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Canada: Sand, Salt, and Cedars

This is my final post from the trip to Canada last month.  Toward the end of the week there, I got a chance to go hiking in Kouchibouguac National Park, which is about an hour North of the city of Moncton.

Something that’s interesting about the park is the variety of different types of forest and other vegetation found there.  The first trail we hiked was through a fairly deciduous forest, with some tall pines (and wild blueberry bushes!), and it came out on a tidal bay, pictured here:



Here’s a slightly different part of the bay, seen at a different point on the trail:


I don’t know exactly what this thing is for, but I would guess it’s supposed to be visible from well out in the water:


The next trail was a boardwalk that went out onto a dune and barrier island:



Dune grass:


A sandpiper:


The estuary between dunes and shore:


After that, we took a short trail that went through a salt marsh.  Here’s a picture of the marsh grass:


According to one of the signs, some of what grows there is known as elephant grass, which can get as tall as 3 meters!

On the way back from that trail, near the parking area, I spotted this critter:


To give you an idea of its size, here it is in front of my foot:


Next we went on a trail through a cedar forest.  The cedars are traditionally considered sacred by the Mi’kmaq Nation, and the tribe has a wigwam near the trailhead for teaching visitors about their customs and culture:


Nothing was going on inside while we were there:



The trail itself certainly had a number of cedar trees, some of which had a strange-looking moss growing on them:



We went on one more trail after that, which supposedly contained an abandoned beaver lodge, but at the point where a sign talked about the lodge, it was completely hidden from view by bushes.  No pictures from that trail.

The total hiking distance was around 10 km, and we spent about 4.5 hours there (including a break for lunch).  It’s a lovely park, and I hope to go again sometime.  If you should ever find yourself there, though, bring some mosquito repellent, because there are great hordes of the insects there.

Posted by seaking on 09-15-2009 at 09:09 pm
Posted in Hiking, Travel with 0 Comments

Training: Pictures of Hadley (Hadley, oh Hadley)

Training ride number 3 took place on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend.  I decided to tackle a feat that I’d been thinking about for the better part of 2 years.  I was going to ride up Mount Holyoke.

Mt. Holyoke is the Westernmost peak in the Holyoke range, and it forms the bulk of Skinner State Park.  It’s also only a 20-minute ride from my house (the base of it, that is).

I headed down route 47 toward the park.  Here’s the mountain from a mile or 2 away:


When you get closer, you can see the summit house that sits atop the mountain:


The climb began rather steeply, and I had to stop and rest twice in the first quarter-mile.  I thought I might end up taking a long time to get to the top, but the road became much more gradual soon, and I was able to go much of the way up without stopping.  It got steep again toward the end, where it goes around a few hairpin turns, so I rested 2 more times before reaching the top.  Still, the climb tool me exactly 30 minutes, about the same as Sugarloaf, but Holyoke is a longer climb (the bottom of the mountain is downriver from the bottom of Sugarloaf, thus it’s a bit lower in elevation, and the summit of Holyoke is a good 250 feet higher that Sugarloaf’s).

The Summit House closer up:


The Summit House was once a hotel, and apparently there were hotels built on a number of local peaks.  Eventually they all closed, presumably from waning business, though I’m not sure why people wouldn’t want to stay in such a place.

Here I am at the summit itself:


I’ve been at the top of the mountain before, but most of those times I had hiked up (on one occasion I drove up).  I had not seen the house open before, but it was that day.  I took in the views from the main deck first:


(the tall buildings to the right above are the UMass campus)



The Connecticut runs very close to the mountain.

I then went inside to see what was there.  Apparently, they’ve restored several rooms to the way they were when it was a hotel:








I don’t know if all of the furniture is from the periods when the hotel operated, but they do seem to have paid attention tom some important details:


There were also some exhibits going on in the house, as part of the Town of Hadley’s 350th anniversary celebration, going on all this year.  A photo contest had been held earlier in the year, and all the entries were on display – people were just supposed to submit photos they’d taken of places/things in Hadley.  Most were recent, though there were some older photos.

