Québec, QC to Grand Falls, NB – Dec 5

We reverted to Plan A after checking New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island weather for the last couple of days.  The big storms must have veer off elsewhere and the forecast for the rest of the week is a mix of sun and cloud with a bit of rain and snow flurries.  We decided to head to Grand Falls, New Brunswick, which is about 50 km further south than our origial destination of Edmunston.

The majority of the day was spent on divided highway so not really exciting.  We did, however, make a couple of detours to find some geocaches and therefore drove for several kilometers on country roads.  This is still very much farm country with many large dairies and chicken farms. One of the little communities we drove through to find some geocaches was L’Islet.  There was a large Catholic Churh with an adjoining school.  At the back of the church was a small gazebo right on the shore of the St. Lawrence River.  There was supposed to be a geocache hidden in it but we could not find it.  The spot gave us a good view of the bunched-up ice chunks that have been pushed on shore by wind and waves. Just down the street from the church is the Québec Maritime Museum.  This boat, and the one behind it are moored at the museum and can be toured.Another geocache detour was a few kilometers along Chemin de la Desserte – a semi-maintained side road that was very icy.   John took his time and drove on the height of the ruts in case our rented Toyota Camry did not have enough clearance.The icy road joined a regular country road- Chemin Morin – which was bare and dry. There were 11 caches hidden along the side of the road but three of them were missing.  The caches were hidden about 400-500 meters apart so we would drive along, then as we neared the cache site John would pull over to the left side of the road where the caches were hidden and park.  One of us would get out and go down the snowy bank to find it on the fence or in a tree.  We had people in several cars that passed by watch us closely (one fellow stopped immediately he saw me walking around the back of the car toward the ditch and asked if I needed help, which I thought was very nice of him).  A few caches later as John was searching for one along comes a police car with lights flashing.  The office pulled along side the car and asked me if were were all right.  I said yes and told her we were looking for geocaches.  She had heard of the hobby so she thanked me nicely and drove off.  I don’t know if someone reported a suspicious vehicle on the road or if she was just going by, but she did have her lights on as she was approaching.

Also walking along the road for quite a distance as we looked for about three of the caches was an older couple.  We pulled behind them and in front of them and almost beside them on the last one.  They too asked, in French, if we were okay?  They did not speak English, but John had spotted the cache container hanging on the fence and went to get it and we showed them how the compass on our phone pointed to the cache, then we opened it, signed the log and put it back to demonstrate what we were doing.  They smiled kindly, wished us well and continued their walk.  We were driving alongside a nice big lake and couldn’t get a photo of it due to the guard rails.  John spotted a side road up a hill and drove up so I could get a picture or two.  We startled two deer up ahead.  The lake is called Témiscouata.  I have no idea what the translation might be.  It was a nice lake though. The rocks in Québec weep in the winter and form ice columns just like they do at home in BC.We crossed the Québec/New Brunswick border and continued south to Grand Falls. We were approaching Grand Falls at 5 pm NB time (four hours ahead of BC) and the sun was setting.  There is a lot more snow beside the roads as we go further south. The lady at the reception desk of our hotel recommended we have dinner at the Grand Saut Restaurant on Main Street.  Main Street is a divided road with a wide space between lanes, which is needed to put all the snow in winter.  All along the middle of the street are groupings of four or five fir trees; each one covered in different colored lights.  There is all so a pretty gazebo and a large Nativity.The restaurant looks like a large old house but was actually built for the restaurant in that style in 2003.  It was beautifully decorated inside and out.  And our dinners were really good. There was a geocache hidden about three blocks behind the restaurant near the curling rink, but there was too much snow to find it – plus it was pitch dark. This is a photo of a house across the street.We were told they get a lot of snow out this way and they were not kidding.

Tomorrow we drive to Moncton and hopefully we can locate a winter friendly geocache so we can cross New Brunswick off our to-do list.

2019 Dec 4 – Québec, Québec

You can always tell when I have a great day by the abundance of photographs I put into my blog!

We visited the city of Québec in 2014 on our drive across Canada and spent our time on the Plains of Abraham and the Citadel (There is  a blog on that trip if you wish to check it out.)  Today we spent about five hours wandering around Old Town Québec.

