoreline of Lake Superior. Our hike would be seeing a section of the trail, backpack to our campsites, set up camp and then hike to different areas in the park.  The trip was a redux for Matt, who had attempted to hike around the Giant a couple of years ago, but was turned away after encountering a bear and three cubs near the first campsite.  Matt had such an eventful time, he was seeking to complete the park’s trails in this attempt, with less of involvement from large mammals.  Matt’s mis-adventure did make for a great sidebar whenever we encountered anything that would remind him of the previous trip (trees, noises, campsites, birds).

img_1862

The Sleeping Giant

In traveling such a distance to the Thunder Bay area (16 hour drive from Toronto – half day flight from the Maritimes) – we needed to do some tourist type visiting along with our backcountry adventure.   As I viewed the terrain from the plane and saw what was in store for us at our bookending campsites at Kakabeka Falls, I was immediately impressed by the grandeur of the region.  Large canyons, unique mountain tops, sheer cliffs, expansive fresh water and distant views dominated most places we visited.  This area of Lake Superior is truly a rugged and beautiful area of Canada.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Standing on the Seahorse

We began our three day backpacking adventure hiking around the Sleeping Giant.  Our first day, we hiked about 9 kilometres plus side trails and then camped at Lehtinen’s Bay.  From the bay, the view of the brown cliffs and calm water from the campsite was remarkable.  Seeing the immense fresh water lake before us was also humbling – and comforting in a way as we could also use the water if we needed.

After setting up camp, our days end side trip involved heading on the Top of the Mountain trail to the Chimney.  Normally at 22 kilometre return trip for day hikers, we had cut off a few kilometres in our backpacking — but that did not reduce the challenge of going from lake shore to 300 metre cliffside.  Our legs were feeling the elevation gain, but it was soon worthwhile with the views we would encounter.  The water was pristine and tropical looking from this height.

From the trail, we also had our first views of Silver Islet – a tiny island offshore in Lake Superior that was formerly the site of lucrative silver mining operation in the late 1800s.   The history of Silver Islet is captivating and exemplifies the perseverance and hardiness of the people of that time – a real Canadian story.  (This video is shown at the park in the interpretive centre.  It is well worth the thirty minutes of watching.) Based on the wind and the waves we experienced on our hikes, I can only appreciate how challenging it must have been  in years past to live and try to work around Lake Superior.

After our views of the southern coast, the Top of the Mountain trail lead us to the Thunder Bay side of the Giant’s knees and most notably the Chimney.  The Chimney is a set of sheer 300m cliffs with quite a view point.  The middle of the Chimney used to be an extreme hiking access to the Giant, but was eventually closed for safety reasons – of which were readily apparent.  As a background to all of our photos, the wind was consistent and blustery and with each photograph taken we were was as close as we would care to venture to the edges.  Previously, I had only seen similar sheer cliffs in the Rockies.

The second day of backpacking lead us around the feet of the Giant and crossing the length on the northwestern side.  We started our 12 km day clamouring over large boulders from rockfall.  While these provided a welcome change to the easy trail we had experienced to date, we were glad the boulders did not persist for the entire day.  Soon after, we would be climbing over the Giant’s feet and down to the shoreline on the opposite side.  Our weather was spectacular.

After about 4 hours, we arrived at Sawyer Bay, another great spot for our tents and camp for the evening. The campsite was sheltered in a small bay and allowed us to have another supper time view of the lake and terrain.

This time, our trip around the Giant had now lead us to the Head trail, which we accessed by backtracking a bit from our campsite.  Normally a long day hike, the head trail is also fairly steep, as are most trails to the top of sheer cliffs.  Our 4 km return trail would take us through tall poplar filled forests to the hot and arid pine barren on top.  This was much different day than the previous one, with little wind and we were able to enjoy the sights without having to consider being blown over!  The views from the Head trail were more expansive than the Chimney, and were clear through to Thunder Bay and the mountains across Lake Superior.

The second day of backpacking was full — and we settled in for the night with a fire to keep away the mosquitos.  We were thankful that we only had a taste of the bugs normally in this area, as the evenings were still fairly chilly and close to 0 C.

On day three, our 8 kilometre return trip to the campground was a welcome breeze — and we had ended off the backpacking portion of our trip in likely the cleanest fashion we’ve had in likely all of our trips.  This of course, necessitated a photo.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We returned to Mary-Louise campground early in the day, which allowed us to read a bit of history on the park and see the displays on Silver Islet.  We also checked out the nearby cottage community and were impressed at the remaining history of the area.

img_1865

The following day, we started our way back to Thunder Bay and visited a couple of canyons, including Ouimet Canyon and Eagle Canyon.  While at Ouimet Canyon, I was in awe at the sheer depth and length of the hole torn into the rock.  I was wishing I could travel the bottom, but slowly realized it was large boulders I was staring at from high above.

Our second stop was Eagle Canyon – smaller and narrower – nevertheless with two (!) suspension bridges and a zip line.  (Eagle Canyon had been boasting as Canada’s longest suspension bridges.)  We visited the quirky private park, paid for our entry and gingerly walked the suspension bridges remarking at the craziness of it all and also of Matt — who went down the zipline.  The zipline was a one minute hair-raising blast down the length of the canyon to the end.