There was also an exhibit of historic photos and documents, such as this newspaper-produced booklet with photos of hurricane-related flooding:


Chairs were set up for a video, which I didn’t watch:


I’m not sure if that was part of the 350th stuff, or if it’s something they normally have in the place.

I discovered that the house has 2 more observation decks, above the large one.  You can only get to them from inside.  Here’s a view of the river from the second floor deck:


There were a lot of boats out that day.  Also out was an airplane that had taken off from the little Northampton airport, which is just across the river.  The plane was practically at eye level:


This is a picture I took from the roof deck:


Coming down the mountain road was quicker, of course, though I had to walk the bike through the hairpin turns.  Once I left the state park, I proceeded to go over to Northampton to visit my local comic shop (Modern Myths), and then I came back over the river and headed home.  The total ride was shorter than my previous ones, but the climbing definitely gave me a good workout.  Total distance: 22 miles

Next: A hidden tower

Posted by seaking on 09-13-2009 at 10:09 pm
Posted in Biking with 0 Comments

Canada: Milling Around

While in Canada we took a day trip to Belfast Mini Mills on Prince Edward Island, just as we did in June of 2007.

The company makes small machines for every step of the fiber milling process (from raw fiber to yarn), and they also run a mill operation themselves.  This is the mill building:


And here is the mill store, where they sell yarn, batting, and various woven and knit objects:


Since the last time we’d been there, they had also opened up a tea room, where we had lunch:


I also had a pot of lovely, local blueberry tea with lunch.

Of course I had to take pictures of the various animals on the property, including llamas:



Pom-pom ducks:


Chickens, one of whom had very feathery feet:


Inquisitive goats:


and some young birds in a cage, which may be some sort of game bird:


There was also this little dog behind the counter in the store:


You can see pictures of individual machines on their site, but here’s a bunch of them in the mill:


Next: Canadian National (Park)

Posted by seaking on 09-12-2009 at 07:09 pm
Posted in Travel with 0 Comments

Training: The Water Is Long

My second training ride occurred during the last weekend of August.  I went to a location I’d biked to a few times before, including on my first training ride in 2007.  That place is the Quabbin Reservoir.  To get there, I headed East from our house through Amherst and into Belchertown, stopping off at our favorite breakfast place, The Roadhouse Cafe.  (those in the area should eat there sometime if you haven’t already – and no, this is not a paid advertisement).

From there I went further East on Route 9, and got to the first entrance to the reservoir reservation, still barely in Belchertown.  Near that park entrance is the Quabbin visitors’ center:


Turning around from there, one can look North along the Western ‘lobe’ of the reservoir:


Proceeding just to the East, one comes to the Winsor Dam, which is a big earthen berm with a spillway to one side for what remains of the Swift River.  Here’s a view of the dam from near the visitors’ center:


And here I look along the top of it:


I rode across, and then took some pics of the river in the spillway.  Here is where the water was coming toward me from the reservoir:


And here’s the other side, where the river proceeds South:



I then proceeded up Quabbin Hill:


At the top of the hill is a lookout tower:


My legs were a bit tired from riding up the hill (though it was much more gradual than Sugarloaf), but I was still able to climb the 6 flights of stairs.  Here are views through the windows at the top:




After a brief time up there, I headed down the other side of the hill, continuing East.  I came to the Enfield lookout.  Here’s the reason for the name:


Where the town was is mostly water now:



Shortly after the bottom of the hill, one comes to the Goodnough Dike:



The path over this dike comes off the main road, and goes in a loop.  I first went across the top:


From there I got this view of the Eastern ‘lobe’ of the water:


And then I followed the path down behind the dike (i.e. the dry side) to go back to the road.  Here’s the dike seen from below:


From there, I came out the Eastern park entrance onto Route 9 in the town of Ware.  I thought I might head East a little more, but there was a long hill to climb on 9, and my legs thought I should head for home.  One the way back along Route 9, I passed this swampy area:



I realized that I could see the Quabbin observation tower in the distance:


I spotted a great blue heron in the swamp, but it flew away before I could get close enough to take a picture.

