Trip’s End

Sunday, Apr. 21

We finally got a break in the weather, but most of the Alto crowd had left. Jack and I headed to South Hill for foodstuffs enough to fix dinner for John (arriving without Mary, who has fallen under the weather, or possibly the pollen) and additional Floyd friends, Brad and Ellen. 

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Because we’re settled and they’re arriving in the afternoon and likely won’t be set up before dinner time, we texted with them to let everyone know we’d handle dinner for all of us. We found the fixins for the fennel chicken dish we like to cook in the Dutch oven, and we also got some pork loins to grill for Mary and Allen who were coming to the campsite on Monday. 

I began cooking circa 5:30, completing it by around 6:30, and served directly from the Dutch oven, with Omnia heat-and-serve rolls and roasted potatoes. Afterwards, we cranked the Solo fire, and the Karl & Hari crowd came over from loop C to share.

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It was another glorious sunset, with the sun peeking below the clouds and shining brightly on the end of our peninsula, making the trees look like they were about to combust.

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No good sunset is complete without a good reflection photo off Roomba (it’s a thing with the Alto models that have lots of windows).

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Here’s a gallery of photos I’m calling “Sunset After the Storms”

Monday, Apr. 22

First thing in the morning, I watched an adult bald eagle fly over. The day dawned cold (47 degrees) but I was outside watching for birds and enjoying the clear morning by about 7. I wasn’t the only early bird, as a couple of fishermen were plying the waters near our site also.

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Before lunch, we took a bike ride with Brad and Ellen while John took a kayak paddle-about. We toured around the campground, and across the hydro dam, where we stopped both coming and going to watch bald eagles and osprey and enormous fish near the dam. I could have watched the birds all day.

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Instead of going back to the campground, we turned right at Rt. 4 and headed to the tailwaters of the dam, where there were tons and tons of birds all doing wondrous things, just carrying on with their birdy lives. We got off our bikes again to watch eagles and osprey and herons and cormorants and so many more. Saw this heron trying to hide while roosting in a tree.

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Returned to eat a late lunch and enjoyed the sun. Even though the breeze picked up as we ate, the sky was incredibly blue-blue, and the sun was toasty hot.

Allen and Mary came for dinner around 6, and we grilled a pork loin. John, Brad, and Ellen brought their own dinners and we all ate together. Everyone enjoyed another campfire, topped off with a celebratory dram to mark the end of our trip, as well as Brad’s (Apr. 24) and Jack’s (Apr. 26) birthdays.

Tuesday, Apr. 23

Naturally, on the day we must leave, the temp soared to 52 degrees and the wind stayed dead calm. Heard several lonely loon calls in the early AM.

We enjoyed a leisurely morning and said goodbye to Brad and Ellen around 8:30. Watched a contest between a lone loon with a fish, versus an entire gaggle of cormorants. The cormorants were doing a tag-team “harass the loon so it drops its fish” game, with much of the action happening under water. The loon would dip below, with 2 or 3 of the cormorants flying over to where it dove and diving after it. The loon would pop up again and other cormorants would fly over to it and dive after it when it dove for cover again.

Finally, the loon surfaced and up-ended the fish so it would go down its gullet, and suddenly, all the cormorants looked like they were bored, as if they’d had nothing to do with the loon at all. They all went different directions after the game was won by the loon.

Once the water warmed up a bit, John took a final kayak tour before he began to load up for departure. We ate an early lunch and began breaking camp in earnest around noon.

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Just as we were nearing our own departure time, we saw a Canada goose family swimming by. The water was a bit choppy by then, but the little goslings were pretty easy to see. The hard part was getting the youngsters and both parents in my camera’s frame at the same time. But I finally managed.

It was an uneventful drive back home, and we parked Roomba in the driveway near his garage overnight. All was well with the house and critters and we were thankful for Surya, our house sitter. Naturally, the first thing Mischief wanted to do was play ball. 

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I grabbed some meat and went out to see how Beebs (redtailed hawk) was doing, and she seemed quite keen on the food, but not so sure about me.

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Thus the 2019 Spring Trip comes to a close. It was wonderful and fun and so very exciting to share with so many of our friends and to meet new friends along the way. 

More adventures to come—watch this space for the next peregrinations we undertake with our Alto camper.

 

North Bend Federal Campground, VA

North Bend is among our favorite camping spots. It is enormous, and nearly everywhere there is good privacy between sites. The variety of sites available is awesome, but for this last segment of our Spring Trip we chose our “happy place,” an unserviced peninsula reaching into Kerr Lake (Buggs Island Lake) pointing to the south (North Carolina). We usually take site 117, so we face the sunset, but right across the road are excellent sites as well, which face the sunrise. 

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It’s a bit of a walk to the bathhouse, which is 4 private shower/toilet/sink rooms that are roomy and clean. Just as a side note, the dishwashing station is so far away that you need to drive up—and it’s not even at the newer of the biggest bathhouses serving this loop. You have to go to the old bathhouse—now closed to users except for the dishwashing station—which consists of no countertops, just a pair of deep utility sinks, set rather low (and back-achey). So it’s good to remember to take a table along for placing your dishes on.

