Summer Trips Pt 1

Summer is a busy time for me at work. A lot of students are trying to finish up their research and graduate before the new academic year starts, so after final exams are done in May, faculty are back in the labs and cracking the whips on their students to get them finished up. As a result, it gets very busy during the summer months and so we normally don’t get any form of break until September. Actually, this often turns out to be an advantage, as the weather is often good, the kids are back in school (so it is less busy) and the prices go down!

This year, we took about 2 weeks, and were on the road for much of it. For the first part, we drove up to Canada to visit family and friends. As you may know from reading these pages, I was actually born in Canada whilst my (British) parents were living and working there. This means that I am in the fortunate position of being both a Canadian Citizen and a British one. Generally, although I grew up and lived in the UK for over 25 years, now that I live in North America, I generally use my Canadian identity as that is what my US Permanent Residence card (aka Green Card) identifies me as. However, having dual UK / Canadian citizenship is often quite useful, particularly when traveling between North America and Europe – I just use the passport that gets me through the entry queues the fastest. However, it can also cause some complications, especially when I have to go on to an army base for work here in the US. Turning up at the gate with a Canadian passport, a US registered car and a British accent can cause a great deal of confusion to the guys on the gate, who are usually rent-a-cops and not official army, and are rarely the sharpest knives in the drawer.

Anyhow,as a result of being born in Canada, I still have close family and friends there,  and we usually travel up to see them several times a year. They reside in Laurentian mountains area, a rural part of Quebec about 100 miles north of Montreal. This is an area of farming and logging, but also increasingly holiday cottages. 25 kilometers away is Mt Tremblant, the biggest ski resort on the east coast if the fancy takes you. Personally, the thought of strapping 2 planks to my feet and hurtling down a mountain does not appeal that much, but there are over activities such as cycling and hiking, as well as lounging by (and in) various lakes. Time seems to slow when there and life takes on a much more relaxed pace, making it a great getaway from our usual frantic pace of life.

Baltimore to Weir is a distance of just over 600 miles. We normally leave on a Thursday night after work and drive up through Maryland, Pennsylvania, and into upstate New York, before staying the night at a motel, usually around Syracuse or Binghamton. We then push on the following morning, crossing the border and continuing up through Ontario and into Quebec, usually arriving at destination late afternoon or early evening on Friday.

Due to a variety of circumstances, we hadn’t been up since the New year holiday, and so as the summer wound down, I was definitely feeling that it was time to go. After a quiet Friday evening and an early night, Saturday was spent walking in Parc National Mt Tremblant. This is a vast provincial park full of canoeing, cycling and hiking trails. It’s up behind the ski resort and totally different – very wild and abundant with with rivers, lakes and wildlife. We took a relatively short hike (distance wise) of about 2 km each way, but in that 2 km, you climbed nearly 600 feet. It didn’t help that the day was very hot and humid (yes, it does get hot in Canada!) However, the view from the top over Lake Munro is pretty spectacular.

IMG_1484

View over Lake Munro

View over Lake Munro

We took some bread, cheese and meats with us and made a simple, but good, lunch just overlooking the view. Since it was so high and the climb so steep, it wasn’t crowded, which added to the enjoyment. The way down was a LOT easier and less energetic, but I stopped to photograph a tree which had grown around and over a boulder, as I thought it looked pretty interesting. Diane found a stream to dip her toes in to cool off for a while.

Tree growing around and over a boulder

Tree growing around and over a boulder

Diane in the stream

Diane in the stream

Getting back to the car after several hours, we stopped by the new visitors center to see the new exhibits, then headed for home, as we were due for dinner with some family and friends. This turned out to be a pleasant relaxing evening sitting by the lake watching the sun go down. The deer came out and nosed around, pretty unconcerned about out presence. Usually, we all bring a dish and so it was this time. A good time was had by all.

The following day we went to visit Parc Omega. This is a safari park near Montibello on the Ottawa river, full of north American wildlife and gives a good opportunity to see animals up close. I’ve been very fortunate to see wildlife living freely in various parts of North America and will write about this in a future post. However, as a day out, Parc Omega is well worth it and lets people see a good range of wildlife close up who may not have the opportunity to travel out to the wilderness. The Park is well laid out and the animals within it roam freely without constraint or interference. Despite living in the Park, they are wild and need to be treated as such. A few concessions have had to be made, with predators such as bears, wolves and coyotes have had to be separated from the other animals (or maybe some would start dissapearing….), but otherwise the animals live freely on several hundred acres. So here are a few pictures for your enjoyment.

Bull Elk

Bull Elk Through car windscreen

Bull elk alongside the car

Bull elk alongside the car – look at the antlers on him

Wild boar and piglets

Wild boar and piglets

Bison

Bison

An idea of how big this Bull Bison really was

An idea of how big this Bull Bison really was

Arctic Wolf

Arctic Wolf

Another bull elk in a stand off with the car ahead of us

Another Bull Elk in a stand off with the car ahead of us – gives you a good idea of his size.

Whilst the Doe Elk hope for a handout

Whilst another hopes for a handout

Wild boar alongside road

Wild boar alongside road

There were a whole host of other animals such as coyotes, black wolves, moose, musk ox, but the photo’s weren’t great.

All in all, we spent most of the day there and got to hike some trails to the old farm. These trails were off limits to the animals, and so it was safe to walk them. The only problem with a place such as this is you do see some humans at their most idiotic. Getting out of a car with a small child (despite notices not to do so) to pet the elk or progedhorn deer is just plain stupid. Still, I guess the gene pool could do with a little bleach!.

On the way back, we stopped at a fantastic Creperie and had savory crepes for supper – a real Quebecois dish.

Monday was spent as a quiet day – doing some reading and a little work (despite it officially being a holiday). It was incredibly hot and humid – in the upper eighties, and unfortunately all the bugs came out, so we retreated indoors. However, a nice day of R&R leaving us much refreshed until a storm blew up and knocked out the power for a few hours. Such things happen in that region and you just live with it!

Tuesday came and it was time to drive home. We left early morning and made the whole trip in one day, as we usually do on the way back. 600 miles in 11 hours is a lot of miles and we normally swap out drivers every 2 hours or so to keep the pace up. I have done it on my own and it is not a whole lot of fun (especially in a winter snow storm), but do-able. It is at those times you appreciate automatic transmission and the interstate system! However, the drive is a lot more pleasurable with Diane as a companion and we discussed lots of things and generally set the world to rights on the journey. One high point was seeing a a bear run across the road in front of us, but it was too fast to get a picture. Arrival back at home was about 11 pm, not too late, and we were mobbed by the cats before falling into bed for a good nights sleep after 12 hours on the road.

To follow – Part 2 – Glacier National Park and Montana.

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