Back in my Tent at Last
When I rolled out of Rothesay on July 15th, I camped for 6 nights in Parlee Beach Provincial Park at Pointe-du-Chene. The residential area is a small, quiet community of cottages with a large, popular beach known for having "the warmest Canadian salt water north of Virginia."
What's seldom mentioned is that it's a very shallow body of water along the Northumberland Strait, so hence, easily warmed. If you're a true swimmer, you probably have to walk out about 1/8 of a mile for any depth. Not an issue for me -- I wade! It's been lovely summer weather here, so while I didn't note the water temperature, I'd guess 70's (for me to go in).
Pointe-du-Chene also has a sweet wharf area that's been active since 1840. At one time it was one of the most important harbors on the East Coast for shipping goods to European, Caribbean and Asian markets. Today, it's still home to commercial fishermen, sailors, and tourists enjoying the view, with a handful of shops, restaurants, boat cruises, and a delightful little coffee cafe.
The nearest town is Shediac -- home of the world's largest lobster! While it doesn't compare in size or tackiness to Old Orchard Beach, Maine or Ocean City, Maryland, it certainly has that flavor. You'll see gorgeous 1800's period homes next door to the No Frills Supermarket; so city planning was definitely not on the agenda here as it grew.
While a busier place than expected, I enjoyed being outdoors day and night, walking, reading and napping on the beach, and meeting camping neighbors. Cycling was pleasant, too, as I pedaled the coastal route south toward Petit-Cap for small town scenery and water views.
This stop was also a good time for me to acclimate to the French-English environment. Nearly everyone says "hello" here (even children & teens), but whether to say "hello or bonjour" is always the question! With camping neighbors, I could usually tell by the license plate which language to choose, but elsewhere, not so easy. While I've finished reviewing my French phrase book, and am now reading a middle school French novel (What's the plot?), my attempts at conversation continue to be embarrassing.
Kouchibouguac National Park
My week of camping at this glorious place has come to an end, and I certainly could've stayed two. One morning I awoke wondering about a summer volunteer program here, then realized I'm not Canadian (yet!). The Park was originally home to the M'gmaq, then comprised seven villages of nearly 1200 people when formed exactly 50 years ago! It's now a preserved 92 square miles of rivers, lagoons, salt marshes, dunes, sandy beach, bogs, and forests.
I've been waking to the smell of pine trees and birds singing at 5-5:30 each morning, then activity-filled days that have me asleep at dusk (9:30ish). The Park is actually a Dark Sky Preserve, but I couldn't stay awake late enough to appreciate it! With over 60 km of biking trails, walking trails, a visitor's center, a gorgeous barrier island beach, and interesting programs, there is much to do here. I really need to get more comfortable on the water, too, as I was dying to kayak the lagoon. Fellow campers have also been amazingly quiet and considerate, so simply sitting in my wooded site, relaxing with a book, has been a joy.
There's more than 225 bird species here, and the Park is home to 15 protected species, as well as being a research lab. I was hoping to see wildlife like black bears, moose or fox, but my wildlife experiences weren't within the norm. On one trail, I took a large partridge by surprise that started spreading its feathers, squawking loudly and running beside me. I ran faster! I'm not sure who was scaring who but it would've made a great video clip! Then, one evening I awoke from a dead sleep to the smell of skunk! I'm not sure what that skunk was spraying, but I was really happy that my tent smelled good & fresh in the morning!
It's been great fun being here and seeing people of all ages biking, walking, kayaking, and in cheery moods! Best of all, I've met an interesting gal from PEI, and as the universe would have it, she's of Croatian descent (kismet!). Our paths will surely cross again.
Next stop, just about 100 miles north in Shippagan.
Cyclist, writer, teacher, avid reader, bike/ped advocate, nomad, pie lover