Wednesday 23 December 2015

Eastward Day 7: Giant Axe!

Our seventh, and final, morning at the Green's Point lighthouse keeper's cottage found me sitting on the porch overlooking the ocean eating my re-heated spaghetti dinner from the night before. (I love this picture. The sun was warm. The spaghetti was good. The ocean was the ocean.) I had gotten back from my Saint John adventure quite late, and was full of whatever I'd been eating on the road. So, the spaghetti plate, the family had saved for me, for breakfast! Overlooking the ocean. On a warm sunny morning. Lucky guy.

After that peaceful break, it was time to break camp. Everything was packed up, and we were on the road again, for the entire day.

Sometime in the early afternoon we started looking for a place to stop to have some lunch. Due to a GPS misread, we passed the spot we thought we first thought we were going to spot. Looking for a new place, I noticed a mark on the map that said "Giant Axe". Well! We have to go there!

It turned out to be a fair bit further off the highway than it had looked on the map, but once off the highway we couldn't very well turn around and forever our backs on the Giant Axe, could we? No! (Besides it would likely have taken us just as long to try to figure out yet another place to pull off.) And so, we soldiered on, and it was totally worth it, because...

Giant axe!!! The giant axe was indeed giant. And it wasn't one of your flimsy old mockeries of a giant axe, this was a quite solid and substantial, lovingly cared for, freakishly gigantic axe! What I'm trying to say is, thankfully, the giant axe did not disappoint.

Also it was good to finally get lunch! (It was a big rectangular pizza that we'd got on our way out of St. George that morning.)

The rest of the day was driving, driving, and more driving.

Until, at long last, we found our way (and it wasn't easy, because the Quebec city highways are chaotic, to say the least) to ...

Our strange...


For the next few days...

(In the meantime, here are a few more pictures of the giant axe, and the road.)

Saturday 19 December 2015

Eastward Day 6: The Other Day 6

For some reason, I really wanted to visit Saint John. It was the closest major city to the somewhat remote lighthouse cottage we were staying in. Our smaller town excursions have been good -- but I also was curious to visit a larger maritime city. So while the others went off to the Huntsman Aquarium (as chronicled in the previous post), I set off on a solo tour of Saint John for the day, with no real plan or purpose.

Here is a hop through my full album of the day.

Behold, Saint John. This picture well summarizes many of my first confused impressions driving through the city. The crazy hills, the surprisingly heavy industry, the historic spots, all packed together.

The reason we were in New Brunswick was for Aunty Belle -- to visit and bring some of her ashes to her beloved lighthouse retreat. Aunty Belle, as everyone knows, was very involved in Girl Guides all of her life, even becoming the Ontario provincial commissioner for a time. So it seemed amazing, in my random Saint John wandering, to suddenly see Girl Guild symbols on a building coming up on my left. I had to get a picture! I am still not sure how I managed to get this picture! My camera was in its case in the back seat of the car. But somehow I managed to get it in time, and take this (miraculously clear) picture, out my driver's side window, all while driving past. So, it may be silly, but this New Brunswick Girl Guild House picture is for Aunty Belle.

It was random that I passed the Girl Guide house, but I actually was not driving entirely randomly at that point: I had a destination. After having driven for quite a few hours, I was feeling in need of a refreshment break. I could have stopped at one of the ubiquitous Tim Hortons, as we did many, many times on our trip — but I was in a big city, surely there were other options. Yes, Costco! I figured my membership there would welcome me into their their bathroom, as if I was home. Also I needed some batteries. And a big box of fig bars.

So I was driving around looking for the Costco, which I'd found on the map on my tablet. When I was approaching the corner my map had said it was near, I was looking around and there didn't seem to be any Costco around. And Costco is not a building that is usually very easy to hide. I was a bit bewildered, and turned onto the street, still looking around. No Costco. And then I looked up... there was an enormous hill, and at the very pinnacle of it, poking out over the corner, was Costco... as if floating in the clouds in heaven!

The following photo doesn't really do justice to the impression, as I have described. But it was the best I could do, once again grappling madly for my camera, while driving.

You had to be there.

After my pilgrimage to the Saint John Costco, all stocked up on fig bars, I decided to head over to the edge of the city where I'd noticed what looked like it might be quite an enormous park on my map.

This building and sculpture was near the entrance of what turned out to be indeed a huge park. Behind this building is a lake on which there were many paddlers of all kinds, and a few sailors as well. And this was just one of the several little lakes contained in what I discovered Rockwood Park to be.