The last part of our trip had us visiting the Fort William First Nation lookout — a mountain with an expansive view overlooking the city.  Matt and I also visited Little Falls near our campground in an evening hike.  Because we camped in the same spot twice, I took in as many late night and early morning sessions as I could at Kakabeka Falls given that the second highest falls in Ontario was only a minutes walk from our tent!

img_1758

Kakabeka Falls

Knowing the history of the area, it had certainly added meaning and understanding to our adventure.  The Sleeping Giant would be a park I would revisit on a cross-Canada tour to such a far away land from the Maritimes.

img_1874

Sunset at overlooking the Sleeping Giant from Mary-Louise campground

 

 

 

Spring-ing along through the season

As it always seems to happen, once the weather  and temperatures of winter leave us — spring comes fast and so do the activities along with it.  Sheena has kept the ladies busy over the past few months with weekend day trips for hiking or other fun stuff, such as the indoor trampoline park at ‘Get Air‘ in Moncton.  There are so many activities in one spot and within an hour will certainly tire out anyone, including two busy kids of ours.

For the past three weekends, the ladies have travelled in our area with friends for day hikes to Friar’s Nose, a steep but worthwhile climb to a lookoff in the Parleeville area near Sussex.  We’ve been there a few times before and the view never ceases to please. The group also headed to a past destination for us at Kierstead Mountain Falls.  It’s a great spot for a quick waterfall adventure and also not far from Sussex.

Spring is also ice rescue training time for the Belleisle Valley Fire Department.  I enjoy taking on the tasks involved in practicing for ice rescues.  Modern equipment makes it easier to get in the frigid water and focus on techniques and safety.  I helped out some of the newer members who were trying the suits out this year for the first time.

Sheena and I had a nice breakfast date during the week, which seems to be the trend lately.  One of the days there was a balloon in the morning air above Sussex.  I was lucky to have a quick visit to Ottawa during a course in March.  Any visit to Ottawa must include seeing the Parliament buildings.

On one of our Sunday outings, we headed to the Norton area for a geocache in one of the areas of the Stonehammer Geopark.  Areas around Saint John have unique and old rock formations, including fossils found in the the rock walls we were looking at off of Hwy 1.  While cutting the highway, riverbeds and flora fossils were found in the rock.  Seeing the ripples of a river bottom perpendicular to the ground is a strange experience! The girls were excited to look for and spot the different fossils along our walk.

We also have been moving toward more older kid outdoor activities at the house — and had the chance to put up a trampoline.  Needless to say, they’ve been at it whenever they have a spare moment — including a world record time before 8 am on the first day after it was assembled.

Spring is also time for fishing — and not too far from our house.  A Christmas gift from Aunt Wee and Uncle “Fish” , they’ve been putting their new rods to use.  Trying to follow in their Grampa’s shoes — or as seen in a recent photo — hat!  Grandpa (Dad) had fun posing for one of Grandma’s (Mom) paintings from years back.

The Ladies at the Stilesville Sugar Woods

This weekend, we were happy to share our yearly tradition of going to the maple sugar woods in the Moncton area at Stilesville.  In late March to early April, if you’re visiting or passing through — we recommend the experience of seeing a maple sugar operation and most importantly, try different types of maple products (and my favorite, taffy).  Maple sugar production is one the proudly local New Brunswick products.

Sheena, Abby and Janice took our neighbours on the walk to see the Trites family operation.  During a scenic walk through a maple forest, you can watch three family businesses at work and have a breakfast in a log cabin — with the Canadian staples of pancakes and maple syrup.

Weekend Travelling

The girls and I travelled to Cape Breton on the weekend.  Although it was a short visit, we felt like we did so much.  Other than depicted below, the highlights included visiting the neighbours kids for trampoline and zip line fun; walking to the community park ‘on their own’; seeing their first black bear while on the highway to Margaree; making seaglass art for Mothers Day; and visiting Grandpa at the store.

On the last point, both girls were cute to immediately assume their working roles behind the counter.  This was especially neat for them as Grandpa is in the final stages the sale of the Brook Village Grocery.  The new owners are to start at the end of June and we may be seeing more of Grandpa starting in July!

The photo of the concert was taken at the Inverary Manor in Inverness.  Mom and an aunt and uncle were among those who sang Beatles tunes on Sunday afternoon.   It was an excellent renewal of the old songs!

October Photos


IMG_0024

The girls ran for their livesIMG_0024 on a 5k zombie Run in Fredericton called ‘The Running Dead”.  They had a task of outrunning well dressed foes trying to grab their ribbons from their waist bands. Rebecca quickly made friends and took off running with them, leaving Abby and Sheena to face the zombies on their own.

 

It was Abby’s 8th Birthday in October.  She is growing up quick before our eyes.  She has a smart new addition to herself with her new glasses.

