I grew up in the area between Buffalo and Niagara Falls, not far from Canada, and occasionally traveled there with my parents to visit friends. Dad had relatives in Port Huron and St. Clair, Michigan, which we reached by driving across southern Ontario. But that part of Canada is not particularly interesting. The provinces of Alberta, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland are much more interesting.
Calgary is just a big industrial city on the plain, at the foothills of the Rockies much as is Denver. Although much farther north, it is not necessarily colder. I have visited the city many times, giving seminars and lectures there, and at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, located nearby. About two hours drive to the west is Banff, a much more interesting place, nestled in the mountains. It was built by the Canadian-Pacific Railway, which erected the Banff Springs Hotel, and an hour farther west, the Chateau Lake Louise.
During my first seminar at Calgary, in February of 1975, I accompanied some of the group to Banff and on to Lake Louise after class one day, when the temperature was well below zero. I was asked to give another seminar in September of 1978, and asked if it could be held in Banff instead. So it was scheduled for the Banff Conference Center, and Betty accompanied me. The days were clear and sunny, the dusting of snow left on the summits overnight soon melting away, and the crowds were gone. It was a marvelous week—we held class in the mornings and evenings, allowing the afternoons for exploring. One afternoon, we took the cable-car to the summit of Sulphur Mountain, stopping at the tea-house there. Bighorn sheep came to eat out of our hands. We saw circular rainbows during a shower on our way back down. The area is noted for its rainbows, and the Bow River, passing through Banff, is named after them.
One day we drove to Lake Louise, walking around the lake shore and admiring the glacier from the beach in front of the hotel. Another day, we hobnobbed with the rich at lunch at the Banff Springs Hotel, a massive building made out of fieldstones. Another day we wandered around the Vermillion Lakes. And one night we drove to an elk crossing along the highway where we could watch them in the moonlight. But while we were away, we missed seeing a bear in the parking lot at our dormitory. It was a great trip.
In March of 1983, a colleague and I finished our seminar in Calgary at noon, and drove to Banff for lunch, then on to Lake Louise for a hike. Here I quote from a column I had written about the trip:
“...the landscape around Calgary is a rather monotonous, treeless plain, a dreary, dusty brown at this time of year....We headed for the hills....As the mountains drew nearer, the plain began to roll, and patches of spruce trees appeared. Soon we were traveling through a forested valley nestled between massive gray crags drifted with snow.
“..we headed west along the Bow river toward Lake Louise, as three bighorn sheep watched from the hillside....at the lake [was the] whitest snow I have ever seen, where holes left by ski poles appeared blue. The lake lies in a bowl between the mountains, about two miles long by a half-mile wide. At the open end stands the celebrated Chateau Lake Louise, while the opposite end rises to a glacier. We struck out on the trail along the northern shore of the snow-covered lake, a trail that had been packed by a horse-drawn sleigh. To step off the trail was to sink to one’s hips.
“After hiking a mile or so under gently falling snow, we began to feel the effects of the altitude, and stopped to rest. It was then that we realized how noisy our feet and voices had been. The air was perfectly still, so that we could hear a child talking to his parents across the lake. Then laughter nearby caught our attention. A young couple had left their skis behind and were giddily sliding down a steep slope on their backs. High above them, clinging to the mountainside, was a frozen waterfall of pure cerulean blue. A lone climber was descending on a rope, his pick echoing delicately off the opposite wall.
“...the trail became narrower, winding through dark groves of firs and alongside vertical walls covered with a rainbow of pastel hues....over a hill, revealing the blue edge of the glacier. But our time was running out. Darkness would soon be falling. Much as I wanted to continue onward to the glacier, we had to retrace our steps back to the car.”
In March of 1992, I gave another seminar held at the Jasper Park Lodge, at the far west of Alberta, near the border with British Columbia. My host picked me up at the Edmonton airport, and we drove directly to Jasper National Park, about two hours west. He apologized that there was so little snow—it came early in the winter, but late winter had been dry and mild, so there would be no cross-country skiing. A special arrangement had been made to allow those attending the seminar to bring their wives at little additional cost, so we had a turnout of about 65 attendees, and all had a good time.