Old Town is the original walled city built by the French after Québec was discovered and claimed for France by Samuel de Champlain in 1608.  The streets are narrow and are bordered by old stone buildings, many of which have been in constant use for centuries and others that have been re-built several times.  St. John’s Gate is Door #1 into the walled city.  There are several gates that give access to Old Town as you wander around the city.
The  Muses  – representing the Greco-Roman  dieties  of  the arts  and  letters:  Architecture,  Sculpture,  Poetry,  Painting,  Music,  and  Eloquence. There is a large skating rink set up in the center of Place D’Youville.  We walked out of our parking arcade just up the stairs from here.  The Palais Montcalm Concert building overlooks the square. Our geocache hobby is a great way to see places like Old Town Québec.  There are regular caches, Earthcaches and Virtual caches all over the place.  We followed the map to several of them and it gave us a really good overall look at the area.

All the shops and hotels were decorated, or are in the process of being decorated, for the Christmas season.  We saw many, many lovely displays. Right where I stood to take this photograph of the St. Patrick Pub there was an historical memorial to three-generations of a family who recorded the changes in Québec.  Between1854  and  1953  they  amassed  over  300,000  negatives  and  over 500,000 photographic prints! The section of the city behind these arches is where the first Anglo-Saxon inhabitants lived and worked and set up shop. The old Kirk (Church) Hall.

This memorial was to honour the 12 men from Québec who died fighting for the British Empire in South Africa between 1898 -1902. This is a cannon ball said to have been fired by the British when they attacked Québec in 1759.  It crashed into the base of the tree and has been embedded over the years. You can still see the scar at the base of the tree where the ball hit it. Atop this wall is the Citadel and the Plains of Abraham; which were farmer’s fields and the site of the Battle of Abraham during the Seven Years War between Britain and France from 1756-1763.  During the battle in 1759 the opposing generals – Wolfe for the British and Montcalm for the French – were both mortally wounded.  The consequences of the battle were the surrender of the French to the British and the loss of Québec; and led eventually to the take-over of French Canada by the British. The  statue  of  the  Founding Father  of  Québec,  Samuel  de  Champlain and  a couple  of  photos of the side  of the Château  Frontenac;  said  to  be the  most  photographed  hotel  in  the  world.A big boardwalk goes along the front of the Château over to the base of the Plains of Abraham.  On this side there is a large square with the statue of Champlain and a beautiful view of the St. Lawrence River and down below, Le Petit Champlain, a small commercial zone that runs along the river shore. The easiest way to get to Le Petit Champlain is via the funicular.There were Christmas trees everywhere along the old cobbled streets of Le Petit Champlain, and the decorations were even more elaborate than in Old Town. We stopped for lunch in this old timbered cafe.  The soup of the day was Butternut Peach, which John ordered.  It was surprisingly good with a sweet after taste.  I had a yummy bowl of French Onion Soup.  By then we needed a bit of warming up  and  also enjoyed  a cup  of  hot  chocolate (with whipped cream on top, of course). Hidden in the dark space in the lower left of the building above was a little cannon geocache.  The log paper was rolled up and inside the muzzle.  It was so cute. One of the virtual geocaches we found was called “Arrette moi si tu peux,” which translated means “Catch Me If You Can.”  (A virtual cache, by the way, is one where there is no container, nor a log paper to sign.  It is usually an historic or significant place where an actual physical cache container is not hidden.  Instead you usually must answer a question or two about the place and post a photo of yourself or your GPS at the site to prove you were there.)

This virtual used the title of the Leonardo di Caprio/Tom Hanks film because the scene where the di Caprio’s character returns to France (where his mother was from) and gets caught in a church was filmed here.  The square in front of the church is called Place Royale, The cache description says: “The Place Royale is considered to be the oldest French site in America. It was Samuel de Champlain, founder of Québec City, who launched the construction of this fortified post in 1608, thus constituting the first habitation of Québec. The buildings served, among other things, to trade with the Amerindians. From 1687 to 1723, a fabulous construction was built: that of Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church, the oldest stone church in North America. Destroyed by the bombing of the lower town by the British on August 1759, which was a premise for the British victory over the French and the end of the French regime in America on September 1759, it was rebuilt and reborn from its ashes (1766) . In 1929, the church was declared a historic monument and was designated a national historic site by the Government of Canada in 1988.”  Steven Spielberg used this square and church instead of finding a location in France because it is historically and visually  very typical French section of a city.This mural was unveiled in October 1999.  It is called “The History of Québec” and represents 1500 historical figures.  It is 420 sq. meters in size and is a beautiful mixture of old and modern vignettes of the city.The Post Office sits alongside the steep curved road that goes from Le Petit Champlain back up to Old town.

