Chapter 5. Prince Edward Island
© Bert & Shari Frenz, 2000 All rights reserved.
(Bert) My naive assumption, uncorroborated by photos or reading, was that Prince Edward Island was a rocky, mountainous island covered with trees. I could not have been further from the truth. From the 8-mi. long Confederation Bridge connecting New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island, I get my first view of the flat green island with no point higher than a few hundred feet above sea level. Driving through countryside, gently rolling farmlands are a quilted patchwork of green and red: green for thick new grains recently planted; red for iron oxide rich soil cultivated but not yet planted. Agriculture obviously plays a major role in the island's economy. From one of our guidebooks, I read that half the world's potatoes originate from P.E.I. That seems hard to believe from an island so narrow that any point is never more than 10 miles from shore. Our camping spot for today is only a stone's throw from a calm, nickel gray bay. A flat red shoreline is overgrown with green algae and moss where crows and gulls peck for food. One Ring-billed Gull picks up a shell, flies 20 ft. into the air and drops it. Then the bird repeats the act a half-dozen times more, hoping to break open the shell. We had intended to stay at this pretty location for a couple of days, but we start having problems with the electricity. The computer printer will not function and the microwave is groaning. I get out my electrical tools and gauges and find that our power is only 100 volts. I check some of the neighboring sites and one is ungrounded, two others measure 100 volts and two measure 150 volts. Obviously this campground has problems. I talk to the owners - new owners just this season - and they are unaware of the problem. We decide to curtail our stay to one evening and switch to battery power.
(Shari) Just after crossing the 7.2-mi. Confederation Bridge that connects New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island (PEI), I start to look for the information center I have heard about. Almost immediately I see a "?" and an exit for the center. This is the best rest area, with information, I have ever seen. It looks like a miniature Disney World Main Street with many shops lining two streets intersecting at four corners. Many young girls know about PEI from the book Anne of Green Gables. Lucy Maud Montgomery vividly paints the scenes in Anne's life with words that girls all over the world, even today, envision. As soon as I enter the first store, The Emporium, I am hit with Anne paraphernalia; Anne dolls, Anne hats, Anne magnets, Anne porcelain and Anne books. Not having read the book I did not realize six books make up the series. I purchase the series for my granddaughter and intend to read at least one of the books while I am here to see what all the hoopla is about. Again today, it is extremely windy and cold. One of the shops has handcrafted items of the Maritimes for sale and I decide to buy knitted mittens, tam and scarf to match. Immediately putting them on, everyone that sees me agrees today is a day for such apparel. Keeping busy while I shop, Bert spends his time at the information center where he learns about PEI's other claims to fame: potatoes, Irish Moss, oysters and mussels. After gathering literature and maps, we go to R-TENT for lunch, although at least four restaurants entice the traveler to eat at the complex. Continuing 17 miles to Linkletter Provincial Park, the barricades tell us it is closed. I am not too disappointed since it looks kind of dumpy with uneven grassy sites packed close together. While Bert unhitches the car from R-TENT to enable him to turn around, I look in the camp book for Plan B and use my cell phone to call ahead. Yes, Crystal Beach is open and has room for us. Leading the way in the car, I stop two times to ask for confirming directions. Seems we wiggle around the island another 17 miles before finally finding the campground. Previously called Rayner's Park, the new owners renamed it to Crystal Beach and the directional signs are not up yet. We find a wonderful site facing the water, but unfortunately the electrical power causes various appliances to cycle on and off or not work at all. Upon checking the voltage, Bert finds it does not even read 100 on the scale. He informs the owner who says, "No one else has complained about it." Since most attractions in this area are not open until at least next week, we decide to move on tomorrow to PEI National Park. Too bad, since the people and the park are very nice!
