Friday, July 9, 2010

Foggy Fun in Fundy

July 7, 2010

Sussex to Grand Manan Island

We broke the 5,000 mile mark yesterday—our odometer read 5,080 miles when we stopped at the All Seasons Inn in Sussex. That means it's time for a little rest and relaxation, we think, so we actually make a reservation in advance at a 150 year old hotel on Grand Manan Island. We will be staying for three days of what we expect will be lots of leisure time.

On the way to the ferry to the island, we make a few stops.

First we see a scenic little wharf in St. Martins where we stop to take some photos of fishing boats and two rustic covered bridges.

Then we continue to the Fundy Trail Parkway, planning to do a little bike ride along a "multi-use" trail that runs roughly parallel with the road. The woman at the toll gate looks skeptical when we ask her where to get on the trail with our bikes. She suggests that perhaps we might want to drive the length of the trail first, and then decide if we really want to ride it. What a subtle way to tell us that no one but Lance Armstrong and his training buddies would choose to ride their bicycle on this steep terrain. The hills have the grade of a thrill ride roller coaster—we can think of only one steeper road we have ever traveled. The trail we would ride on our bicycles is not paved, is narrow, and has a lot of rocks and roots on it. No discussion needed, we both mentally abandon the biking plan.

Then we abandon the sight-seeing plan, as at each scenic overlook any view there might be is cloaked in fog. We have moments of hope, as the fog seems to clear somewhat, only to swirl back in again. We do get in one cliffside hike that takes us momentarily below the fog for a good view of the park's Flower Pot Rock. We snap a picture, and are on our way to someplace less foggy, we hope.

We stop for the best fish chowder ever at the Seaside Restaurant at the bottom of the hill up to the Fundy Trail Parkway. We dine on the patio overlooking a rocky beach and caves carved into the face of the cliff at the edge of the beach. Our view is in soft focus, due to the enduring fog. We both order the fish chowder, which is the best we have had ever—big chunks of lobster and haddock, small shrimp and a touch of potato fill the bowl with just a bit of creamy broth around the fish to keep it all moist and enhance the flavors.

We take an after lunch walk on the beach and explore the caves, then we are back on the road, passing the scenic little wharf in St. Martins again. Surprise! The tide has gone out while we were exploring and lunching. We take our photos all over again with the boats in low tide dry dock.

Then we are once again on our way to the Grand Manan Island Ferry, which leaves from Blacks Harbour, "home of the world's largest sardine industry," as the sign welcoming us to town states. This must be the place that took over supplying the market when all those sardine canneries in Maine went under, as we learned at the Sardine Museum in Jonesport.

The ferry to Grand Manan leaves every two hours, and takes an hour and a half to get there. We had been hoping to see some pelagic birds and some whales on the ride over to the island, but our hopes are dashed by the fog. The ferry is running on radar most of the way to the island, and we are left to read our books and grab some dinner aboard.

Our hotel, the Marathon Inn, is high on a hill overlooking the town and harbor. Lexie Wilcox greets us warmly, checks us in, suggests a bunch of things we need to do while we are here, and tells us stories about the hotel and her island ancestors. The retired sea captain that owned the original hotel on this site won the annex hotel in a poker game. Then he had the hotel he won rolled down the hill to sit next to his original hotel. Now they are connected by a wide porch with lots of chairs and planters of colorful flowers. It is the quintessential Victorian seaside resort, with a definite patina of age that is charming rather than run-down.

We are on the third floor (no elevator), with a grand view of the ocean from all of our windows, as we learn when the fog clears. We also are near enough to the Swallowtail Lighthouse to hear the fog horn when the fog does not clear, which will be the case tonight. Surprisingly, we find it lulls us to sleep. Not surprisingly, the long blare and three short toots of the ferry horn upon its 7:30 am departure awakens us. This wake-up call provides our first lesson that much of Island life and time-keeping revolves around the ferry.

Stay tuned for our island adventures.

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