P.E.I. day 4 – guest blogger

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Having explored the central part of the Prince Edward Island from the Northumbrland Strait to Dalvay-by-the-Sea on the Gulf, we headed out across the narrowest part of the island along the North Coastal Drive.
On the drive to O’Leary, our destination, Susan Dalziel showed us sites, some of which will never make the top-ten tourist attractions, but were enormously interesting. For example, we learned that there is an ice rink in almost every town and she has been in many of them. Curling is another national sport, also played on ice. It may be the world’s oldest team sport.
Another example was a very colorful farmstead with buildings reminding one of the Union Jack. In 1965 when the maple leaf became the flag of Canada, the farmer said he’d always lived under the Union Jack and painted the farm buildings red, white and blue so he could continue to do so. We also saw race tracks—Susan explained that harness racing is popular across the Island.  One of the farmers we met later told us that he and farmer friends don’t put money on the races, but they race for “bragging rights.” He saw it as a great way to relax in the off season.

Before we knew it we were at the Potato Museum in O’Leary.  You couldn’t miss it—there is a potato bigger than Godzilla standing in the front! O’Leary isn’t quite at the north-most tip of PEI, but it is only 42 km to North Cape (26+ miles), so we were close.

At the Museum we were met by a retired dairy farmer who started out growing potatoes. He talked with us about farming on PEI. Potatoes have been grown on the Island since the 1700s. Most of the potato farms are a multi-generational family business. It is the largest potato-producing province in Canada, bringing in half of the farm income on the Island.

We were introduced to environmentally sustainable farming practices on the Island,
learning that potato farmers rotate crops, alternating potatoes and green cover crops. Among the issues facing farmers are how to balance the need to control pests and disease with the necessity of protecting the Island’s water resources and whether and how much ground water should be allocated for growers. It isn’t an easy issue. There is also an organization of organic farmers that produces has a cooperative and produces its own newsletter.
Another issue has to do with the relationship between corporations that hold contracts for growing potatoes and sell fertilizer and crop protection products to the farmers.  To the outsider, it sounded a bit like owing one’s soul to the company store, to borrow from the Merle Travis song made popular by Tennessee Ernie Ford

We saw potatoes being dug, cleaned and sorted for shipping and a lot of impressive, expensive equipment. We visited a climate controlled storage facility where the potatoes are kept. One farm sends its potatoes to a large potato chip company in the US. Other PEI potatoes find their way into French fries eaten in Canada and the US. Different potatoes are grown for different potato products. We were told that table potatoes may be the hardest of all to grow because they need to be picture perfect for the market.

After having a failed potato crop in the raised beds in my backyard this summer, I was pretty impressed by the magnitude of the business. The work was not only in the fields, but in the farm office where detailed records are kept. The farmers can track any load of potatoes from the time they are dug, locating specific parts of a field, until they are processed.

Back at the Potato Museum we had a potato-based lunch and sampled potato fudge. It was seriously, dangerously good, too!

The afternoon took us to another family business, Leslie Hardy and Sons  on the shores of Malpeque Bay. The Malpeque oyster is still fished from dories with long handled rakes. We had a thorough induction to production and harvesting of clams, quahaugs (the large, hard-shell clam), mussels and oysters. We saw quahaugs being sorted into three sizes and those in our group who were inclined sampled them.
Mussels and oysters were on offer, too.

The day ended for some of us with dinner at the Confederation Center of Arts in Charlottetown. We had wonderful food and were conveniently located to the theater where some of our group were to see the musical Anne and Gilbert

Next: Eastern Coastal Region

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P.E.I day three of a guest blogger

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I admit it. I wanted to go to Prince Edward Island because I read Anne of Green Gables. My mother loved the Anne books but I just couldn’t get interested in them when I was a girl. I didn’t become a Montgomery fan until Mom and my daughter bonded over the Canadian mini-series of Anne directed by Kevin Sullivan with Megan Follows playing Anne Shirley, Colleen Dewhurst as Marilla Cuthbert and Richard Farnsworth as Matthew Cuthbert. From then going forward, I was destined to be one of the 125,000 or so tourists who visit PEI every year to see the island that was bound to Lucy Maud Montgomery’s heart.

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We were off to an early start on Green Gables Day, headed for Cavendish, the small town where Lucy Maud Montgomery, who preferred to be called Maud, lived and wrote her classic. If you haven’t read Anne of Green Gables it is probably hard to imagine how the story of an impetuous, imaginative, red-headed orphan, published in 1908, can still capture the hearts of people around the world. However, the story is so much more than that of a girl growing up. It is as much the story of the brother and sister who wanted to adopt a boy to help out with the family farm. Anne is waiting at the train station instead of the expected boy. They keep her because they don’t have the heart to send her away and she needs them. In the end they recognize that they needed her as much as she needed them. Anne of Green Gables is also the story of a beautiful spot in the world and an author whose very soul was fed by its red dirt, green fields and sparkling waters. It is no wonder that people reading Montgomery’s description of the Island want to experience it with senses and soul.