It was time to head back to the car park and make our way to the hotel before the mass exodus of workers began to leave the city.  We walked back via a different route to see more of Old Town.The little huts were set up for a huge Christmas market in this square and up the next street as well.

The Hôtel de Ville was draped in lights and had beautiful pots of greenery and Grinch-like figures outside.The statue on the right is “a work paying tribute to the 11 congregations of teaching brothers that have been active in Québec since the end of the 17th century. A wing etched into stone is echoed bronze, outlining an arch that turns the mind to higher things. Behind them, two blocks form an open book in which a bronze flame relief replies to its counterpart hollowed out of the stone, suggesting the passing on of knowledge.”We walked by an old St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church and exited the walled city before arriving back at Place D’Youville and the car.There were quite a few skaters enjoying the ice rink.  We arrived at our hotel just after four and had an expensive – $50 per plate filet mignon – dinner at the hotel.  Good thing it was delicious!

Drummondville, Québec to Québec, Québec – Dec 3

The bad weather predictions were showing on the maps this morning.  Up to 30 cm (1 foot) was expected to fall today in Edmunston, NB, which was our destination.  Moncton (tomorrow’s plan) was expecting a major fall of ice rain over the next few days.  There were travel advisorys for both locations.  Time to make a Plan B.

Southern Québec has little snow right now and is basking under sunny skies with temperatures just below freezing.  We decided to cancel our reservations in Edmunston and Moncton and head, by a round-about route that bypassed the freeway, to Québec City.

We had been to Québec (they drop the ‘City’ designation that I am used to) briefly on our cross-Canada road trip but had only visited the Plains of Abraham Historic District.  Québec is a wonderful place to visit in the winter so we made a reservation for two nights at the same hotel we stayed in before.  This hotel is located just across the St. Lawrence River at the southern outskirts of the city near Old Town.

Our travels took us once again through farm country and about eight small rural communities.  It was a leisurely drive on quiet roads under sunny skies – with geocaches thrown in.  I enjoyed the day very much. There is a very long power trail of geocaches hidden beside the road in this area that is quad friendly.  All of them are hung in trees and so are winter friendly.   We found #80 because it was very near a side road.  We also fund caches #43 through #35 which were hidden along a short section of Range Road #6 that paralled the highway. We diverted to find them and then drove back to the main road again.  The quad trail extends for many kilometers and would make for several days of fun geocaching if we lived in the area – and owned a quad or snowmobile; which we don’t. It really was a picturesqe day. We rounded a corner and came upon a covered bridge!  That was an unexpected surprise.  We bought a sandwich for lunch at a gas station in Sainte Étienne and then drove the last 40 or so kilometers up to the freeway and into Québec.  We only had to drive 5 km on the busy road and we were ahead of rush hour so it was not bad at all. We crossed the St. Lawrence River a few minutes before three o’clock.  Our hotel is literally 600 meters across the bridge so we checked in and had a leisurely rest of the afternoon before finding dinner.

Ottawa, ON to Drummondville, QC – Dec 2

We left our comfortable little studio apartment at 11 am and headed south out of Ottawa.  Our destination for the day is Drummondville, Québec, which is about 300 km away.  We planned to do some geocaching between the road section south of Ottawa and Hawksbury.  After that the rest of the trip is divided highway.  It was a lovely sunny day and we did not even have to put our coats on to go find the caches.  We located 16 of them before we arrived at the freeway portion of the drive.

Our goal on this mini-10-day road trip is to reach 4000 geocache finds and to find a cache in the provinces of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.  They are the only two provinces of Canada that we have not yet found a geocache.  We would have liked to fly up to the territory of Nunavet while in Ottawa because that is the only one of Canada’s three territories we have not logged a geocache find as well.  But the three-hour flight from Ottawa to Iqualuit costs $1,600 per person and we would only be there for 24 hours so we decided to pass (for now).