While North Bend only offers aluminum can recycling, the tremendous upside is that one can get between 3 and 4 bars of LTE nearly everywhere. 

For this trip, Jack had mentioned online that we’d be there, and a few of our Altoistes friends (fellow owners of Alto trailers) suggested they’d be interested in joining us. So, on Thursday, April 18, we arrived (after finding a self-help car wash in South Hill and hosing off all the pollen from the vehicles) to discover Mike and Barbara already arrived and getting ready to set up. Their friends who are on the waiting list for their Alto (July pickup), John and Dana, were set up in a tent next door to them; and down at the end of the spit were Hal and Dawn in their 1-year-old model 2114.

It was VERY windy when we arrived, so we decided not to erect the awning. But we did set up the Clam screen house, and Jack tied it down every way from Sunday to keep it secure. Rain was forecast for the night into Friday, so we didn’t take down or uncover the bikes.

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We all agreed to meet at Hal and Dawn’s site for a Solo stove fire and dinner, but it was so windy, no one wanted to have their food get icy before they could eat it. Most ate in their trailers and joined us for the campfire afterward. Meanwhile, friends of Hal & Dawn who don’t own an Alto pulled into the site next to theirs and set up. We met John and Ginger as the fire kicked off.

We enjoyed a beautiful moon sparkling on the water, and the light lined up for me to get a great fire-and-moon shot.

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Friday, Apr. 19 & Saturday, Apr. 20

Although the strong wind had kept us awake overnight, none of the called-for rain had yet arrived as I sat outside with my book and tea at 7:30 AM. I had a great time watching three bald eagles in a contest for territory. It began with the arrival of a juvenile.

There was a pack of vultures feeding at the nearby shore (a dead fish or such in the rocks?) and a juvie bald eagle flew very near to check it out. When it saw me so close, it peeled off to go across the inlet to sit in the “eagle tree” (named by us during last year’s visit when an adult frequently sat there). Shortly another slightly less mottled sub-adult came along and was either about to alight or challenge when an adult came and chased them both away, chittering and flying aggressively after the youngest. They all disappeared for a while over the trees, and then I saw two of them flying high and away to the east.

I also watched a common loon fishing along the shoreline. Checked out the list of birds one can see at Kerr Lake, and the common loon is an uncommon sighting. During our stay, we saw and heard lots of them (or maybe the same ones over and over?).

Later in the morning, I heard the peeping of an osprey, sounding distressed. I got my binoculars up in time to see an osprey with a fish being harassed by an adult bald eagle. The osprey was lithe and quick but burdened by its fish. The eagle was aggressive and determined, working very hard to get above the osprey—yet it was ponderous and clunky in flight, compared to its target. 

Eventually, the osprey got high enough above the eagle to catch more of the wind and beat a very fast retreat off to the southeast. The eagle gave up and flew westward.

Not long after watching that contest, I began to feel raindrops—the rain began in earnest around 11. Jack and I pulled out the next jigsaw puzzle during the heavy rain, and the wind returned with a vengeance, rocketing the Roomba with pelting rain.

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Before finishing the puzzle we headed to Clarksville to have dinner with Allen and Mary at their farm. In some places en route, the rain was so hard it was difficult to see the road, and we got quite wet racing from the car to their garage upon our arrival. 

We enjoyed a lovely dinner of crab cakes and conversation, followed by a quick song or two around the piano. They have a lovely room with excellent acoustics where Mary plays the piano and Allen listens to his robust music collection with a high-tech sound system. A very comfortable spot—and Allen was also working a jigsaw puzzle—a beach scene in the dark blue of late evening. The rain had stopped and the wind calmed by the time we left.

Breakfast in the very windy and sometimes rainy Saturday AM (April 20) was drop biscuits in the Omnia oven, with the last of the Edwards ham we’d gotten in Smithfield.

 

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Biscuits in the pan before dropping the lid

 

Because the weather was still dicey, we stayed indoors and worked at finishing that diabolical jigsaw puzzle. Its theme was National Parks, and it was a “poster” of a bunch of our parks’ postcards—so every park was represented at least twice in the picture. It was 1000 pieces, which nominally would fit on our nook table, but 1000 is too many to fit unassembled and still be able to work on the puzzle. So we had to bring in our smallest camp table, cover it with a towel and place a whole bunch of pieces there. It was quite a bear and a gift from a friend we might not be able to forgive (just kidding).

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As the weekend drew to a close, our Alto friends were leaving, and some Floyd friends were scheduled to arrive. Hari & Karl had come to join us in their Cassita, but the wind was so bad still, they didn’t want to try to get the tent for their kids set up. So they moved over to the C loop, where it was sheltered from the wind and decidedly warmer than at our site. They texted us this information and invited us over for a campfire. Before we headed to Hari and Karl’s after our cold dinner, I took a shot of the choppy water and clearing sky as the sun was setting. We enjoyed their Solo stove fire for a while, along with a few adult beverages, and closed out the evening with a forecast for better weather during our final days of vacation.