The house that inspired Green Gables belonged to Maud Montgomery’s uncle and aunt. It, along with the site of her grandparent’s home where she was reared, has been designed an historic site.
At Green Gables there is an introductory video and artifacts related to Montgomery, including a replica of one of her scrapbooks—all worth pondering.

Green Gables has been carefully restored to reflect the book. It was very satisfying to feel a sense of recognition while walking through the house. The living and dining rooms, Matthew’s bedroom, pantry and kitchen are on the first floor.

They’ve made guesses about where things should be located based on the book. For example, it was decided that Anne’s room on the second floor and the guest room where she always wanted to sleep, should be light and airy. In a more somber corner is Marilla’s room with her best dress laid out, and the sewing room is across the hall from Anne’s room.


The flower and vegetable gardens are lush and beautifully kept. One can almost see Marilla picking plums for her famous cordials.

Barns have been constructed with attention to period detail. I almost expected to hear kittens in the hayloft at the barn. It would have seemed right to run into Anne racing up the hill from Lover’s Lane. Instead, there were other tourists exploring the grounds. Like Anne, I had to use my imagination.

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Half day wasn’t nearly enough, not enough for pondering. I wanted to walk along the “Haunted Woods” path and down “Lover’s Lane,” as well as linger in the house and reflect on what is most important about being alive and able to apprehend the possibilities and beauty that surround me every day. Montgomery’s ability to capture the possibilities and beauty that Anne sees in her world are part of the book’s appeal as is Anne’s capacity to rise above her circumstance through imagining things as if they were otherwise. It is so easy to get stuck in the way things are, to quit noticing the beauty around us, to get too busy to appreciate small things. Anne saw and felt and lived the consequences of one who sees and feels deeply.

Susan Dalziel, our guide, filled in details about the Cavendish area and how it has been shaped by Anne tourism. There are plenty of touristy dressings to the area, ranging from a recreation of the fictional village of Avonlea to Anne of Green Gables Chocolates and miniature golf. We didn’t visit the village, but Susan says it is a big family attraction
during the season when schools are out. It has been built with attention to detail as described in the Anne books.

As we left Green Gables, Susan talked about how Anne’s life mirrored Maud Montgomery’s life in many ways. After her mother died, she was reared by her grandparents. Later, she tried living with her father, but found that she could not get along with his wife. She finished college and found a job in Halifax. She reported loving her job proofreading for two newspapers, but it was short lived, ending when her grandfather died. Like Anne, she returned to the farm. We drove past the Cavendish Presbyterian Church where Maud Montgomery played the organ. Secretly engaged to the Reverend Ewen Macdonald for five years, Montgomery was married in Ontario after her grandmother died.

Montgomery’s books draw upon life experiences, people, and places she knew and loved, rearranged to suit the story. Though she returned frequently to her beloved Prince Edward Island, she never lived there again after her marriage. In the end, she was unable to experience the happiness that Anne enjoyed. Her husband suffered from what we would now call severe clinical depression. Life must have been extremely difficult for her. As Macdonald’s condition became more extreme, she, too, became depressed. It was thought that she died of a heart attack a few months before her husband’s death, but in 2008, her granddaughter disclosed that Montgomery took an overdose of pills, leaving a note in which she asks for forgiveness. In Anne of Green Gables, Montgomery has Anne saying, “Life is worth living as long as there’s a laugh in it.” But for Montgomery, the laughter was gone and she could no longer imagine things as if they were otherwise.

We passed the cemetery where she is buried on her beloved Island, near Green Gables.

Following our visit to Green Gables, we visited Dalvay-by-the-Sea,
known to Anne readers as The White Sands Hotel. It is a Queen Anne Revival building,
built in 1895 by Alexander MacDonald as a summer home. A wealthy businessman, MacDonald lived in Cincinnati. The summer house was named for the home where he was reared in Scotland, as was the Cincinnati home, hence Dalvay-by-the-Sea. MacDonald left the house and his fortune to his granddaughters Laura and Helena Stallo, but their father mis-mismanaged the estate. Eventually the house had to be sold, changing hands several times before becoming the property of the provincial government. When the new Prince Edward Island National Park was created, ownership was transferred to the federal government. Now an inn, Dalvay-by-the-Sea is managed by a private firm. Our lunch there was one of the best of the trip, featuring the sticky date pudding
for which it is famous.

