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Thursday, May 31, 2018

Kayaking Around Charlottetown Bay

Today was forecast to be our warmest and calmest day - 76F and winds of only 4-8 mph, so we chose today to do our kayak.  We started at our campground, the Cornwall-Charlottetown KOA, and paddled a little over 6 miles along the shore of West River, out into Charlottetown Harbor, up into North River, with a little turn into McEwen Creek before turning around and coming back to camp:

The red sandstone of Prince Edward Island makes beautiful red sand beaches, and we had no trouble getting into the water:

That's our Jeep and the campground in the background as Kathy put out into West River:

To our surprise, the dominant wildlife in the early part of our paddle was jellyfish, and they were abundant:

The shoreline varied from farmland, to what looked like perhaps the original shore of what PEI looked to the early settlers, to large vacation homes and cottages:

Where West River empties into Charlottetown Harbor, we found a flat spit of red sand, with the roots of an old tree, where we stopped for a sip and a rest:

Rounding York Point up into North River, we spotted some recreational boaters, including this boat set up for oystering:

Across North River, we spotted Brighton Light, with Victoria Park and Charlottetown behind it:

On our shore, there were some cute little cottages --

-- and some older farms, beautiful in their own way, but, more importantly, a great blue heron in the foreground, intent on collecting some little fish from the shallow waters in McEwen Creek:

We beached our kayaks at McEwen Creek to have lunch, stretch our legs and look around this beautiful, rich estuarial environment:

The great blue heron that we spotted before we landed flew away as we approached, leaving only his tracks as evidence of his presence before us:

One fellow would not cede his territory to us.  This duck clearly seemed to be in the early vanguard of his kind.  It looked like he had found and staked out the prime nesting site on the small spit of land we were lunching on, and he refused to surrender it to us, even if it meant his life.  We figured he had designs on presenting this prime real estate to an eligible female for nesting purposes:

Out in North River, some people were oystering:

Several properties had boat ramps down to the water.  Some had docks.  Others had isolated stairs and one could imagine they might tie up small boats nearby:

Looking south, we could see the entrance to Charlottetown Harbor, past Rocky Point on the right, where we had visited Port-la-Joye/Fort Amherst National Historic Site.  Last night, from our campsite we watched a huge cruise ship leave Charlottetown Harbor through this narrows as it headed out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, bound for its next port-of-call:

We returned to the sandy spit near York Point where we had first rested, only to find that two other swimmers had taken our spot.  These seals were sunning themselves on the sand, but they started making for the water when they saw us approaching, so we weren't able to get very close to them:

Even so, the younger seal, curious about us, felt safe enough once he was in the water to circle us, about 50 yards away, to find out what sort of wildlife we were:

We rested again for a bit and then headed upwind, into the waves, on a dead course back to our campground.  It was a very hard, physical paddle for over a mile.  Here, Kathy gamely tackles the waves with the red cliffs and forests of PEI behind her:

Whew!  Tired but victorious, we put ashore on the beach by our campground, happy with an afternoon's paddle and all of the wildlife we discovered on our adventure:

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

PEI Lighthouses - South Central Edition

Hi Blog!

We really wore ourselves out yesterday between the Green Gables tour and the north part of the Central Coastal Drive. We had hoped to finished the south part of the Central Coast Drive today, but knew from yesterday's experience, we wouldn't be able to do it all. We pored over the map and decided to just hit some of the highlights.

Our first stop was the small town of Victoria, founded in 1819. By the late 1800s, the settlement was prosperous with three wharves and many thriving businesses.

Pictured below is the Victoria Range Light which guided ships into port. This light, along with the Leards Front and Palmer Bank Range formed a straight line that ships to follow right into the harbor. Unfortunately the two small lights were on private property, so we couldn't bag them. During the summer months, you can visit the small museum in the base of the lighthouse.

Because of its sheltered harbour and strategic location, Victoria became an important seaport with a significant amount of trade with Europe, the West Indies and other East Coast ports. Today it boasts a thriving tourist trade. Many of the historic buildings have been spruced up and turned into B&Bs and small businesses that cater to tourists.

While in Victoria, we decided to stop in the Lobster Barn Pub & Eatery for lunch. On our bucket list was to have PEI mussels in PEI! If you like seafood, you've probably encountered Prince Edward Island mussels. The ocean climate and tidal patterns in this area are great for raising mussels, and in the past several years, Prince Edward Island has become one of the primary providers of fresh mussels in North America. One of the biggest selling points for P.E.I. mussels is that they are consistently good. These mussels are huge, sweet and tender, and they are equally great cooked simply in white wine (for Kathy) or in more complex sauces, like coconut curry (for Dave). They certainly lived up to their reputation.

After lunch we began our drive along the south central coast in search of more lighthouses. Here Kathy peers out over the red sand cliffs in search of her quarry.

While no lighthouse was found, we did discover a nesting pigeon at Canoe Cove.

We also spotted this fisherman racing along from trap line to trap line. He was a little too far away to tell if his traps were full or not.

We enjoyed a short walk on this red sand beach.

After stretching our legs, it was back to the coast drive. When we stopped at Rice Point, it was Dave's turn to search for the lighthouse. Again, we came up short.

However, we did have a lot of fun rock-hopping along the shoreline.