(Shari) Do you ever go to church and feel gypped? Today, that happened to me. Not able to find a Lutheran church (the campground owners never heard of Lutheran), we decide to go to Summerside Presbyterian Church. A couple in the narthax warmly greets us before service begins. Arriving early we have plenty of time to look around and I notice the church is very modern with a rather bright blue wall behind 1-in. pieces of parallel wood tacked to its surface at 8-in. intervals. On the wall, streamers of yellow and pink form an upside down V. Funny, I remember the wall and the streamers but do not remember a cross. The sanctuary is noisy with parishioners greeting each other, children laughing and running and Sunday School teachers asking for helpers. No one is whispering. The service today centers around the Sunday School and certificates are presented to every child that has attended during the past year. From 3-year-olds to 18-year-olds just graduating from high school, each child's name is read and he/she walks up to the teacher to receive the award. A little children's message is given, we sing five hymns, have a prayer and read scripture and that is it. I went to church, I was there for 60 minutes, but I feel like I still need to go. I am reminded of the time my friend Susie responded to me about not feeling close to God. She asked, "Who moved?" I am wondering about that today. After church we pack up and move about 20 miles down the road to Prince Edward Island National Park. Here again I feel disappointed. Surrounded by trees, R-TENT just squeezes into the assigned long, narrow site. The charge of CN $19 per night (plus daily entrance fee) includes full hook-ups and full mosquitoes. I have seen more bugs on this trip than I did all the time I was in Alaska, both years combined. We drive out to the town of Cavendish and find it is one big tourist trap complete with Wax Museum, Ripley's Believe-It-or-Not, waterslide amusement park, etc. All of this is still closed. Avonlea, an Anne of Green Gables shopping place made to deceive tourists into thinking it is the village of M. Montgomery's books, is free today. I would have been plenty mad if I paid to go in there just to find out I had paid to go shopping. Bert was mad about it even at free. He says he was duped. So was I, so I hope he does not count this as part of what he owes me in shopping time.
(Bert) After church services and lunch, we move to another campsite. The contours of the island were formed during the last ice age. Retreating glaciers created the succession of short hills and small valleys where we drive today. Each hill gives a postcard quality view of the surrounding countryside: green farmlands edged in spruce trees, white houses, small ponds and creeks, with the sea in the distance. Our campsite in the national park is squeezed between a thick stand of young White Spruce, a tight fit for R-TENT. Through the trees we can see a lake where later I watch a beaver swim and Black Ducks nest. In another direction, within earshot, but out of sight, the ocean waves crash on a sandy beach.
(Shari) What a difference a little sunshine makes! Today is sparkling clean and all blue and bright. Driving the Lady's Slipper tour road, we marvel at the lush green of the rolling hillsides. It looks more like Ireland than Ireland did. Rusty red soil of unplanted fields, azure blue water teeming with mussel and oyster farms, red barns, white Victorian houses, and flowering white cheery, pink crab apple and purple lilac bushes paints a scene begging for pictures. Hugging the north coast, we first stop at Malpeque harbor just in time for the return of the lobster fleet. Plastic crates filled to the brim with lobsters are weighed and immediately lifted into a refrigerated truck. One talkative captain tells us he paid $30,000 for his right to fish 300 traps some 30 years ago. Now it is worth much more and he intends to pass the license to his son in future years. Lobstering in Percé, Quebec, was done from small fishing boats in shallow water. Here the boats are much bigger and the lobster is trapped out in deep water. We find a small craft shop above an oyster-mussel-cafe store, where Jean buys an antique sewing machine for a quarter the price she would have to pay in the states. Downstairs the owner of the shop offers us a taste of the Malpeque oysters that her husband farms. It is delicious and we intend to buy some later in the day to take back home. While eating our picnic lunch on the steps of the closed PEI Shellfish museum in Bideford, a family with a gaggle of kids spills out of a minivan. Just as we tell them the museum has not yet opened for the summer, a man bearing keys comes to open the door for us. He saw us and decided to let us look around. The place is fascinating and we follow the life history of the lobster, oyster, clam, mussel and quahog. By the time we are finished looking at the displays and listening to the discourse of the man, we know for sure oyster is on the menu tonight. He tells us where we can buy wholesale: just around the bay, before crossing the bridge to Lennox Island, the reservation of the native Micmac Indians. Burleigh Seafood sells oysters by the case and we purchase 20 pounds or 9 dozen for CN $30. What a bargain! The owner throws in four quahogs for us to try as well. Splitting the case with Don and Jean, we still have 4-1/2 dozen oysters to eat. We learn that oysters keep for months if kept cold, so we are not afraid of spoilage. (I think these dudes will be long gone before that happens.) Back home, Bert puts the grill in the car and we take our oysters and wine to the beach area, where no mosquitoes will add flavor to our menu. Here is where we should have camped, even if the sites have no hook-ups. The view is fantastic with no bugs. Jean makes homemade cocktail sauce and we dine on oysters and quahogs until we have our fill. Taking a picture of the four us sitting at the table over looking the water, we remark that it does not get much better than this.
