A Trip to the East Coast

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Canada is a vast country, from the east coast to the west it is over 7100 kilometers or 4370 odd miles and that’s not including the area that stretches from the US border to the Arctic Circle and beyond. We Canadians know this and accept that visiting relatives and friends often requires the use of our vacation time and much planning. I remember when my daughter-in-law moved here from Manchester, England, she suggested that she and my son drive east for the weekend to visit his grandparents. She was a little insulted that we laughed so hard until we explained that it would take the whole weekend just to get there never mind having a visit and getting back. Anyway the hubby and I have been taking this trek for forty years now and over the last five years have made it at least twice a year if not more. His mother is ninety, and my stepdad is eighty-two, so we really feel the visits are important to them and to us. We live in Ontario so our trip is over eighteen hundred kilometers just to visit Dartmouth where my stepdad and little sister live and another four hundred north to see his mother in Cape Breton.

We usually plan to get on the road by seven am, and generally get going around nine. We take our suitcases in which we have to pack a variety of clothing, from cool weather gear to shorts and tees. Also the laptop, an assortment of ‘just in case’ tools, cold drinks and water, and of course our travel candy. So all packed up and we set off across eastern Ontario. In previous blogs I’ve detailed the gently rolling landscape and beautiful trees in Ontario and after about two hundred kilometers a traveller would start to see some shale rock as well as sandstone and granite. We take the TransCanada highway that goes from St John’s, Newfoundland to Victoria, British Columbia.  You can take a more scenic route along Lake Ontario but we prefer the faster highway for this trip. After about four hours it’s time to stop, stretch the legs and fill up the tank and then we enter Quebec. After a relatively short time the landscape flattens out and we head toward the city of Montreal which is on an island in the St. Lawrence river. We no longer go through Montreal but take a bypass but every tourist should make a point of going into the city proper, see the European style architecture and enjoy the very cosmopolitan feel of the city. There are of course, historical areas as well as newer parts to the vibrant city that are well worth the visit. Then the drive continues in a north east direction. Again the landscape is notable because it becomes rocky. I love rocks too and this is part of a geological formation which we call the Canadian Shield. The Shield is almost four billion years old and there were the high peaked mountains like we see on the west coast, but millions of years of erosion and the glacial retreat have left rounded mountains that seem to pop up from nowhere. Our route takes in the south side of the St Lawrence as we follow the TransCanada to New Brunswick. We get through Quebec, stopping for coffee and restroom breaks where I can practice my very rudimentary french and the local servers practice their much better english language skills. Living in a bilingual country doesn’t make a person bilingual but I do try.

Our next stop is the City of Edmunston in New Brunswick and supper at the local Pizza Delight. After driving for nine hours, this is a most welcome stop. Supper is spaghetti and meat balls for the hubby and seafood linguine or alfredo for me. Scallops, crabmeat and real lobster equals yummy! And they have a grill your own bread bar where you grill bread over a charcoal pit and butter it with plain or one of a variety of flavoured butter. After that we drive for one more hour and stop over in Woodstock. No not the famous Woodstock from the 60’s but a pretty good place anyway.

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As I have previously mentioned this part of Canada is very well treed (forestry is a big part of their economy) and one of my grandsons, when he was five asked his Dad why there were so many trees. The response? So we can send oxygen to the rest of Canada. By travelling along the TransCanada we avoid the villages, towns, and cities but we also miss the scenic routes and we said that the next time we travel down, we are going to take in some of the more scenic areas, as we haven’t been through those areas for a number of years. New Brunswick has five specific routes that take in different parts of the province.

I’m just going to tell you now what these scenic routes entail. There is the River Valley Scenic Route. I call it the Fiddlehead Route because the signs are green with a white fiddlehead on them. A fiddlehead is a young fern that hasn’t unfurled and is a delicacy in the province, a green that tastes much like spinach. It includes the western part of the province and passes through major potato growing country, the capital city of Fredericton and agricultural land. All through the tourist season, there are many festivals and celebrations to attend and in the winter the River Valley can be travelled by snowmobile.