Dalvay-by-the-Sea, aka The White Sands Hotel, faces the Gulf of St. Lawrence and what is now the Prince Edward Island National Park.
We met with a Parks expert, who talked about the delicate balance of animal and plant life along this coastal stretch. Then we had a chance to get some sand between our toes. I couldn’t be that close to an untried ocean (especially if the water promised to be warm) without at least wading along the surf. I rolled up my trousers and got a good splashing anyway. The water was warm, though there was a cool breeze.


Even though I would have liked more time at Green Gables, I wouldn’t have missed the afternoon. But I suppose it comes back to the earlier analogy of a day that was like ordering delicious starters before a meal.

Next: visiting a potato farm and an insider’s look at a family run seafood business.

prince edward island – day two

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So, as you read yesterday (or not) you know that these posts are by my mum. She left us behind and went off on a Road Scholar trip to Prince Edward Island (PEI). Here’s day two…

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On my way into Charlottetown from the airport, my cab driver and I talked about the importance of agriculture and tourism to Island economy. Located on the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Island depends upon the sea. Agriculture, fishing, and tourism make up the backbone of the PEI economy today.  But, with an ample supply of timber and demand for ships in the early 1800s, PEI became a center for shipbuilding.

Fortunes were made and lost as the shipbuilding industry waxed and waned. That brings us back to Beaconsfield House, the beautiful estate where Mary and I paused on our way to the boardwalk along Victoria Park.

On the way, Susan (our guide) took us for a walking tour along Kent Street past St. Peter’s Anglican Cathedral, the smallest cathedral in Canada. Standing next to it is All Soul’s Chapel designed by William Critchlow Harris and built of island sandstone. Mary and I looked in later in the week when we had some free time. Inside, it is decorated with murals by the artist Robert Harris, brother of William.

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At Beaconhouse, we met Boyde Beck, Beck is a curator with the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation and was our Instructor for the week. If you ever have a chance to attend a lecture he is giving, jump at it. Beck knows how to weave historical fact and down to earth story together to make history come alive.

Beaconsfield  is another PEI landmark designed by William Critchlow Harris. It was built for the shipbuilder James Peake Jr. and his wife Edith Haviland Peake, daughter of the prominent lawyer and politician Thomas H. Haviland.

Beaconsfield was completed in 1877, two years before Haviland became Lieutenant Governor of PEI. It was easily the most splendid and expensive house in the city, featuring every modern convenience, including gas lighting and running water. Beaconsfield was the site of many elegant events. Among the notable guests entertained there was the Marchioness of Lorne, Princess Louise, the daughter of Queen Victoria. Sadly, when the ship building industry declined and nobody could afford to buy Beaconsfield the Peaks lost it along with their fortune. The house reverted to the mortgage holder, Henry Cundall,
who lived there with his sisters rather than see the house fall into ruin.

We stood under a tree at Beaconsfield looking out at Hillsborough Bay while Beck told us about the house’s tragic history and how Cundall, who had no heirs, wanted the house to be a residence for “friendless young women” studying at the teacher training college nearby. It later became a residence for third year nurses in training. Beck showed us the spot across the street where the nurses threw their old black shoes when they qualified to wear white—not quite throwing ones mortar board into the air, but an equally important ritual, I imagine. Now the site is mostly an asphalt parking lot and tidal rush-filled pond, but Beck wonders what kind of surprise will be in store for the archeologist who unknowingly digs there sometime in the faraway future to find thousands of bits of old shoes.

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Overlooking the boardwalk and the bay is Government House. Government House is the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor of Prince Edward Island, personal representative of the Canadian monarch, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II  . Don’t plan on being invited in for an overnight stay unless you are part of the royal family—then I think they have a spot for you on the second floor.

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Named Epekwitk by the Mi’kmaq First Nation people, the island was renamed Isle St-Jean by the French and St. John’s after the British took it. In the late 1700s it was renamed in honor of Prince Edward, father of Queen Victoria and younger brother of King George III.  Along Victoria Park one can still visit the remains of Fort Edward  with its cannons, one of the most photographed sites in Victoria Park.

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Later in the day, Beck took us to Province House  where the Charlottetown Conference first met in September 1864 to discuss federal union. As the birthplace of Confederation, it is a site important to Canada as a nation as well as to the Island. The building is being restored (I think that means deferred maintenance has its limits) so we were not able to go inside.
It houses the PEI Provincial Legislature. Dominating Queen’s Square, Province House offers a view of the historic Great George Street all the way to the harbor.