IMG_0024 IMG_0024

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0024There were a few warm days in October, as it has been all fall so far in the maritimes.  In October, the kids and Sheena headed up to Karen’s cottage for the Thanksgiving weekend.  They spent their day on the beach and even wading through the water.  Rebecca (pretended) to try some sushi! Abby and Karen enjoy a view on the rocky shore of Johnston’s Point.  Yes, it was this warm in October!  Our western Canadian friends need to experience our fall season. 🙂

IMG_0024IMG_0024

Rebecca always seems to find a stick and something to hang from it whenever they are out for walks. This time, they are headed for piles and piles of leaves!

IMG_0024

Backpacking Gaspesie National Park: The International Appalachian Trail (IAT-SIA)

This year's annual trip had us exploring the Chic Choc mountains of the Gaspe Region of la belle province: Quebec.  Our plan was to backpack for 4 days, camping and exploring Gaspesie National Park.  The trail we were following is part of the International Appalachian Trail (IAT or SIA (Francais)), which officially travels from the US through Quebec, Newfoundland and even parts of Europe.   (Of note, the association recently met in Mabou, NS to discuss further expansion of the IAT trail. Including the proposed Seawall trail, taking a similar route to our 2013 hike).  The Gaspe portion was featured in National Geographic as one of the top 20 hikes in the world. I had my first experience at the park back in 2003 when Sheena and I arrived at Gaspesie to camp for our honeymoon.  At that time in June, we were impressed by the 'rocky type' mountains and found out that the snow was still deep in the mountains despite being late spring. 

This year with Kris and Matt, our plan was to hike from the western section of the park starting midway at 'La Huard' and continue to the Mt. Albert campground which is mid-park.  This involved daily sections of trail with varying kilometre distances: La Huard to La Soule, 12.6k;  La Saule to Cascapedia, 12.4k; Cascapedia to La Fougere, 15k; Fougere to Mt. Albert campground(19k).  The last day involves crossing and descending from Mt. Albert, a challenge in itself. Here's a Map of the Gaspesie portion of the SIA Backpacking trail. A shuttle is available from the Mont Albert visitor's centre at 9am.  Of interest, the shuttle does runs to the Mt. Logan sector and takes roads normally closed to the public and as such access can be gained to the more remote sections of the park.  If we had time and energy, I also hoped to hike to Mt. Jacques Cartier from Mt. Albert campground, as it is the highest point in southern Quebec at 1268 m.  (The Torngat Mountains in Northern Quebec have the highest mountain, Mt Caubvick). That would involve a 25k return trip in addition to the approximate 60 kms backpacking.  In general, if a person didn't want to backpack, the park is set up so the Mt. Albert campground could be used as a basecamp for day trips to the various sectors of the park.  

As well, we planned to stay at campgrounds/tent sites, but it is interesting to note that each area has a Hut/Shelter which hikers can also stay at.  They have well built bunk beds, wood stoves, firewood, kitchen areas and bathrooms. We found these were very well kept and maintained and wished we could have stayed in them ourselves!

Gaspesie National Park is one of Quebec's 'provincial' parks, held to the standards of any National Park found in Canada.  I have recently been very impressed with the province's emphasis on outdoors activities.  Passing through Quebec highways you can see it displayed in the provincial rest stops,  picnic areas and quality services and facilities offered in the parks.  Despite a difference in language, the park employees were welcoming and made every effort to ensure our stay was a good one.  

IMGP4188

Our hiking trip started off ominously with thundershowers and heavy rain as well rode in the shuttle toward our trailhead.  Looking into the mountains as we approached them, the sky was almost black, despite that it was ten in the morning.  As lightning flashed on our windy trip up into the mountain, I hoped the electrical storm would pass far away from us before we began our ascent.  During our drive, the driver stopped to check on two hikers who were taking the road in the downpour.  They related a story in French about having left the hut 'La Mesange' this morning, deciding to descend from the hills for safety in the storm.  This weighed in my mind as we kept going up into the hills.  Thankfully, the thunderstorm had passed over us before leaving the shuttle and we only had to contend with downpouring rain.

 

IMGP4189 IMGP4194

As the rain came down, we climbed upward into the mountains trails. The wind and rain battered us as we travelled through the forest and along the ridge tops of Mt. Arthur-Allen and Mt. Blizzard and finally the Pic de l'Aube.   We were obviously missing lots of views with the nasty weather.  The photo to the right is one view we saw, but I've attached a link to what you could see without clouds during the day.

We travelled until around 2 pm, when we took a short side adventure in an attempt to dry off and stopped at the hut, La Mesange (below left).  To us, the hut might as well have been a hotel room.  With a wood stove, mattresses in the bunk beds, a dining room table and chairs, even split firewood, it was a joy on a wet day.  We spent several hours in the hut pondering whether to stay or leave the warmth for a tent.  Eventually, other hikers had arrived and we decided to keep our original plans to stay at the tent campground at La Soule.  Thankfully, we did have a chance to warm up and dry off.  We would later learn that you can stay at the huts on a 'per bed' basis, but we didn't know this and didn't want to disturb anyone's reservation.

IMGP4195IMGP4195

At our campsite, the wind howled through the trees all night and we woke to a chilly but sunny morning.  Above is the empty tent pad we used to eat our food on and have our morning warm drinks.  I think all of us were realizing that staying in a hut would have been a welcomed luxury!  Because of the clear weather, we now were able to have a taste of some of the views to be experienced in the park. We began our approximate 13 k trek to Cascapedia campground early in the morning as usual. The below photo was taken amid very strong wind of the mountains around the Pic a Brule area. 

