The fun thing about having visitors is not only the great company but exploring places we haven’t seen. My cousin Pam and her husband Ron were out for a week. We kept them busy going to Mesa and Tucson and even got in a little pickleball with them.
We went to Nancy (sister) and Ed’s house and the guys got a chance to try out the putting green.
One trip was to the Biosphere 2. This is an American Earth system science research facility located in Oracle, Arizona. It is run by the University of Arizona. It was originally intended to house people inside to see if they can sustain living there. Biosphere 2 was only used twice for its original intended purposes as a closed-system experiment: once from 1991 to 1993, and the second time from March to September 1994. Both attempts, though heavily publicized, ran into problems including low amounts of food and oxygen. We did get to see it in 1994 when there were people living inside. It has changed a lot since we were there and was quite fascinating to explore.
We took a trip to the the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson. It is a 98-acre zoo, aquarium, botanical garden, natural history museum, and art gallery founded in 1952. It was a nice place to walk around and view many animals and gardens along almost 2 miles of paths and 21 acres.
Our next trip was to Old Tucson. Old Tucson is a movie studio and theme park near Saguaro National Park. This wasn’t one of our favorite places but again it was a nice day to walk around. It was originally built in 1939 for the movie Arizona. Little House on the Prairie was also shot there along with many other movies.
So it was just another busy week in Arizona. Enjoyed our company and got to explore all at the same time. Stay tuned for our next blog, “How we survived Picacho Peak.”
Retired life in Arizona is good. As my mother used to say, “I don’t know what I did all day, but I was busy.” That’s about what we are up to. We have taken a few day trips and our daily routine is walking the dog and playing pickleball. With any luck that is keeping us in shape.
We taught Ed, Sheilah and Ken how to play pickleball. Based on the pictures, they seemed to enjoy it.
Eloy promotes the best Sky Diving place around where you can watch people parachute out of the plane. We could see the planes go up and suddenly there are all kinds of parachutes opening and drifting back to the ground. It is open for anyone to try (at a price of course) but we weren’t brave enough to try it. We know our limits.
We ventured out to see Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. This is an Ancient Sonoran Desert People’s farming community and “Great House” over 650 years old. There is not a lot to see but it was interesting nonetheless. We didn’t watch the film they offered as we had the dog with us. Not many places allow dogs so this was a treat for Shelby to walk around here.
Our next trip was to Saguaro National Park in Tucson. We selected one of the many beautiful days here to take a hike on King’s Canyon. There was a copper mine called “Gould’s Mine” we could see along the trail. You can see the color to the right of the picture below. As with all national parks, are many hikes in this park to choose from. We will be going back to do others in the near future.
While Super Bowl LII was a little disappointing, it was a great game and the Patriot’s had nothing to be ashamed of. We enjoyed dinner and watching the game at Nancy’s (sister) and Ed’s house. During the game, Sheilah got to try out the virtual reality game. If you get motion sickness this is not the game to try.
Hope everyone back East is coping with the snow and ice. Spring has be to just around the corner.
We are settling into our Arizona routine and enjoying every bit of it. The weather has been wonderful at 70+ degrees most of the time. We did have a few cooler days with lows in the 20s but warming up to 60 during the day. We certainly aren’t complaining about the temps here especially when we look at the weather of snow, ice, and rain at home. The sky is a beautiful color morning and evening.
We went to the Barrett-Jackson car auction in Scottsdale. Towards the end we were on car overload but the number and types of cars were something to see. It was fun to actually see the auction in person vs. watching it on TV. This year the total sales were $116.7 million. There were many celebrities there including George W. Bush, Jay Leno, Tim Allen and more. Unfortunately the day we went we did not see any of them. But I think the rest of the people in the state were there based on trying to park and walk around through the crowds. Luckily we went with my sister and brother-in-law and some friends who drove their cars. We are just not used to this amount of traffic.
Another day, we hiked around Usery Mountain with our friend Ken. It is a great 7.5 mile hike—long but not too steep. The views were very nice.
The rest of our days have consisted of walking the dog on the golf course so he can look for rabbits and getting a few hours of pickleball in just to say we are staying active. John and Shelby did see some coyotes on one of their walks around the golf course.
Seven days and 3,000 miles we finally arrived in Eloy, Arizona on Monday, January 8th. We lucked out with the weather across the country. We were ahead of the nasty storm in the east. When we got to Chambersburg, PA there were a few flurries and that is all we got for snow. The cold did last until New Mexico but we hit 70 degrees as we came across into Arizona. We can live with that.
Shelby was amazing the whole ride. We had a tupperware container (yes it was actually Tupperware and I know I am dating myself admitting that) filled with water. Whenever he wanted water he just tapped on the bowl and voila, his master gave him water. We stopped to let him out to stretch his legs quite often and when we got back in the car, he just sat up until he got his treat. I guess we know who is in charge.