We headed toward Confederation Landing, where the ship landed carrying delegates to the historic meeting at Province House, pausing by St. Dustan’s Basilica. St. Dustan’s is an example of the High Victorian Gothic Revival architecture of many of the historic buildings in the city. Nearby, St. Paul’s Anglican church, the first protestant church in the city, is another William Critchlow Harris building. It is distinctive in its use of Island sandstone.

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From there, we explored the harbor. In September and October the city receives cruise ships giving a last boost to the tourist season before Canadian Thanksgiving, the second Monday of October, when the first breath of winter usually begins to hit. Two ships were in. After some time to visit Confederation Landing Park, we ate at one of the restaurants on Peak’s Wharf.

Our full day of PEI history was a great beginning. It left me feeling like I’d had starters to a much more bountiful meal. We were focused on the European settlement. The earlier history of the Mi’kmaq First Nation People  was alluded to as we went along.

I looked online after I got home to see what I could find out about the Mi’kmaq. Legend tells how Kluskap created Epekwitk (PEI) on the waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and slept on its sandy shores, waking to devote his time to protection of the island. The Mi’kmaq Confederacy of Prince Edward Island was established in April 2002 to educate and provide resources to the Mi’kmaq community. The website notes that establishment of the Confederacy is analogous to Kluskap’s awakening. The Mi’kmaq website includes legends, stories and resources as well as current events.

Coming up: a visit to Anne of Green Gables country.

p.e.i. and a guest blogger

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So, sometimes, my mum gets to go travelling on her own and us Bolin girls get left behind. It’s a bummer, but then she ought to be able to get away from us from time-to-time.

This past week my mum, otherwise known as Grammy to AEB, went off to Prince Edward Island, Canada. She met an old friend from her days living in New York and they met up with a larger group on a trip organised by the Road Scholar company. I’ll her take it from here…

****

Flying into Charlottetown on a clear day you can see Prince Edward Island (PEI) afloat in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, flanked by New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. It is a breathtakingly beautiful perspective with sparkling water giving way to a patchwork of farmland fields punctuated by tall evergreens.

Hailing a cab at the airport, I met my first PEI ambassador–the cab driver. It took me awhile to realize that his accent was French Acadian. By the end of my short ride to the hotel I knew that PEI was reliant on agriculture and tourism, that it was a beautiful place to live, and that jobs were a problem contributing to an aging population, because young people are leaving to find work. And I learned that he couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. All that in less than fifteen minutes!

By the end of my visit to the Island, I knew that the Maritimes were once part of Acadia, a colony of New France settled by the French in the late 17th and early 18th century. They lived there until the British took over in 1710, refusing to sign an oath of loyalty to the crown. Then the dark period—dramatically and fictionally portrayed by Longfellow in his poem Evangeline –when they were deported to France in an unforgiving Atlantic winter where nearly a third of them died in route to France. Others made their way to Louisiana and Cajun culture emerged. Later the Acadian population returned, contributing to the rich island culture. But I digress and I’m not even to the hotel.

I met my friend Mary at our hotel on Pownal Street where we had a day to explore on our own before our group arrived. After I checked in, we wandered down Queen Street, to Victoria Row, pausing at the Anne of Green Gables Store promising ourselves to look in later. All along Victoria Row’s cobblestone street there are little restaurants with outdoor seating, shops and galleries. Along one side of the street a band played. Outdoor entertainment was to be found all over the city. (A great resource for finding free activities is http://www.discovercharlottetown.com/en/see-do/Free.php).

After carefully reading menus along Victoria Row to see who offered the gluten free options Mary requires, we made a disappointing choice. They were apologetically out of everything gluten free. We found another spot where she enjoyed the scallops. Almost everywhere, restaurants were able to accommodate. The scallops were just the introduction to PEI’s seafood banquet, too. I had to stick with fish choices, but with fresh haddock and cod on offer, I did not feel deprived.

We decided to spend the day before our group arrived wandering along the board walk that extends along Victoria Park .
Walking down Kent Street toward the harbor, we paused at Beaconsfield House one of the sites we were scheduled to visit later. I was about to take a picture when a woman called, “Come over here, you’ll get a much better view of the house.” Just back from a morning walk, she led us into the front garden where I took pictures and she told us a bit about the house. She lived a few doors away. Like most people we met, she made it her personal business to see that we felt welcome to PEI—another ambassador.

oldhouseside

We congratulated ourselves all along the way for having the good sense to decide on walking the boardwalk. It was a glorious morning. Beautiful planters line the boardwalk. Sailboats dotted the bay. We stopped at an ice cream stand to get water and the proprietor told us it was their last day of the season. Another ambassador for PEI, she told us about the tourist business and how they would be preparing their stand for the new season during the coming month. You can find her store on Facebook. In retrospect, we should have had an ice cream on the return! Maybe next season?