Rockwood park is so big, that if you hit the previous link you'll actually have to zoom out many times to see it all; and if you zoom out enough to also see the city you'll see the park is in fact practically as large as the city. There is a narrow ring road that goes around a lot of the park, with parking areas in various spots. There are paths of all kinds all over the place: everything from paved multi-use trails down to quite rugged dirt foot paths heading to and around various lakes.

It's an amazing resource for the city, slightly remeniscent of Toronto's High Park, but vastly bigger and with a lot more types of landscape. I ended up pulling over by one of the small lakes and getting out for a walk. It was really nice, and I ended up walking for many hours, trying to find paths to some of the more remote lakes, a lot further than I'd intended.

So, having gone to see the city, I actually ended up wandering around in the woods most of the day. I did drive around a bunch of areas of the city, and felt I got some of the feel of the place, but I only really stopped (besides at Costco) at Rockwood Park, and then my next destination...

I had noticed Irving Nature Park on the map some days before, but it was hard to understand what actually it was. One can see on the map it consists of a fairly large peninsula south-west of the city, but what is in it? How accessible is it? It appeared to have trails, and even a ring road, but what sort of trails? Is the road open to the public? Does admittance cost money? Descriptions seemed vague, and information meagre. After grabbing a falafel wrap for dinner, I headed there to find out.

Abbreviated Irving Nature Park walk (click for interactive)

It was hard to even actually find my way into the place. Watching my GPS, I seemed to be in the park, but the landscape was bleak, and the dirt road very rough. The occasional landmark consisted of abandoned buildings such as this one (another picture taken out the side window of the car):

But I kept going -- there was little choice. And eventually, at the very end of the road, there was a parking area with a bunch of cars in it. There was a beach to one side, and seemingly trails going up into woods on the other side.

There were (as there had been all day) clouds of mist periodically floating in off the ocean. It made it hard to see much in the distance. I got out and after briefly checking out the beach, headed up the nearest path again into the woods. After the initial steep ascent, things smoothed out and I found myself on what seemed to be a pretty nice path that presumably traced its way all around the peninsula.

There were these squirrel boxes attached to many trees. At least I assume that's what they were. The squirrels seemed to like them.

After hiking along one side of the peninsula quite a ways, knowing I did not have time to make it all the way around the coast, I cut across to the other side. The side I first was on was very coastal -- fairly high up, with rocky ocean shores below. The other side was not as rugged, and looked onto a tidal basin and marsh.

As you can see there were a lot more birds over here.

Cutting across I was able to see that there was indeed also a road ringing the peninsula, that I saw a few cars on. It was a very narrow dirt road, one way, with a speed limit of about 15 km/h. After wandering back along the marsh (and checking out the board walk which extends into the marsh at one point), it was still early enough that I decided to find the road entrance and take the car all the way around the peninsula to see what that was like.

A lot of the road was through pretty dense trees, so you didn't see too much; but periodically there were parking spots and places you could pull off and see more.

Here is one place I pulled off and climbed down to the rocky shore. My map marked this area as "Dog Rocks", so I wondered if there wasn't something of particular interest. There wasn't, really. (Further research later vaguely informs me that Dog Rocks is a shoal in the area... which would be a water navigation hazard, so maybe that's why it is named and marked.) Still, it was nice to climb around on the rocks trying to figure out the possible canine connection.

And with the fog sliding in from the ocean (that wall of purple/grey) yet again, I finally hit the road back to the Green's Point lighthouse. The low clouds enveloping the highway...

View from front car window as the sun begins to set, and very low clouds blow over.
For me it was a great and quiet day of wandering. Full album available.

Eastward Day 6: Skating, anyone?

Back (at long last) to another beautiful summer morning in New Brunswick. We were really lucky with the weather when we were there.

Oh, and slugs. Did we mention the slugs? In the area around our lighthouse slugs were everywhere in the mornings, and they were big!

But besides the slugs, we had less icky scavengers around the place as well.

And some of the morning scavengers are two-legged, wear creeper t-shirts, and come when called for breakfast (if indeed they have not been up and scavenged breakfast for themselves before you even get up, lazy parents).

After this precarious adventure on the rocks by our lighthouse, collecting urchin shells, the kids wanted to go to visit the Huntsman Aquarium, for a closer look at some of the local sea life.

Is this close enough?

It looks like they had some pretty intimate moments there at the aquarium with the sea life.

The highlight of the Aquarium visit was the seal show. We waited patiently for the trainers to come out and entice the seals with buckets full of fish. These seals are a father and son team, who have water pumping up into their tank from the Bay of Fundy. The water is freezing cold.

