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

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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

Sometimes, things don’t go as planned – Jasper National Park, Alberta (part III)

Our next day in Jasper National Park was supposed to be the day we hiked Mount Edith Cavell. This was a hike we were all especially excited for.

Instead, it was the day that I woke up sick at 5am and my friends ended up driving me to the hospital a couple hours later. I was suffering from some pretty serious GI symptoms – suffice it to say that there was nothing left in my GI tract by this point – as well as a mysterious pain in my lower back. I couldn’t even keep water down. I’m told that when I showed up at the ER, I was so pale due to dehydration that I looked gray. I didn’t think to look in a mirror. I was too busy being sick and miserable.

And so I spent 9 hours in the Jasper ER getting abdominal x-rays and pain medication and something to calm my stomach. They infused me with 2 entire IV bags and I still didn’t have to pee. That’s how dehydrated I was. By late afternoon, though, I was sitting up in bed playing cards with my friends. And by dinner, I was out of the hospital and eating chicken fingers and fries at a restaurant in Jasper. It was the shortest – but most severe – illness I’ve ever had. Continue reading

Waterfalls & Lakes – Jasper National Park, Alberta (part II)

After a night at Honeymoon Lake Campground – in which our camping gear mostly dried out – it was time to continue our journey northward. We hopped back on the Icefields Parkway, poised to spend a day exploring the central section of Jasper National Park. Our first stop, just a short distance up the road, was Athabasca Falls. A very large volume of water travels over this 80-foot waterfall. It’s incredibly powerful! The parking area for the falls just off of the Icefields Parkway on Route 93A, and we walked a short distance in order to view the falls.

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Athabasca Falls – Jasper National Park, AB
Continue reading