We walked all the way to the white lighthouse with red trim at Blockhouse Point where the boardwalk ends. All but one of the lighthouses remaining on the Island are built in the same square design, white with red trim. If you are a lighthouse fan, there’s a website  that will give you a picture of the remaining lighthouses. I reckon one could organize a whole trip around seeing all the lighthouses.

By the time our group arrived and our tour officially began, we were feeling well introduced to the Charlottetown. It got better. We were booked with Road Scholar (formerly known as Elder Hostel—I kind of liked the old name). The idea for this non-profit organization was to provide university-level learning opportunities for adults—senior adults to be specific. The website gives their history. This isn’t a commercial for Road Scholar, but one account of an experience guided by them.

One of the things I enjoyed about our tour was the other folk. I’ve always dreaded going anywhere with a large group, maybe from days with the high school band and feeling grumpy about having to do this or that or hearing other people complain about the things I liked. But this was a wonderful, congenial group of folk. We might not all be best friends if we lived in the same end of town, and we won’t be planning our vacations together, but we’d probably all be glad to run into each other again.

I felt like we’d won the tour guide lottery when I met Susan Dalziel, our host on the island. A former schoolteacher and coach, the program noted that she is passionate about women’s hockey. Inducted into the PEI Sports Hall of Fame in 2001 for her contribution to women’s hockey nationally, Susan couldn’t go anywhere without running into three people she knew or who knew people she knew. She said it was the Island, but I think it was Susan. She walked with our group of twenty to our first evening meal together, treating us to interesting bits of information and stories along the way—something she did all week. We were able to leave at the end of the week with an insider’s view of PEI, it’s places, people, struggles, and hopes. For some of us, that included a new appreciation for hockey.
(An interesting article on the history of hockey in PEI may be found at
http://www.gov.pe.ca/archives/onlineexhibits/display.php3?tpn=2&ipn=8&cat=19  with links to fascinating historical documents about various aspects of PEI life.)

We were off to a great start.

 

riding the rails – last day part two in retrospect…

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When last we left our three heroines they were returning from a day on the eastern side of GNP having been enjoying an afternoon of water coloring and one entering into the world of Junior Ranger-ship. Now we pick up as they return to the lodge and walk over to the Amtrak station to check the status of their evening train…

Mum went to the window while AEB and I took a look around the station which has quite a display about the Great Northern Railway and in particular the history of the station with the Blackfoot Nation and the park. I was impressed with the array of pictures and artifacts as well as the signboards explaining things. The station may be small, but it packs a lot of history into a small space!
The conversation at the window with the attendant did not seem to be going well so I went over to see what the news was. We were prepared for delays as most local, or at least returning folk told us that the trains never really comes in until 7:00 p.m. or later. I was not prepared for the notice that the train might be in by 3:00 a.m. Did I hear that correctly? 3? A.M.? Uh, okay. What’s happened? Well, what happened was apparently there was a derailment. A freight train, fortunately or unfortunately depending upon your point-of-view, had derailed somewhere east of Glasgow, MT on each side the passenger trains were having to stop, get everyone off, get on a bus, drive around the derailment, get on the train on the other side of the derailment and then carry on their way. So, that was the first bump in the road. 3:00 a.m. was not my first choice for leaving, but one could do it and if we could not re-book into the lodge they had a nice lobby and comfortable sofas to sleep on if there wasn’t some concert or other entertainment going on there. The next one was more difficult, especially for mum who had been planning this trip for years and dreaming of this next bit – the Columbia River Gorge. She had been talking about getting to see it by train, plotting out either getting into the observation car very early or seeing it from the sleeper window, planning what time she would have to wake up so we could all see the beauty of this incredible sight. We would not be seeing the gorge…we would not be seeing it from a train. We were told that to try and get back on schedule the train would take us as far as Spokane, WA where it would dump everyone off, turn around and head back for the next bus load waiting to get around the derailment. What?!? No gorge?!? For me, to watch mum, it seemed as if the whole trip was for nothing. Oh GNP had been great, but the whole reason for taking the train in the first place was to continue on and see the gorge by rail where you’d be right there alongside it and be part of it. The idea of seeing it from a bus felt like a “booby” prize. We talked over our options and decided to take the ride and see where it went. So, crestfallen we went back up to the lodge, took our luggage out and stashed it with the other “stranded” rail passengers’ things and while mum returned the car AEB and I set up camp at a table where she could console herself with a DVD we’d brought along and I with reading and doing a bit of writing. Sigh.
So, a movie later, we went in for supper, after supper it was check with the train – still no sign of it getting in any earlier. Time for bed, such as it could be that night. Now, upstairs on the second floor balcony where there are rooms and a lovely view of the lobby below there was a spa and outside the door of the spa there was a teepee. Yes, that’s right a teepee. We had been in that teepee the night before to check it out and see what it might be like inside. Inside there was a big, I’m talking almost life-size, black bear and two blankets. We thought that Amelia might be able to sleep in the teepee where it was darker and less noisy. It took awhile, but she did finally fall asleep. I slept for a bit and mum dozed on a sofa outside the teepee. In this not so ideal situation and in a not so ideal locale things were made even more not so ideal by the revelers in the lounge. There was to be a wedding over the coming days and folk were starting to arrive. A few adults, who I do not begrudge joy in catching up with old friends over a few drinks, got drunk and in getting drunk got loud and one gentleman seemed to be “holding court” and even after the lounge stopped serving drinks he stayed getting louder and more boisterous with every sip. I’m pretty sure he could be heard behind the doors of the rooms encircling the lobby on that second floor and perhaps even by those on the third. I wished very much to have been around for the morning so I could, in his hungover state, been there to make a loud racket for him to endure. I know this is an unkind thing to think, but thinking is different than doing. And I do hope that anyone reading this will never behave so rudely. Getting drunk is not pretty and the hangover is never worth the effort. At least I’ve never felt great after a drunken night out and always rather regretted the back-talk of the alcohol.
So, not much sleep between mum or myself. I did get out of the teepee earlier than I had set my alarm to find that the train would be getting in at 2:00 a.m. and that a van from the lodge would take us all over at 1:00 a.m. Mum got our girl’s socks and shoes on without dscn1941waking her, but we rousted her when pulling her out of the teepee to carry her down to the van and the lobby of the station to wait the arrival of the train there. Oh – SO – tired! I hoped, rather than believed, that our room on the train would have the beds made up ready to just fall into them. The train came, the beds were ready for us to fall into and sleep – blessed sleep with no drunken revelers came over us all! We were on our way to Spokane, WA and who knows where next…

