Friday, July 28, 2017

Epic Adventure 2: The Land of Kindred Spirits (Part 4 of 6)

(This is a continuation of a series of posts on our second long distance trip, see the first post if you want to start at the beginning.)

Our U-haul CT-13 Fiberglass Camper at Prince Edward Island National Park (Canada).
Prince Edward Island was our primary destination for this trip. After almost 2000 miles, I found myself approaching the bridge. PEI sits in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and is separated from the mainland by the Northumberland Strait. There are 2 ways to get a camper onto PEI. You can go through Nova Scotia and take the ferry which takes about 75 mins to cross. Or you can take the Confederation Bridge from New Brunswick across. The Confederation Bridge is about 8 miles long and is the longest bridge over ice-covered water in the world. It takes about 12 minutes to drive across the bridge. It's quite a marvel to be driving over that much water for that amount of time. The bridge replaced an old ice ferry at that location and was opened in 1997.  It is a toll bridge but you only pay to get off the island; there's no toll to get on the island. The base rate was about 50 CAD + 8 CAD per additional axle. It's a bit cheaper than the ferry crossing and definitely faster.  (Crossing the Confederation Bridge)

sunset on the beach at Cavendish, Prince Edward Island
After crossing the bridge, we wound our way across the island to the northern shore. We were headed for Cavendish. The area where Lucy Maud Montgomery lived and that became the setting for  Anne of Green Gables. We drove to Prince Edward Island National Park and setup camp at the Cavendish Campground. The campground at Cavendish is rather large and seemed to be busy while we were there. It's very wooded though (at least in the B section where we were). Two downsides to the campsite we soon discovered. First was the time of the year and the fact that (like other beach areas in the south we've visited) there are a ton more mosquitoes inland. On the beach with the wind they're not bad, but bug spray was a must. The second was the nice sign they ranger had put up behind our site warning of the poison ivy. The woods right behind our site were covered in it. It didn't really bother us since the kids are old enough to understand and stay on the road's trails, but you might have to keep your eye on younger ones. There are some camping spots closer to the beach which are mostly for tents/popups with no services. They do have an amazing view though. We wandered on the beach at night and watched the sunset. It was really nice and the sand is red at Cavendish. It's a unique sight to see a long red beach. After we setup camp, we went to sleep anticipating a lot of adventure the next day.

Green Gables on Prince Edward Island
In the morning we woke up and headed for Green Gables. The Green Gables Heritage Place is located in PEI National Park at Cavendish. It's down the road from the campground and surrounded by a golf course. This house is the inspiration for Lucy Maud Montgomery's 1908 novel and actually belonged to her aunt and uncle. The house and grounds are well kept and staffed with knowledgeable folks. They do walking tours and you may even see Anne and her kindred spirit, Diana. After many photos and walking in the Haunted Woods, we left Green Gables and drove down the road to Avonlea Village. This is a period town area with shops and restaurants built to match what Cavendish looked like during Montgomery's time. It's a great place for lunch. We had some amazing Grilled Cheese sandwiches at Moo Moo Grilled Cheese, which locally sources all of their ingredients from the island. I had a Cheezy Mac and Pulled Pork sandwich (which is cheddar, mac and cheese, pulled pork and caramelized onions) all from the island. I could probably eat lunch there once a week if it was closer. We also visited the site of the house (no longer standing) where Montgomery grew up.

French River fishing village on Prince Edward Island
French River, PEI
Lighthouse and field of lupins in bloom near French River, Prince Edward Island
Fishing villages dot the landscape along the bays and inlets. We fell in love with French River, a small fishing village on the north side of the New London Bay opposite of Cavendish. As you come into French River there is a field of lupins (which cover the island along the sides of the roads).The lupins were in full bloom in July when we were there and it's quite amazing to see all the flowers covering the whole island. With lighthouse among the dunes and red sand beach that stretched into a red rock shoreline, French River was one of the most beautiful places I've been. It's low key and there was only about 3 people on the beach.

After that we drove around the island some. PEI is a big agricultural community with over 1/3 of the land being farms. Potatoes are the largest crop and export for the island, but they also raise pigs and cattle and grow other crops. Roaming further along the north shore of the island we found teacup rock along an unmarked beach near the entrance to Malpeque Bay.

The next day we packed up camp as we expected to head south on the first leg of the trek home. Before that, we wanted to do a little more exploring of the island. My wife wanted to visit the Anne of Green Gables Museum just outside of French River. This house was where Montgomery was married and lived for a bit after being married and she called it Silver Bush in some of her other novels. They also do carriage rides but we unfortunately didn't have time to do one and they had a tour bus there who had booked out the rides till after lunch.


Yellow Canola fields on Prince Edward Island
Next we headed for the south shore of the island and turned northwest at Canoe Cove where we spotted some fields of Canola in full bloom. They looked like a yellow sea waving in the wind.. We drove northwest along the south coast headed for the Confederation Bridge. At Cape Traverse we took a local road down to the beach to get a view of the bridge. The bridge connects New Brunswick to Borden-Carlton which is about 5 mins northwest of Cape Traverse. Cape Traverse was the original ice boat ferry launch. The iceboat would launch from there and cross the Northumberland Straight to New Brunswick. The Ferry had been operated out of there for much of the 1900s until the bridge opened in 1997. We talked with a local man, who'd spent most of his life on the island and learned a lot about the old ferry from him. I could sense a sadness when he talked about it that it was now part of the history of the island and no longer part of the character of the island. While a ferry takes longer to cross, it does give you the opportunity to slow down and enjoy life. You get to meet folks and talk. With the bridge, as much of a modern feat of engineering as it is, you drive across solo. No interactions with anyone. The destination is more important than the journey in these times. I probably spent 30-45 mins standing on the sea wall where the old ferry used to be talking with him. A stranger sharing a culture and way of life I wouldn't get to experience except through his words and memories. (Always take time to talk to the locals, you will learn more than any tourist brochure has to offer.)
Looking at the Confederation Bridge from Cape Traverse, Prince Edward Island.
I thanked him for his time and we headed on. It was time to leave this beautiful island and begin our journey home. We still had a lot of days and miles and adventures to go. One day we will come back. It's such a wonderful place; a dream land. You can really understand how much Montgomery loved this place and why she wrote about it.

The Trans-Canada Hwy stretched out before us towards St. John as we settled in for a bit of drive time it was going to be a long travel day. Maine, here we come...

The adventure continues with Epic Adventure 2: Carved Out (coming soon!)