Soon after that point, I came to the Swift again, where it crosses 9.  It’s considerably calmer there:


That’s also the border between the towns of Ware and Belchertown:


I then passed the other entrances to the reservation (including the one I’d gone in earlier) and headed back home the way I’d come.  Total distance: 37 miles

Next: Yet another mountain

Posted by seaking on 09-12-2009 at 04:09 pm
Posted in Biking with 1 Comment

Canada: Reach the Beach

No, it’s not another bike training post.  I’ll be alternating those with a few posts about our trip to Canada last month.  We went to New Brunswick, as we’ve done a couple of times before (2006 and 2007).  Where we were staying, we were only about 100 yards from the beach, and so we went down to the water to walk a number of times.

Here are some views along that beach.  The water is the Strait of Northumberland, which flows between NB and Prince Edward Island.





The water was cool in some places, and warm in others, and those places seemed to vary on different days.  We also were there at different tide levels.  In most cases, there were a number of sandbars sticking out of the water, and those seemed to be favorite places for building sand fortifications:



Usually there were a number of gulls around:


But also little beach dwellers in the water:



The water left interesting patterns in the sand:



Next: Trip to the Island

Posted by seaking on 09-06-2009 at 10:09 pm
Posted in Travel with 0 Comments

Training: Gimme Some Sugar

My first training ride for the MS event involved going to visit a spot that I’ve been meaning to hit for a couple of years.  That would be Sugarloaf Mountain in Deerfield.  I rode North through Hadley, picking up Route 116 and taking it through the town of Sunderland, and then across the river into Deerfield.  Here’s a pic I took of the mountain a couple years ago:

Technically there are 2 peaks: South Sugarloaf and North Sugarloaf.  Pictured above is the South peak (seen from the river bridge), which is the one that has a road climbing it.

Having never been up that road before, I didn’t know what to expect.  It turned out to be a somewhat steep climb.  Thus, I had to stop and rest several times (maybe 7 times before I reached the top).  My legs were definitely up to the task, but I’d have to stop after a relatively short stint of riding because I’d be short of breath with my heart pounding.  A few minutes’ rest (and some water – I brought plenty) would leave me ready for the next stretch.  It had taken me 45 minutes to cover the 12 miles from my house to the mountain – it was another 30 minutes to climb the not-quite-a-mile to the top.

As expected, though, my efforts were rewarded by the view.  There’s an observation tower at the summit, as you can see here:


I climbed up, and took a look.  Here’s the view looking Northeast, toward Montague:


This is East into Sunderland center:


South, down the river:


Southwest, into Whately and Hatfield:


And West, into Deerfield:


Looking South, one can see some of the other mountains I’ve been on.  Here are Mt. Norwattuck (left) and Bare Mountain (right), which are near our house:


How close are they?  I could walk from home to the summit of Bare Mt. in about an hour if I wanted to (in fact, I should do that sometime).

Here’s Mt. Holyoke on the right (look for more about it in a future post):


Then this is the Mt. Tom Range, located on the other side of the river (West side, same as Sugarloaf):


Coming up Sugarloaf, there is a point where the road splits, so that there’s a loop going around the summit.  So heading back down, I was initially on a section of road I hadn’t travelled on the way up.  Some of that proved to be scarily steep, so I played it safe and walked my bike to the end of the steep part, and around the sharp turn at the end of it.  Riding the rest of the way down was fast, but not uncontrollably so.  My total time down the mountain was only about 6 or 7 minutes.

From there I headed West and picked up Route 5, which I took down into Northampton.  I then picked up the Norwattuck Rail Trail, crossed the river and headed back through Hadley to home.  Total distance: 30 miles.

Next: The Big Reservoir

Posted by seaking on 09-06-2009 at 01:09 pm
Posted in Biking, News with 1 Comment

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