Monday, July 8, 2013

*END* of Newfoundland trip, July 2013

And then we drove home...

On Sunday we drove from our Cabot Trail campground to our usual De La Republique campground in western New Brunswick. A fairly long drive, but easy.

On Monday we drove home on main highways. An unusually easy trip home through Quebec and into Ontario 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, there was way less traffic than on the 401, and we made it through ok. We were quite relieved to pull into our driveway about 10 PM though.

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 very enjoyable 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. 

P.S. We heard on the news next day that Toronto had major rainstorms passing through the day before, leading to flooding in many places including highway interchanges. The GPS warnings kept us out of the worst of it, with the Live Traffic update feature. I never expected to use that feature much, but it sure saved us some grief yesterday!



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. 

That's the Cabot Trail winding up into the hills

From this rest stop we watched a flock of Northern Gannets diving in the distance:


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, but still a great touring day. It's cooler today, nice because we took an 8 km hike around the Skyline Trail. Part of the trail was nicely gravelled, part is stony dirt with lots of exposed tree roots. Luckily we did the tougher part of the loop first, and the return route was easier going.

Interesting antler display, Moose antlers are really heavy.

A bit of the tougher part of the trail

Here's the native life 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. The hike was rough in places. The payoff is this spectacular look-off about halfway around the trek:

That's part of the Cabot Trail road down there

An easier part of the trail



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:



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.

There were about 22 passengers this morning:

A puffin coming in for a barely-controlled landing:

We saw a number of seals: 

Cormorants lining up to dry:

Lots of 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, and now there were 3. One of the fellows was from Markdale, so he even knew where Flesherton is (just 10 km up the road)!

Back at camp it was uncomfortable sitting outside, due to a number of Black Flies pestering us. Inside, our little electric fan made it comfortable, and we had a good night's sleep in spite of the warmth.


Thursday, July 4, 2013

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. 

This is likely the nicest weather we've ever had on the Cabot Trail tours, warm and sunny. 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. Purely scientific of course. Both the seafood chowder and the snow crab & corn versions were very good. Lots of lupins and wild roses out.

Neil's Harbour


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 all the way north 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

Ferrying back to the mainland

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, with only a couple of vehicles in front of us on the ferry.

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!):

The crossing was indeed smooth, but felt really long today. It takes almost an hour longer in this direction, over 7 hours today.

Cathie got one of the full meals from the restaurant today, $19.80 for salad, ham & scalloped potatoes, veg, strawberry shortcake and coffee; very good. Cheapskate Gord settled for a hot dog at the snack bar takeout.

The ferry was a bit late getting to the mainland, about 7pm, but we did pick up 1/2 hr with the time change from Newfoundland time to Atlantic Time.

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.

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