The drive from New Mexico to Arizona was really nice. We took the scenic road for our last day and it was very pretty. From snow-capped mountains to Salt River Canyon it was a pretty sight.
The community in Eloy where are we are renting is very nice. We have met a few people and talked with some who played pickleball. John and I went down today to play for an hour. No one was around but we will connect up with others another day. There is also a pool, spa and exercise room which we will take advantage of.
The house is on the 7th tee of a golf course. Unfortunately, the golf course has been closed for 2 years so all the nice greens are brown. It is nice to be able to walk Shelby though. There are plenty of rabbits for him to chase.
Our house is quite nice and how wonderful it is to sit outside for cocktail time. We are thinking the long drive out was worth being able to sit and enjoy the warm weather.
Our last night in Newfoundland we stayed at Barachois Pond Provincial Park which is the first park we stayed in. In the morning we decided to hike Erin Mountain, since we didn’t have to catch the ferry until midnight. This was a long hike but probably one of the most breathtaking 360 degree views we have seen. There was one hike in another area we didn’t want to take because we saw there were over 400 steps and we thought that would be too much. Little did we know this hike had over 800 steps (yes, I counted) but we did make it. The difference in hiking in Newfoundland versus other places is they really like their boardwalks as well as the stairs. Sometimes it is a blessing and other times it is a curse.
After this hike, we still had over 12 hours before we had to get on the ferry. So our last tour of Newfoundland we went to one more falls and one more lighthouse. Barachois Falls in Rose Blanche is a gravel trail that then changes to a boardwalk. A nice walk in to see a beautiful waterfall.
The Rose Blanche Lighthouse was originally built in 1871 and restored in 1999. This is made from granite and during the restoration they were able to use some of the granite from the original lighthouse. The inside of the lighthouse showed where the keeper and his family lived.
Every place we went we saw wooden boxes and wondered what they were. They were in front of every house. At first we thought they were for holding the salt to melt ice in the winter. Our next thought was perhaps some sort of trash bin. They were octagon with slats and spaces in between. They were also different colors. Come to find out it was actually a trash bin. The trash collectors do have to open it up to get out the trash bags. Apparently it is because of the wind in Newfoundland. If they used plastic cans as we are used to seeing, the wind throws them around and they get damaged or lose their lids. Smart idea.
By midnight, we were on the 7-hour ferry back to Nova Scotia. Upon arriving in Nova Scotia, we opted to spend a couple days in Cape Breton. Cape Breton is another great place to visit. After the fact, we did think we should have gone here first as it was a little less spectacular than the coast of Newfoundland.
We didn’t see a lot of wildlife in Newfoundland, but we did see this heron on one of our hikes in Nova Scotia. The beach in Amherst Shore was a reddish color–lots of clay in the sand I’m guessing.
Overall we traveled 4,500 miles. The gas is sold in litres which when translated to US gallons is about $5.00 per gallon. So needless to say, we spent a lot of money on gas.
To finish off our vacation, we stopped off in Lubec to spend time with John’s family and to pay tribute to their father who lived in Lubec.
After Gros Morne our next stop was Burgeo Provincial Park. This was another 2 hour ride over very bumpy roads. Since it had been raining the potholes were filled with water. As you can imagine, if you don’t see the potholes they will swallow you whole. Even the pillows inside the camper went from the top of the bed to the bottom as we rock-and-rolled through these streets.
There are over 100,000 moose in Newfoundland. Up until this point (almost 2.5 weeks into our journey) we had yet to see a moose. Luckily, we took this jaunt down to the southern tip of Burgeo and along the way we saw two moose walking right near the road.
One story we heard from a person from Newfoundland: When they were introducing moose to Newfoundland they would sometimes harness them and bring them by helicopter to different parts. As the natives looked up they saw a moose hanging below the helicopter. Since they always hunted for their meat they thought this was a great find and started shooting at the moose as it was being lowered. Gotta love it!
After our two hour bumpy ride we arrived at Sandbanks Provincial Park. The town of Burgeo has a population of about 1,464 just about the same size as the town of Washington. There wasn’t much to see until we reached the park and the sand beach and views were everything we hoped for. We only spent one night here but it was worth the trip.
