Tuesday, July 31, 2012

New Hampshire and Vermont

NH White Mountains

White Mountains - Franconia Notch
It was time to move on to see the remaining New England states. We drove basically due west across the middle of Maine on US 2. It was a good road (for the most part) and we got to see life in the state other than along the shoreline. The terrain was rolling hills and mostly covered with trees with small towns every 5 -10 miles. 

NH State House
As we approached the border of Maine and New Hampshire we entered the White Mountains and the hills became bigger. The road went through a gap in the White Mountain National Forest and became very pretty. We stopped for a break in Gorham, NH which is a picturesque little town with mountains all around. We left US 2 and headed south on 115 and then US 3. This was a beautiful drive through the White Mountains and the Franconia Notch. I would have to say this was the prettiest drive that we've had in months.

Our first week in the campground (near Contoocook, NH) had excitement when a storm came through with a micro-burst that knocked down branches and trees. A lightening strike dropped a tree on a trailer. Fortunately we did not receive any damage. We drove into Concord to see the New Hampshire State Capitol. It was very modest inside compared to most. We learned that NH has a very unique legislative setup by having an Executive Council that works hand-in-hand with the Governor. (http://www.nh.gov/council/overview.html)

Coolidge Homestead
General Store

Community room - Coolidge Hall
The next weekend was time for a road trip around Vermont. We headed north on I-89 and then west on Hwy 4 to the Calvin Coolidge State historic site in Plymouth Notch. (http://historicsites.vermont.gov/Coolidge/CoolidgeSite.htmlhttp://www.calvin-coolidge.org/html/the_homestead.html)  
This is a really great place to visit as the home, furnishings, barn, tools, etc. are all intact from when it was owned by President Coolidge. The General Store is in tact including the addition on the back where Calvin was born and lived to age 4. The upstairs community room is setup exactly as it was when President Coolidge used it as an office when visiting (complete with actual furnishings). We really enjoyed our time here.

Next we drove down Hwy 100 to Weston. This entire town is on the National Historic Registry. It was a neat town with an awesome museum in an old house and a working restored mill. The people of the town have done a great job of restoring and keeping this town nice. We drove back east to NH from here. For those of you who are familiar with it, this is the home of The Vermont Country Store which we went through while we were there.

Our second weekend in the area was rainy and gloomy and thus some of the potential scenic activities were rained out. We also had been on the go so much we decided it was good to chill before our driving day on Sunday. New Hampshire and Vermont have made it on our short list of places to return so we'll have a chance to see things we didn't see this time through.

Next up, we start the Hall of Fame tour month.  Stay tuned.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Canada - New Brunswick & Nova Scotia

St Andrews on the sea

Home moved here in 1760s from Maine
I took another week off work so we could get a taste of the Maritime Provinces of Canada. We left Ernie (our motor home) at our campground in Maine and took the car. We had a quick and easy crossing at Calais, Maine. Our first point of interest was St. Andrews, New Brunswick. This little town was founded in the 1760s by British loyalists from the colonies that didn't want to get involved in the American Revolution. It is a neat little town with a little harbor, a number of old homes dating back to the 1760s and early1800s, a blockade dating to the War of 1812 and, of course, shops and restaurants. Some of the Loyalists actually disassembled their homes and shipped them here on barges. One such home still exists and with that history, was our favorite find in this little town. We spent the first night in Saint John, staged for a busy next day.

Covered bridge in St. Martins
We got started early the next morning thanks to someone in the room above us seemingly doing jumping  jacks on our ceiling. It turned out to be a blessing. After breakfast we took a drive by the "Reversing Falls" in Saint John but they weren't reversing (tide was low and going out) so there was nothing of interest. Since we were up fairly early we decided to take the scenic loop (on 111) down through St. Martins. This was a scenic drive but the road was terrible most of the time. With an interesting history we thought there would be more to see in St. Martins. There were a couple old covered bridges and "The Fundy Trail" but not much else. We didn't drive The Fundy Trail because we wanted to get to Fundy National Park by low tide. So with that quest motivating us we moved along.

Alma Beach high tide, looking to
where I was standing in the other
picture now in 36 feet of water
Alma beach low tide, looking in
from edge of water (3/4 mile out)

The big draw at Fundy National Park is the extreme tide, the largest high-low tide variation in the world. We went directly to Alma Beach where, at low tide, you can walk out 3/4 mile on the tidal basin. Then when the tide is high, that same place where you stood is in 40 feet of water.
Boats in harbor at low tide

Thus the desire to get there at low tide. We made it about 30 minutes after low tide so we got to experience the walk out on the basin. I went all the way to the waters edge.  By that point it was over an hour after low tide and the tide was coming back in quickly. It comes in so fast you can literally see it moving and get a sense of how the tide rises around 40 feet (it varies) in 6 hours. Along the shore, docks have fishing boats sitting high and dry on stands. When the tide comes in it lifts them up and they are ready to go. 
Boats close to high tide
We watched other fishing boats that had been out with the tide patiently coming in with the tide so they could dock and unload (the blue one in the pic on the right). What an experience to learn about, eh? We stayed until about 30-40 minutes before high tide (within 3-4 feet) and figured we pretty much got the idea.  Next, we wanted to get to Hopewell Rocks, about 35 miles away, to see that area close to high tide. Off we went on a race against the tide.