We checked the Maritime weather before we left Ottawa and there are supposed to be four winter storms coming one after another with ice rain, ice pellets and 60 kph winds in southern New Brunswick and up to 20 cm (over a foot) of snow in northern New Brunswick over the majority of the upcoming week.  Us being us, or rather John being John, that did not change our plans.  Yet.  We will keep an eye on things and perhaps have an earlier return to Ottawa than planned. That would be okay as well  since there are lots of places to see and things to do in Canada’s capital city and we could amuse ourselves nicely until our flight home to BC on Dec, 12.

Our first stop was a little roadside park called Barnett Park on the outskirts of Cumberland.  There was some nice ice pools near the shore of the Ottawa River.

Across the highway from Barnett Park is Quigley Road and we drove along it into Cumberland and Rockland finding several caches.This nice little birdhouse cache was hidden in a hollow at the back of a large tree.

Another cache was located at the far end of the Cumberland Cemetery. (Cemeteries are popular geocache hiding spots.)  While John was off signing the log I checked out the lovely silk flower arrangements in handy over-the-top-of-the-headstone holders. Much of today’s drive was through farm country and we were surprised at how much corn was still standing in the fields.  We saw several combines working to harvest it and it looked like the farmers had cut some earlier in the fall and then left sections of the fields until later.  We are not sure that is what they do or whether the weather was too wet to harvest earlier, but it was interesting to see crops coming off in early December. We took a few short detours into small communities to find a few of the geocaches.  One of them was L’Original where we found a cache hidden under the edge of the Mill Creek Bridge.Also in L’Original is an old jail.  It was open and I think guided tours were still available even though it is the off season, but we had not traveled very far by this point and had over 200 km to go so we decided not to check it out. Much of our freeway travel was skirting Montreal and the sun was setting by the time we were passing the community of Bossard and heading toward Drummondville.  It was also rush hour for those getting off work in the city and heading home. We were happy to be going east instead of west; although the traffic in our lanes was quite thicks we had very few slow sections unlike the opposite lanes which were crawling. I did not see the sign for this ski resort but it certainly would not take long to reach the bottom of the runs.  The hills at home are three times as high as this.I remember from my long ago geography classes that the central and eastern parts of Canada are much older than the west.  The ‘mountains’ out here have had many more centuries to round-off and wear down.  Unlike the western Rockies and Coast mountains, which are relatively young and therefore very high and rugged.  The short length of the range below was by far the highest land we saw all day.We checked into our hotel in Drummondville at 5:30 and headed to the restaurant for some dinner.  It was a much more pleasant winter geocaching day than I was expecting to have.  And, if the weather man is correct, it may be the only one we get.

Ottawa – Nov 30 and Dec 1 – Baby Shower and Art Opening

We had a ‘free’ day on Thursday, Nov 29 because Carrie was staying with friends and spent the day visiting with them and relaxing.   We used the opportunity to drive out of Ottawa to Smiths Falls and visit John’s cousin Tom for a few hours.  Our son flew into Ottawa from Houston in the evening  and Carrie picked him up at the airport.  We didn’t see them again until the next day when they came over to our place to visit and play some cards.  Also on Friday several of Carrie’s family members arrived from North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Michigan to attend the opening of her art exhibit.  All of them were staying for the weekend in a large apartment about five minutes drive from our place.

The next day, Saturday, we went over to the apartment for a visit and in the afternoon we took Joseph and Carrie back to our studio while her sister, niece and other relatives decorated their apartment for a Jack and Jill baby shower.  Since so many of her family had come up for the art show and we were here too, they decided to host a welcome party for the upcoming little arrival. Sunday afternoon was the ‘Meet the Artists’ event at the Shenkman Art Center and the opening of Carrie’s “Anonymous Woman” art show.  The opening of the three art exhibits was from 1-3 so we went over at 12:30 to help set out all the cookies and other goodies that Carrie’s friend had decorated to showcase aspects of her paintings. There was a violin ensemble in the hallway outside the art galleries that played during the event.  Lovely, quiet carols. It was a well attended event.  Carrie received many compliments on her series, had some in-depth discussions on her theme and the various paintings.  She even had several sales, which is always wonderful for an artist!

We enjoyed one final gathering at a restaurant for dinner before heading back to our little apartment.  Everyone but us heads home to their various US residences.  We are driving to New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.  They are the only two provinces in Canada in which we have not found a geocache, so a little winter cache searching is coming up over the next ten days..