After St. John’s we traveled back to the east coast and stayed again at Green Point campground in Gros Morne. We debated about going to L’anse aux meadows as it was about 2 hours north of Gros Morne National Park and the roads just aren’t great. In the end we did go. L’anse aux meadows is an archaeological site on the northernmost tip of the island. So we drove up on a not-so-nice day and camped at Pistolet Bay Provincial Park. As with most of the campgrounds this was a nice once and we met a wonderful ranger there and spent some time talking to him about Newfoundland. Luckily his accent wasn’t too heavy so we could understand him. Strangely enough, we met him 2 days later when we visited another area in Gros Morne. Anyway, we decided to go to L ‘anse aux meadows historical site the day we arrived. It was not a great day so walking around this site was a little less than desirable. We weren’t overly excited about this place but it was probably because of the weather that it wasn’t so great.
It was quite windy on the way back down to Gros Morne and it was blowing the camper all over the road. We made it with no problems but I was a little white knuckled as we were traveling. While we didn’t see a lot of wildlife we did notice a huge eagle on the way up north. We saw the same eagle in the same place coming back down. So the question is–was it real? We’re claiming it was. Who’s going to question us?
Coming back south we stopped at The Arches Provincial Park. These Arches show a geological formation formed over millions of years as a result of glacial action, wind and water erosion. The continuing changes to these Arches will probably result in them becoming rock pillars.
It is amazing how we go from rocky beaches to sand beaches. The Old Mail Road is an easy walk on the beach between the sand dunes and the campground at Shallow Bay. This path was once part of the only overland route up the Northern Peninsula. Every winter from 1882 to 1952, mailmen travelled it by dogsled to deliver mail along the coast.
Cow Head is the northern-most enclave community in Gros Morne National Park. The Cow Head Lighthouse is cast iron and was built in 1909. It is accessible by a scenic walking trail. You can tell it hasn’t been used in a while as it was surrounded by trees and you couldn’t see the water from the lighthouse.
Broom Point Fishing Premises was an interesting location where the three Mudge brothers and their families fished from 1941 to 1975. They all lived in a small 3-room house (at times up to 10 people) every summer to harvest lobster and cod. The men would haul in the cod and the women would clean the fish and lay out hundreds of cod on the beach to dry. It if rained, they had to go out and bring it all in until the rain stopped and then start all over again. Not a job I would want to do.
Moving on we go to Green Point Geological site where there was another set of red chairs. Almost 500 million years ago, the rocks formed on the bottom of an ancient ocean. The Wave Sound sculpture by Rebecca Belmore is a cone-like shape that creates a natural application of the surrounding environment. I put my ear up to listen but didn’t hear anything different. But maybe it was just me.
We found a little town (population 281) called Woody Point. There was a nice lighthouse with a great view of the water and mountains.
One last hike in Gros Morne was Bakers Brook Falls. This hike started right from our campsite which is always a plus. It was a long hike (10 km 2-3 hours) but was well worth the trip.
We moved further west to Terra Nova National Park and then to St. John’s. Of course, we continued our hiking expedition at each place we stopped at.
One of the somewhat rainy days we went to a place called Trinity. This was a cute little town that we would have spent more time walking around if we had better weather. There were restored fishing rooms, historic buildings and unique houses. One of the buildings showed a general store where you felt like you were transported back into time.
Another campground we stayed at was Butterpot Provincial Park. We took a nice hike and were rewarded with a beautiful view.
As always on our next venture, I got us a little lost trying to find Cape Spear and Signal Light. We ended up in the heart of St. John’s. Luckily it was not as bad as driving in Boston or New York City. We eventually found our way to where we wanted to go. Signage in Newfoundland it a little difficult to say the least. If you see a sign telling you to take a right in 1 km don’t expect to see any more signs even when you get to the turn. You just have to figure it out or turn around once you have gone past it. (As we did quite often.)
Cape Spear is located on the Avalon peninsula near St. John’s and is the easternmost point in Canada. So we can now say we have been to the easternmost point in Canada and the U.S. (Lubec). The Cape Spear Lighthouse has been in operation since 1836. And a new concrete building was built to house the light in 1955. The original lighthouse building and the light keeper’s residence have since been restored to the period of 1839,
Signal Hill is a hill which overlooks the city of St. John’s. Due to its strategic placement overlooking the harbor, fortifications were built on the hill beginning in the mid 17th century. The final battle of the Seven Years’ War in North America was fought in 1762 at the Battle of Signal Hill, in which the French surrendered St. John’s to a British force.
Fort Amherst consists of a man-made harbor, a lighthouse and the remains of gun emplacements and pillboxes built during World War II to defend against German U-boats.
Leaving Gros Morne National Park, we next headed east and traveled through Grand-Falls Windsor and Gander. Gander is the town that took in over 6,700+ people during the September 11th attacks. The stories from the Newfoundlanders and their guests were heartwarming. This town of 10,000 residents ended up receiving 38 flights during the attacks. They took strangers into their homes and bent over backwards to make them comfortable. While we didn’t spend any time in Gander, just reading about what they did was amazing.
