Lest you think we are still wandering in the wilderness, we are not. We arrived home Monday afternoon after a delightful weekend with our Camino friends in North Hatley, Quebec. It took us ten and a half hours to get home including quick grocery shopping in Owen Sound. Except for some slow morning traffic south of Montreal, the trip was uneventful, mostly cloudy with a little rain.

Friday’s seven hour drive from Rimouski to the Eastern townships had the most autumn colour we saw on our trip, especially as we drove along the St. Lawrence. Since most of this was on the Trans-Canada, it was not good for stopping for photos; so, the few I took were on the fly. The most exciting scenes were fields filled with thousands of snow geese. The white birds were cleaning up any grain left in the fields. Quite a sight! But always on the wrong side of the car for even an attempt at a photo.

The line of traffic heading east was composed almost entirely of trucks or SUVs towing all terrain vehicles. Moose and deer hunting began Saturday.

There were plenty of deer in the fields around North Hatley, but no moose!

We enjoyed some long hilly walks and a comforting fire in the fireplace afterwards with beautiful views of Lac Massawipi. Danielle is a great cook as is her daughter-in-law. We ate well: carbonnade flamande one night and the next night a cassoulet to celebrate an eleven year old granddaughter’s birthday. Homemade jams, fresh croissants, fresh bread, wonderful salads. We really were spoiled.

We continue to be spoiled at home with dinners at friends’ four nights out of five. We have been golfing. We need to hike more!


Gaspésie to Pointe au Pere

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Another beautiful day! Not especially warm but good for hiking up a mountain. We consulted at the Visitors’ Centre yesterday and had two short intermediate hikes planned for this morning, but on our way to starting the hike we decided to try a more challenging trail. The Mont Joseph Fortin hike was listed as “difficult”.  Climbing 526 metres in over 4 kilometres tested my lung power and Brian’s knees and mine held up for the steep descent. It was good to have a relatively flat, albeit puddled, circuit at the top to give ourselves a rest. The view at the top was stunning. We could see all of the Lac aux Americains way below with a tiny picnic shelter at one end. 

On our way down we saw neither moose nor caribou only a black Spruce Partridge on our path who was in no hurry to fly up into a spruce. We chatted with two other Ontario couples at the lookout who had been hiking in the park for a week. They had hiked up Mont Jacques Cartier two days earlier where they encountered snow as well as a moose with calf in front of them on the trail.

I was so hot from the energy required to ascend that I was down to my t-shirt but as the wind rose close to the top and the temperature dropped, I pulled a merino hoodie out of my bag and put the hood on and wrapped the shirt around my neck. Just right. It was a good ten kilometre hike which we celebrated sitting on a log in the sunshine eating cranberry crackers with crab rillette. It is useful to have our car at the end of the trail! It is good that we had a plentiful delicious buffet breakfast before our hike.

We drove along the north side of the Gaspé from Mont Ste Anne to Pointe au Pere just east of Rimouski. We had. It pre-booked but we had been checking reviews online and spotted a 9.2 rated B and B. We stopped at the Auberge de l’Onondaga and were able to book the king room just as the owner was about to accept a booking for the same room online. Pauline had four of her five rooms booked that night. We had not noticed that the room was advertised as having a shared bathroom. We usually look for ensuites but we would have missed a gem if we had not stayed here.

Pauline recommended the nearby Restaurant du Phare for seafood fare and we were not disappointed. We had baked cod that was done perfectly with salad and fluffy vegetable rice. We had no room for dessert.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Our breakfast was abundant and delicious. I thought I was having one egg with ham and Brian two eggs with ham and sausage. As well as this we had on our plate tourtiere , lamb terrine, crispy fried potatoes, tomato, and toast to go with any of the four homemade jams or caramel sauce or apple compote.  All of the jams were good. I had never tried pumpkin jam before; it was good but not as yummy as the plum jam.

I chatted with the four other guests at our harvest table.  Brian listened intently as our conversation was in French. One couple was from Grenoble and the other from the south of France. They were doing a two week driving/hiking tour from Montreal to Forillon and visiting with children who were studying in Quebec City. Busy!

The Pointe au Pere lighthouse is the second tallest in Canada, the tallest being the Cap des Rosiers lighthouse just north of Parc Forillon (34 metres).  We did not take the time to visit the marine museum there that was about lighthouses and the sinking of the Empress of Ireland. We also skipped the tour of the Onondaga submarine. We were somewhat road weary and had a long drive ahead of us.