riding the rails – last day at GNP in retrospect…

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following one of the many trails of GNP

So, since I’ve been on this adventure I know how it turns out – that gives me an advantage in the telling of the tale. I can build the suspense and I can drag out the details, or move along quickly as I so choose. Ah, the power of the writer. If I were writing using fictional characters I would have to move as they developed, but here the events have taken place, the characters are set and alive (fortunately not as doomed as Pirandello’s “Six Characters”) and I can tell the truth or create a great fish tale. However, in this case the fish tale might pale with the reality of the day, or rather the evening but you’ll have to wait until I get there!
Another glorious morning! Did we luck out with the weather on this trip. We were prepared for almost any sort of weather knowing that in the mountains things can change rapidly, but we had blue skies and warm weather – and fortunately not as warm as apparently home was

experiencing. We had one day left and the day before had us exploring the side routes around the Saint Mary Visitor Center. I know I posted about the 4th, but we did actually do more than go to the Blackfoot event. We took a short walk up to the old ranger station and found that it was closed, but a volunteer, Sheryl Mink,  was there setting things up for this day’s event which was water coloring and mural work. She told us to come back since she was closed for setting things up dscn1776and shooing out the mice that had taken up residence during the winter. And really, who can blame the mice for wanting to get out of the cold?!? We took the trail leading to Red Eagle Lake Trail coming off from the old ranger station. It was beautiful and quiet and we sang to keep the bears away for our girl who was a bit worried about them being close by. On the day we had gone into the Trading Post to pick up the car she’d seen the bear bells for sale and asked, “Why would you want to give a bear a bell?” Good question. Why would you? So we sang since the bears aren’t deterred by the bells from what we’ve been told.
It was nice to have a slower paced day with no real need to rush here or there. We did our packing and our checking out since we were anticipating that we’d need to be at
the train station around 6:00 p.m. for our train leaving at 6:45 p.m. to Portland, OR. And once that was done we went back to the ranger station, the hike and just enjoyed the afternoon. We have a feeling that we’ll return to explore other parts of GNP – we haven’t even begun to explore this vast wondrous space. So, up and over to explore and do some painting!