(Bert) Today is a box of chocolates: each piece a delightful experience, each piece a surprise. I taste the first early in the morning while hiking between sand dunes piled high at the beach and an inland lake with floating Gadwalls. A furry movement on a grassy dune catches my eye, but the action is directly into the bright rising sun. I circle the dune to get the sun on my back and, simultaneously, the animals move to the grassy edge of a grove of trees: a vixen and three kits. Black and silver fur with a hint of red makes a very attractive coat for these foxes. Surprisingly, they allow me a close approach and I get to watch their antics: kits chasing each other, rolling their backs in the grass, stopping to pose on their haunches and stare inquisitively at me, growing worried at my approach and running to their mother for security, and the vixen licking her kits in reassurance. After breakfast the four of us pile into the Pathfinder to begin a 170-mi. tour loop of the western quarter of the island. Clear skies, bright sun, but sweater-weather-cool temperatures set the scene for the day. We travel through Anne-of-Green-Gables country, while Shari and Jean relate stories from the Anne books they have each started reading. We stop at a wharf just as the Golden Anchor lobster boat brings in its weekend catch. The buckets of 1-lb. red lobsters include a few bigger specimens, plus one that looks enormous to us. This gray giant weighs in at 5-1/2 lbs., but the lobsterman tells us he has caught ones as large as 12 lbs. He also tells us a commercial lobster license costs $500,000 for a 300-trap license, plus $1200/yr for renewals, but grumbles that First Nation people can get the license for free. At a shop on the wharf, Jean finds another "piece of chocolate," an antique Singer sewing machine which she purchases at a bargain price. We sample some fresh oysters, then later see oystermen in boats using rakes attached to long poles to bring up the hard-shelled treasures in a scoop of muck. Arriving at the Prince Edward Island Shell Museum, we find it closed with no one knowing when it will reopen for the season. So, instead, we sit on the porch and eat our lunch while basking in the sun. Just as we finish, a man comes with keys to open the little museum. The displays are educational, but the man's responses to our questions are even more interesting. In 1915, a contagious disease wiped out 90% of Malpeque Oysters -the kind at P.E.I. - and 99% of oysters throughout the Maritimes. A biologist used the building were we stand to work with the surviving oysters in the hopes of bringing back the industry. These days, Malpeque Oysters seem to be thriving in their original waters. Our guide works to distribute oyster eggs and to develop new ways to create surfaces to which the oysters will attach. In shallow waters we see floating strings of colorful floats from which the oyster "traps" are hung. A short drive away we stop at a warehouse where a boat is unloading oyster traps. From inside a refrigerated room, we buy a 20-lb. case of oysters. When we finally return to our campsite late in the afternoon, I set up our grill on a park bench overlooking the ocean. Shari puts oysters on the hot grill a half-dozen at a time. Steamed in their own saltwater juices, they soon pop open and are a delightful meal with the hot sauce Jean has prepared. With a glass of dry white wine, a view of the open sea, a cool breeze and a setting sun, it seems like a whole box of chocolates are opened all at once.
(Bert) With a morning to myself, I drive to Cape Tyron, depicted on the map as a lighthouse symbol connected by a dashed line to the road. The dashes turn out to be a red dirt lane leading across a farmer's newly planted field. Poised above a red cliff capped with green grass, the old lighthouse still flashes its beacon, although needlessly this morning in the bright sunshine of another clear day. The 200-ft. cliffs drop precipitously to the sea and, perched on narrow stone shelves, cormorants have built their crude stick and seaweed nests. These are not the type of cormorants I've seen throughout coastal waters of the U.S., Canada and Mexico, but a species more common to Europe where I've watched them in Ireland and Scotland. The Great Cormorant sports a white facial pouch that makes the long-necked dark bird look like it dipped its head in a bowl of powdered sugar. Many of the cormorants are sitting on nests and on a few I can see chicks that are less than a week old. Through binoculars these chicks are ugly enough to serve as outer space aliens who have invaded our planet. In another arc of cliffs edging a bay, Double-Crested Cormorants feed older juveniles. I watch as one juvenile sticks its head down the long throat of a parent, submerging itself beyond its eyes as it attempts to feed on fish in the parent's gullet. I wonder how the adult keeps from gagging. From another cliff a chubby black and white bird flies to sea, then quickly comes to rest on water near lobster trap buoys. The Razorbill is a life bird for me, the first on this trip since we left Texas. From Cape Tyron I drive to the New London Lighthouse, built in 1876 and still functioning, albeit without a lighthouse keeper. While listening to Swamp Sparrows sing from reeds in a lowland marsh, I spot a Bald Eagle soaring above me. Its white head and tail dissolve into the powdery sky, leaving just the broad black wings visible and looking like a big dark plank floating listlessly in the air. On the way back from the marsh, I see my second life bird for the morning: a pair of Gray Partridges poking in the red dirt in the middle of a broad, barren field. Two lifers and a new North American species make this morning a birding highlight of my trip.