La Gaspésie

Wonderful full breakfast at Auberge William Wakeham: Brian had 2 poached eggs on baguette with hollandaise, sausage, fried potatoes, croissant, fruit; I had omelette with melted Brie, fried potatoes, fruit, croissant. I am not sure how but after a few hours of driving on the north side of the Gaspe Peninsula, we were hungry enough to search for lunch. Actually we drove through several villages looking for coffee to no avail. Finally we made it to Mont St Louis where we turned around at the sight of a bright pink auberge and the word “cafe”.

We had an excellent lunch with cappuccinos at Auberge Marre- good mushroom soup for Brian, excellent onion soup for me at a window table looking out to the bay. It rained while we dined then the sun shone on us as we exited with a short wide band of rainbow on horizon. According to the weather forecast it was supposed to rain all day but we have had sun and cloud with only some light rain this afternoon.

The north shore is much hillier than the south shore. I thought the wide bike lanes on the south shore looked ideal for biking but I do not think I am up to the hills of the north shore. White gypsum makes striped layers in rocky cliffs pushed up at various angles. Flocks of Black ducks with white backs swam and dipped below the rippling water.

We are comfortably installed at the Gîte Mont Albert in the Parc de la Gaspésie. We have a plan for hiking some of the trails tomorrow after the rain. The outdoor pool is closed for the season; so, I will not be making use of my bathing suit this trip. The temperature actually rose to twenty Celsius today. I felt summer!

Bonaventure et Forillon

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Yesterday we took a boat from Percé to Ile Bonaventure and hiked 7.5 kilometres on two trails, one to visit the gannet (Fous de Bassan) colonies and the second to come back via the coastline so that we could see seals and old homesteads. We were fortunate to have sunshine and not too much wind. We saw thousands of gannets. They are not bothered by tourists.  They must see lots of them in the summer season. We are here at the right time, no pesky mosquitoes or black flies and not much heat; so, all that gannet poop did not overwhelm us with its perfume. There is a good side to cold temperatures. Almost twenty seals were cavorting in the water while two lazed on a rock in the sunshine.

Last night there was frost in Percé. The rooftops and cartoons were white this morning but the sun shone brightly and there was less wind; so, it did not seem too bad. We drove more than a hundred kilometres to get into Parc Forillon. En route we looked out to the sea and back to Percé. At one point Bonaventure and Percé together looked like a giant whale.

We parked at Gaspé Beach and hiked the 7.2 kilometres up and around Mont St Alban. The “up” part felt endless and gave our lungs a good morning workout. We climbed the observation tower for a beautiful 360 degree view. Two other couples had come up 1.6 kilometres from the north side and were returning the same way for a shorter hike. One couple was from Paris. I think they came with a tour bus from Montreal. 

After our morning hike we drove to the end of the south road where we found the last parking spot. I have no idea what happens here in a the busier summer time. They must have to limit the number of cars into the park. Similarly back in Perce, parking was limited but not crowded these past couple of days. We stayed at the Auberge Au Fil des Saisons on the main Route 132 through town. People who arrive in Percé, park then walk. There was no traffic, just lots of walkers carrying backpacks and wearing hiking gear, and way more clothing than us!

From our parking spot in Forillon, we walked up to the lighthouse  at Cap Gaspe at Land’s End. “Up” was again the operative word. We thought the 6.9 kilometre return trip was going to be a sauntering along the shore but we were wrong. The shore has many cliffs and the lighthouse is definitely “up”. This is the end of the Quebec part of the International Appalachian Trail that travels 1000 kilometres from Maine where it joins the longer Appalachian Trail (3455 kilometres).

Tonight we are staying in Gaspé at Auberge Wakeham, a very old house not far from the centre of town. The rooms are unusual, quirky, but comfortable. We are in the greenhouse room. I think it used to be a greenhouse but some of the windows have been replaced with walls; so, we are not totally exposed as we sleep.

We dined this evening at the Brise Bise, just a block away with a couple from Manitoba who were in front of the restaurant at the same time as us. We had met them on the trail this afternoon. We enjoyed a delicious dinner in good company. The restaurant had people lined up out the door as we left.

Down East

We have been enjoying some visiting time with Brian’s aunts and cousins in northern New Brunswick, a 1527 kilometre drive from home. We left 30C weather at home and quite possibly did not bring enough of the right clothing for the much cooler wetter weather here. It was 6C when we arrived in Atholville on Tuesday. Although it dipped even closer to zero one night, I am happy to report that the sun is out today and the temperature rose to 15C. We have a chilling wind but not the hundred kilometre per hour variety that has been experienced in Ontario. And no tornado as in Ottawa!

