Saturday, August 30, 2008

Dismal Days Discoveries

No reflection on the natural beauty, activities and people of the Canadian Maritimes, but we certainly have targeted some of the worst weather possible for our visit to the area. Seemingly we have been in cold, wet, rainy conditions for weeks on end now. One “front” moves out for a few minutes and then the next rolls in. Blue skies have popped out for very brief periods only- and even then it is so windy we have felt like the kayaks might get ripped right off the top of the car. But our time here is what it is, so we have done our best to fit in activities that we can fit in where we can fit them in.

From our base at the beginning of the Cabot Trail and Cape Breton, we took our first scouting jaunt off the trail and close to base. The better the weather, the more you see on the Trail and vice versa. So off we went in a different direction while waiting for something better weather-wise. Now this location is on the fringe, as I have said, of what works and what doesn’t. No satellite TV here. Seldom, cells phones. Occasional radio. Even the GPS gets easily confused, so it should not have come as a surprise that our first outing found us off the planned route and driving in deep puddles and mud on a dead end road. Well, color me scenic and get me back to the coach.

We did find a closed up rail museum on our unplanned route and I thought this old rail snow plow was a pretty neat old rig.

And then on this cold and overcast day, we found a bunch of local kids having some fun by jumping off the road bridge and the nearby railroad trestle into the river below. Kids don’t much care about the weather. Fun is fun: let that be the lesson….

One of our intended activities here was the renowned Captain Zodiac’s whale watch excursion. Most whale watches put you on a steel hull, diesel driven cattle boat and take you out to sea. You stay high and dry and maybe get close enough to see a whale or two. Some are better than others. So we were psyched to go out on the smaller and faster inflatable boats to get up close and personal with large numbers of whales. But day after day, the weather disrupted our plan. The trip couldn’t go because of weather, high seas, high wind- whatever, on several occasions. This is not the norm; they seldom have to cancel. So rather than waste the day even with the hour over and hour back already lost each time we attempted to take the trip, we found some places to explore between hither and yon that didn’t rely as much on nice weather. Margaree Valley and the river by the same name are famous for Atlantic Salmon fishing- and the season has already begun. We visited the salmon and trout hatchery along the river, and watched some talented fly casters fishing along the nearby banks.

Another marginal weather day was not OK for the whale watch but it was OK for driving the Cabot Trail loop around Cape Breton. Figure six to seven hours of drive time, punctuated by whatever time you need to stop and take pictures, poke around in local businesses, and grab a bite to eat. We knew it was going to be a long day, so we ALL packed a bag and our rain gear and headed out to see the Cape. Even in less than perfect weather, this is a most amazing place to see.

Slide Show: Cabot Trail and Cape Breton

Then on our second to last day here, and just as we were starting to resign to the fact we might not get to go on our whale watch, the weather finally let up enough that we could get out in the zodiacs to see the whales. The weather was still off and on. Some wind, a few high seas on the way out, lots of sea spray and some very cold water coming over the bow and the sides. Picking the times to get the “good” camera out of the dry bag and take some shots was a challenge, but fortunately the reputation of the good captain was well deserved and he put us among so many whales we didn’t know which way to spin next- they were all around the boat pretty much the whole time we were out on the water. And the good captain took care to keep me and my camera as dry as possible. Captain Zodiac’s adventure is a “No whales- Money back” guarantee and at least for this day, there was no worry about that! And from what we have heard, there seldom, if ever, is. These are long fin, pilot whales and are here in large numbers from Spring until some time in December. There was at least one calf in the pod that we spent our time with. They are frisky little rascals and seemed to enjoy rough-housing around the zodiacs. On a calmer day, we may well have even been close enough to touch them, but the jostling seas kept everyone at a safe distance on this day- but surely close enough (often within 5 - 10 feet) to be truly exciting.

Slide Show: Captain Zodiac Whale Watch

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