(Shari) Each turn of the road or pathway brings another scene to dazzle the senses. Today Don drives Jean and me around the shoreline to shop. We try the stores at the boardwalk in Cavendish and find oodles of Anne of Green Gables items. A movie and a doll for Maddie make it into my shopping bag. We find the quaint lobster village of North Rustico and decide to go to Fisherman's Wharf for their "World Famous Lobster Supper " tonight. I have the "all you can eat salad bar" that includes seafood chowder, mussels, rolls, the 60-ft. salad bar, a soft drink and desserts for CN $14.95. Bert gets 1-lb. lobster added to this for an additional CN $7. After our wonderful filling meal we walk the 2-mi. boardwalk along the shore for much needed exercise. The most incredible sunset delights us on the way home. In the west, swirls of orange and pink are reflected in the mirror-like water, and in the east, the water seems to be lit from the bottom up, with a brilliant swirling blue.
(Bert) I just read Shari's journal for today and remembered I had jotted down a note about the sunset. Here's the way I described it: The sun setting over the Gulf of St. Lawrence is a red fireworks of rays and bands, shooting over a blue silver sea that glows as if illuminated from below by a million neon lights. The total effect is so surreal it's as if the artist's paint has not yet dried on the seascape.
(Shari) Wanting to be closer to Charlottetown and away from the cloud of mosquitoes that follow us into R-TENT every time we open the door at PEI National Park, we move to Pinehills Campground, 21 miles down the road. Parked in a wide-open field with one short tree carefully placed to designate each site, we welcome the sunshine into our windows. As mentioned before, the season has not started yet and we have the campground almost to ourselves. After lunch, we drive to the first grocery store we find. While Bert gets e-mail, I shop. From a Floridian that stays here the season, I find out I shopped at the dumpiest grocery store on the island and I should have gone to Sobey's near the mall. Next time. He fills us in on all the things to do and see here and invites us to use his telephone jack for e-mail and read his "Buzz," a newspaper that lists all the activities on the island for a month. Eating hotdogs outside on the picnic table, we enjoy the nice warm weather until the mosquitoes here too drive us in, even with a fire.
(Bert) I could write a book entitled "How to Get E-mail While Traveling." Yet, for everything I've learned, there is always something new that puzzles me. For instance, when I tried transmitting e-mail in North Rustico after dinner last night, I was able to receive messages for Shari, Jean and myself, but could only send messages for Jean. (I'm sending out Jean's messages on my computer, using one of my e-mail addresses). The same Internet provider handles all of the e-mail addresses, so why should one work and the other two give account errors? Today, after moving to our new campsite 10 miles out of Charlottetown, I try transmitting e-mail again. My cell phone signal strength registers only 1 bar and, as I expect, the computer modem fails to negotiate a transmission; the signal is too weak. So I try the pay phone at the registration office. This is a very new design that I've only seen a few times. It includes a phone jack for data communications. Following the instructions on the phone, I press # # and tell my computer to send out the beeps for my 1-800 telephone card. On a small built-in screen, the pay phone displays a message, "Invalid use." I reread the directions and try two more times to no avail. Inside, the RV park manager has no suggestions for my problem with the pay phone, but she offers to let me use her telephone line. Plugging into her telephone jack, I encounter yet another problem: the call goes through to my Internet provider, but the two modems fail to negotiate a suitable baud rate. This I've found usually indicates poor quality telephone lines. Not to be undone, Shari and I drive the ten miles into Charlottetown, the biggest town on the island, where I'm sure to have a strong cellular telephone signal. Sure enough, 4 bars signal strength allows me to send and receive messages for 15 minutes until my cell phone battery peters out. I switch cell phone batteries and, in addition, plug my notebook computer through an AC/DC inverter into the cigarette lighter accessory. This gives me another 10 minutes to upload all of the Newfoundland journals through today to our website. I've been keeping a log of my successes and failures using a cell phone for data communication. Today's calls bring the total number of attempts to 431 calls in a year of usage. I've been successful at 66 locations, unsuccessful at 11 locations, scattered throughout 18 states and provinces. Our e-mail is our communication link to family and friends and keeps us as much in touch with them as if we were home instead of 3410 miles away. I always feel relief when I successfully complete another e-mail session as I've done today.
