Day Twenty-three: Rivière-du-Loup

Yesterday’s uphill hike in the strong cold wind took more out of us than we realized and we woke up rather tired today. So we scrapped plans for a hike today to a glacial lake and decided to meander slowly toward Rivière-du-Loup. It would normally be about a 3-hour drive…it took us almost eight because of all the stops we made along the way!

We spent a good half hour in Ste-Anne-des-Monts parked along the pier, identifying birds and ducks. A new one for us was the black guillemot.

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A little further along the road we spotted a large bird sitting on a pile of stones off shore. Initially we had high hopes it was a golden eagle since they have been seen nesting in nearby Gaspésie National Park but it was an immature bald eagle.

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Impressive nonetheless.

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Our next stop was in Cap Chat to see the world’s tallest vertical wind turbine (it makes the other “regular” wind turbines look tiny by comparison).  It was in operation from 1983-1992. The site is now open for guided tours.

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The tide was out as we drove along the coast today which made for a far different experience from yesterday. There was no wind, we explored tidal flats, and unusual rock formations.

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One of the biggest surprises happened in Matane. The river was covered in white birds…snow geese, as far as the eye could see. There must have been thousands of them. For birders like us, it was a big thrill!

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In Ste-Flavie, we discovered the stunning sculpture art of Marcel Gagnon. It’s a gallery plus a restaurant and guesthouse but you can’t drive by without noticing. Here’s why.

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We both kept seeing these odd rock shapes along the water’s edge. I tried to zero in with the binoculars but because we were driving I couldn’t get a good focus. The top of the rocks seemed to curve upward. I had a hunch but wasn’t sure until we found a spot to stop.

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My hunch was right! There were seals resting on the top of rocks at low tide.

We also saw quite a few whales today when we stopped for our daily picnic lunch. Always exciting!

The Pointe-au-Père lighthouse was a surprise (unusual design) as was the submarine (the first Canadian submarine open to the public).

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We learned at this stop that during WWII, German submarines came into the St. Lawrence. As a result, special radio transmission stations (Marconi once again) were set up along the shore and blackouts were established in all the coastal communities.

My favourite spot was definitely Bic National Park. We pulled into a small cove just off the highway and entered another world. Beauty in all directions, and so peaceful.

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Tonight we’re in Rivière-du-Loup and the forecast is for 100 km/hour winds and heavy rain overnight. Happy to be inside, dry and warm. Hopefully, the storm will have blown over by morning.

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Day Twenty-two: Ste-Anne-des-Monts

Looking back on today’s journey, I think I’d describe it as a rollercoaster ride. A lot of ups and downs, literally.

First we hiked up to Cap Gaspé.

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It’s a point of land in Forillon National Park that juts out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It’s a four km hike, mostly uphill, especially the last half km. The cliffs in the eastern side fall 700  feet to the ocean but where the lighthouse is located, it’s about 300 feet above the crashing waves. It’s also where the Appalachian Mountains meet the Atlantic Ocean and is the head of the Appalachian Trail.

The Mi’kmaq called it Gaspeg meaning Land’s End. From the lighthouse, we took a trail down the cliff through the woods to a lookout point.

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We saw a whale, seals, and many seabirds.

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In the distance, we even saw this.

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It was easy to imagine Jacques Cartier or Samuel de Champlain was sailing past, and we had slipped through a gap in time.

Hiking back down, the foliage was brilliant.

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Snuggled into the trees I spotted a sleeping porcupine.

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As we were driving out of the park, we saw something unusual crossing the road and so we stopped for a closer look.

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It was a lynx!

The rest of the day was spent driving up and down high mountain roads and deep valleys. I can’t count how many times I have said “Wow!” on this trip. Every turn offers a new feast for the eyes.

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One of our many detours was along a dirt road that climbed steeply upward.

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Suddenly the road took a sharp turn and head straight down toward the ocean. It took my breath away.