Grands-Falls Windsor (in the central part of Newfoundland) was a good stopover on our way to Twillingate. Right from the campground was a scenic walk to a waterfall. Just about every campground we stayed in during our trip had some sort of hike we could do right from our camper. Each one was different but all of them were worth the hike.
We went to the Salmonid Interpretation Centre and could watch the salmon as they travel upstream to the spawning habitat.
Our next stop was Twillingate. This was my favorite place in all of Newfoundland. The coast was just spectacular and we hiked along the coast for miles. Twillingate is known for its icebergs, growlers and bergy bits. (A bergy bit is a medium to large fragment of ice. Its height is generally greater than three feet but less than 16 feet above sea level . Growlers are smaller fragments of ice and are roughly the size of a truck or grand piano.) Unfortunately, they are typically gone by August so we did not get to see any. We also didn’t see any puffins but the scenery made up for the lack of icebergs and puffins.
And what would a trip for us be without seeing some lighthouses. I needed a few more lighthouses to add to my list.
We went for a wine tasting and tour at Auk Island Winery. Not being a wine drinker I went for the Outport Raspberry Screech (Raspberry wine and Rum) and John tried the 3 Sheets to the Wind and Fifty Shades of Bay. The wines were made with different types of berries including crowberry, blueberry, cloudberry, bakeapple, and partridgeberries. They even had wine ice cream. While this sounded terrible, it was actually quite good.
Canada is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. All national parks and national historic sites are free to enter. We think this is part of the reason we had a hard time getting campsites. A few times when we got to the campground they were either full or had one or two sites left. After that, we had to plan a little more as to where we were going and make reservations ahead of time. A lot of time was spent just making these plans which was a little disappointing. But it all worked out.
We spent a few days at Green Point campground in Gros Morne National Park. This campground is a first come first serve so we got there and started pulling into one site when a woman came running up to us with her chair staking claim to the site. She had already registered and was trying to get to the site when we pulled in. We moved on and found one last site to take. There were some beautiful sunsets while we camped there. My pictures don’t do it justice but it was nice to see.
The rocks in Gros Morne NP intrigued us. Lots of different colors, shapes and sizes. Some of the bigger ones we thought would be easier to take a picture of rather than try to carry them home. We did bring a few small ones home. It reminded me of the time we took our nephew, Edward, hiking in Maine. He kept picking up rocks he liked and by the time we reached the top, his pockets were bursting with rocks. He was a little weighted down and had to drop a few rocks before heading back down. After learning from him, we decided not to fill our pockets
The metal pieces here are from the SS Ethie. This was a shipwreck off the Martin’s Point in December, 1919. A storm blew up and the captain had to try and beach the ship. Miraculously, all 92 passengers and crew were saved.
As we traveled around, we found many red chairs placed strategically in different areas. Other areas in Canada also have adopted this program. Eighteen pairs were added in 2014. We didn’t find all of them but did see a few. Some are at the end of a long hike, while others are not far from the road.
This was the extent of our fishing.
We took a 2-hour Western Brook Pond Boat Tour. This is a landlocked fjord and is quite a sight. We originally wanted to take the boat to a hike which overlooks the rim of Western Brook Pond. They recommend a guide to take you as there is no real defined route and it takes up to 8 hours. So needless to say our aging bodies weren’t up for that so we settled for the boat tour.
As always, I was able to find lighthouses in our travels. The first one was Lobster Cove Head. There were a few trails to walk around and enjoy the view.
Just so you don’t think there is no wildlife in Newfoundland, here is a snowshoe hare. He visited us a few times during happy hour while we sat at our campsite. And no, we didn’t share any drinks with him.
The Tablelands was an interesting place. One side of the road was like a barren desert while the other side was green trees. This area reminded me of traveling through Utah. We came to this area twice as the first time it was so crowded we didn’t stop. The second time we did get to hike the 4 km trail. roundtrip.
Down from the Tablelands was a hike called Green Gardens. This was a beautiful hike (9 km, about 4 hours) Totally different landscape from the Tablelands but also a great site to see.
Every few days we need electricity just to recharge the camper batteries. One campground we had was a little less than desirable (think gravel and campers lined up one after another.) However, there is always a silver lining wherever we go. The best part about this one campground was sitting talking with our neighbors. They were from Louisiana and have have been to Newfoundland a few times. We had happy hour with them and a true Newfoundlander came over to talk to us as well. We only understood about every other word but he was fun to talk with. Many things are expensive in Newfoundland including the beer. An 8-pack (they don’t have 6-packs) costs $20. (We get a 30-pack in the states for $20.) Anyway, this man goes to Florida during the winter and on his way back home he stocks up on beer prior to entering Canada. Not sure if he has to pay duty on it, but it may still be cheaper than buying in Newfoundland.