Published: July 17th 2008July 17th 2008
Dave with Bette
Thanks for looking after us in Toronto!
Toronto was the only big city in America and Canada we visited on our trip. We managed to navigate a spaghetti of highways and road works to the city centre to find our hotel. Bette (Dave’s Aunt ) was there to meet us with a warm welcome and a large basket of goodies including the makings of a fine G&T. It was great to have a shower and sleep in a bed and we had some fine meals too! Thanks to Bette and to Jim and May Strasman for making our stay very enjoyable.
Our original idea was to drop the car off in Buffalo after visiting Toronto and get a bus to JFK for our flight home. Having got to Toronto with time to spare, we could feel the pull of the Atlantic (we hadn’t seen the sea for a long time!) so we decided to drive all the way to New York instead, taking in several New England states on the way. So from Toronto we headed east, stopping to visit the Canadian Canoe Museum at Peterborough. This is a fantastic collection of boats from dugouts, skin kayaks, birch bark and cedar strip canoes. There is even a
New York, New York !
A large part of upper New York state (Adirondacks)looks like this! Yes we were surprised too.
36 foot Hudson Bay Company birch bark boat, as used by the Voyageurs, designed to carry three tonnes of goods/pelts across the Great Lakes, plus cedar strip boats presented to the royal family by the people of Canada (the one given to the Queen and Prince Philip on their wedding had obviously been much used, whilst the boat given to Charles and Diana didn’t have a scratch on it! What a waste!!)
We crossed the St Lawrence back into the USA, Upstate New York and the Adirondacks. This is a mountainous region covered in forests and lakes, the majority of which comes within the boundary of the Adirondack Park. Neither a national park or a state park, it has similarities with the Lake District in that many people live and work within it and only parts are publicly owned; there is an excellent network of wilderness canoe routes and walking trails. We only spent a few days here and managed a couple of good walks. Like most people we associate New York with the big city, but these amazing mixed forests of conifers and broadleaves were saved from the logging companies in the early 20th Century after quite a
Acadia National Park, Maine
fight. From here we continued east through Vermont and New Hampshire to Maine. These States are even more wooded than NY and are particularly scenic. The roads, however, are appalling! It made us realise that Cumbria’s roads are actually quite good. We also found the mosquitoes and blackfly quite a problem in places. Almost exactly two months after leaving the Pacific Ocean we dipped our toes in the Atlantic at Acadia National Park. We had crossed a continent! (No swimming I’m afraid- it was way too cold!) Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island in Maine is a dramatic area of pink granite domes, scraped clean and smooth during the Ice Age, with small lakes, lots of forest with heath and stunted trees on the tops. We climbed Cadillac Mountain which is only 1500ft, but the highest ‘mountain’ on the Atlantic coast from here to Brazil! The views out to the Atlantic (once the fog cleared) were superb.Mount Desert Island was a popular destination for the very rich and famous in the early 20th century. The Astors, Vanderbilts and Rockefellers had ‘holiday homes’ (palaces !) here. John D Rockerfeller created a network of carriage routes for his enjoyment before handing
The Far East
Quoddy Head lighthouse near Lubec is the eastern-most lighthouse in mainland USA
his estate over to the federal government to become a national park. These carriage roads are still maintained as easy walking and cycling routes throughout the Park, which was a refreshing change- we found most of the other national parks were very much geared to motorists!
‘Down east’ Maine is the least developed area of coast which stretches from Acadia to the Canadian border. Full of painted clapboard houses, blueberry fields and forest, the coastline itself has an almost Scottish or Irish feel to it. Although we saw plenty of eider ducks, scoters, black guillemots and gulls, there was a distinct lack of other seabirds which puzzled us. We did several walks along the coast through the boreal forest typical of the area, but always found we had to keep up a brisk walking pace to avoid being severely bitten by mosquitoes, black fly and “green eyed monsters” (Vampire killer horseflies).
By the end of June we were heading inland again to the White Mountains of New Hampshire for more walking in forests in the rain and fog, but we also visited the Shaker village near Canterbury. The Shakers were an extreme religious sect (originally known as Shaking
Tired of peanut butter sandwiches?
Possum recommends Aunt Jemima's pancakes with maple syrup for breakfast...ymmm!
Quakers, founded by Mother Ann Lee an emigrant from Manchester) who built communities throughout north eastern USA during the 18th and 19th centuries. Believing in chastity they finally died out early in the 20th century, but their communal living, distinctive and beautifully crafted furniture and household goods have left quite a legacy. We could have spent days at the museum which had volunteers demonstrating the old crafts and giving us some sort of insight into the Shaker’s way of life, but just up the road we had spotted a woodland craft weekend, where we saw demonstrations of pole lathe wood turning, wood carving, furniture making and cedar strip canoe and kayak building, all very familiar to home.
From there we headed to Cape Cod having read about some of the wildlife that is found there. Being so close to Boston and New York it is an extremely popular holiday destination and initially the crowded roads and busy towns put us off. Despite seeming to have a crazy golf course for every day of the year (including Pirate Crazy Golf and Extreme Crazy Golf), the whole east coast has been designated as a National Seashore and is therefore safe from
at Wellfleet Bay wildlife sanctuary, Cape Cod
such horrors. The beaches were fantastic, the sea refreshing but not unpleasant, and the surf good so we spent quite a lot of time here. We also visited the Massachusetts Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary and the Monomoy Islands, both great bird watching spots. Monomoy is a huge herring and great black backed gull colony and the sandy beaches are where hundreds of thousands of horseshoe crabs come to lay eggs. On our last day on Cape Cod we went on a whale watching trip. The Stellwagen Bank just off Cape Cod is a popular gathering and feeding area for whales and has been given some protection as a marine reserve. Quite an industry has built up around whale watching where once, a hundred years ago, it was the scene of their mass slaughter. We had some fantastic close encounters with huge fin whales (the second largest whale) and a humpback with her young calf.
Unfortunately our trip to North America was coming to an end. The last few nights were spent in Rhode Island within striking distance of New York. A lot of the forests around here are in fact secondary woodland; farmland which has been abandoned and
Monomoy Island, Cape Cod
Strandline with hundreds of horseshoe crab shells, from 5cms to over 30cms
is now totally recolonised by forest The dry stone walls and the remains of buildings can still be made out and seemed very similar to some of our woodlands at home. Due to the Independence Day celebrations the campsites and beaches were extremely crowded, and the campsite was really rowdy at times but luckily we were ‘adopted’ and really well looked after by our neighbours at the campsite, the Stein family from Connecticut. We’d like to say a special thankyou to them for sharing their campfire, cake, cookies, marshmallows with us !Finally, after 11090 miles on the road the journey had to come to an end. Following a nail biting drive into New York, we relaxed in the British Airways Executive Lounge for a few hours before our flight, with free food, drinks , comfy chairs and no riff raff. We even managed to arrive at Manchester Airport the same time as our luggage. Unfortunately it was about 10 degrees centigrade and raining!
But it’s not all over….. At this very moment we are in the process of buying a van and planning the European leg of our trip. Stay tuned for Possum’s latest adventures.
There are more photos below