We did two hikes today. Our morning stroll on the International Appalachian Trail was 5.5 kilometres along the clear Christopher Brook. Brian spent some time each summer in this area; so, whenever we come here he reminisces about those times and I learn another tidbit about down east. He used to catch fish in this brook, closer to the bridge at Tidehead, but today we did not see any fish. Some maples were beginning to turn read. This trail is on a former rail bed; thus, very smooth, easy walking. We covered the distance in an hour.

This afternoon’s hike at Sugarloaf Provincial Park had much more rocky ascent and slippery descent plus many, many tree roots to step over. We hiked the number 5 and number 6 Montagnard trails, a total of 6.49 kilometres, in one hour and forty-five minutes. Trail six goes around the long Lake Pritchard which is the water supply for Campbellton. The wind was pushing white caps across the lake in brilliant sunshine. We heard one chickadee but saw no other signs of wildlife. This morning we saw a few piles of fresh bear scat. I guess that is why another hiker we saw was wearing a bell. 

Our six kilometre hike, up, down and around Sugarloaf Mountain on Thursday was more strenuous but exhilarating. The view from the top was worth every step.

A special purpose for this trip was to place a marker in the cemetery for Brian’s Mom.

One of the important parts of any trip down east is eating lobster. We bought twenty pounds of lobster on Thursday and have been working our way through it with relatives. There is enough left to fill our croissants in the morning for our lunch to go. Tomorrow we will drive across the Campbellton bridge and begin our tour of the Gaspe Peninsula.

We are very grateful that Brian’s cousin loaned us her comfortable cottage where we could watch the rising and falling of the tide. The closest thing we saw to a moose was the statue below and the many pictures of a moose on signs along the road warning us of moose.

Botany of the Bruce

Exploring the Bruce

Friday, May 25, 2018

Still 26C at 7:40PM! That is delightful and the reason why we are still sitting on the deck listening to the cardinals and other birds. The mallards, mister and missus take turns sitting under the bird feeder to collect what falls or parading back and forth in the yard. When either looks as if it will slide into the pond, Brian calls to them to tell them to take a hike. He does not want them pooping in his pond.

The other reason we are still sitting and admiring our garden and bay view, besides the beauty and tranquility of it, is that we are tired after a day of exploring the Bruce Peninsula in search of wild flowers. You would think we had spent eight hours walking all over the peninsula but in fact we drove more and sauntered more than we walked but we are tired nevertheless. Brian, Adrian and I were part of a group guided by volunteer, Doug Pedwell, as a nature exploration of the Huron Fringe Birding Festival. 

The orchids are not yet blooming; so, the only ones we saw were the lady slipper and the rare hooker orchid that is just about ready to open its green flowers. As we stopped at various backroad locations we saw meadow rue, Indian paintbrush, saxifrage, Solomon’s seal, columbine, lakeside daisy, hills thistle, ferns: ostrich, bracken, green spleenwort, clintonia, dogtooth violet, wood violets, a few red trilliums and thousands of white trilliums, some of them nodding. Jack in the Pulpit popped up throughout the woods, sometimes in clusters of three to six. The lousewort, prettier than its name implies, was still in bud stage.

I saw some domestic flowers that have made their home in the woods. Never have I seen so many yellow primula in one location. They bordered the trail we walked upon for about five hundred metres. I could have done without the poison ivy and I sincerely hope I did not come in contact with any as I am highly allergic to this dreadful plant.

Brian was our skillful driver. He was also the savior of a painted turtle walking down the middle of the road. As well as flowers we spotted sandhill cranes, warblers, terns, and a scarlet tananger. The clumps of bear scat were interesting and fresh, but we did not see a black bear.

Adrian treated us to ice cream at Sauble Beach, a perfect ending to the day. I would like to have tested the water at Sauble but Brian did not think we had time for that. Kate and I will take our bathing suits with us on Monday for the finale of that hike.

I look forward to next week’s rambles organized by the festival volunteers. For now I will relax on the deck until rain or darkness drives me inside.


Victoria Day

Monday May 21, 2018

It was a fine day to celebrate the Queen’s birthday, even if we were not in the right country and we worked all day and we did not have fireworks. Sunshine and 24C is always good in my books. It was a good day to be outside and that is where we were.

While the family went to school or work, Brian and I worked on the deck. It took us a mere four hours to figure out then install a thirty-three inch stair railing. It only took a little over an hour to install the second one. We can now be hired as consultants for installing Trex railings. Just don’t ask us to install any! We are done. Actually we are not. We will install the longer two stair railings when we return in July. Shawn needs to return some railing sections and order some that will fit. As it is, we were surprised to learn that when you take a section of railing out of a box that describes it as six feet, you only have a railing that measures 67.5 inches. This is new math for me!