"Flower Pots" about 4 feet below
high tide 

"Flower Pot" - lower tide, about
half way down
We made it to the Hopewell Rocks Park and then had to walk to see the rock formations. We do a lot of walking so we made the mile or so walk pretty quickly and could take a few pictures just 45 minutes or so after high tide, or about 5-6 feet down from high tide. After the walk back it was time to eat and relax after a full day.
The next morning we went back to Hopewell Rocks to see, and walk, the shore with the tide down.  We got to the famous "Flower Pot" rock formations (called that because of the plants growing on top) about when the tide was a little more than half way down. The water was low enough to walk around the rock formations and be able to compare how things looked then versus when the tide was high the evening before.
Daniels Flats near high tide

Daniels Flats near low tide
We walked along the shore for about 2 hours so by that time the water was within 3-4 feet of low point. The rock formations carved by the tide/waves along with the amazing mud flats were a really great thing to witness.

This is the best link I could find trying to explain the giant tides in the Bay of Fundy. http://www.greatcanadianparks.com/nbrunswick/fundynp/page4.htm

Our plans from there were to see the Citadel in Halifax, Nova Scotia and visit some old seaport towns east of Halifax so we drove to a hotel near Halifax to use as our next base for exploration.  This was a pretty easy and picturesque drive around the Bay of Fundy, over rolling hills, and into Nova Scotia. We checked into our hotel and then drove downtown to check out the waterfront and get something to eat. We found the city to be clean and nice with a great mix of old and new buildings.  Halifax is the oldest city in Canada but it doesn't show it.

Lunenburg Solomon House - 1775

Saint Johns Anglican Church - 1754
The next morning we drove down to Lunenburg about an hour away. This town was established in the 1750s as a planned community under the protection of the British Crown. Today, 70 percent of the homes and structures in the town are still from the 18th and 19th centuries. We spent a couple hours walking around town and along the waterfront enjoying the old buildings. Of all the old towns we've been through this was the most amazing we've been in as far as the number and percent of historic buildings. After lunch we drove through Mahone Bay to check it out and were thinking about going to Chester. However, we just kind of got seaport burnout and decided to head back to Halifax so we could tour the Citadel.


Citadel ditch

The Citadel is located on a hill where three previous wood forts once stood. After the Napoleonic Wars ended in 1815 Britain decided it needed a more powerful and permanent structure. Construction began in 1828 and took 28 years to build the stone and earthen fortress. The Citadel was used by the British and Canadian military until after World War II. It was an interesting visit for us because it was so similar to the Citadel in St. Augustine FL although it was constructed nearly 150 years later. The Army museum that is housed there was neat with a lot of very interesting and unique artifacts. I could not get a picture of the Citadel from the outside because it sits on top of the hill. We ate and walked the boardwalk on the waterfront again because it was such a beautiful evening.

Halifax clock tower




Fishing in the Bay of Fundy

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Maine - Acadia

After spending a great week in lower New England it was time to move north. Our next wish list destination to fulfill - Acadia National Park. This was another of those places that we've wanted to visit for many years. From our Connecticut campground we drove up I-95 to Bangor and headed east to our next campground that was just east of Ellsworth and about 13 miles from Acadia. We did an overnight in the Target parking lot in Augusta so we could make a visit to the Maine state Capitol. Unfortunately this one was not open on the weekend so we had to settle for an outside visit. The stop was fortunate because a nasty thunderstorm came through that we would not have wanted to be driving in anyway. After the walk around the Capitol we nestled into a restaurant and let the storm rage. The next morning we took our time while the rain finished up and drove the last 100 miles to our campground.

Carriage Road
 Over the next two weeks we made numerous trips into the Acadia to sight-see and hike.  We visited some  places more than once to see at different tide levels. We had a lot of rain while here but we had some wonderful weather too and tried to take advantage of it. The loop drive is great with lots of great shore views. We walked/climbed along the rocky shoreline almost every time we went into the park. A great place to park is one of the parking spots between Sand Beach and Thunder Hole and then walk the trail and shoreline in each direction for miles. Another activity we enjoyed was walking on the carriage roads. These roads are a bikers (pedal) dream but they are great for walking also. These roads are very well built, smooth and just overall great. There is a really neat story of how they came about which is best read on this webpage rather than me trying to explain. The bridges they constructed as part of this road system are pure art and worth biking or walking to see.  http://www.nps.gov/acad/historyculture/historiccarriageroads.htm From this link you can also click on Park Home to explore more information about Acadia.

Carriage road bridge
Acadia has an interesting situation regarding the relationship with private land. There are towns and privately owned land intermixed with the park. Therefore there are a number of roads that pass back and forth through parts of the park and private land. There are a number of small towns, such as the famous Bar Harbor, on Mount Desert Island and most of these are just tiny fishing villages. As you drive around the island, and especially the harbor towns, you see piles of lobster or crap baskets everywhere reinforcing the huge industry.
Shoreline south of Thunder Hole

Bar Harbor from Cadillac Mtn

Bar Harbor

Bass Harbor

View of Sand Beach from
Great Head loop trail

View from Great Head loop trail