We arrived to bare ground at the lodge, although there was some snow in the hills. But there was an advantage—elk came to the lodge to graze in the mornings and evenings, and they were not afraid of us. The seminar occupied the middle of the week, and was mostly devoted to lectures during the day, and partying in the evening. On Friday morning, everyone left but me, but I was given a rental car for the weekend, to be returned to the Edmonton airport on Monday, when I would leave for Calgary.
I spent Friday exploring the park, the Maligne River, so named by a French explorer for its wanderings, and the lake of the same name. The river lies at the bottom of a steep-walled canyon of limestone, crossed by several foot-bridges. There is a beautiful sawtooth mountain range along the road to the lake, and at one point, I saw a caribou cross the road in the distance. On my return to Jasper, I saw a snow-packed trail head off into the woods, and stopped for a minute to investigate. It drew me like a magnet, but I was not prepared for hiking and so returned to the car. Pyramid mountain lies in plain view across the lake from the lodge, and is the most attractive of the mountains, at just over 9000 ft, above the valley at about 3000 ft. In the afternoon, I drove partway to the mountain, where I encountered a magnificent bull elk, wearing a full 16-point rack. He was not bothered by my presence, so I admired him for a few minutes before driving on.
On Saturday, I put a lunch together, donned my hiking boots, and headed for Mt. Robson, on the continental divide just across the border in B. C. It was a beautiful spring day, with a clear blue sky and no wind. I stopped in the parking lot at Mt. Robson Provincial Park, to photograph the summit of the mountain, the highest of the Canadian Rockies at 12,920 ft. Another visitor mentioned he had passed by the place on several occasions, and this was the first time the summit had been clear. The mountain rises almost vertically from the valley, nearly two miles in elevation for a horizontal distance of perhaps a mile and a half. As a consequence, it takes about three days to climb, a feat not often accomplished, especially in view of the usually hostile conditions on the summit. I happened to be there on a rare clear and calm day.
I followed the snow-packed hiking trail from the parking lot, skirting the west side of the mountain. Skiing was possible, and later in the day I encountered a skier, but I was using my 4-point crampons for traction in the snow, and they worked fine. I could see the summit most of the way, as the forest was not very dense, and occasionally it would be topped by a plume of windblown snow. After about 4 miles, I reached Kinney Lake, where I stopped for lunch. The trail continued to a campground at Berg Lake, where icebergs calved off Robson Glacier in the summer, but I didn’t have time to go that far. After a relaxing lunch, and a few photos of the snow-capped ridges across Kinney Lake, I retraced my steps back to the car. This was a most satisfying experience—a gorgeous day, well-spent alone in a beautiful mountain setting—I couldn’t have asked for more.
On my return to Jasper, I was driving along the highway under cruise control, when around a curve in the road a large stone appeared, right in the middle of my lane. It was too late to attempt to slow down, so I quickly swerved left to avoid it—fortunately, there were no other cars on the road at the time. If I had attempted to straddle the stone, it would have taken out my radiator and oil pan for sure. As it was, my right rear wheel nudged it enough to set it spinning right off the road—whew! An inspection revealed no damage to the wheel. After a shower, I drove to afternoon Mass at the church in Jasper village, and ate at a local diner, where a hockey game was playing on TV.
On Sunday morning, I checked out and headed southeast along the Icefields Highway, stopping for awhile to see Athabasca Falls. Mountains line both sides of the road, in strange and exotic shapes–truly spectacular scenery. At the southern gate of the park is the Icefield Centre, where I stopped for a walk on Athabasca Glacier. As I approached the centre, I could see tiny, ant-like figures moving against a background of white in the distance. These were people hiking on the glacier, where I would soon be.