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North Shore Exploration

Saturday, August 22: Leaving Roomba behind, we set out to explore the North Shore of Nova Scotia. We’d read about an island called Annapolis Royal, restored to its historic nature for tourism; and of course, the famous Digby scallops. 

Digby was a far piece away, but we decided to have a lunch of famous scallops there, then work our way back Blomidon way, hitting Annapolis Royal after lunch.

On the way out, with the tide out, we saw some of the enormous differential between Bay of Fundy related high and low tides. The photo doesn’t do it justice – it’s nearly unbelievable.

 

At high tide, there is no red mud visible except along the high sandstone embankments, and the “structure” at the end of the point is surrounded by water and nearly submerged.
 
I was really looking forward to Digby, as it sounded like (from our NS guide book) a quaint fishing town, and on the map it looked beautifully situated in a harbor protected by land, but with a narrow opening to the Bay of Fundy. Jack was looking forward to it because of all foods, scallops are among his faves.

It began raining as we ventured south, and we took the “interstate” 101, so there wasn’t much to see along the way. We passed through the Annapolis Valley, a serious growing region for everything from apples and grapes to oat straw and hay.

Upon reaching Digby it was still foggy but the rain had turned intermittent. The guide book recommended a place called Fundy Restaurant for our scallops, and our first clue to the coming disappointment should have been that the place was nearly empty on an August Saturday.

The meal we got was lunch-priced and sized, but it was their special scallops (supposedly) pan fried in garlic butter. The waitress said it was served with fries and cole slaw.

When it came, the scallops appeared nicely browned, but we bit into them and found a) little to no garlic and b) they were overcooked and tough. The slaw was watery and uninspired, and the fries were pretty good. We paid quite a lot of money for these “famous” Digby scallops. Too bad.

The rain came and went, and I still wanted to get out for a quick walk around the harbor, so we left the restaurant for a wander. The harbor was a good walk – I love taking pictures of fishing boats and floats and such. The gray day added to the impact of the colors. 

   
    
   
And then the fog rolled across the steadily increasing tide of the bay. Very interesting shots to be had there, one of which I took in black and white because I felt it would be most striking without color.

  
    
   
But Digby itself was seedy and drab. There were many empty store fronts, and lots of run-down apartments and dilapidated homes. The only people we saw about were elderly locals and maybe one family of tourists. It looked to me like a dying community.

And we drove 1.5 hours for this?

At this point, the rain began more steadily, and walking about a restored old downtown (the largest collection of pre-1800 buildings in NS), or the historic gardens (!), so we did a drive-by (I got a photo of the sculpture in front of the garden entrance):

  
And then headed to the Annapolis Tidal Station Interpretive center. A great storyteller explained the history and theory behind the turbines installed 30-some years ago to test theories about generating energy from the enormous Fundy Bay tide surges. Some of the ideas, including the one we could see at work at this center, were great theories, but in practice, proved to be far from practical for useful energy generation. It was quite interesting and we were dry for the experience.

Highlights of the drive (alongside the excellent tidal generation presentation) were: sighting of a bald eagle, a redtail, and an osprey. As we drove the back road to our campground, we saw an enormous, very dark-colored rabbit. And saw another right in camp. On the ‘other wildlife’ side, we saw a flattened fox and skunk along the road. And CROWS! I think I’ve never seen so many crows in my life. Thinking of CJ almost constantly.

  
We had briefly discussed combining efforts on a dinner with Mike and Mary (the Alto 1743 owners in camp), so we stopped to get a small amount of additional provisions to add to the effort. And we heard from our friend’s mom, who’s going to shelter our Roomba at her home while we take our ride, starting Monday. While both trying to eat our store of food down in anticipation of leaving everything behind for 10 days, we decided to get some asparagus and a little more wine. But as we emerged from the grocery place, it was positively tipping with rain, and thunder and lightening had entered the mix. A quick google on our Canada phone showed weather warnings for dangerous amounts of heavy rain. So as we headed back to our site, we stopped at Mary & Mike’s to see if they were in and to postpone our sharing a meal until they get to Meadows of Dan in mid-October.

As we rounded the bends back to our spot, we saw that the wind and/or rain had played havoc with our awning, and everything was wetly draped over everything else. The good news was that the bicycles and the one open window in Roomba were dry; and that most everything else could be wiped down pretty easily. The bad news was that my slippers for indoors were soaked, and our two camp chairs were holding pools of water.

Pretty easy to set everything back up, but boy is the ground, air, and most everything wet wet wet. And since it was foggy and/or rainy all day, Roomba’s solar panels didn’t give the battery much help while we were gone. But we didn’t use much, being gone, so we felt sure we’d be able to make it through the night. Hope tomorrow is – if not sunny, then brighter and drier.

Saw this as we ate dinner, so maybe the weather will break tomorrow.