d9amel5smallSheryl put us right to work first on adding a few clouds to the mural for 2012 and then we got to explore water coloring. it was really a nice way to spend an afternoon and it was rather full of people wandering up and into the old ranger station.  AEB had a great time working on two water colors and getting advice from Sheryl about her works and telling her about her field kit with sketch pad, pencils, pens, scissors, sharpener, clipboard, etc. so she could sketch when she felt dscn1883-1the desire as we traveled.
We found out that Sheryl’s husband and daughter volunteer up at the visitor center and they come out for the summer to volunteer and enjoy GNP. I wonder if Amelia and I will do the same as she grows and decides what sort of summer adventures to have.
The last thing that happened before heading back to the lodge and turning in the car was that our girl was made a Junior Ranger. As a mum, I should have known to take the camera

for such a proud moment, but I forgot in the excitement of going into the visitor center so our girl could show a ranger her work and tell of her time in the park. The fellow behind the desk asked her if she’d done some hiking and what she’d done while at the park and approved the work in the junior ranger booklet she had worked so hard on filling out. He had her hold up her right hand and make a pledge to care for the park and help protect the wildlife. She felt very solemn doing it and said afterwards that if she had known it was going to be such a great responsibility that she might not have done it, but now that she was a Junior Ranger she was going to take her role seriously. She was given a badge and a sticker that said she’s been hiking. She put the badge on immediately – oh the pride! She wore the badge the rest of the day and would stop and look at it from time-to-time and beam.
Time to head back on winding roads to turn in the car, check on the train status and get ready to head on out and back on the Empire Builder to Portland! This next bit deserves its own post…

riding the rails – gnp: the blackfoot nation

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Retrospect can be lots of fun. I’ve been enjoying going back over the memories and the photos taken and experiences had over 4 years ago. It’s fun to be reminded of things forgotten and enjoyed…

*****

This playing catch up is tough! We’re doing great things now and yet I still want to get to those things that we’ve done but I had no access to wifi or anyother-fi. I may have to re-think and do double entries for a bit while I continue to allow the soul to be filled with the past and the heart filled with the present, or visa versa, or something like that. At any rate, here are my reflections on day three, July 4th, at GNP…
What a day and what a place! The 4th of July at Glacier. I’m not expecting fireworks – avalanche? forest fire? So what to do? I’ll tell you. The National Park Service has a series of programs in the summer that are put on my members of the Blackfeet Nation. This evening there is a group called the Two Medicine Singers and Dancers (there are a bunch of videos on flickr if you do a search) that are performing tonight through a program created through the park in conjunction with the Blackfoot group. On an aside, we were told that locally they are known as the Blackfeet Indians, which I had never heard before. Growing up I had heard of the Blackfoot Nation, but never Blackfeet and apparently, if you ask someone who is part of the Nation s/he will tell you that s/he is of Blackfoot dissent. I’m not sure where the feet part came in, but I guess it won’t be wrong to keep on saying foot. If I’m understanding it has something to do with making a distinction between the Canadian branch and the USA branch, foot and feet respectively, but all those of the Nation do not consider themselves divided so continue under the foot. Just another way for the White Man to classify and divide I guess. Anyway, I thought going to see the performance would be interesting to see and something that our girl could enjoy as well. It was!
The pictures I took are fairly lousy, but I’ll post a few anyway. We were too far away and the lighting was not good enough for the small pocket camera we took with us on the trip.
It was a good way to be reminded of how free or what freedom means to different peoples. I’ve celebrated the 4th of July, the U.S. A.’s day of independence, in lots of different places around the world, but none that spoke to me more about what one nation celebrates another views quite differently – even in the USA.


There were fireworks that night. We saw them from the front porch of the lodge, but didn’t stay to watch them finish. It was getting late for our girl and for myself, truth be told. The next day would be our last at the park so we wanted to make sure we were rested and ready!

riding the rails – the red buses of gnp

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When visiting Glacier National Park during the peak summer months when most of the paths have finally been slowed and the Sun Road are open for travelling it is worth the fun of touring on a Red Bus. Each time the snow melts there are new things to repair and as the snow and ice melt each spring/summer the road can be treacherous. . While we were touring a motorcycle had crashed into a guard rail and a worker that was rappelling and checking the safety of the rocks and soundness of the mountain where the road sits there was a mishap. So sometimes the road is closed to keep folk safe. However, while we were there we were able to go on most of the road, though not all of it. And while that was a bit disappointing, I’m glad to be kept safe. But back to the the Jammin’ Red Buses!

These buses have been part of the fun at Glacier since 1914, but the buses in current use have been working since the 1930s. They are iconic and worth every penny of the price of the tour. You’re bound to have an entertaining time with a guide who is fun and knowledgeable. Our tour guis, Larry, fell in love with the buses and Glacier as a tourist and he and his wife moved when it was time to retire so he could work with the red buses full time. He retired from Ford Auto as a film maker and worked on the quintessential film about the red buses. Larry was entertaining, a fount of knowledge, and ready to answer any question – even the ones posed by our girl. We took the full day tour, but they do have shorter options if you don’t want to spend the whole day out.