IMGP4208From here, the sky was so clear you could easily see the Bay of St. Lawrence and the other side of Quebec leading to Labrador.  The trail skirted the edges in these areas, but was well away from any cliffs.  The wind was very strong any time you left the trees. 

IMGP4208

Because the trail kept to the ridges, travel was somewhat easier during most of the day as the elevation changes were at a minimum. Although, what also came with that was at the beginning of the day usually involved an ascent from the campground after breakfast and long descent to get to supper! Our quads and knees were thankful for the rest at the end of each day. The photo below is at Mt. Ernest Menard (850m), with the camera looking off toward the eastern sections of the park.  

IMGP4208

For our second night, we stayed with permission at the closed campground at Cascapedia which was our 'halfway point' and enjoyed the closed off picnic shelter.  We were pleased to have warm water at the campsite washroom for a little cleanup — something we normally aren't expecting on our backpacking trips.  The evening did bring some discussion on our next plan of attack for the rest of the park. Because of issues beyond our control, Kris and Matt decided to head back to the Mt. Albert campground via the connecting road and I decided to continue on via the trail for the planned two more days.  We planned to meet at the Mt. Albert campground leaving my car in the parking lot with the location of their campsite in the campground.  That's the plan that we started with anyway!  

 IMGP4233IMGP4237

Day three involved some steep uphill climbing from Cascapedia.  The first ascent was Mt. Ells, which was 2.7k of steady uphill.  It provided the first views of Mt. Albert's back side (above left).  I would need to ascend that mountain from roughly the area pictured in the far distance.

The days weather was clear again and seeing that I was up high, I decided to check for cell reception.  I found good cell reception and confirmed via the Environment Canada website for the park (again a new experience while backpacking) that there was quite a bit of rain coming the following day for my trip over Mt. Albert.  

Keeping this in the back of my mind for the whole day, I continued across the ridges to Mt. Milieu (above right).  This mountain is in between Mt. Logan and Mt Jacques Cartier, which are situated at either ends of the park. A neat monument is placed there, which I assume points to either mountain.   Following Mt. Milieu, it was a steady decline for almost a couple of hours to the hut at La Pauline.  
IMGP4233

La Pauline was a nice spot, and I was thinking it was too bad it wasn't farther in the woods to time a return trip to the Mt. Albert Campground.  It had a nice deck to sit on, which beautifully overlooked Lac Hayman.  Water was available from a spring opposite the shelter as well.  However, starting from La Pauline in the morning would involve more than 23 kilometres to the end, likely in the rain. 

Around noon time, I left the shelter and continued along the trail to La Fougere campsite.  Walking the 3.6 kms between the hut and the campsite, I was feeling the heat of the day (impressive for September) and the previous ascents and descents as well.  Then, to round off my concerns for the next day's on-coming weather, I began to see many bear tracks along the trail to my campsite.  It was later in the day (1pm) and, I knew I had to stay at La Fougere for the night as the kilometres to travel was too far to make it in less than half a day to the next shelter.  Darkness was a consideration, because in these mountains, the evening light fades quickly after 6pm.  

IMGP4250IMGP4237So knowing had I to stay,  I set my campsite up early in the afternoon and found more cell service (surprised) on the highest tent pad.  Looking at the map, La Fougere campsite is really in the middle of nowhere! Its a 13 to 20 km hike in either direction.  As I had seen the bear tracks and the expecting rain, scheduled to start sometime over night, I was taking the usual precautions with food and good coverage for my gear in the rain.  In protecting from animal visits, we usually will eat our meals away from our tent site, typically on a second tent pad a distance away.  We also raise our food off the ground in some way for safe keeping.  I borrowed an idea from Kris and stored my food … in the outhouse to keep it safe and dry.  In my defence, it was likely the cleanest and freshest outhouse I had ever found – and nevertheless hung my food with the seat down(!).  I spent the evening prepping my gear for the next morning, which I wanted to have an early start. 

After a long night of waking up to the rain pattering and at pretty near every 'loud' sound in the woods, I started off breaking down camp with a hint of daylight at 455am.  Getting my water filtered and pack squared away, I started on the trail at just before 6 am.  I began the roughly 19-20 kms of the day's travel for 7 kms in the quietest forest I've ever hiked, which eventually lead to the approach to Mt. Albert.  In case you were wondering, the rain started  in the 1st kilometre and began with a pleasant drizzle, eventually greeting me with an hour's long downpour.  The rain never really stopped throughout the day and to put it in my daughter's terms, my pack cover was 'pretty well useless' at that point.  Just before arriving at the Mt. Albert approach, there is a somewhat disheartening downclimb to the Grande Fosse brook (below left).  Once above the treeline, I looked back to where I travelled through the quiet forest valley from La Fougere (below right). 

