Snails and seashells and kelp, oh my! – Fundy National Park, New Brunswick

After our wonderful adventures on Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton Island, it was time to head back to the Canadian mainland and explore another park.

Fundy National Park is located in southern New Brunswick on the shores of the Bay of Fundy. In addition to being a neat area, the Bay of Fundy is home to the world’s highest tides. The difference between high and low tide is nearly 40 feet (12 meters)! Naturally, this is the main attraction of the park.

We weren’t actually there for long enough to witness the difference, but we were out on the coast during low tide and could clearly see far above our heads the lines marking the edge of the water during high tide.

We set up camp at Chignecto Campground. There are campgrounds on the bay that are often enshrouded in fog, but Chignecto is back from the water a couple miles and supposedly less foggy. That may have been the case, but everything was still covered in dew in the mornings. Continue reading

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Highland Adventures – Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia (part II)

After an incredible hike the previous evening, we were excited to see what the rest of the Cape Breton Highlands had in store for us. And so we packed up camp and set off along the Cabot Trail. That night, we’d be camping on the opposite side of the island, so we had a bit of a drive.

Our first stop was up on top of the Highlands at a bog. I’d spent a few minutes at a bog in Indiana the previous summer but this one was very different. The one in Indiana was much marshier. Of course, it was also in the Midwest rather than atop some bluffs in maritime Canada. This one – the French Mountain Bog – was much less marshy and was home to one particularly interesting species of plant: the pitcher plant. These plants actually catch and eat bugs, much like the Venus fly trap. We didn’t get to see any of them in action, but we did get to take a bunch of pictures of them as we walked the short (0.3 mile) boardwalk loop around the bog. Continue reading

Skyline – Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia (part I)

If Prince Edward Island was near the top of the list of places I never thought I’d go, Nova Scotia was a close second. Before planning this vacation, I didn’t know anything about Nova Scotia except that it’s way out east and the capital is Halifax. But once I saw pictures of Cape Breton Island – the easternmost part of the province – I knew I had to go there. The red sand beaches of PEI were very unique, but Cape Breton was my favorite part of this vacation.

Our ferry from PEI docked in Caribou, Nova Scotia and – after a quick grocery run and super classy picnic lunch on the trunk of my car in the Walmart parking lot – we headed off towards Cape Breton Island. It’s only disconnected from the mainland by a thin stretch of water, but it’s an island nevertheless.

Cape Breton Highlands National Park covers a substantial portion of Cape Breton Island. Traversing the island’s perimeter is the Cabot Trail, a 300-mile road that’s been labeled one of the most scenic in Canada. It’s easy to see why. The road hugs the coast for much of its journey, cut into the side of the bluffs that rise out of the sea forming the Cape Breton Highlands. Continue reading

Red Sand, Green Gables, and the Meeting of Tides – Prince Edward Island

When it came time to start planning summer vacation 2013, we didn’t really know where to start. We knew we wanted to take advantage of me being on the east coast, as this was an area we’d never gotten to explore. But since we weren’t very familiar with the area, we didn’t really have a list of places we wanted to go.

Somehow, we ended up honing in on the Canadian maritime provinces. And thus, our trip was born.

First up: Prince Edward Island (PEI). With traffic and customs, it’s supposed to be about a 12.5-hour drive to PEI National Park, located on the northern coast of the island. When sheets of rain are falling from the sky, however, it becomes a 15-hour drive. And, with the change into the Atlantic Time zone, it may be dark when you arrive. Which is precisely what happened to us.

We headed north out of Connecticut, stopping at rest areas in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine so my sister could put her feet on the ground in these states for the first time. We also stopped at the New Brunswick Welcome Center just across the border from Houlton, Maine, where we got to place the first (and only) map pin in Montana! From there, we followed the Trans-Canada highway through New Brunswick and across the 7.8-mile Confederation Bridge that connects PEI to the mainland. From the bridge, there are supposed to be wonderful views of the Northumberland Strait. Thanks to the rain, we saw absolutely nothing. Continue reading

Eastward Bound (part II) – Indiana to Ontario

At the end of my last post, my mom and I were wading in Lake Michigan at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Day 4 of our cross-country excursion, however, was the one I was most excited for. Our destination: Niagara Falls!

We left Indiana early in the morning, continuing across the northern edge of the state and crossing into Ohio. By lunch, we were just outside of Cleveland. Coincidentally, earlier that morning my mom and I had been discussing national parks and the fact that there aren’t any in Ohio. She grew up there so I didn’t have any reason to doubt her. However, when I pulled out the map to find us a suitable picnic location, I spotted the small green area labeled Cuyahoga Valley National Park just south of Cleveland.

And so our picnic spot was chosen. Continue reading

Happy 150th Anniversary to Canada!

July 1st marks the 150th anniversary of the Confederation of Canada. To celebrate, among other things, admission to all Canadian National Parks is free for 2017. And to celebrate here on Handstands Around the World, I’ve put together a list of my favorite Parks Canada sites.

This is also conveniently my 100th post! I’m always happy for an excuse to make a list, and this seems a very appropriate time to do so.

Banff National Park, Alberta
My very first memories of visiting Canada are from Banff. We actually went to Waterton Lakes first, but aside from the fact that the wind bent our tent poles, I don’t remember anything. However, the rugged beauty of Banff was definitely imprinted in my mind. I’ve been back once since then and I can’t wait to return someday soon. The scenery is just so incredible and there’s so much of the park that I haven’t had a chance to explore. Continue reading

West Coast Best Coast – Vancouver, British Columbia

Never in my life have I been so excited for the indoors as I was at this point in our roadtrip. We were so sick of everything being wet. Thankfully, we’d be spending the next 2 nights in a hotel. It wasn’t the best place to dry everything out – after spreading out all of our gear, there wasn’t a lot of room left for us. But we were clean and warm and dry, and that was what mattered.

We arrived in Vancouver, BC in mid-afternoon, leaving us just enough time to go out to dinner after we got settled in. We walked to a nearby restaurant – I can’t remember what it was called – for dinner and enjoyed the sunshine and the feeling of being back in civilization after more than two weeks in the mountains. Don’t get me wrong, I love camping and hiking and exploring – but it was nice to now be surrounded by the bustling energy of Vancouver. Continue reading