As the day before, I took my lunch and crampons and headed toward the glacier. It resembled a huge tongue, perhaps a half-mile wide, rising steeply ant first, then more gradually to the place where it spilled out between the mountains. In the summer, there is crevasse danger here, but not on this beautiful March day. I passed several skiers, moving much faster than they could uphill. The sun was bright and hot, causing me to drape my jacket over my head to protect against sunburn. It caused the ice to expand, too, with occasional pops and cracks, as pieces dislodged from the walls on both sides. After perhaps three miles of hiking, I approached the point where the glacier spilled over a wall between the mountains. Going further would be more difficult and dangerous, and it was lunchtime. So I spread out my jacket on the snow, and basked in the sun while I ate. After a leisurely repast, I gathered up my belongings and headed back. No need for crampons going downhill, and now I envied the skiers. I took the sleeves off my jacket and put them over my boots hoping to be able to slide, but it didn’t work. What a great place to ski down, if I had skis.
Leaving the Columbia Icefields, I continued southeast toward Banff, until I reached the road to Red Deer. All the beautiful scenery was left behind. Then I turned east, passed through Red Deer, and took the highway north to Edmonton, arriving at my hotel in the late afternoon. While the city is perhaps more interesting than Calgary, it is nonetheless a big city, and I had a little trouble finding my hotel—the MacDonald, the best in the city. Next morning, I flew to Calgary for a couple meetings before returning home. When I checked in at my hotel, the desk clerk exclaimed “I know you!” Her husband worked for a competitor of ours and would be attending the society lecture I would be giving. The next time I checked into the MacDonald Hotel in Edmonton, I was surprised to see the same woman behind the desk—they had moved from Calgary and she had found another hotel job.
During one of my trips to Edmonton, I lectured at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, where I was given a sweatshirt bearing the letters “NAIT.” Both Alberta institutes had been using my textbook in their classes.
I gave one more seminar in Edmonton, in December of 1993. This one was given downtown, and there wasn’t much to do after class. The day after it ended, I took a taxi to the airport with a dusting of snow on the ground, flying to Vancouver where I changed planes for Seattle. There, I waited for Catherine to arrive from LA, and we drove together to Sequim on the Olympic Peninsula to visit Liz and her family. David and Betty were already there.
In August of 1992, I returned to Edmonton to give a seminar at Fort McMurray, about 150 miles north of Edmonton on the Athabasca River, and the headquarters for the companies recovering crude oil from tar sands. The road ends there, at least during the summer. During the winter, trucks travel on the frozen river further north to Fort Smith, which is otherwise isolated. The latitude at Fort McMurray is about 57̊N, which is the farthest north I had been on this continent until my Alaskan adventure—another “end of the earth.”
We flew there from Edmonton on a very crisp autumn day—although it was mid-August, it had snowed the day before and there was frost in the morning. The aspens were already starting to turn yellow. The seminar was conducted in a classroom in town, but we wanted to see the plant site, so we drove north to the end of the road. Almost all traffic on the road consists of buses bringing workers back and forth between town and the plants.
The sites themselves are enormous—square miles of muskeg (thin topsoil bearing willows and fir trees) is torn up to expose the tar sand beneath, and returned after the area has been worked over. The sand is dug by “draglines,” which are scoops as large as a two-story house; then rotating buckets convey the sand to belts for the haul to the plant. The sand is boiled in caustic to break the emulsion, the oil decanted off, and the sand ultimately returned to where it came from. Four of the draglines are carefully phased to even the load on the power plant. It is quite a project, capable of producing 25 percent of Canada’s crude oil. Other than this visit, there wasn’t much to do there. After the seminar, I flew back to Edmonton, staying overnight at the MacDonald Hotel, and the next day continued on home.
NOVA SCOTIA (NEW SCOTLAND)
“The forest primeval, with the murmuring oaks and the hemlocks...”