IMGP4237 IMGP4237

  

 

 

 

 

  The rain and thick fog was consistent for my travel across the back of Mt. Albert.  I spent most of my time keeping my eyes on the white wooden trail markers and cairns [Kris!] which are spaced fairly close together, for reasons I was now keenly aware of (see below photo at left).  Although due to the tight restrictions at the park for off-trail travel and the fact that it is the IAT (SIA), there really is only one fairly worn trail, so route-finding was easy as long as you pay attention.   Where the travel became most challenging was the long (and terrible in the rain) descent from the plateau.  It began with a steady crossing of a boulder field, well marked with the iconic IAT red and white markings on the rocks.  I was quite thankful for these markings as well.   These wet boulders were challenging to navigate with a backpack and I took great care to ensure I didn't fall in the deep holes between them.  One other factor I was glad about on the rainy day was that the textured composition of the brown type rocks so prominent on Mt. Albert, which made gripping them much easier.

IMGP4237 IMGP4257I knew that with all the fog and rain, I was missing probably some of the nicest views of the trip, especially given that it was above the tree-line. Here's another photo showing what I was missing!  The descent trail follows a long (I mean LONG) rocky valley where the 'Ruisseau du Diable' begins its flow.  As I climbed down the trail, going from rock to rock so I didn't go ankle deep in water due to the accumulating puddles, I was reflecting on the name of the valley and finding it was well suited to describe the travel as 'Devils river' valley.  The water was now flowing over each drop in the trail like its own waterfall and I was drenched to the bone.  Gladly, there was little to no wind.  I decided to keep hiking without breaks to stay warm and didn't dare take my backpack off.  I kept my right arm tight against my body to stay warm as the temperature was likely 7-8C on the mountain.  (Yes, it was getting to be that type of hike!).  Passing by the Serpentine Hut was difficult, but I knew I would just get wet again if I did try and stop knowing that the down pouring rain was inevitable and its true escape was a dry change of clothes at the car.  

It was also hard to take pictures and keep water off my lens.  When I did reach a point where the fog and clouds lifted enough to see, I was near the junction with the summit trail (See below left).  I found that the descent trail continues with rocks, roots or other obstacles just until reaching the actual Devil's Falls area, about 3 kilometres from the visitor's centre.  I stopped to take some quick photos of les Chutes du Diable (Devil's Falls), but kept going to stay warm.  I was very surprised to see the trail completely under water at Devils Lake (Lac du Diable) — which had been detoured into the woods for about 500m of bushwacking with ribbon tape marking the trails seemingly well prior to today's weather.

IMGP4259 After nearly 6 hours of travel, I pushed through the rain and cold and arrived at the visitors centre around 11:30 am.  The denouement story is I arrived there to find no car.  I immediately thought that Kris and Matt likely did not expect me to arrive this early and walked into the visitor's centre to inquire about their campsite.  Trying to speak in French while creating a puddle on the floor at the visitors desk, I learned they had rented a hut for the night (thanks guys!!), but it was 2 km back where I came from.  Thankful but clearly done with the kilometres for the day after already travelling 20+, I headed back to the huts — again in the rain.  I arrived there, but could not find my car and decided to set up in an empty hut as I wanted to get dry.  Unbeknownst to me, Kris and Matt had changed their reservation again to a more private 'O-Tentik' (luxury!!) type shelter and I later found them after making a quick walk around in the campground in semi-dry clothes.  To their immediate credit, they retrieved my gear left at the last hut and greeted me with drinks and chocolate, as well as a great place to warm up.  We spent the following few hours catching up on our adventures and reflecting on how lately each of our trips seems to end in a different way !  The afternoon and evening had lots of laughs, and enjoying the 'glamping' and a shared a rare event, glasses of craft beer over supper.   

I was a bit sore after the last day and decided against heading to Jacques Cartier the following day.  (Plus, there was more low cloud making views almost non-existent.) It will however give me another reason to head back to Gaspesie Park.  

On the road back, we stopped in Carleton-Sur-Mer for the craft brew spot 'Microbrasserie Le Naufrageur'.  In the following days, I was quite impressed by their beer — which definitely rivals our local Picaroon's for smoothness and taste!  

Thanks Kris and Matt for another great trip — and to Matt for enduring the lovely NB roads.

Camping and Beach Walking on Grand Manan Island

Our family has been looking forward to trip planned to Grand Manan Island, in the Bay of Fundy.  Grand Manan lies south of the mainland, across from Maine.  The island is part of a archipelago which was debated over sovereignty in the early 1800s-1900s.  (One island south of Grand Manan, Machias Seal Island, is still contested between the US and Canada.)   Also, it may be a presumptive statement, but it seems that Grand Manan is easily overlooked when talking about Southern New Brunswick.  Interestingly, there are friends of ours who have lived in the Saint John area, but never been to Grand Manan — a short 30 minute drive and 1.5 hr ferry to the island.  I had been to Grand Manan as a kid, but remembered little of the visit.  Although, based on what we saw after a three day camping trip there, we found it to be a little jewel of the Bay of Fundy with incredible scenery including 11 beaches, many lighthouses, bird life, and an island filled with a proud and friendly people with an easy going and welcome slower lifestyle. (We spoke to a few locals and  heard there are older folks on Grand Manan that have never left the island!) I'd encourage anyone to read a bit on the history of Grand Manan, which gives a feel for the type of place you're visiting.  Many authors and artists have called Grand Manan home. If you visit, be sure to see the museum, which is well worth the entry fee.  