There is the Fundy Coastal Drive along the Bay of Fundy where you can see the famous tidal bores twice a day and the highest tides in the world. The north shore was home to the Acadians who migrated to Louisiana. This route will take you along the southern shore of New Brunswick through quiet villages, great scenery, plus birding, parks, historic treasures, whale watching, and fossil filled mudflats. Follow the signs depicting a beaver to find this one.

Follow the Starfish signs to the Acadian Coastal drive that will take you from the original Acadian settlement along the Northumberland Strait, past the Confederation Bridge link to Prince Edward Island, all the way to Nova Scotia. Beautiful sandy beaches line the shores and of course the seafood, you just can’t beat fresh caught and cooked seafood.

The Miramichi River Route travels along the river and offers opportunities to go tubing and salmon fishing. World class waterways and magnificent parks line the Appalacian Range Route. It’s popular for biking, canoeing, and hiking. I hope you all have the opportunity to take these travels at some point in time; we have such a beautiful country.

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Oshawa’s Hidden Gem

 

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Here in my city, Oshawa, Ontario, we have a hidden gem, a wonderful place to get away for a few hours. I wonder if very many people, aside from the local population, know about Oshawa’s Second Marsh, a beautiful urban wetland. It’s bordered to the north by highway 401, to the south by Lake Ontario, to the east by industry and to the west by the McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Reserve. There is  sandy beach separating it from the lake, a lovely spot for turtles to nest. Three hundred four acres of marsh, swamp, meadow and thicket, it is home to hundreds of species of birds, mammals and reptiles. It is a provincially significant wetland protected under law, home to four species at risk, owned by the city and helped out by groups such as Friends of the Second Marsh and Ducks Unlimited.

Paved walking trail
Paved walking trail

There are a series of hiking trails and viewing platforms that offer an opportunity to explore this unique environment without harming the fragile ecosystem or disturbing the wildlife. It is one of the largest coastal marshes on the north shore of Lake Ontario. Along the trails are interpretive and direction signs that have been installed to guide visitors through the habitat areas. The primary trail is asphalt so it is wheelchair accessible. The adjacent area, McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Reserve, is not paved, has lovely paths with woodchip coverings, is also well marked, and has interpretive signage. Originally the trails surrounding the marsh were used as portage areas by the First Nations people to connect the interior of the province to Lake Ontario, later by European settlers to open up the area to trade and exploration, and now for our enjoyment of all things nature.

North part of marsh
North part of marsh

A former premier of Ontario, Davis Crombie, called Second Marsh an “environmental gem in an urban setting”. Right now I call it an emerald. The greenery is stunning with spots of colourful wildflowers and birds winging through the trees and across the marshes and ponds. In winter it would be a diamond, with a beautiful, bright snow cover; spring is an opal with its soft colours coming to life and autumn is a combination as the fall colours are spectacular. I spent time on the viewing decks overlooking various ponds and the marshes just soaking in the quiet and peace before I roused myself to take some photos. Most of the waterways bear the names of families important to the development of the city; Wilkinson’s Pond, Scott’s Pond, and Scattergood’s Pond to name a few. The creeks running through the marsh are important to breeding fish species, birds, and even some flowers that are spread via the water. The creeks are occupied by rainbow and brown trout, white suckers and even Chinook and Coho salmon. All these can be spotted, if you’re lucky, travelling upstream to breed at specific times of the season. There are muskrats, minks, at one time river otters populated the area and hopefully will again, along with the usual fauna, racoons, rabbits and deer. Of course there are busy insects as well and the always hungry mosquito so don’t forget to use an insect repellant before you venture into the area.

 

Encroaching industry
Encroaching industry

It is a great spot to “cure your nature deficit disorder” say the members of Friends of the Second Marsh. There is always a need to protect this area against pressure for future industrialization of the area east of the marsh and citizens are ever vigilant to prevent this happening. the peacefulness is broken by the sound of machinery at work. Many hundreds of Oshawa citizens remain alert, hoping their efforts will prevent attempts at future industrialization. Anyone can visit Oshawa’s Second Marsh. It’s free! There is a bus service and some on street parking on Colonel Sam Drive. It’s a lovely bike ride from anywhere in the city or like we do, carry your bike down in the car and ride along from the General Motors Headquarters.

Does your city have a unique preserve like Oshawa’s, a hidden gem?