In June of 1969, Betty and I took Catherine (8) and Stephen (5) on a one-week trip to Nova Scotia. We left on an overnight car ferry from Portland, ME, arriving in Yarmouth, NS, at 8 AM. Betty had been a little anxious as we departed and the ship began to roll slightly, but after a drink and the kids were tucked into the upper bunks, she was ok. After disembarking, we drove along the south coast almost to Halifax, which we intentionally avoided. The coast was cool and foggy, so we didn’t see much. Past Halifax, we crossed over to the north shore, where the air was much warmer and dryer, staying overnight at Antigonish. The next day, we circumnavigated Cape Breton, a rocky headland with clear, inky sea all around. It was a beautiful, warm day, but we managed to find some snow under the trees at a waterfall site, so we had a snowball fight. We drove away with a snowball impaled on the radio antenna—it didn’t last long. That evening, we stayed at Baddeck (accent on the last syllable), home of Alexander Graham Bell. There is a historic fort at Louisburg, near the easternmost point of the province, which played a role in the French and Indian war. I wanted to see it, but we didn’t have enough time.
While we saw many lobster boats out, we were disappointed that none appeared on menus. Then we saw a notice that they were all exported to the US—we would have to go home to eat Canadian lobster. Leaving Baddeck, we recrossed the Canso Strait separating Cape Breton from the rest of the province, and followed the north shore on a westerly heading. We stopped at the Grand Pré National Historic Site, where there is a stone chapel as a monument to the Acadians who were exiled by the British to the southern colonies during the French and Indian wars. In front stands a life-size statue of Evangeline, the tragic lass whose lover was taken away from her, as told by Longfellow in his poem of the same name. She is standing erect, gazing into the distance, but with a strange expression. As you pass from one side of her to the other, her expression changes from smiling to sorrowful. Stephen had a little glider he was tossing about while we were there, and the swallows began chasing it.
We passed many little fishing villages, with tidy homes painted in bright colors, and bearing Scottish and French names. We continued on to Smith Cove, on the outskirts of Digby, where we stayed overnight near the beach. Here, the tide went out for miles, stranding rowboats high on the beach. Next morning, we drove the rest of the way to Yarmouth and boarded the ferry for the trip home. The passage was quite rough, and I was the only one in the family to have lunch.
I returned to Nova Scotia in the summer of 1973 on my brother’s ship, the USS Compton, DD-705. It was about to be decomissioned and sold to Brazil, so the Navy offered a final cruise where guests could accompany crew members. Bill invited me, and I boarded on a Thursday afternoon at the dock in Boston. It would be something of deja vu for me, almost 20 years since I had duty on a similar destroyer, the Henry W. Tucker, DDR-875. I was assigned the upper bunk above my brother in the forward officers quarters. The sights and sounds and smells were the same as I remembered them—the coffee, the bos’n’s pipe, the roar of the engines. We sailed for Halifax, spending Friday at sea in exercises, eventually in a rendez-vous with a pair of Canadian destroyers. Friday evening, we entered port.
Bill had Saturday off, so we left the ship early and found our way to the Bluenose, a famous Grand Banks schooner, now a museum in Halifax harbor. I have a photo of Bill at its helm. From there we wandered about town, taking in the sights. We had lunch at a park in the city center, where there was a bandstand surrounded by colorful gardens. Later in the afternoon, we visited the citadel, high on a hill overlooking the sea. After looking around, we stretched out on the grassy hilltop and fell asleep. From there we went to church, where I found a 5 PM Mass. Afterward, we wandered back toward the harbor, seeking out the Canadian Officers’ Club, for a couple beers and dinner. Having walked all day, we were tired, and the surroundings were friendly. It was a great day, and I came away with pleasant memories of Halifax.
That night, we were awakened by a stewards mate: “Mr. Shinskey, you gotta come quick—the stewards compartment is flooded!” My first reaction was to haul out of bed and follow the stewards mate, for I never failed to respond to shipboard duty. Then I remembered that there was another Mr. Shinskey in the room, whose responsibility it was to answer the call (he was the Damage Control Officer). At that point, I rolled over and went back to sleep—it was a great feeling.
On Monday, we returned to Boston, and I said goodbye to the captain, thanking him for an opportunity to relive my Navy days of 20 years earlier. It was a great experience, and one I enjoyed immensely, especially sharing it with my brother, with whom I had spent precious little time.