The first experience is the Ferry trip, leaving from Black's Harbour.  It was Rebecca and Abby's first trip on a car ferry and just that experience was worthwhile for them.  The added fun is watching all the sea life and islands along the hour and a half trip to North Head.  Seeing whales for the first time was not lost on them at all — and it was fun watching their excitement.  

IMG_1889

Waiting for the Ferry in Blacks Harbour

 

IMG_1889

Watching for whales
IMG_1904

Wolf Islands

 Arriving at Grand Manan, we went straight to our campsite — another first for everyone camping together.  The girls were excited to set up their tents — and more importantly their bikes to zip around the campground and explore their surroundings.  We spent most of the three days thinking to ourselves that we will always bring the kid's bikes on these types of trips as any down time was spent biking.  It gave them lots of freedom and little deserved breaks for the parents as well.  

IMG_1980We headed straight for the beach next to the Anchorage Campground.  The girls went straight to their beach play. 

IMG_1943

Seaweed Skipping

IMG_1943

After our supper, we left to see Grand Harbour beach and hunting for sea glass.  Picturesque fishing and bait shacks could be seen on the road to the beach.  

IMG_1965

IMG_1960

We also headed out to check out the Southwest Head lighthouse at the southern tip of the island.  There are some distinctive rock formations off the coast here, which is also the starting point for the 3 day backpacking trip that can be done on the western coast of Grand Manan.  From the cliffs, it was easy to see the US and the Atlantic Ocean. Machias Seal Island was also visible. Walking on the trails really felt like you might walk off the end of the earth!

IMG_1977

IMG_1974

 

The highlight of the evenings were the camp fires and evening biking at dusk.  The girls could be heard laughing from the nearby playground with their glow stick bracelets.  

IMG_1979

 

 

IMG_1985

We tried to spend as much time at the shore, even while waiting as there's shorelines all over on Grand Manan.  (The photo above was behind a fish plant in Grand Harbour). The following day, we visited White Head Island — another inhabited island a 30 minute ferry ride from Grand Manan.  The smaller island of White Head island has three beaches and lighthouses.  This time, we visited Long Point lighthouse and the Sandy Cove area.  To get the feel for it, imagine walking off into a sea of fog and following a gravel beach road switching from stone beaches to brown sandy beaches, with little or noone around.  We found these scenic boats by the ferry to White Head island at Ingalls Head.  

IMG_1985

The grassy section of road leading to the sentinel lighthouse at Long Point.  This was the grassiest area we could find! 

IMG_1985

Looking back at the coastline from Long Point Lighthouse.  Long since abandoned, the lighthouse rocks are full of sea birds, who's song was loud and clear.  
IMG_1985

We spent the better part of a day exploring White Head Island and the shoreline.  A remote but beautiful spot — a beachcombers dream with all the flotsam and jetsam washing ashore. 

IMG_2001

Our last day, we packed up early and spent our time in the North Head area, visiting Stanley's Beach, Whistle Point and the Swallow Tail lighthouse.  Rebecca was wanting to take part in a rock skipping competition on Stanley's Beach, while taking a break from sea glass hunting.  Both girls gave up some of their seaglass to other pickers, striking up conversations with people from the US and other parts of Canada.

 

IMG_2016

The Swallowtail lighthouse is an iconic spot, likely photographed by most visitors to Grand Manan.  A short hike to the lighthouse and the high rocks surrounding it allows a perfect view of the ocean and to do some whale watching if lucky.  One guaranteed sight is the ferries going by to land at North Head.  

IMG_2016
IMG_2016

IMG_2016

Watching the sea at Swallowtail Lighthouse

The weather was perfect for our trip — we certainly lucked out while we were there.  There was so much to do and too little time, making it necessary for another summer return trip.

Halifax Trip: Bluenose Run, Friendly Meetings and a Birthday!

 

IMG_1316

Happy 9th Birthday to Rebecca!  She was excited for this weekend for some time as she knew that she would get to visit with her cousins and run in the Bluenose Run along with her sister — in Halifax!  Rebecca requested a homemade 'chicken fried rice' supper and was happy to have a 'somewhat' surprise cake with her cousins.  She was grateful for the gifts received over the past few days as well and wanted to send a thank you to all!   Our first evening was spent enjoying company and catching up with family.  

The following day, we started off to downtown Halifax to get ready for the kid's well-anticipated Bluenose Run.  Originally, they had learned about it from a beach friend they met last year, who said she runs in it each year.  Both girls had it in the minds they would do the same in the following year and had trained throughout the spring with Sheena.  They've been attending 'kid fitness' at the local gym and practicing runs, even pushing strollers around for their laps inside during the cold weather —  so, just getting there was a big thing for them.  Here's the crew of them lined up to take in some of the pre-event activities.  (Rebecca, Ocean, Summer, Abby)

IMG_1316

A large part of the experience of the Bluenose Run is enjoying it with thousands of others who also attended the race.  For the kids races, they have it set up as a closed course — so the kids run with other kids sans parents (in some cases) and have a big finish at the Metro Centre.  There they meet back with parents among a large crowd of other kids also meeting their parents.  Needless to say, the organizers recommend finding your meeting spot in the Metro Centre prior to the race and going over the race plan with your kids at the same time.  We were told that this year a record number of people attended the kids races, with 4000+ running at the same time.  We laughed, because 4000+ could easily be 6000+ with parents in the mix.  Here's an example of the starting area prior to the kids run.  