Our destination was yet another lighthouse (Pointe-à-la-Renommée) but of greater interest was the building where Marconi set up the first maritime radio station in 1904.

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The northern coast of the Gaspé Peninsula is far more dramatic than the south side. The mountains are steeper and more rugged, the wind blows harder, and the coastal villages seem to hug the shelter of the coves more tightly.

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In one community, we found a covered bridge.

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And in another, we came upon a 115 foot sailboat in the harbour.

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We chatted with the owner who is waiting for a break in the weather so he can sail it to Lake Ontario.

After that we had a long stretch of road with mountains on one side and crashing ocean on the other.

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We’re now officially on our way home, having turned west after leaving Cap Gaspé and Land’s End this morning. Still a few more days to go and places to discover!

Day Eight: Mary’s Harbour

We set off in the bright sunshine this morning, knowing we had a long drive ahead. The first sign we saw as we turned on to the highway was one like this, a familiar sight on the Trans-Labrador Highway.

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Only today’s sign said it would be nearly 400 km to the next gas station.  Something to take seriously!

The first hour of the 6.5 hour drive on Highway 510 South was smooth and paved. We enjoyed it while it lasted. Suddenly we were back to gravel. Over the next few hours, the road got more narrow and there were sections with deep potholes.

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We saw this sign and decided to play a game to keep our minds off the road conditions. We looked ahead and every time we saw a shadow on the road or in a lake, we asked each other, “Is that a moose?”

When we began to climb a hill, I glanced up. “Is that…a moose?” It was. A moose had ventured out into the middle of the road and stood there as if posing for a photo. I did manage to get one before it headed back into the woods. My first ever moose sighting!

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We pulled off the road to stretch at one point and saw a couple of gray jays. Next thing we knew they were landing on the car antenna and on our open hands.

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And in my hair!

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About 1.5 hours from our destination, we came upon road work. And more road work. But as far as we could tell, all they were doing was grading the road.

As we drove through the construction area, suddenly we saw a strip of black in the left lane ahead. They were paving the road!

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And then it got even better…our lane was paved too. After almost 5 hours of bouncing along gravel, listening to the stones hit the car, and dealing with bone-jarring potholes, I wanted to leap out of the car and kiss the still warm pavement. To my partner’s relief, I resisted the temptation.

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We stopped at a lookout point and met some people from Niagara Falls. A friend with them was from the local area and they all recommended that we take a side trip to St. Lewis.

We’re glad we did. St. Lewis is a small fishing community along the Eastern coast.

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We climbed to the top of a hill to find this sign.

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And from there, we could see Newfoundland! In the photo below, look for the furthest island.

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Tonight we are in Mary’s Harbour where the biggest surprise of the day happened at supper. We discovered that the three people at the next table had just arrived by sailboat from Greenland…after trying to sail through the Northwest Passage!

Now that’s a story!

Day Three: Baie Comeau

Oh what a day! We turned a two-hour drive into an all-day adventure by taking a few detours, planned and unplanned. And we’re glad we did!

As we left Tadoussac this morning, we chose a drive through the town that we thought would eventually link back to the highway. And we discovered…sand dunes. As far as the eye could see.

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We even found moose tracks as we explored the area. It turned out that the road was closed beyond a certain point (it became a bike path) so we had to backtrack a bit but the dunes were worth it.

Next stop was the Cap-de-Bon-Desir Interpretation and Observation Centre near Les Bergeronnes.

They have created an area among enormous flat rocks where you can sit for hours and watch whales surfacing and diving.

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And, yes, we saw whales! So close that you didn’t even need binoculars.

Awe-inspiring.

In another small community, we took a short hike through dunes and marshes to a long sand spit and saw…seals playing in the water! (I don’t have a photo of the seals but this is the bay).

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In addition, while we were there, a large flock of snow geese flew right over our heads.

Does it get any better than that? And this is only Day Three!