And finally, skating. That is, playing with the skates. The skates were part of a touch tank where the kids did a scavenger hunt to find all kinds of small sea life. The skates were the favourite because they seemed to like to be touched, flapping their "wings" enthusiastically for "belly rubs".

We had spotted this huge wooden playground when leaving Kingsbrae Gardens. It is somewhat similar to the one in High Park in Toronto the kids played at a few times, which was later burned down (and then rebuilt).

See all the Aquarium day photos here.

Saturday 7 November 2015

Walden, we have you surrounded!

So, it seems we did this.

The site of the ironically famous cabin is situated somewhere generally behind Selena, on the other side of the lake.

Almost-obelisks mark outline the original cabin and woodshed locations.
If by some sad circumstance you are not familiar with Walden, by Henry D. Thoreau, know that it is an intensely introspective book of social criticism, and nature appreciation, written by a dude who decided to try an experiment in living as simply as possible, in the mid-1800s. Thus he went into the woods (the book is, in fact, alternately titled Life in the Woods), near a small lake, not terribly far from Boston, and built himself as basic a little structure as he thought would suit his personal needs, and attempted to just live (and write) as worry-free as possible for some years. He wasn't a complete hermit: he was near enough a town to walk there and get supplies when needed, but he did try to be as self-sufficient and frugal as he deemed reasonably possible. The idea was not to be a ascetic and isolated, but rather relatively independent and reflectively consistent.

So it is somewhat ironic that this once-secluded pond, site of Thoreau's reflective solitude and simple life, is now a place of pilgrimage for many, with sizeable parking lots, and many carefully controlled, fenced, narrow pathways. There is a gift shop/bookstore.

But we can't be too critical. We too parked. We too trampled through the lovely corrals. We too were curious and just wanted to be able to say, feeling some sort of transcendental emotional connection, we walked near where this book was birthed. We were not, however, among those who felt the need to leave an inscribed stone (there is quite a pile of them near the original cabin site), but we understood the sentiment, no matter how ironic the act might seem to be.

The man himself, looked a bit perplexed over the whole thing. So I comforted him with my apple. But he continued to seem perplexed by it also. Disoriented. So, as he seemed not ever to be going to eat it, I took it back. I munched it while walking his trails.

I left the core, as my offering, to simply nourish the woods.

(Here are all our pictures of our trip to New Hampshire---where Selena presented a paper at the North East Popular Culture Association conference---and Boston, by the way.)

Sunday 25 October 2015

Yesterday's Got-ya day

I'm informed it is usually referred to as "gotcha day", but to me that seems like it has a connotation of entrapment. The cry of "gotcha" when a prank is successfully pulled, and so on. So I'm going to try to get away with saying "got-ya day", which to me is better (even though I acknowledge that technically "gotcha" is simply a sort of contraction of "got you"). Well, enough of that useless rumbling. Whatever you call it, Vallie's first one was yesterday. Valkyrie has been with us now for one year.

She's starting to get used to us, we think.

For her special anniversary dinner, Selena prepared her a lovely (as you can see) bowl of tripe, liver treats, cheesy (?) dog buiscuits, all served on a lovely bed of high quality kibble. Valkyrie slurped it up. Then she got a few cheezies tossed to her (but that'll be our little secret).

The special meal may also have been hopefully to serve as an apology for doing this to her earlier in the day...

Poor, Big Baby! A little too much partying for her. She doesn't seem to even care that she won first place in this "costume race" competition!

As chance would have it, on her anniversary, a local Greyhound group was having a fundraiser fair. We headed over. Valkyrie was really excited to meet up with many dozens of other greyhounds again. Much joyous sniffing. Only a few growls.

She also attempted to have her speed clocked: 23 km/h! Ha. How embarrassing. Alas, the speed measurement situation seemed a little less than scientific. The running area was small, the dogs barely able to get up to stride. The timing was done with some sort of smart phone app, which seemed a little more than finicky much of the time. And the only inducement to velocity was a tossed rubber squeaky toy combined with some energetic beckonings. Apparently not enough! Also, it was raining. But everyone had fun anyhow.

The "race" she won, the picture at the top of the post, consisted of all the dogs being given a similar pile of clothes. The winner was the one which could be dressed the fastest and then make it to the finish line with all clothes still on. We are so proud. Obviously.

There was also a tail length competition. Vallie endured only to find out her tail length was... average. Though her adoptive mom insists that average really means really spectacularly awesome for a relatively petite hound such as herself.