Toward Brunswick St Toward the start line

Abby started first and ran around the Halifax Citadel for her 2K run.  Sheena met her at the finish line and had to try and get Abby's attention several times as she was running with such a determined and business like expression!  Abby was proud of her accomplishment and her coveted blue nose.

IMG_1316

Rebecca ran her 4K run around the Citadel and the Halifax Commons route. I tried to see her at the finish line, but there were so many people finishing that I obviously missed her at the line, seeing that she turned up at the meeting spot and Sheena found her first!  She was also very happy about completing the race.  It was one of their first races alone in such a large crowd.  

IMG_1316
After a celebratory dinner and a well needed rest at home, I enjoyed a 'quiet' evening with Kris and Jean-Paul for a couple of board games.  

The following day, we had plans to meet with friends for most of the day.  One of the visits was with Matthew,  Melissa and meet their 7 month old Millie.  We met them at the new Halifax Central library and had our introductions before heading off for a walk to get lunch and a stroll through the Public Gardens.  The girls really took to Millie and Millie was a delight to see laugh and smile at the attention.  

IMG_1316

Here's Rebecca following Matt down Spring Garden Road.

IMG_1316

Catching up on Summer Two

 

 

IMG_0184

Here's a continuation of our summer photos! (See the first post here.) Above we see Rebecca playing with some of the chickens that Grampa sells at the store.  He receives orders and a couple times a year distributes baby chicks for growing!  Naturally, the girls love them.

IMG_0184

Sporting the boogie board!  They loved heading out into the water in the waves of Inverness Beach.

Below you see Sheena relaxing at one of the scenic points on the Cabot Trail, Cape Breton Highlands National Park.  Her and her cousin Karen took a camping trip and explored the areas of northern Cape Breton.  One of their hikes was to Fishing Cove, a popular destination for backpackers as well.

IMG_0184

Sheena took this photo of the view from Jumping Mouse Campground, near Bay St. Lawrence and north of Cape North.  Both her and Karen highly recommended this spot for camping outside the national park.
IMG_0184 IMG_0224
On one of the cooler wet days in Brook Village (where we couldn't go to the beach), we took the girls to the Louisbourg National Historic site in eastern Cape Breton.  Fortress Louisbourg is a restoration of an 18th century French fortification.  There are actors that portray roles in costume and really make it interesting for those visiting.  

IMG_0224

 

Here's the entrance to the Fortress.  Shortly before passing this gate, we were interrogated by the guard to make sure we weren't English subjects acting as spies or smuggling weapons.

IMG_0224

The girls even had a chance to dress up in period costume.  This particular house was for a lord, where servants kept up with the house work and cooking.  It was neat to see how many layers of clothes they had to put on.  Clothes had to be warm in the 18th century with the wind and storms of the Louisbourg area!

IMG_0224

Louisbourg residents even had animals that they had to tend to, including sheep.  One of the residents let us feed the sheep some tasty weeds from a garden nearby.  

IMG_0224

It appeared that most visitors to Louisbourg visit the fortress itself, but what we found was there were beaches that were also part of the historic site.  These seemed little visited and were absolutely beautiful.  We walked the soft sand and explored for a while.  Rebecca didn't seem to mind the frigid Atlantic water.

IMG_0224

IMG_0317

A fun day exploring the fortress requires a jump for joy! 

IMG_0224

We decided to spend more time in Louisbourg and explore a lighthouse at another part of the historic site on the other side of the harbour.  The lighthouse is built on the site of the oldest lighthouse in Canada.  It was mesmerizing watching the power of the ocean hitting the rocks all around the coast.  We also had near perfect evening light for our photos.

IMG_0224

Here is the Louisbourg Harbour lighthouse.  This view is looking toward the fortress.

IMG_0224

Another sunny day and we're back in Inverness Beach for boogie boarding in the waves.  These girls spent nearly an hour and a half braving the cold water and riding the waves.  

IMG_0224

Below you see the girls lined up for another fun run in Inverness, during the Inverness Gathering Festival.  This was quite the accomplishment for them.  Both girls ran in a 1.5 k fun run, then ran and walked the 5 kilometre race following the fun run.  

IMG_0224

Here's Rebecca running along the race track.

IMG_0224

Abby is keeping pace as well and almost finished!

IMG_0224

It was also Sheena's first 5 km race.  Here they all are after finishing the run!  Abby is a proud little one after her accomplishment.

IMG_0224

Here's Rebecca finishing her 5 km run.  She was signed up for the walk, but decided to run instead.  She ran with the adults and teenage kids.  Needless to say, they had a fun and complete day of exercise and Grandma treated them to a breakfast at the Coal Miner's Cafe.