As the tide went out, we discovered dozens of little snails clinging to the red rocks.

Our next stop took us to Port-la-Joye/Fort Amherst National Historic Site. This location has the double distinction of hosting one of the first Acadian settlements in present-day Prince Edward Island, as well as the first military fortification on the island while under control of France as well as the first military fortification on the island while under control of Britain. From 1720 to 1770 Port-la-Joye, later named Fort Amherst, served as the seat of government and port of entry for settlers to the island while under both French and British control. As such, it played an important role as a colonial outpost in the French-British struggle for dominance in North America.

This port was also the site of Le Grand Dérangement or the expulsion of the Acadians from PEI by the British after the Seven Years' War (known in the Colonies as the French and Indian War). In 1758, more than 3,000 settlers were deported to France. During the crossing and in the first months after arriving in France, approximately half of the deportees perished. Most died while at sea, either by sickness or drowning. This memorial commemorates the tragedy of the expulsion of the Acadians.

While the fort is managed by Parks Canada, we found no Red Chairs. However, Kathy did find a bench with a lovely view of Charlottetown across the bay.

A hiking trail leads to two range lights, but the trail was closed because local coyotes are having pups and can be a little aggressive with the tourists (in addition, it is best for the coyotes if humans don't disturb the dens during this period). So, we took this photo of the Warren Cove Front Range Light from a safe distance.

Here is the Warren Cove Back Range Light. These two lights line up and ships can follow the lights in and out of Charlottetown Harbour.

Just beyond the entrance to the National Historic Site is a dirt road leading out to Blockhouse Point and the Blockhouse Point Lighthouse. The keepers house consists of a kitchen, a parlor and two bedrooms on the ground floor and four more bedrooms and a bathroom on the upper floor. The beacon was originally a catoptric light, but in 1909 a more efficient fourth-order Fresnel lens was installed with a mercury vapor light source. The present seven-foot, octagonal lantern room was put in place the following year. The current signature of the light is a three-second flash, followed by a one-second eclipse. If you look closely you can see the light glowing in the red tower.

After finishing our drive, we returned to camp and took Baxter outside for Happy Hour.  We were surprised by this view of a cruise ship, which we had earlier spotted at dock when we were at Rocky Point, leaving the harbor. It's not often you can sit in camp and watch a cruise ship go by. This ship was so large, we could still see the smokestack as it passed the far side of Rocky Point.

The weatherman is predicting a nice day tomorrow, so we hope to be able to paddle around the bays near our campground. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

PEI Lighthouses - North Central Edition

Today, along with our drive to the Anne of Green Gables Historic Site, we explored the central northern coast of Prince Edward Island, hunting down as many lighthouses as we could find.  Our first stop was the North Rustico Lighthouse.  No, this wasn't the genuine lighthouse, but a neighboring building, now part of a tourist trap, built in the shape of a lighthouse:

Here is the genuine North Rustico Lighthouse, which Kathy captured in pouring rain:

As we drove back through Rustico, this little fox entertained us in one of the yards by the side of the road.  We spotted a cat on one of the houses' balconies, who kept her eyes keenly on this little fox until he wandered away:

Our next stop was along the Prince Edward Island National Park to view the magnificent red sandstone cliffs.  This was our view west --

-- and this our view east:

By the time we finished exploring these sites and the Anne of Green Gables Historic Site, we had built up a fierce peckishness.  We found a wonderful seafood house -- Carr's -- in Stanley Bridge, west of Green Gables.  Kathy ordered some raw oysters and observed management's edict and shucked it up:

Thus refueled, we set out further on our lighthouse quest, only to find this beautiful little New London harbor light:

The view of the bay was almost as inspiring as the lighthouse itself:

Our next stop was the Cape Tryon Lighthouse, but on the way, we were treated to the mystical vision of mists evaporating from fields in the warming afternoon sun:

We eventually reached the Cape Tryon Lighthouse --

-- and the deep scarlet cliffs where innumerable cormorants made their nests, flying back and forth to and from the cliff walls, building their cliff nests with whatever materials they could find.  We even heard the plaintive bark of a seal from the rocks below:

We continued our drive along the north coast, and came across this colorful farmstead, which was so attractive, we had to include it for your pleasure:

Our last destination, while not a lighthouse, was still quite magnificent.  After some searching and quizzing of locals, we found the Teacup Rocks at Thunder Cove.  Here, Kathy measures herself against one of the teacups:

This is another view of a teacup with cliffs and rocks and the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the background:

Looking west from the Teacup Rocks, we spied a bonus lighthouse!  It was the Malpeque Light -- obviously decommissioned because it was in disrepair.  But still it counted as one of the PEI lighthouses.  It sat, looking a little forlorn and lonely just above the beach:

Having found most of our quarry, we turned home, but made one last stop at what our campground host told us is the most beautiful church on Prince Edward Island -- St. Mary's Church in Indian River.  We admired the intricate modelling and painting of the spire, roof and turrets:

By this time, both we and our day were exhausted.  We headed straight back to the campground, to a steaming pot of duck gumbo, prepared by our favorite cook, Ms. Crockpot, while we were away.  A quick outing for Baxter in the late afternoon sun and breeze, and we were inside, sipping our gumbo and starting to write our blog entries for the day.