Betty and I returned to Nova Scotia in 1994 on our way to Newfoundland. We had just finished painting the house and needed a vacation. We drove due east across Maine on a Sunday, crossing the border at Calais. We drove the south coast of New Brunswick, arriving in Moncton in mid-afternoon. We had reserved a motel room outside of the city, and were disappointed it its appearance—we even had to use our own towels. That evening, we had dinner in the best restaurant in town, located right on the river, and had an enjoyable meal. An electric sign outside the restaurant posted the time of the next tidal bore, due at 11:32 PM—past our bedtime. The tidal bore is the crest of a wave as much as two feet high, driven up the river twice a day by the tide. The river flowing past Moncton is at the head of the Bay of Fundy, which has the world’s highest tides—as high as 48 feet. The following tidal bore would be due in the late morning, and we couldn’t wait for that. I tried to estimate when it would arrive on our return trip, but we bypassed Moncton, and never saw the tidal bore at all.
Leaving Moncton early, we crossed into Nova Scotia, and continued east. Once on Cape Breton, with time to spare, we took some back roads through the straits, with a couple ferry crossings, arriving in North Sydney in late afternoon. We found our motel near the ferry landing, and had dinner. Next morning, we were out at 6:30 AM, queueing for the ferry and our crossing to Newfoundland
“O the ocean waves may ro-ll,
And the stormy winds may bloooow—
But we poor sailors go skipping o’er the top,
With the landlubbers lying down below.”
The ferry crossing from North Sydney to Argentia is 14 hours. We parked our car below, but had no cabin, so we had to spend the day on the upper decks. Fortunately, there was entertainment aboard, in the way of a couple of singing groups that specialized in Irish and Newfoundland folk and sailor tunes. They did very well, and I even heard a couple of sailor ditties that my father used to sing, one of which appears above. The lunch was typical Newfie—cod, etc., but enjoyable.
We arrived after dark at a very small docking area and followed signs to the highway. We had booked a room at a place nearby to avoid driving after dark in an unfamiliar area, but like our first motel, it was not particularly satisfactory. We had a downstairs bedroom in what was an old house, and the place was kind of creepy. The proprietor wold not accept credit cards, and wanted to take our travelers checks at face value, although the Canadian dollar was around 33 percent or more below the American dollar. (Later in the trip, gas stations were offering 35 percent; I would fill the tank, give the attendant a $50 travelers check, and receive $50 Canadian in change.) So we paid in cash and left, heading south to Cape St. Mary’s in the fog and drizzle.
There is a sea-bird sanctuary there, where birds nest by the thousands on the rocks below the lighthouse. We arrived at the site, in an almost deserted part of the world, still drizzling. We had to walk across a field, dripping wet, to get to the cliffs, and once there, could see very little in the fog. So we went back to the car, found a cup of coffee along the way, and hoped for better weather.
It was my idea to avoid the big city of St. John’s, and that might not have been wise, for what we had so far seen of the island was deserted. Nonetheless, we continued with the plan, heading north, in the general direction of Gander. We took a few diversions into little boat harbors, looking for an attractive restaurant for lunch, but discovered that there were no restaurants in the harbors—they were evidently for boats and chandleries only. We ended up having lunch at a shopping mall. At least the weather cleared. Apparently like Nova Scotia, the weather is better inland than along the south coast.
Gander came to be in World War II, as a stopover for aircraft being ferried to England from the US. It carried enormous amounts of traffic, and the city grew up around the airport. My uncle Bill Mosher was with a Navy construction group (Seabees) during the war, and spent some time in Gander. Today, the airport is largely empty, carrying only local flights, and service from Cuba and Russia. An aircraft carrying American troops went down after takeoff from Gander a few years before our visit. A monument had been placed on the crash site, commemorating the event.
We stayed at the best hotel in town, which wasn’t all that great, but better than our previous accommodations. We drove around town and found it a strange place—mostly new developments, with no trees. Iceland later reminded me of Gander. At this point, we were playing it by ear, reading guidebooks, trying to figure our where to go the next day. We called ahead to book a room at the Deer Lake Motel—it sounded like a nice place. When we arrived next day, we found that it was just a motel on the highway next to a gas station—nowhere near the lake. We moved on. Along the road between Gander and Deer Lake, near Grand Falls, we visited a salmon hatchery, where we were given a guided tour, and watched salmon jump up the fish ladder.