IMG_0224

It was a busy day ahead for the girls as they were recruited to sit in the Legion truck for the festival parade.  It was a first to be in a parade float and they were excited to get T-Shirts as well.
IMG_0224

What did everyone do with their beach treasures afterward? Well, Sheena helped out making seaglass art.  This one below was made and designed entirely by Abby.  The blue glass a rare glass find.  The pots are made out of smooth pottery pieces also found on the beach.

IMG_0224

 

IMG_0400Sheena made the above picture with seaglass and small pebbles also found on the beach.  She really has a knack for this type of art.  

After arriving back home to New Brunswick, we had visitors from Virginia Beach.  Sheena's friend Lauren drove to Belleisle and brought her three children as well.  Sheena spent the days taking the group to local fun spots, including one of our favorite exploration beaches at Duck Pond Rd beach in Gardner Creek.  The below photos show some of the rocks you can explore and a freshwater creek leading into the Bay of Fundy.  

IMG_0436

IMG_0432

Here's the gang gathered under our tree fort.  They spent a few days at their 'restaurant' serving dirt coffee, sand cakes and chocolate mud desserts.

IMG_0436

Catching up on Summer

IMG_4311

I'm finally posting a few photos from this summer as we've had a busy one so far.  With a colder spring, we had to get used to colder water for the earlier part of the summer.  This however, did not stop the kids from putting on their bathing suits and jumping in.  The above photo shows the kids playing in the Belleisle Bay with friends at their property along the shore.  It was a beautiful night for campfires.  The girls stayed up until 11pm those nights! 

IMG_4311

We also made our way to Cape Breton for some valued family time, which comes of course with beach time in Port Hood, Inverness and West Mabou.  We spent much time between those three beaches in our time in Cape Breton. Sometimes two beaches a day!

IMG_4311

On another day with the kids, we headed to Piper's Glen falls (Egypt Falls) in Scotsville.  The girls were very excited to see such a big waterfall.  Rebecca announced she was going into the water no matter what — and we all quickly found that it was probably only about 8 degrees!  Again, this didn't stop them from heading in.  Below is Abby heading into the cold cold water!

IMG_4311

On another adventure with Gramma, we all ventured to Rocking Horse Ranch in Baddeck.  It is a rescue farm for all sorts of animals: from ducks to horses to minature ponies.  This one pictured below is 38 years old and quite the character.  He kept trying to knock the bowl down so he could eat all he wanted. Abby loved taking him for a walk around the barn.

IMG_4311

The girls were also given the chance to feed the horses with slices of hay.  Rebecca really got into it and fed most of the horses in the barn.  
IMG_4311

Here's Rebecca holding onto a little duckling.  There were a few wandering around with the mama duck outside of the barn. 

IMG_4311

We had a wonderful visit from Sheena's cousin Karen while we were in Cape Breton.  After Sheena and her returned from their highland adventure, we all took the girls on a hike in Cape Mabou.  While I was somewhat forgetful on the length of the hike, we managed to all make the huge climb to the top of Beinn Bhiorach (Steep Mountain), the higher mountain the the area.  We took many rest breaks, seen below and enjoying the views of the ocean.

IMG_4311

Of course, there was the well earned celebration upon reaching the top!

IMG_4311

Despite a chillier mid-July, we still wanted to get out and explore.  We found some waterfalls to visit in the Glendale area.  The falls were called Maple Brook Falls and had two nice areas for swimming and playing around.  Rebecca and Abby did some of their first climbing around waterfalls in the two times we visited.  In the picture below, the water is fairly chilly.  Rebecca kept taking the cold water and splashing me with it.  She's reaching down for more here.  

IMG_4311

It has also been a summer of firsts for the girls.  Sheena has been an avid runner since last year and wanted to participate in some of the fun runs that happen during the local festivals in the communities around Cape Breton.  The girls were also excited to try them out too.  Here they are below doing a run in Port Hood as part of Chestico Days.  Abby is happy to cross the finish line.  

IMG_4311

Grammy participated too in the walk.  All were happy to receive their medals for taking part.

IMG_4311
We also spent many days at Inverness Beach.  Inverness Beach is well known for its sea glass hunting.  We would head down at low tide and walk the length of the beach looking for the rarest pieces of glass. There's nothing nicer than spending the morning walking the sand.

IMG_4311

Another beach we frequented was Port Hood Beach.  While there in early July, the girls made friends with Regan and made beach dates with her to meet up for beach fun.  They spent quite a few days making sand castles, using the boogie boards and searching for hermit crabs.

IMG_4311

Ever since doing the airport run in Saint John, Rebecca has been interested in running all sorts of different races.  Sheena found that there was a kids triathlon in Port Hood mid July.  So, Rebecca registered and tried it out.  You can see her finishing her swimming below.  We should note, that the water was below 15C and she was only one of 3 kids to actually brave the water for the swim portion!

IMG_4311

Rebecca then took to the bike for the ride down the beach road.

IMG_4311

Here's a proud Gramma after Rebecca finished her first triathlon!  We are all proud of her.

IMG_4311

 

Related articles

Paddling in Mabou
Saint John Kids Fun Run — at the airport!