 After cleaning up, we each did some grass cutting. This hilly lot is good for an aerobic workout. We put the deck furniture back on the deck and it looks good.

Brian went to pick up Alex from track practice and I waited for Julie to arrive home by bus. I opened the windows wide to breathe in the spring air. The cats were quick to each find a window sill.

Julie practiced her piano pieces and I enjoyed the recital. Julie is making good progress.

Alex, Julie and I played three rounds of Blokus and took turns winning with a three way tie on the last game. Brian and Agnes managed to find time to play Carcassonne this evening. This is the only game Brian played on this trip, but he will go home happy because he won. He will even come back to play another day.

Brian barbecued salmon on the new deck. We devoured it along with rainbow chard and quinoa.

Not Done Yet

But Getting There

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Another busy building day! The good news is that the rain held off. It became very humid in the afternoon. But in spite of a busy schedule for kid events, progress was made on the deck. Only the stair railings remain to be done. Sadly not all of the right materials were delivered; so, it is highly unlikely that we will be able to complete both sets of stair railings tomorrow. The deck is looking good although it needs to have our dirty footprints sprayed off. I delivered boards to the deck builders then helped Brian when Shawn had other duties.

Julie was “flying up”from Brownies to Junior Girl Scouts followed by bowling. Agnes took Julie to that. Alex and Shawn went to a Scout meeting regarding a July Scout trip to the Florida Keys. Alex also had his cello lesson. Shawn is leaving first thing in the morning for San Francisco; so, he had to get ready for that. Agnes found time for grocery shopping and making meat loaf, one of Julie’s favourites.

Alex and I found time to play Ticket to Ride. Alex won. Alex and I also fit in a walk around the neighbourhood. I always enjoying walking and talking with Alex.

Rainy Saturday

Rainy Day

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Saturday morning is always a pancake breakfast in this house but I used the last egg in the muffins. Although Agnes was ready to go buy eggs, I looked up an eggless pancake recipe online and that is what we made. I really could not tell the difference.

I am sure that Meghan and Harry were delighted to have blue skies for their wedding, but on this side of the Atlantic it was a very rainy day with only a few minutes of no rain. This did not stop our deck builders. Brian and Shawn worked in the garage to build a step for the deck. They went in search of more materials and they did work in the rain to install several boards.

The rain never stops Shawn from going for a run. He fit that in too.

Alex worked on some language arts homework while Julie and I had reading time. I am reading and very much enjoying Coventry by Helen Humphreys, one of the books that Gary Draper recommended in our Bluewater Association for Lifelong Learning lectures. Agnes went grocery shopping so that none of us would starve.

This afternoon Alex, Julie and I played several games of Blokus and had Agnes join us for one of them. Since our builders were not wet enough they decided they would take time out for fishing. The best time, according to Shawn is when the tide is going out. Alex, Julie and I went too. Julie and I took an umbrella and went for a walk, admiring houses, flowers and the shore. Julie was back in time to cast a few but no one had any bites. Shawn drove us to another spot where he cast a few and caught a twenty-two inch striper. Unfortunately the rule is that you can only keep them when they are at least twenty-eight inches. No fish for us!

Agnes was home cooking Coq au Vin; so, we not only did not go hungry but had a great meal.

Deck Destruction

Destruction of a Deck

Friday, May 18, 2018

Today was all about taking apart a rotten deck over the last several years, Brian has replaced boards on the deck at Shawn and Agnes’ in an effort to prolong the deck’s life. The original deck was never installed properly by the previous owners. No space was allotted between boards for drainage; so, the deck rotted. This is the year for the deck to be replaced. Today Brian and I started at 9AM to remove the old boards. Brian did the dismantling and I hauled  boards and stacked them beside the driveway to put in the dumpster that had not arrived.  I calculated that I walked a few kilometers hauling boards. By 2:30PM the deck was fully dismantled. Brian went to the lumber store for some missing materials and while he was gone, the dumpster arrived. By the time he was back I had loaded most of the rotten material into the dumpster. Alex arrived home from school and helped me finish, then he turned his attention to helping Grandpa build the new deck.

When Julie arrived home, she and I did some pruning and planting then Julie and I made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and bran muffins with chocolate chips and fruit.

Agnes and Shawn arrived home at 5 PM, earlier than usual. Shawn helped with the deck while Agnes made supper: ribs, green beans, roasted potatoes and spinach salad. We always eat well.

As the kids prepare for bed, Brian and Shawn are back outside in the dark working on the deck. It is supposed to rain tomorrow; so, they are trying to make the most of this fine day.