(Shari) Walmart is in Canada! Hurrah! Intending to pick up needed supplies, we also get film developed at their one-hour studio. Anne of Green Gables, the play, starts on Tuesday and I purchase tickets for the preview performance. Serendipitously, Tuesday is "two for one" night and I get four tickets for the price of two. Meanwhile, a policeman writes a parking ticket because of an expired meter. At 1:40 PM we had put in two quarters that was to buy us 60 minutes. Our ticket was written at 2:28 and we returned to our car at 2:34. We were shorted and Bert gets a bee in his bonnet and takes off walking in the direction of the address of the police station posted on the ticket. I notice a man writing a ticket on a side street and ask him if he wrote ours. He did. After explaining our story, he agrees that the meters are sometimes wrong and apologizes. He tears up the ticket and wishes us a good trip. How nice! We had our mail forwarded Tuesday via Federal Express to their Charlottetown office with "Hold for pick-up" written on the package. Only able to pick it up between the hours of 4:45 and 5:30, we decide to check on our package today, although I don't really expect it until tomorrow. The office manager says it has not arrived. He has me call our mail forwarding service, who give me the air bill number. Upon further checking, he finds that the package is somewhere in Memphis awaiting an air bill ticket. Seems it got ripped off the package and no one knows to whom and where the package is to be sent. We give them all the necessary information and are assured they will track it and get the package moving. Now it will be at least another two working days before we can expect the package. Luckily we checked today, luckily we sent it via a tracking system, and luckily we decided to extend our stay here by three days. All of us find it rather relaxing just to stay put and take advantage of the amenities of a larger town for a while. Charlottetown reminds me of the conveniences of Anchorage on our Alaska trips: easy to navigate with major stores available for shopping, offering plenty of things to do, and appearing a little touristy without being overbearing.
(Bert) MacDonald's is not a restaurant I frequent. In fact, I can't recall the last time I've eaten in one. The lure of a lobster sandwich got me inside today. Only in the Maritimes are we likely to see this on a MacDonald's menu. In the judgment of this food critic, the lobster salad was fine, but the dry hotdog bun degraded from the meal. I liked the 49˘ ice cream cone though. After lunch we complete our errands in Charlottetown. Most exciting to me is getting our 7 rolls of film developed at Walmart. The results include many stunning photos of birds, especially gannets, and a half-dozen touching shots of the foxes at Prince Edward Island National Park.
(Shari) After we eat our picnic lunch, the clearing sky cheers everyone in the car. Following the Crown tour road around the northeast end of PEI, we have no destination in mind until our 8 PM shindig in Orwell. Traveling through rather flat land, mostly forested with little population, we reach East Point with its cormorant rookery, lighthouse and gift shop just as the sun breaks through the clouds. By the time we reach Basin Head's singing sands, hardly a cloud is in the sky and the clear blue water looks inviting. The sand here is supposed to sing as you walk on it, but all I hear is crunch, like walking on crusted snow. With an imagination, maybe a squeak emanates from the bottom of my shoe ever so often. Hardly what I'd call singing. The Lobster Shanty in Montague provides a very good 5-ounce top sirloin steak dinner for $3.99. Unbelievable, but true! Translated to US dollars that meal, including baked potato, sour cream, butter, peas and carrots, and cole slaw comes to only $2.67. Arriving at the Orwell Corner Historic Village at 7:30, we take front row seats for the "Ireland Meets Scotland" show. Kevin Jeffrey, his two twin sons, Tristan and Colin, Marlys Hamilton and little 10-year-old Brittany Banks tell the story, through music and verse, of Irish and Scottish immigrants from 1689 to the 1850s. Tonight's opening previews the treat in store for summer attendees of this show, which celebrates Celtic history through violin, guitar, dance and poetry. Blond little Brittany Banks will steal their hearts, as she did ours, with her cute smile and talented step dancing alone. As we leave the old restored Community Hall, the setting sun points our way home to Charlottetown, some 35 miles away.
(Bert) Identical twins - same youthful faces, same pageboy hairstyles touching shoulders, same lanky bodies, same clothes and same violins - take positions stage left and stage right. Without a word spoken, Tristan and Colin Jeffrey begin performing a lyrical prelude to our evening of "Ireland Meets Scotland." Twin melodies reverberate against the wooded walls of the small Orwell Community Hall and into the warm night air of the Orwell Corner Historic Village. Classically trained and in their last year at the Memorial University School of Music in Newfoundland, Tristan and Colin play with stoic faces and uncanny precision. Then their father, Kevin, comes forward to welcome us to the Sligo Fair in Ireland in the year 1689. Strikingly similar in appearance to Kris Kristopherson, Kevin speaks softly in an Irish accent and a poet's style, briefly telling us a bit of the history of Ireland's struggles with England's William the Conqueror. Playing guitar, Kevin joins his sons in "Flowing Bowl Medley," and then transitions into Irish dance tunes. The tune brings on 10-year-old Brittany Banks, whose delightful smile soon steels the show, especially when combined with her impeccable Irish tap dancing. I first fell in love in 5th grade; if Brittany had been in my class, her long golden hair, entrancing smile and great poise would have taken my heart away. Kevin switches scenes to Scotland in the year 1746 and tells us about the Scottish rebellion against England. Having visited Scotland and Ireland last summer, their history, places and music are familiar to me and tonight's performance takes on added pleasure. Marlys Hamilton, a skilled dancer working toward becoming a dance teacher, performs the challenging "Jacobite Sword Dance" with Brittany. Crossing two swords on the floor of center stage, the two dancers perform intricate steps over the four squares of the cross, never once brushing against the blades. Intermission with Irish Cream Scones and coffee or tea is followed by Scene 3 set in 1846 during the potato famine and then by Scene 4 on Prince Edward Island a few years later. By weaving history into the musical performances we not only are entertained, but we also gain an appreciation for the turbulent struggles of the Irish and Scottish and how their music reflects these struggles. A thoroughly enjoyable evening, it comes too quickly to an end, but it is surely one of the memories we will take with us from Prince Edward Island.