Ottawa – Nov 27 – Art set-up at the Shenkman

We flew to Ottawa on Tuesday, November 26.  The purpose of our trip was to attend the opening of our daughter-in-law’s exhibition of her art series “Anonymous Woman.”  Carrie had arranged the solo show while she and our son were living in Ottawa.  Since then they have moved to Houston, Texas.  She flew back to Ottawa on Monday and had to hang all the art in the gallery on Wednesday.  We decided to fly out a few days early so as to assist her with preparing the exhibit since she is now six-months’ pregnant.

The Shenkman Art Center is a large facility with a performance theater, dance and music lesson studios, plus three art galleries.  There is a really nice man that manages the space and was very helpful as we hung the paintings.  Carrie had stored one of her larger pieces with friends before they moved to Texas and shipped several others to a shop in Ottawa to be framed.  All the smaller works were brought with her in a big suitcase.The space was quite intimate; which is why Carrie selected it for her show.  The center panels are movable/removable which helps the artists chose where to hang what.All the larger pieces were placed against the walls and moved around to find the best placement and the smaller ones were sorted on the floor.
John is good at measuring and calculations so he was put in charge of figuring out where each piece was to go.  Carrie worked on some fixing of the labels and I carried things to wherever they were needed.  We got everything in place by mid-afternoon. Mike from the Shenkman staff did the final adjusting to ensure the smaller pieces were hung straight and upright.Carrie’s series is called “Anonymous Woman”  She had been inspired a few years ago by a series of black and white portraits of women from the 1940’s that she saw in the US National Archives.  The women were photographed because they were doing traditionally male jobs since the men were off at war.  There were five cabbies and two photographers.  None of the women were named.  Carrie wanted to honour these women and began her art series.  The paintings are acrylic on canvas and linen, but she also incorporated ‘feminine’ highlights of embroidery and gold leaf.    The four ‘ladies’ that started it all: Helen, Barbara, Ruth, and Dorothy ‘Dot.’  Since none of the women in the photographs had been named Carrie gave each one a name that was period appropriate and ‘fit’the woman.                     “Barbara” has over 200 hours of satin stitch emboirdery in the background wallpaper.  “Ruth” has a gold leaf striped background plus emboidery on her jacket.                               Carrie researched period wallpaper patterns so the background of each portrait would be correct.  “Dot’s” floral pattern is also embroidered and her shirt collar is gold leaf.   Even though the photographs that inspired the paintings were black and white Carrie selected colours for clothing, hair, skin tones and eyes for each woman.  She made several studies of each woman in different sizes and with differing backgrounds or gold leaf accents. We were all very pleased with the overall display of the paintings in the space.  Carrie has created an awesome body of work to honour these unsung women from the past.  If you are interested in learning more about the paintings go to artiststrong.com and watch the short videos Carrie has posted. as well as many photos about the works as she created them.

2019 July Journey – Heading Home section – August 1 and 2

This will be my last post on our July Journey and it won’t be much of one.  We drove from Houston to Prince George yesterday with intermittent rain showers all day.    We had a deer cross the road as we were leaving Houston and John saw a bear.  I was reading so I missed it.  Last year when I was dragging out our trip home from up north we stopped at most of the places of interest along this road so we didn’t even have stuff to see and do.  It rained so often and so hard it would have been difficult to plan stops anyway. This young deer still had its fawn spots.

During a break in the weather we took a side road north of Prince George to find a short trail of geocaches, but everything here is forest so lots of trees to see and not much else.

We woke this morning to pouring rain for our drive to 100 Mile House.  It should take about 3 1/2 hours and even with our usual puttering around we should have arrived at 5 or so.The Fraser River.

Unfortunately as we were leaving the outskirts of Quesnel we were passed by three fast moving police cars with lights and sirens going.  A short time later there was a wrecker and an ambulance.  Then two Highway rescue vehicles.  By the time we got about half way between Quesnel and Williams Lake (50 km each way) we arrived at the tail end of the line up of stopped traffic.  After about an hour a police officer drove by with his PA system on saying the highway would be closed for quite awhile and it was recommended people return to Quesnel.  Quite a few cars, trucks, and camper rigs had been turning around even as we waited and more made the turn after the cop went by.  We had  looked up an alternate route and then figured by the time we drove back to Quesnel and around the other side of the river and down again the traffic could be moving again.  We decided to wait and see.

