Monday, July 8, 2013

*END* of Newfoundland trip, July 2013

We arrived home about 10pm. A real easy trip home from Les Jardins, until just east of Toronto this evening. At about the 35/115 exit on the 401, Jill (our GPS voice) began warning us of significant traffic delays ahead, and proposing that we get up to 407 asap. After debating it a while, getting nagged by Jill for a decision, and noticing the rain was coming harder and visibility getting worse, which made most of the (heavy) traffic speed up of course, we decided to claw our way up to 407. We took 407 right from its eastern end through to the 410 exit. While still a miserable drive in places, way less traffic than the 401, and we made it through ok.

Along the way today we took a slightly different route past Montreal on the new #30 highway. At a spot not quite as far south as we had joined #30 before, there's a new bridge that takes traffic across to Hwy 20 and 40 etc. We had decided to try it out, luckily, as the traffic flow coming west took us right to the bridge. A $3 toll later, we got onto #20 at about km 29 (after missing 20 Ouest the first try, and circling back to it!). 

This is a much easier and faster route than the #201 drive we had been taking. I've updated the June 15 blog entry that describes the #30 bypass route.

This was both the end of our Newfoundland trip, and the end of travels with our 2005 Tahoe and 2008 HiLo trailer. After many years of looking at travel vans, we sold the Tahoe and trailer, and ordered a 2014 Sprinter cargo van in September. It should arrive in December, and we'll finish the interior ourselves once the weather warms up next year. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Cabot Trail West side, Skyline Trail, and Moose

It was warm again here today, touching 32C around our campground. Luckily it was cooler in the Highlands, down to 24C at times. We toured the west side of the Cabot Trail today, including a (for us) challenging hike.

This is the third day of gorgeous weather for us here, better than any we've had on other trips to the area. There was some haze today, but still a great touring day.

I won't bore you with a Cabot Trail blow-by-blow, but it's worth showing you the native we encountered on our hike. These were taken with little or no zoom on the lens, except for the closeups of her(?)  head:

This is the closest we've ever come to a moose in the wild (or in a cage either for that matter). It was a young one, likely last year's calf, but a LOT bigger than us!

Here's a couple of tourists on our hike, the Skyline Trail. It was about a 7km hike, rough in places. The payoff is this spectacular look-off about halfway around the trek:

We paid a short visit to a local Abbey. Odd place for one, and we'd never have even heard about it, let alone found it, if not for a woman we talked to in one of the shops. No signs to it, but the Abbey offers guided tours Mon-Fri for an hour or so. This being Saturday, no tour, but we were welcomed to wander around outside. A place of great tranquility, just past Pleasant Bay:

Tomorrow morning we're heading west, in go-home mode. We expect to be home by Tuesday night, possibly earlier if our butts can stand it.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Tours of Bird Island and Baddeck

The highlight today was a boat tour this morning, a 3 hour tour of Bird Island. They guaranteed Puffin sightings, and boy did we see puffins! And gulls, razorbills, kittiwakes, cormorants, eagles, herons, and many many grey seals.

The tour boat. There were about 22 passengers this morning:

A puffin coming in for a barely-controlled landing:

Cormorants lining up to dry:

Several eagles. The mottled ones are the immature birds. They are flying, but it takes 2-3 years to develop the usual bald eagle plumage. The eagles tended to hang back in the caves, because the gulls and kittiwakes would dive-bomb them if they sit out in the open. The smaller birds out on the rocks are razorbills, somewhat similar to puffins:

The official count of eagles we saw was 50, mostly mature birds with a few juveniles thrown in. They came out here a bit early this year, hunting gull chicks mostly. They also make the little puffins and the like very nervous, and will likely push them out to sea a week or two before they usually go in mid August.

In the afternoon we had a quick tour of Baddeck, finding a yarn supply shop of all things in this little busy touristy town. When we got there two men were already sacked out in the comfy lawn chairs provided for waiting men. Turns out one of the fellows was from Markdale, so he even knew where Flesherton is!

Cabot Trail East to Meat Cove and back

Today we took a day trip up the east side of the Cabot Trail loop. We're camped about 30 km east of Baddeck, and took the east side road right up to the top of Cape Breton, at Meat Cove. A gorgeous day, which it usually hasn't been for our trips on this side of the trail. We got to a number of places we'd never been before. Sunny and 18C at 8:30 am.