(Shari) It can get warm up here. Today, sunny and in the 80s, I am actually wearing shorts. We go to the weekly Farmer's Market on Belvedeer and find that it would be a wonderful place to have a bit of lunch. Unfortunately we intend to eat down at Confederation Park at their first annual Backyard Barbecue. The Farmer's Market has all sorts of wonderful treats to buy but not much produce yet. Individual stalls inside a building offer homemade goodies from jellies, bread, dips, and donuts to sausages, organic produce, plants and flowers. Delicious smells tempt us as we walk the two aisles of stalls. I succeed in only purchasing a loaf of bread, in spite of sampling garlic popcorn, a miniature donut and parsley dip on a cracker. By noon we are in Confederation Park and find the festival a tad disorganized. The food tent has just opened and already has a bottleneck at the ticket table. Purchasing nine tickets for nine dollars, we spend them on a bratwurst, a ˝ rack of pork ribs, and a cup of chowder all served with a PEI baked potato. I think we would have been better off eating at the Market. A couple of kids play a pretty good fiddle for our entertainment and demonstrations on cooking and nature later attract our attention. Free samples of cheese, chips, cookies and jelly are provided at one corner of the demonstration tent. Deciding we had enough of the barbecue festivities, Jean and I check out the shops around Peakes Wharf. Within two hours I am ready to go home. So I guess I am saying the festival was more hype than substance and I wish I had done something else. Win some, loose some!
(Bert) We had just finished a barbecue lunch at Confederation Park when Jean tells me there is a speaker at the next tent giving a talk on attracting birds to your backyard. I sit through Dan McAskill's short presentation, geared more to local residents than to me, and then after he is finishes I call him aside and mention my Razorbill sighting of a few days ago. This immediately perks his interest. Coincidentally, Dan is the compiler for the Field Checklist of Birds of Prince Edward Island. My Razorbill sighting is extremely rare; in fact, the current checklist does not even list the species as being seen in spring or summer. He asks me to write down the details and we exchange e-mail addresses. Since Dan is also the co-author of "Nature Trails of Prince Edward Island," he fills me in on lots of good birding spots on the island. I'm anxious to check a few of these out before we leave early next week.
(Bert) The Presbyterian sermon we missed last Sunday is repaid as a double dose Baptist sermon today. We have trouble finding the church and then take the last parking space in the lot, so the last pew available is front and center, six feet from the pulpit. No dosing from these seats! But there's little chance of that - the sermon grabs our attention and holds it from beginning to end. As part of a series on the Beatitudes, today's sermon focuses on "The meek shall inherit the earth." I can't remember anyone talking on this before and I doubt I've thought much about the word "meekness." The preacher explains that meekness reflects strength, not weakness. It takes strength to be meek when one has the power to be lording over another person. Then the preacher pulls a number of illustrations from the Bible - Jesus, Moses, Joseph - that really brings the concept to clearer understanding. Good sermon, friendly church, hearty singing: these make this morning a good way to start a new week.
(Shari) It reminds me of a fruit basket upset. After singing four hymns at the Baptist church down the road, the minister encourages his congregation to give all in attendance an island welcome. The parishioners leave their seats and seem to circle the church, greeting one another heartily. As people stream by our front row pew they introduce themselves, thank us for worshipping with them and ask us where we are from. A good ten minutes passes before everyone has settled down again in his or her seats. If I felt gypped last week, I got a double dose this week. After a choral selection by eight women, the minister launches into his sermon. Using meekness as his theme, he is anything but meek in his delivery. A very powerful speaker, looking at everyone in the eye until all think the message is directed personally. I know I for one have a better understanding of the words "Blessed are the meek." He points out with numerous examples that meek is not weak. Meek is strong of character and walking in God's will. The rest of the day is a rather lazy one. A load of wash, a nap, fixing the rubber hinge around our door, enjoying happy hour with Don and Jean, calling my Father to wish him a Happy Father's Day and watching "Do you want to be a millionaire?" - these round out our day's activities.