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Next we leave the St. Lawrence and turn north, on our way to Labrador City. We’ve been cautioned to watch for empty lumber trucks speeding along and moose crossing the road. And so we will.

The adventure continues!

Post Navigandum

After any big event, there’s the letdown. So much energy has gone into planning and anticipating, the experience flies by in moments, and then…?

I don’t think we realized how many major life transitions we were going through in the months prior to the sailing trip. We sold our apartment and almost all the furniture, gave away books, paintings, clothing, and dishes, we both retired, and in the midst of it all, we were planning our grand sailing expedition.

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The weekend before the sale of the apartment closed, we made one more trip to the new place (about 400 km or 250 miles one way), the car jammed with boxes. Then there was one more trip to drop the car at the new marina so it would be waiting for us at the end of the trip, and a train/bus ride back to the marina where we would start our travels.

So lots to organize. Lots on our minds.

Now, the sail is history, part of our personal lore. We’ve had a few days to settle in to our home. And the question that keeps coming up is “Now what?”

The reality of being retired is starting to hit. There are no deadlines, schedules or routines  (even on the boat we had routines). We can do what we want, when we want, and while that’s a novel experience, it is going to take some getting used to.

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Friends who have already retired warned me that it’s an adjustment. I now recognize that, in spite of all the other changes we’ve gone through in the past month, retirement may be the biggest transition yet.

So far, we’ve been doing a lot of puttering, watching waves and clouds from different vantage points, and snapping photos of birds and butterflies.

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Hey, maybe it won’t be so hard after all!

 

Play Day

All adventures need some quiet time built in. Today was a play day for us. We spent some time ashore (ice cream was a big hit!) And sailed for a few hours in the bay just for fun.

There were several sailboat races going on at the time (small one-person boats) so it was an interesting challenge to get a good sail in while staying out of the way of the racers. At one point we sailed alongside a docked lake freighter and waved at the crew way, way, way, way above us.

We’re anchored in the cove again tonight. About six snowy egret did grace us with their presence just after sunset last night. So we are settled in a bit closer to their nightly perch, waiting for them to soar over the horizon in the orange glow of dusk to roost for the night.

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Daily Joy

If you’re open to it, each day is full of surprises and moments of joy. Today, for example, on a bitterly cold winter’s morning, we suddenly noticed a flock of birds flitting back and forth among the trees.

Curious, we took out the binoculars to get a closer look.

Robins, a bird we normally identify with the return of spring, were happily flying about the snow-laden trees.

A surprise that brought a smile, as well as a shake of the head. Did they miss the memo about flying south for the winter?

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A robin on January 8, 2017!

Feathered Rainbows

One of the joys of travel is experiencing new and unexpected delight.

For example, birds that would be considered “exotic” (and only found in zoos in Canada) are commonplace in Australia.

This rainbow lorikeet is one of many that regularly come to the trees and veranda railings asking to be fed. In fact, there is a pair that have become so comfortable with me that they follow me around everywhere I go, landing right beside me, chirring and chatting.

Just one of my many feathered friends!

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Rainbow Lorikeet ~ Photo by Julie Wise

It Takes Two

It may take two to tango, but apparently in the world of the red-necked grebe, it also takes two to sit on a nest.

This pair of grebes has been building and rebuilding their nest for several months. Although they do leave the nest periodically, they both seem to take their parenting responsibilities very seriously. To the point where they sit on the nest together.

I guess it’s true that it takes a community to raise a child, even in the bird kingdom.

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Somewhere under there lies an egg. ~ Photo by Julie Wise

Focus

I was watching a great blue heron one day. It stood motionless at the edge of a small lake, yet every cell of its being was intently focused on what was happening in the water by its legs.

Suddenly it lunged forward and plucked a fish from the water with its long beak. Hunger satisfied!

Photo by Julie Wise

Photo by Julie Wise

Focus is the ability to ignore distractions and to tune in to what you want.

Focus matters.