Amazingly, everything at the Clucking Hen was calorie-free, so we stocked up! Several other stops at local craft shops, beautiful views around every bend, not too much traffic. Just a really enjoyable drive. 

There was noticeable litter though, which we really noticed after seeing how clean Newfoundland was that way - very little (virtually no) roadside litter there, in the areas we visited. 

We stopped for a cup of chowder at Neil's Harbour Chowder House, intending to compare it later on with some we saw advertised at Meat Cove. Very good. Lots of lupins and wild roses out.

A good stop at Cabot's Landing prov park beach, where Cath got her feet and her seat wet. We have pictures of stopping there with the girls on an earlier trip - that was in 1982!

We did make it up to Meat Cove, with its gorgeous views. There's a campground there, and some people have braved the pretty awful road with some big rigs to camp there. I was happy to not be towing! I had a bowl of their chowder - different from the Neil's Harbour version, but both were really good. When we saw they cook their lobster in salt water, Cath had to have it instead of the chowder - really good too.

Meat Cove camping:

 Tent sites:

Outdoor dining at Meat Cove:

A happy diner:

And back in our base campground:

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Back on Terra Firma again

We left Terra Nova behind today, not without some regrets, but it's nice to have the ferry rides behind us now. It was a beautiful blue-sky day for the crossing, and everything went smoothly. We were just the 3rd vehicle off the ferry, so got quite a jump on the big rigs this time!

We're camped at a KOA that's only minutes from the Cabot Trail drive, and will be staying here for a few nights while we tour the Trail and Baddeck.

An interesting sky while waiting for the ferry:

The ferry - same one that we had for the trip over, 2 weeks ago:

Any guesses why we took this pic? (hint - nice Van!):

Our base campsite for a few nights, while we tour the Cabot Trail:

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Waiting for the ferry

We'll be heading back to the mainland tomorrow, on the 11:45 am ferry. Last night and tonight we're camped at "Grand Codroy RV Park". Sounds pretty grand eh? Compared to the provincial parks we've been staying at, it is! Electric hookups, laundry on site, and wifi. Luxury! The big feature is that it's only about a 30 minute drive to the ferry tomorrow.

Yesterday we drove here from the Twillingate area. A very nice day for a drive, until we got to Cornerbrook. The road climbs some serious hills around there, and as we crossed the peak and started down the other side it was like somebody flipped a switch. The weather went from blue sky and white fluffy clouds, to dark, overcast, light rain and fog. At 3:30 in the afternoon it was like dusk (which hasn't been happening until 9:30-10:00 pm or so) and quite foggy. We were down to 50 kph, straining our eyes looking for the moose that were going to jump out in front of us. Didn't see any though. They do take the moose road hazard seriously here - it was only other Ontario vehicles that were passing us in the fog.

Tomorrow we'll be heading to a campground near Baddeck and even closer to the  bottom end of the Cabot Trail. We expect to be there 3-4 days, roaming the Cabot Trail area.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

What a difference a day makes

Today started cloudy again, but cleared up and warmed up as the day went on. It was too windy for boat rides, but great for touring around. We enjoyed Twillingate and area much more in the sunshine. It reached 27C today and sunny.

I had a nice chat with Skipper Jim , who said it wouldn't be pleasant touring today:

Nice hiking trails around a nearby lighthouse area:

Still camped near Twillingate

Much milder temps now (over 18C at 6am today) but cloud, wind and rain is putting a crimp on things we had hoped to do (like going out cod fishing). We enjoyed the north and west coast parts of the trip so much, but this area just isn't doing it for us, nice though it is.

We've booked our return ferry for Wednesday this week, and will be heading to Cape Breton when we get back to the mainland.

Friday, June 28, 2013

In Twillingate

Today was a travel day, as was yesterday. Last night we had a great camp spot in a little Gros Morne c.g., right on the Gulf.

Today we pressed on to Twillingate area. It's the long weekend, and camping is fairly busy (no problem having a choice of several sites though). We have another non-hookup site at Dildo Run provincial park for 3 nights. Nice view, and the prov park prices are hard to resist.