After reaching the Deer Lake Motel and not finding the lake, we turned northwest toward Gros Morne National Park, on the west coast. Here is the most beautiful part of Newfoundland. But our immediate priority was finding a place to stay for the night. Rocky Harbor is at the center of the park, so we began our search there. Any accommodations that looked interesting turned out to be occupied. We followed our nose toward Bonnie Bay, a very pretty area—quiet, simple, with juniper forests and a scattering of small, brightly colored houses spilling down to the water’s edge. When we reached the end of the road at Norris Point, there before us was a bed-and-breakfast with a room available. It was such a pleasant place we stayed two nights. The proprietor was very friendly, even offering a beer, and sharing some blueberry wine a neighbor had made.
We had dinner at the hotel in Rocky Harbor, where true to form, only half the items on the menu were available. They were even out of codfish cakes! We toured a lighthouse museum at Lobster Cove, which was quite interesting. We thought about driving north to L’Anse aux Meadows, where the Vikings are believed to have landed and where a crude settlement has been reconstructed. But it would have taken a full day, and we were getting tired of driving.
Instead we bought a tour of Western Brook Pond—a long, narrow freshwater fjord with very steep walls and a unique ecology. The water is quite deep, and because of the vertical walls, supports almost no marine plants. As a consequence, it also has almost no fish. The flow of water leaving it is quite low compared to its volume, taking almost 50 years to turn over. It is quite pure, but also quite sensitive to pollution because of its slow turnover. The only boat allowed on the lake is the tour boat. To get to it, we had to walk about a mile and a half from the parking lot. But the cruise was reported to be spectacular, with 3000-ft mountains rising steeply from the narrow fjord.
When we bought the tickets at the hotel downtown, there was a chance that the boat would not run because of threatening weather, but the price would be refunded if it did not. Unfortunately, the only way we could find out was to walk to the boat landing. We had lunch parked in the car by the beach, watching the rain. When we arrived at the parking lot for the tour, the rain had stopped, but the clouds were very low. So we walked to the boat landing, and waited there with some others until the captain decided to call off the cruise—with the ceiling so low, we wouldn’t have been able to see anything. So we walked back to the car in a drizzle—but we did spot a couple of moose in the distance.
On Saturday morning, we headed south to Port-aux-Basques, at the southwestern tip of the island, where we would board the ferry for our return home. The day was sunny and breezy, and we arrived at our hotel in mid-afternoon. We scouted around for a Catholic church, but there was none. After a brief walk around town—there’s not much to it—we decided to drive east along the south-facing coast. It’s a strange place, because no trees grow there. The land resembles a rolling green carpet, pierced here and there by rocks poking through. But on closer inspection, it is tundra rather than grass—mixed brush and trees, even spruce trees, only inches tall.
The coastal road connects a handful of tiny villages, each with its own harbor. But after about 40 miles, the road stops—dead end! The map shows a few more villages further east along the coast, but no road connects them—they are served by boat alone. During our return to Port-aux-Basques, we parked at a place where a boardwalk was stretched atop the tundra, heading inland. We walked for a few minutes on the boardwalk, to a point where it began to plunge toward a ravine. In the distance we could see a large waterfall flowing toward us, but its bottom and the river it fed were out of view. It was a very strange landscape, and attractive. But the waterfall was still quite far ahead of us, and the terrain uncertain, so that we decided not to proceed. We had left the car by the side of the road, as no parking space had been provided, and the road was quite narrow. But I would still like to have seen the waterfall up close—it had a mysterious appeal.
That evening, we dined at our hotel, and next morning boarded the ferry for our four-hour passage to North Sydney. The weather was bright and clear. Disembarking at North Sydney, we drove directly to Amherst, NS, near the border with New Brunswick, where we stayed overnight. The following day, we drove directly home, taking the more northerly route through New Brunswick, past Fredricton, crossing the border at Houlton, ME, where I-95 begins. We had saved all our motel and meals receipts, and were able to redeem the VAT tax portion at Canadian customs for bottles of Beefeaters gin and Canadian Club whisky. We arrived home in time for supper.