You may also notice the bandaged leg. Actually what you see is an old kids' sock with the end cut out, stylishly covering a bandage. It is due to a nasty cut that seemed to be the result of a collision at the off-lease dog park -- though we're not entirely sure what happened. We didn't notice it until we got home. But greyhounds are notoriously thin skinned -- literally in this instance -- and are easily injured. The wound, while somewhat gruesome looking, doesn't seem to bother her. She gets a new dressing on the leg every day until it starts healing up sufficiently.

Anyhow... that was our doggie day for our dog's day (click link for a few more pictures).

Happy one-year at your forever-home, Valkyrie!

Tuesday 20 October 2015

Eastward Day 5: Minsters Island (not to mention Chocolate)

This day (which was, unbelievably, August 13) started with a tour of the Ganong Chocolate Museum in St. Andrews. But I am going to save writing about this until later in this post, because oddly we don't seem to have taken a single picture at that place. So, did we really go there? My gut says yes (and, as said, more on that later), but where is the hard evidence?

On to something I can prove: like having coming across, along the shore of the Atlantic, a couple of wild lions roaring fiercely atop a rocky precipice.  I know that sounds crazy, but see for yourself. Lions!

But before we got to the lions, and after we toured the chocolate museum, we took a break at a park which is just down the street from the Museum in down town St Andrews. It was just a little park, with a little playground, and a rather rudimentary water play area (see picture), a water fountain, and a gazebo under construction. The kids however proclaimed it the best park in the world -- all due to a sort of gondola-like element (no picture, alas) in the little playground. Best park in the world!

(Incidentally, that is actually the USA there on the other side of the river in the background.)

The park, even if the lamest best park in the world, did provide us with a chance to recover from the chocolate museum. The museum, built into a sort of corner of the original Ganong chocolate factory building, was fairly small -- three rooms and a gift shop. Maybe this is why we didn't end up taking any pictures? But here's the thing that makes it awesome: part of the admittance deal is all you can eat chocolate. There are loads of samples of the Ganong chocolates all over the place, free (after your admittance fee) for the taking! So maybe this (chocolaty fingers?) is the reason we didn't end up with any pictures. Unlimited chocolates! You'd think this, and not the wonky little park across the road, would be the best place in the world.

Alas, we were all feeling ill by the time we left. Sick of chocolate. The thought of chocolate was making -- even the kids -- feel unnaturally queazy. This seems not an optimal feeling to leave to leave an establishment. Oh well. It was an experience. And without it the kids would not have found the best park in the world.

Let's now just run it off.

Wheh, that feels better. And after a seaside picnic (those most have been sea lions?) we drove across the ocean to visit Ministers Island.

Literally, we drove across the ocean. At low tide a strip of ocean floor is exposed, and for some hours the Island is accessible by pedal ambulation and wheeled locomotion. Access is closely monitored, lest visitors become stranded. There are two classes of visitors, each having to wear a different colour bracelet: visitors with access to the (expensive) historic buildings, and visitors with access to merely (priceless) nature. We were of the latter camp.

It was a really nice trail walk through woods and fields, and varied shorelines, around half the island. You can see the rest of the pictures at this link. And then another drive back across the ocean, before the mer-road was slerped back up for the evening.

Ah, nice cool, squishy seaweed.

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Eastward Day 4: St. George and North of Utopia

The closest town to our lighthouse with an actual grocery store is St. George, New Brunswick, about fifteen winding kilometres away. We noticed on a map or brochure that there was supposedly a marsh trail there, so we decided to go check it out.

We had been through St. George so many times by this point, and had not noticed any trails or significant marshland -- besides the bit of pond and swamp beside the grocery store. After some confusion we did discover there was a trail that skirted behind the curling arena (also beside the grocery store), along the small marsh there, and then along the river which goes through the town. The trail, unexpectedly eventually turned north and went under the highway... and, lo and behold, on the opposite side of the highway from the town, there was a lot of marshland, and the trail extended through it.

Somewhere around the middle of the marsh, there was a slightly elevated observation deck.

So, there wasn't really all that much to see. But it was a nice walk. And there was this heron up in an old pine tree. A bit unusual.

Selena heard there was a beach on Lake Utopia. Lake Utopia is a pretty big lake, a bit north of St George. There is a town optimistically called Utopia on it's south-eastern side. Utopia the town isn't much more than a crossroads which hopefully had seen better days.

The lake is lovely, surrounded by hills (which were shrouded in fog). We finally found the little beach, and puttered around at it for a little while. We watched the clams racing through the sand in the shallow water. So fast! Their movement was actually perceptible! And their trails, epic.

So it was a fairly slow, relatively local, day of wandering and investigation.

The evening found us, as usual, snug in the tiny lighthouse keeper's cottage, playing the beloved traditional game of tile rummy.

The full set of pictures is linked here. Good night.