(Bert) At 6 AM the sky is still overcast from last night's rain. A light drizzle hits the windshield as I drive to Cove Head harbor, one of the birding spots recommended by Dan. Just as I turn into the national park, two foxes are watching from the roadside. This vixen and kit look redder than the ones I saw a week ago. Their fur is bedraggled with the morning wetness. After parking the car beside the lobster shanties, I don long rubber boots so that I can walk through the marsh behind the harbor. I've got four species I'm seeking this morning and one by one I find them: Arctic Tern, Saltwater Sharp-tailed Sparrow, Piping Plover, Caspian Tern. The elusive sparrow, a lifer, is the one I most want to find. We have a similar sparrow in Texas, but ornithologists recently split it from the northeastern variety to recreate a new species. I hear the sparrow before I see it. Its song sounds like a Savannah Sparrow with a hoarse cold. Both species surround me in the marsh, so I have lots of opportunities to listen and photograph. [After e-mailing Dan about the similarity of this Sharp-tailed to the ones I've seen before, he informed me it is in fact the same species: Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow, so the Saltwater species still eludes me]. Across the marsh, an adult Red Fox hunts in the short grass, sometimes stopping to check my position using both eyes and ears. It tries to stalk a crow, but then restrategizes and heads off in another direction romping and zigzagging through the spartina grass. I leave the marsh and cross a short bridge to the peninsula. I am suddenly attacked by Arctic Terns. I duck the attack and scurry to the end of the bridge. I've had this experience once before in Alaska: it must mean I'm close to a nest. Crouching on the side of the bridge, I survey the sand beach below and spot one of the terns sitting in the open on what must be her nest. Nearby, a 4-ft. wire fence makes a small circle. The top is also partially enclosed. I suspect this must have something to do with the endangered Piping Plovers and, sure enough, inside the fence sits a Piping Plover on her nest. Probably meant to keep the foxes from stealing the eggs and chicks, the plover is free to leave through the top, but secure inside her wire barrier. On the drive around the bay, I can't help but notice how many spring flowers have opened since our arrival on the island. Striking stalks, some blue, some pink, of Lupine stand in tight clusters. Beds of blue Tufted Vetch, white Ox-eye Daisies, and yellow Mouse-ear Hawkweed add contrasting colors. Later on my walk through Valley Field Forest Demonstration Area, I find Pink Lady's Slipper, Clintonia, Bunchberry and Wild Lily-of-the-Valley. In late afternoon, Shari and I stop at the Harvey Moore Wildlife Management Area. The pond is filled with hundreds of Canada Geese. One goose, an anomaly, catches my attention. It's a Greater White-fronted Goose that should have migrated further north my now. But even more surprising is its orange bill and heavy barring which indicate that this is the Greenland subspecies: a nice surprise for the end of a very successful birding day.
(Shari) A glorious sunny day! We take a drive to check out some birding spots. Flowers, that did not exist last week, just dazzle us today. Roadside dark lupine, woodland wild Lily of the Valley and spectacular pink Lady Slippers color the ground. I would have enjoyed the walk around Moore's Pond, if it had not been for the mosquitoes. They force me into the car to read, while I wait for Bert. Seems the bugs like me more than they do him. I must be sweeter. Ha!
(Shari) Oh, I liked her as soon as I met her. Mind you, there were some who did not. What with her bright red hair, talkative tongue and fiery temper, some people, especially those without imagination, did not know what to think. I think Bert liked her too as did Don and Jean. Even Marilla, her rather proper moralistic adoptive mother, came to love her. And dear Matthew, Marilla's brother, just adored the ground she walked upon. Although she lets her tongue often get ahead of her and is very impulsive, forever getting into this scrap or that, she is passionate about life. Why, she once broke a slate over a schoolmate's head, insulted one of Marilla's friends, put linseed oil instead of vanilla into a cake, and died her hair green! By now you probably know I am talking about Anne of Green Gables. Tonight we go to a musical, based on the book, at the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown. The big auditorium is packed on this two-for-the-price-of-one night. Our seats are in the second to last row in the balcony. I am so thankful that I brought my binoculars. (I knew they'd be useful for something other than birds, Ha!) But soon enough, Anne has drawn me into her world and I forget the uncomfortable seats. After the show, we walk over to The Olde Dublin Pub to have a beer while listening to live Irish music. The $3 cover charge surprises me, especially since so few people are in the place. However the male and female musicians, whether they sing or play one of their various instruments, are wonderful. Soon it is after midnight and these old folks must go home because they are out way past their bedtime.