In December of 2000, we took a bus tour to the city of Quebec, which was decked out for Christmas with both decorations and snow, and the St. Lawrence River was also full of moving ice. We stayed at the best place in town–the Chateau Frontenac. It sits atop a promontory above the lower city, and near the old citadel. The battle for the city was fought here in 1769. A Finicular (inclined railway) just outside the hotel took us to the lower city, with its old shops all decorated for Christmas–a very pretty scene.
The city is a picturesque place, with many old stone buildings dating back two centuries or more. We went to Mass at Notre Dame cathedral, just two blocks from our hotel. But it was a cold walk, with the temperature hovering around zero, and the wind blowing. We enjoyed a bus tour of the old city, and another downriver to Ste. Anne de Beaupre, a shrine honoring the mother of the Blessed Virgin. We had been there before, on a camping trip with the family many years ago. The basilica was in the process of decoration–incomplete, because it was still Advent. Just inside the door are scores of canes, crutches, and wheelchairs left by cripples who had been cured at the shrine over the years.
We returned to the province in July of 2003, stopping at Cook’s Lobster House in Bailey Island, Maine, for lunch on our first day from home. The next day we continued on to Mirimichi, New Brunswick, which was nothing to write home about. We then continued all along the coastline, anticipating interesting scenery on Baie Chaleur, the warm bay named by Cartier, but found none. The day’s journey ended at our destination of Percé, the easternmost point of the Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula. Our motel was right on the shore, and our host had told us we had a view of Bonaventure Island from our room, but we couldn’t see any island offshore. We could see the landmark Percé rock up the beach a ways–perhaps that’s what she meant.
Next morning, I awoke around 4 AM, and the sky was already lightening. When I looked out the window, Bonaventure Island was standing right offshore, about three miles away, though we couldn’t see it the day before. There had been a large forest fire burning in Quebec for the last several days, and its smoke had completely obscured our view without our realizing it. Overnight, a light rain and shifting wind had cleared the air.
We took a tour boat around the island, and saw some seals and several types of marine birds. The island used to be farmed, and some buildings remain, but now it is just a park. We got off the boat, and I walked over the island to the opposite shore while Betty stayed behind at the visitor center. When I was about half-way across, a light rain began to fall, increasing in intensity as I approached the far side–and me with no rain gear! I stopped long enough to photograph the huge colony of gannets on the cliff, and then hurriedly returned. By this time, the clay path had become very slick, and I was glad to get back to the dock. The rain had about stopped, but our clothes were damp when we got back to Percé. We found a restaurant on the shore that was warmed by a fire, and enjoyed a platter of scallops and an ale. The seafood was excellent everywhere we went, and not expensive–the dollar price was about the same as we would pay at home, but the Canadian dollar was worth about 1/3 less than ours.
After two days sightseeing in Percé, we continued north along the coast, and then followed the St. Lawrence River west, staying the next night in Matane. The shore was not particularly attractive, with no crossroads and only a few small villages located in the coves. Leaving Matane, we headed south for Maine, passing through St. Georges. It is not a large city, but we happened to hit it at rush hour. A vehicle two cars ahead of us at a busy intersection had stopped to make a left turn, waiting for oncoming traffic to pass. There was only a single lane in each direction, and the car ahead of us pulled around him on the right, crossing the white line–we followed. But immediately ahead lie a police car waiting for just such a mistake, and both of us were pulled over.
The officer seemed quite angry that we had crossed the white line. He asked us to parlez, but I declined any knowledge of Français, as I wasn’t going to help him convict me. He demanded that I pay the fine of $135 Canadian on the spot, but I had only $50 with me. So he converted it to $91 U.S., which I paid, and drove off–Betty was furious!
We crossed the border at the isolated outpost of Coburn-Gore and continued on to Rangeley, Maine. It was a beautiful, quiet place on a beautiful summer afternoon, and we relaxed, free of Canadian domination. We finished off the day with a delicious lobster dinner.