Two hours later a traffic control truck came by and stopped at each vehicle and said the highway would be closed in both directions for 6 or 7 more hours.  By then it was four o’clock.  That meant we would be sitting there until 10 or 11 at night. We decided to drive back to Quesnel and go the back way.  We had a quick bite to eat in Quesnel, drove across the bridge into West Quesnel and followed the road down the west side of the river.  A section of this road had washed out last year and was not yet repaired so there was a lengthy detour along a gravel road that took two hours before we rejoined the paved secondary road.

The rain came and went and when it came it was torrential. The poor wipers couldn’t even keep up. Then it would stop for a half hour or so before beginning again.  I snapped a few photos as we drove along; none of which are very noteworthy. This was actually a pretty stretch of countryside, but the cloudiness and constant rain made the day pretty dreary. We crossed the river on this one lane bridge and then did a long climb up the other side before getting back on the main highway just north of William’s Lake. It took just over an hour to go from Williams Lake to 100 Mile House, and we arrived at our hotel at 8 pm.  The lady said she had been receiving calls from people that also had reservations saying they would not be arriving until about 1 am as the highway was due to open at 11.  We were glad we had turned around and gone the alternate route.  Lots of other vehicles did the same, but many people would not have been aware that there was a choice and with some of the long trailers would not have wanted to drive the lengthy gravel section anyway.  We spoke to a fellow who knew of the route but didn’t want to take his 5th wheel over the gravel part. So, a three and a half hour drive took us 10 hours and we weren’t stopping to find geocaches or see historic sites.  I was glad to get to our hotel at last.

Tomorrow we do the last leg home again and another fun trip comes to an end.

2019 July Journey – Heading Home section – July 30 and 31

We woke in our room in Queen Charlotte yesterday morning to the type of weather I had been expecting during our three-day visit to Haida Gwaii. But by the time the ferry was loaded and sailing away at 10 am the rain had stopped and the sky was much lighter for our 7 hour sailing to Prince Rupert. We  spent  the  night  in  Prince  Rupert  and  checked  out  of  our  hotel about 10:30  for  the  413  km  (256  miles)  drive  to  Houston  (the  British  Columbia one,  not  the  Texas  one).

We had a mixed bag of weather throughout the day with rain fallling for a few miles and then sunny skies again.

We have traveled this road quite a few times, most recently, at close to the same day when we were returning from our trip up north last summer.  This is an area of forests and rivers and waterfalls.  We only made a few stops.  The first was at a rest stop to find a geocache and we discovered that the pavement and the forest floor were literally hopping with hundreds and hundreds of tiny frogs.  We had to look very carefully before we put a foot down so we did not step on them.  It was really quite bizarre.  They  also  blended  with  their  surroundings  really,  really  well.On the outskirts of New Hazelton we took a short detour to find a geocache hidden at the Outlook.  We walked for quite a distance up an ever-increasingly steep path and then learned from a descending hiker that the trail gets even steeper and is quite a bit longer.  I thought the outlook was a view over the waterfall but it took you high enough for a view over the community.  We decided to turn around and take the other trail to the waterfall.  There were many different colours and shapes of mushrooms alongside the path.  I didn’t get a photo of the bright yellow ones, but I think I got a pic of all the other kinds.

It was difficult to get a good photo of the waterfall as the surroundings were dark due to the thick forest and the top of the water was really brightly lit from the sky.  It was a nice falls.We found a few geocaches throughout the day but they were all just hidden in trees along the road.  There was a cache hidden at the salmon fishing area in Witset that was not there when we came through last so we stopped to find it.  When we were here last year there were lots of fishermen out on the rocks.  Today they had just quit and were heading home so there was no one on the planks. It is amazing how fast the river runs on one side of the bridge and how calm it is when it comes out the other side.That is as exciting as our day went.  We drive to Prince George tomorrow, then to 100 Mile House, then home.  I will likely post one more blog either tomorrow or the next day and then that will be it for this journey.

2019 July Journey – Haida Gwaii section – Day 21

Today was our last day on Haida Gwaii.  Tomorrow morning we will be on the ferry back to Prince Rupert.  We drove all the way to the end of the road at the northeast end of Graham Island – to Tow Hill.  We saw over a dozen deer today.  They were beside the road eating the grass on the way out and on the way back. The Sangan River looking both directions from the middle of the bridge. Once you go about 12 km past the turn off to Massett the pavement ends and the road is gravel the rest of the 14 km to Tow Hill The thick masses of moss on the tree limbs were really something.