I’m not going to do anything more than post some fabulous photos of our time on the red bus tour. Some of the photos have captions to go with them. Soak it in, think about going, and enjoy the ride…

riding the rails – glacier national park

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Ah, blue skies, nothing but blue skies…

100_4615.jpgWell, all except those over the mountains looming larger than life. But the rest of the sky is looking great. What a day for adventure and catching up. AEB is ready to go, go, go. It will take some time for Heath to get over from Whitefish so we have some time to burn up before we actually will get to hit the trails. We’ll go over to the trading post, that catch all shop on the main street that sells the typical tourist fare, hiking bits and bobs, a few food items, bear spray, etc. where we’ll pick up the rental car for our stay. Heath had suggested a convertible for optimal viewing, but they don’t carry them due to the extreme weather and lack of seasonal vehicles. Makes sense. With the car picked up, our girl and I went out on that great expanse of lawn to wait, run around and stay occupied whilst waiting. Waiting with a six year old without a plan is never a good idea. And AEB is no exception. Give her an occupation and you have a happy everyone. Have a lack of something to be busy with and all sorts of mayhem will ensue. I love her dearly, but when I’m not fully prepared for even down time that mischievous  side comes out. To give her credit she doesn’t set out to be naughty, or cause double, it’s just that if there’s nothing to do in particular her imagination gets the better of her and patience runs thin on all sides. Part of it is exhaustion. Part is her stubborn side. Part the inability to fully think through an action to its full conclusion, which makes life exciting and terrifying for her mum. So, running around, playing “catch me if you can” spent off some energy, time went by quickly and pretty soon I was doing something I could not have done years ago as a teacher – giving Heath a great big heartfelt hug! As a teacher, I understand that there needs to be a line drawn between students and teachers – a very definite, think line, but there are times when a student just needs a hug and a teacher needs to be able to extend that need, but in this day and time such actions get misconstrued. Yes, there are teachers who over step and abuse and distort their role in very ugly ways. But there are others that are mentors and care-givers in ways that go beyond mere teaching that are much like parenting. But today, was not a student/teacher day. Today was meeting and shifting of a relationship that was ready to make a positive shift to friendship.
Heath had mentioned going to Hidden Lake, but we decided that a less rigorous hike would be best for our girl. AEB was just about crushed when she was told we’d decided to opt for a different hike. I think the idea of hiking to a “hidden” lake had captured her imagination – mine, too. But we went over to Many Glacier where there is a nice hike to Redrock Lake where there is a water fall. It was powerful with the snow melt like it was/is at present. AEB climbed the rocks close to the falls with me trying to look and sound calm whilst ever ready to dive in after her should she slip into the falls. Heath kept an eye on her as well, but it was nice for our girl to have a sense of doing on her own, feeling secure and respected as a person and not just a kid to be treated like an inferior. I appreciated Heath’s attention to her and helping her with learning to look before leaping. Not that this is a fully learned lesson, but sometimes it takes a person other than a parent for some lessons to be learned. And I’m sure that her climbing days are far from over now that she seems to have a new respect for where to put her foot. AEB was well looked out for by us all, but it’s always good to expose her to other adults that treat her like a human being with ideas and thoughts that are worth listening to and understanding. I know that a lot of this has to do with Heath just being who he is, but it also has to do with his appreciation for Waldorf education, which is one great way to educate children. It was a long day’s hike for our girl but she was a trouper and loved every minute of it, especially the ending with a toe dip and dam building moment on the way back. Mr. and Mrs. Beaver of Narnia would be proud of her efforts. It’s good to get dirty! How ever would a person know s/he’d had fun if not by the amount of dirt covering said person?


We got back to the lodge in time for dinner and then mum was nice enough to give me the rest of the evening to catch up with Heath.
The lodge has a great front porch with willow rocking chairs that you sink into. They rock forward better than they rock back, so if you go, beware of this little tid bit. There was a lot to cover in a few hours, I dare say the conversation will continue over the years. But I think we managed to cover the basics of “how did you end up here” for both of us. Life is a journey and having supportive people is key to getting on with the journey. It’s hard to continue when you think your parents can’t support you and are still waiting for you to figure out what you want to be when you grow up – and I’m not talking specifically about Heath. The conversation was two sided and life has sent us both on interesting paths with jolts and bumps along the way. But you are where you are at any given moment and what you choose to do in that moment is important for the days that follow.
As with all great company, and conversation, the time ended far too quickly and Heath and I parted. It was nice to head back to my room knowing that Heath was doing for himself what he needs to be doing at this point and that I will get to be part of that in a very special way – as a friend. A very satisfying end to a full day at GNP.