(Bert) Even from our seats high in the balcony of Confederation Centre, we are drawn into the storyline and emotion of "Anne of Green Gables - The Musical." Although set in the 1890s, the story is timeless: an orphan is adopted, seeks acceptance, love and respect, but along the way displays a child's exuberance and wonderment. She starts with all but one against her, but ends with the whole town of Avonlea endeared to her. We too get emotionally involved in Anne, spelt with an "e", as she always emphasizes. It's her mark that she is someone special. After the show the four of us walk a few blocks to the Olde Dublin Pub. Irish beer including my favorite, Guiness, is on tap. I'm reminded of our visits to the Irish pubs in Ireland last summer, but this one is brighter, newer and less crowded. Our entertainment is a couple that sings Irish songs to their own accompaniment on guitar, banjo, violin and pipe. Many of their songs start at a slow nostalgic tempo, accelerating in subsequent verses, until the foot-stomping, hand-clapping climax is a blur of notes that test the skills of the musicians. First class in my book! Our fun-filled evening of entertainment keeps us up into the wee hours of the morning, and we adjust accordingly our starting time for tomorrow's departure.
(Shari) Saying goodbye to PEI, Charlottetown and our enchanting Anne of Green Gables, we have a late 9 AM departure. For those of you using this journal as a guide for future trips, I suggest you look at Southport Motel and RV Park as a central place to stay while touring the island. It is more costly than Pinehills - we paid CN $19 at Pinehills and I think Southport is CN $25 - but in my opinion, its closer location to town and its scenic view of Peakes Quay make up the price difference. We just happened to stumble upon it on one of our outings and decided, should we return some day, we would stay there. Because the island is relatively small, all sightseeing can be done as day trips from the campground, thereby making it unnecessary to waste time moving and setting up camp. While here, by all means do not miss the musical of Anne of Green Gables and, if you can find one, a Ceilidh (pronounced kay-lay). In Scotland and Ireland, a Ceilidh is a party with plenty of food, dance and drink. Here it is just entertainment, but good nonetheless. All summer long, the bigger towns (over 100 people) have festivals on the weekend. From potatoes to oysters, they can make a festival out of just about anything. PEI National Park is neat if you are into nature and Woodleigh (a miniature England, something we passed on) is a good attraction. I liked the fishery museum and the cheap oysters. Bert liked the birds and the birds. As we travel across Confederation Bridge for the second time, we have to pay a toll. We chose to take the bridge because it was cheaper ($41.50 as opposed to over $70). We wanted to see the scenery anyway but I think next time we would take the ferry. It is silly that we stop for the night at the point where the ferry would have deposited us, Caribou Provincial Park. Supposedly the ferry saves 60 miles from Charlottetown, but I was afraid I would miss something. Hindsight says I would not have missed anything but glorious fields of purple, blue, mauve, and burgundy lupines. Funny how last week there were none and this week suddenly 8-12 in. flowers burst forth in full bloom. The visitor center as you enter Nova Scotia in Amherst is a good place to stop to get information about the province. Since we will be here almost a month all told, I gather an arm full of pamphlets and brochures there. The Island Beach Company there has a nice array of souvenirs to buy also. Right now I am sitting outside R-TENT overlooking PEI from the vantage of a cliff in Nova Scotia. We have no hook ups here (CN $10) so I expect it to be very quiet and dark tonight. Neat-o!
(Bert) Nova Scotia lies south of Prince Edward Island. To reach it we can either take a ferry from the east end of the island to the north central shore of Nova Scotia or cross the western bridge to New Brunswick, continue west and then cross to Nova Scotia by highway. We choose the later since it is cheaper. Were it not for the narrow 20-mi. isthmus, Nova Scotia would be an island. For tourism purposes, Nova Scotia is divided into regions and highway trails. From our entry point at Amherst, we head east on the Sunrise Trail along the north shore. Here we encounter the Tantramar Marsh, a wetland area forested in spruce, tamarack and aspen. For miles along side the road grows an almost continuous stream of blue, pink and white Lupine. The road pitches and tosses like a rough sea and we rarely get above 45 mph. Later, driving through higher and drier land we see fields of buttercups. Although the waxy yellow flowers are only an inch across, with a field of thousands waving on 2-ft. stalks, they stand out. We quit for the day at Caribou Provincial Park. From our campsite on a grassy bluff we overlook Northumberland Strait and a clear view of Prince Edward Island at just about the point where the ferry crosses.
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