Since my sisters lived here 50 ago a boardwalk and stairs had been installed instead of the dirt track up the 109 meter (357′) basalt outcrop that is called Taaw by the Haida and Tow Hill by the Europeans.  It was 25 years old and getting very worn in places. Also the climb grade was about 30%, so it was steep.  In 2011  BC Parks worked with the Haida Nation and re-did the boardwalk reducing the grade to 15% by adding 200 additional steps.  They also built a connecting boardwalk/staircase betweent he Rose Spit viewpoint which is about halfway up to the top of Tow Hill, and the Blowhole; plus a new wheelchair accessible boardwalk to the Blowhole from the parking lot.  It is 895 meters (2,536′) from the parking lot to the top of Tow Hill, 770 meters (2,526′) across to the blowhole from half way down Tow Hill, and a further 1 kilometer (3,280′) from the Blow Hole back to the parking lot.  Needless to say, my legs and feet hurt this evening.  But the view was well worth the climb! If you click on the above photo and look right in the middle you can see a surfer watching the waves in the hope of having a ride. Rose Spit is a very popular surfing area and it is also common to see 4X4s, Jeeps, and ATVs roaring up and down the long sandy spit. Every year two or three get stuck and provide amusement for the locals. If it was a bit clearer to the horizon you can see the Alaskan panhandle from the top of Tow Hill.  We were blessed with a good day, sometimes you can’t even see the ground, let alone miles out to sea.

We rested for awhile, found a geocache that was hidden under the viewing platform and began the descent to the Rose Spit viewpoint where we branched off and took the boardwalk across Tow Hill and down to the Blowhole. Because the waves were not running too high the blowhold did not put on a very good show.  Still it did blow a few times for us. Then it was back to the parking lot and a sandwich for lunch before we headed back to visit Massett and Old Massett. The beginning of Rose Spit where the Hiellen River enters the ocean.  This is a very important razor clam harvesting area and at one time the entire village of Massett would decamp to come up here and dig for clams. There was a commercial cannery in Massett for many years.  The Haida Nation has built a few longhouse-syle cabins on the other side of the river that people can rent. There is a nice totem at the riverside by the cabins. On the way back to Massett we took a detour up Cemetery Road and visited the old cemetery, which is still being used as we saw some recent grave makers.  The moss and vegetation is so think you feel like you are walking on a foam pad.

On the back of this large gravemarker were a column of popular sayings said by Mr. Lavoie and this poem, which I assume he wrote.  Wise words indeed.

We crossed the river and drove through Massett to Old Massett a short distance down the road. The  highway  up  the  coast  of  Graham  Island  is  actually   part  of  the  northern Yellowhead  Highway  on  the  BC  Mainland.  Massett  is  Mile  0 of  the Yellowhead.We loved this colourful mural on the side of a house as we drove into Massett.  The road does a big curve around the high school and it’s playing fields.  There was a hand-written sign at the end of the driveway that said, “Always give 100%, unless you are donating blood.”  That was good for a chuckle or two.

Old Massett pretty much has two roads so we took one on the way out to the end and the other on the way back.  There are many totems in front of houses and buildings in Old Massett.  Many of them are carved and erected for special events or family memorials. I only got photos of a few of them and they were snapped through the truck window as we drove along. After the drive-by tours of Old and New Massett we turned south to head back to Queen Charlotte and some dinner. We made three stops for geocaches along the way.  One behind a fence post in Tlell, one at little Pure Lake, which had a lovely sandy shore, and one at the much larger  Mayer  Lake,  which  had  a really  good  crop  of  waterlilies. We were too late go go see the Haida Museum and Heritage Center that we wanted to visit on Sunday but it was closed, and we didn’t get over to Sandspit on nearby Moresby Island, so I guess we will just need to come back again some day. We were very blessed with three days of good weather while we toured around.  Up here rain is more the norm so we were very thankful to only have the one short shower that came down while we were in our room.

We have to be at the ferry terminal by 8 am to go through the laborious back-in boarding process again.  The ferry is scheduled to leave at 10 and arrive back in Prince Rupert at 5. We will see if it keeps to the timetable.

2019 July Journey – Haida Gwaii section – Day 20

We headed out this morning to explore the communities of Skidegate, Tlell, and Port Clements.  The populations of each of these three towns is between 180-300. Skidegate is nearest to Queen Charlotte at just over 9 km up the road.