We camped on a non-hookup site at the previous parks too, including Pistolet Bay. It's working out ok, but means we have to limit our furnace use, as its fan is our biggest consumer of battery power. Some changes I made to the Tahoe last year have worked well for charging up the laptop and cell phones as we drive.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Mooses and Slippers

We finally saw some moose! Nfld is supposedly crawling with them, but we had to have an afternoon nap yesterday so we could stay up and out late enough to see them I guess.

Later on we took a bumpy road into an ecological reserve, and saw some of these apparently-rare ladyslippers:

Cool again today, it finally got up to 9C by mid-afternoon. Nice though, not as windy, We're prepared for this kind of weather so we're still out and about. Any rain we've had has come overnight, very convenient.

Tomorrow morning we'll be heading south again, maybe staying in a Gros Morne park for a night, then on down to the Trout Pond area, and on from there to Twillingate. That's the "plan" anyway.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

L'Anse aux Meadows

Today mostly we toured the L'Anse aux Meadows site, where Vikings visited about 1,000 years ago. Not exactly dinosaurs, but a long while back.

The recreated main building was interesting. Walls about 6 ft thick. Layers of ceiling too, rated at about R100 insulation overall. Today was a nippy 9C high with a brisk breeze, and it was nice to get in the building where a fire (propane powered) was going:

Cathie the Viking strikes fear into the heart of...?

Some miscellaneous things we've come across. Lots of woodpiles at the side of public roads. People cut wood by permit through the winter, and stack it to dry for a year or so. The piles usually have their permit attached, and apparently theft isn't a problem. The wood has to be for personal use; most comes from blow-downs etc:

Small garden plots also show up beside the roads. Most are surrounded by short fences, as the moose and caribou like the garden contents too. The microclimates vary a lot, but tend to be a bit warmer inland, and the gardens are put wherever some decent soil is to be found or made. Often there are no homes visible in the area around the plots:

Bergs and whales

Yesterday was a good example of why we've made this trip! We took a boat tour in the morning, expecting to see icebergs and maybe a whale. We saw great examples of both. Then touring around by car we had some great views of more iceburgs and even another whale.

Apparently the transient whales are about 50 miles offshore right now, and will be following the capling in to this immediate area over the next few days.

This berg was grounded, so we got pretty close in the boat. Fairly unusual shape apparently, really pretty:

Same berg, different angle:

We had some amazing whale sightings from the boat too. Unfortunately we weren't able to capture them in pictures. A humpback whale entertained us by chasing its quarry right up on to the rocky shore a couple of times. Once it breeched (sp?), spectacular. Cath saw most of it, right out of the water before the huge splashdown. I saw the ripples.

Later on we drove to a cove where a couple more bergs were beached. We ate our lunch in the little kiosk you can see here, just watching:

One of the bergs was shark-like (maybe a camel shark, with its two humps):

While we were there, the large front fell off with a crash and a splash:

Shortly after that, the berg rolled over about 90 degrees:

We watched the bergs for quite a while. Even saw another whale hunting nearby. We saw just the back of it periodically this time, as it came up for air.

Later again, we drove to a place we could see the same grounded berg  we saw from the boat this morning, from a different angle:

We sat and watched it for quite a while. It was a beautiful spot, and we heard a loud Crack once, so stayed longer in case it was going to calve. It didn't while we were there, but we'll be heading back there today to see what happened overnight.

The day was topped off with a lobster dinner at a little place just south of L'Anse aux Meadows. We'll be touring the L'Anse today, as well as looking for more bergs and whales.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Camped near St Anthony

We had a really nice drive today, up the coast from Rocky Harbour, to the northern tip near St Anthony. Along the way we saw our first ever wild caribou right beside the road (although they seemed pretty tame, and basically ignored us):

A lot of the drive was right along the coast, but some was inland. Not too busy...:

And we got a closeup look at our first iceberg, off the north coast at Ship Cove:

It's hard to tell, but this is a miniature village that someone has built on a rock at Ship Cove. The berg in the background is real:

The same berg from a different angle:

We're camped in another provincial park, Pistole (or Pistolet) Bay, a bit southwest from L'Anse aux Meadows. The commercial cg we expected to stay at had no vacancies; thank goodness, in hindsight! We like this prov park, and you can't really beat the price. 2 nights, no electricity (the park has no electric sites), for $19.50 total. We already had the seasonal entry pass from the first park we stayed at, it cost $13 for the season. The rates are good to start with, then we 65+ers get 35% off those rates.