Travels out east: islands, lakes and mountains

Niagara falls is a stunning force of nature. (Courtesy photo/Roxanne Rowley)

By Roxanne Rowley
Special to the News Advocate

Several years ago we packed up our trusty van and headed on a road trip that took us out east to the Atlantic Provinces of Canada and the eastern United States.

There is something freeing and fun about an eagerly anticipated road trip, especially when the weather is fine and the autumn colors are just beginning to transform the forests into a multi-hued canvas. We enjoyed taking the roads less traveled, as Robert Frost suggested; the ones that show up as thin red squiggles on maps.

Niagara Falls was a must-see stop. What a stunning force of nature, with the roaring waters creating little rainbows everywhere. It was a mesmerizing spectacle. We went to the Canadian side and the American side. We liked the horseshoe-shaped Canadian Falls, but on the American side you can really get up close and personal to the thundering falls. The light mist from the falls was cooling on that warm day. Plus there’s also a beautiful botanical garden to stroll through. It was a very agreeable afternoon.

Lake Placid, New York, was home to the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics. (Courtesy photo/Roxanne Rowley)

There is a really neat Erie Canal Museum in Syracuse, New York. The canal was 363 miles long and stretched from where Albany meets the Hudson River to where Buffalo meets Lake Erie. Construction for the Erie Canal started in 1871 and the canal opened in 1825. The canal was an immediate success. The canal boats could carry over 30 tons of goods at a much lower price and with much greater efficiency than horses or donkeys laden down with goods. What an engineering marvel it was. Parts of the canal are still in use today for barge traffic.

We drove through the stunning Adirondack Mountains, 6 million acres of very dramatic scenery. Lake Placid, home to the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics, in the Adirondacks was perfectly sky blue and placid when we stopped there. There were the remnants of a ski jump from the Olympics and it was easy to imagine the cheers of crowds rooting for their favorite ski-jumper. The autumn colors were just beginning as we drove through the mountains. It made for a spectacularly lovely drive.

Our stop in Montreal, Quebec, was fortunate indeed. We happened to be there on an environmental awareness day, so the streets were pedestrian friendly. There were food vendors, craft tents, lively music, and special activities for children, as well as crowds of friendly people. Montreal felt very European with splatters of color everywhere from lovely pots of flowers, splashing fountains and sidewalk cafes. Plus they speak French and English. What an unforgettable day.

Cavendish, Prince Edward Island, Anne of Green Gables inspiration. (Courtesy photo/Roxanne Rowley)

From Quebec we went to Maine. There were sure a lot of “Beware of Moose” signs as we drove through northern Maine. However we had no moose encounters, just lots of rolling hills, sky blue lakes and beautiful forests that were just beginning to show the pastel hues of their autumn colors.

We continued east to the Atlantic Provinces of Canada. Prince Edward Island (PEI) was a very lovely stop. What a picturesque little isle. Everywhere we looked on PEI the scenery was picture-postcard perfect. Lucy Maud Montgomery was inspired to write her Anne of Green Gables books in Cavendish, PEI. The house where the books were set was surrounded by beautiful grounds with flowers flourishing in the autumn sunshine plus many trails. It was easy to see how LM Montgomery could have been inspired to write there.

Halifax, Nova Scotia, is an attractive harbor city with a nice harbor front walk along the water. The city is also quite hilly, so walking around was a very good workout. We found a restaurant at the top of a hill and enjoyed a scenic lunch overlooking the city. Some friends told us not to miss Peggy’s Cove near Halifax. It is a small, quaint fishing village with a population of about 40 people. There is a post office in the bottom of the Lighthouse which is one of the most photographed in Nova Scotia. Enormous boulders worn smooth by waves from the sea follow the coastline. The stunning scenery made it a wonderful place to admire and explore.

Harbor Walk, Halifax Nova Scotia. (Courtesy photo/Roxanne Rowley)

Coming back from the Atlantic Provinces we took a ferry across the Bay of Fundy. It was a relaxing three hour trip that cut several hours from our driving time. Maine’s Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor beckoned. What a simply gorgeous area, rugged and scenic. We rented a cabin for a few nights so we could investigate the many trails and beaches. We found ourselves sitting on a rocky perch one afternoon watching the waves roll onto shore and back. It was mesmerizing — almost like the ocean was inhaling and exhaling. Acadia National Park covers about 47,000 acres so those few days we were there just gave us a small taste of its beauty.

Iconic LL Bean has its headquarters in Freeport, Maine,so we had to check it out. I was most fascinated by the gigantic boot near the entrance of the store. Freeport was founded in 1789 and was probably named because of the “openness of its harbor,” which is free from ice — hence Freeport. It is an attractive little community with lots of shops, eateries and vibrant potted flowers adorning the streets. We enjoyed our time there.

Post Office in Lighthoues, Prince Edward Island. (Courtesy photo/Roxanne Rowley)

In Exeter, New Hampshire, we visited some relatives and they happily showed us around. Phillips Exeter Academy is a posh prep school where Abraham Lincoln’s son Robert studied. New Hampshire was one of the original 13 colonies and Exeter was founded in 1638, so it has a lot of history. We visited the American Independence Museum for an interesting afternoon learning of times long past. There are still many old brick buildings around time as well as a fascinating lighthouse called Nubble Lighthouse. What a pleasant visit.

One of the best stops in Vermont was in Waterbury, home of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream factory. We took the guided tour, checked out the gift shop and got a free sample of ice cream. The free sample led to the purchase of a huge ice cream cone, which I think was the intent! The autumn colors were lovely in Vermont, but we decided that they weren’t any prettier than the spectacular fall colors of Michigan.

Our travels out east took us to so many gorgeous places. Who doesn’t enjoy exploring islands, pretty lakes and mountains? Oh, and having a chance to sample some really good ice cream.

 

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