We stopped at the Hadaii Gwaii Museum only to find it was closed today with no explanation as to why.  We plan to go again tomorrow. At a park on the outskirts of Skidegate we stopped to take photos of the famous carver Bill Reid’s totem.

Balance Rock is on a beach on the other side of Skidegate.  It is a moraine deposit delicately set in place by a powerful glacier.  The village of Skidegate’s primary Haida name is “Place of Stone” and Balance Rock is considered a Supernatural Being. Nude Beach is a sand beach; by far the majority of Haida Gwaii beaches are rock.  The nude part is only for small children; not teens or adults. When we made our way back to the road via a different path than we entered the beach we found that someone had spread poppy seeds in the ditch on the other side of the road. An old legend says that if you drink from St. Mary’s Spring you will someday return to Haida Gwaii.  The little pool is pretty stagnant now so they do not encourage you to drink the water.  Many folks will sprinkle themselves with it though.  The chainsaw carving that was made many years ago was stolen 30 years ago.  The authorities searched every vehicle on the departing ferry and recovered it.  People never cease to amaze me with the greedy and senseless things they do.

We stopped to find a geocache at the Halibut Bight Rest Stop and decided to have lunch while we were there.  We could easily see the rain falling on the water at the horizon.  We did not have any rain all day.  On the outskirts of Tlell we took a side road and went up to Crystal Cabin.  There is a Stone Circle outside the gallery that is made up of different geological stones that a fellow found on Haida Gwaii.  The tourist brochure had a write-up about vortexes and energy lines, etc. but we just wanted to see the different stones.  Unfortunately the fellow did not identify each of then nor say where he found them. This  long  thin  rock  was  covered  with  fossil  lines.This is petrified wood.

The museum at Port Clements has a lot of logging memorabilia and machinery.  The huge Justkatla logging camp was close by and many artifacts and information relating to the days of the camp were on display. Look at the length of the blade on this chainsaw.  Then look at the photo below of two men using it. One thing I love about museums is that you so often find something you have never seen or heard of before.  Such is the case with the object below. On the grounds around the museum there were many pieces of logging equipment on display.  I have  seen  most  of  it  before  so I only  photographed  a few  items  and  included  even  less  here.M If there is an old fire truck on display I just feel I must take a picture of it.  Too many years of seeing John admire fire equipment, I guess.

From the museum we drove down to the wharf.  There was a geocache hidden at the pub next door, but there were too many people going in and out for us to find it.

The birdhouse tree is right at the end of the wharf and has lots of different birdhouses; from log cabins to an old guitar and many others in between.  Birds even nest in many of them.

On the way out of town to head back to Queen Charlotte we stopped at the Millenium Park beside the nicely restored St. Mary’s church (which is now a gift shop and gallery).  In the park there is a seedling from the famous Golden Spruce – protected by a very high fence all around.  I remember trekking into the bush to see the Golden Spruce when I was here 50 years ago.  It was genetically an ordinary Sitka spruce tree, but for some reason it’s needles were a deep luminous gold instead of green.  The tree was estimated to be about 300-years old and it was 50 meters (165′) tall and the trunk was as wide as a car is long.  On January 20, 1997 a disgruntled foresty worker (turned radical environmental activist) went out in the middle of the night and cut it down.  The tree was a very sacred symbol for the Haida nation (they saw it as a human being transformed) and the people in the town of Port Clements and it was a devastating loss to the area.  Some cuttings were taken and one was planted at the park.

Grant Hadwin, the man that did the deed, was charged with indictable criminal mischief, which is a felony, and ordered to appear in court in Prince Rupert.  He was afraid to take the ferry because people were threatening to lynch him so he decided to paddle across 50 miles of open water in the middle of winter during a storm. Four months later his kayak, life jacket and gear was found on an isolated uninhabitated island in Alaska.  He has never been heard from nor seen since.

The loss of the tree was so significant that they actually held a funeral for it with speeches and music and ceremonies.  Of all of the trees in the forests the Golden Spruce was the only one that the Haida Nation had given a name. On the way back to Queen Charlotte we had a good view of the long houses and six totems that were raised in six days at the Haida Museum that we were unable to visit.  Tomorrow we will stop in again as we are heading back up island to go to Masset and Old Masset and have to pass right by.