Southeast Alaska Panhandle – September 2017 – “Uncruise” Part 1

(please note there are 20+ photos on the next few postings, they might take a bit of time to load)

One place we had always wanted to see was Alaska, but much of it is very difficult to get to. We decided the best way to see it was on a cruise.

I had been on a large ship cruise once for 3 days and kissed the ground when I got off, the tacky shows and lines for everything got old fast. For this trip we chose to go on a small ship cruise from a company aptly named ‘Uncruise’. And no this is not an advertisement for them, but an honest assessment on how great this turned out to be.

We set sail on a rainy Saturday evening from Juneau. The next day we arrived at a fjord called Endicott Arm. The walls soar 1000′ above the water for dramatic effect.

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At the end of the fjord is Dawes Glacier, a tidewater glacier.

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The main ship was close enough to get some dramatics up on the glacier with a zoom lens.

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The difference between the large ships that most people cruise on and the small ships like Uncruise is you get off the boat and do things other than shop at trinket stores in ports. For this portion groups of 8-10 people took ‘skiffs’ the last 6 miles up the fjord to within 1/4 mile of the 200′ high face of the glacier.

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As we neared the glacier a guide plucked what she thought was going to be a small piece of ice out of the water. It turned out to be much larger. This piece of ice was brought back on board the ship for a contest when it would finish melting. It took 3 days.

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We spent about an hour at the base of the glacier in the skiffs. Every once in a while you would hear loud cracking sounds and nothing happened. For us though, we were fortunate enough to see a major ‘calving’ event, when a large chunk of the glacier fell off into the sea.

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As noted this face is 200′ high, so the splash it made is likely + 75′. Amazingly it does not create a tidal wave, just some small ones like someone went by with a small boat and created a wake.

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We returned through the icebergs on our way back to the ship.

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The Wilderness Adventurer is about 190′ long with 30 passenger cabins. Our trip had 55 passengers and a crew of 20 (or so – I didn’t do an exact count !). As shown below the ship has a number of 2 person kayaks, some paddle boards and the skiffs (which are missing on this photo since they are out at the glacier.

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After everyone had returned to the ship we continued on our way we came upon a number of whales who were diving for food. They came upon a couple of sea lions, one of which took refuge on the back of the ship, which got the crew all excited as they said they had only heard of this only ever happening once before.

Since we were stationary at the time he sat there for a while. Once the crew was confident these particular whales had moved on they shoo-ed him/her off the back.

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Even things as simple as the wake on the very calm waters made for great photo ops.

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Later we came across more whales feeding.

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Finally (for this portion of the trip) we passed a small island filled with more sea lions.

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The day ended with a great sunset.

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More to come…..

 

 

Southeast Alaska Panhandle – September 2017 – “Uncruise” Part 2

With the small ship the entire crew, and other passengers, quickly become familiar with each other on a first name basis. One of the great features was the permission to go onto the bridge anytime you like during the day, unless they were in an especially tricky navigation spot.

This day I went up and it was just the Captain and me, jamming out to ‘Wish You Were Here’ by Pink Floyd, while we cruised along at about 5 knots looking for whales.

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Later we anchored in a bay and set the kayaks out.

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This bay offered more wildlife, which if I recall the information from the guides correctly are Cormorants.

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A mama otter with her baby on her chest floating in the bay.

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One of the paddle boarders and a kayak backed by 8000′ mountains.

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Later on the same kayak outing we passed this otter, who was not happy we were in his space as he bared his teeth and hissed at us.

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You can tell the females as their noses are dinged up from rough sex where the male apparently bites their noses in passion.

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Why paddle board with your feet on the board when you can do a handstand.

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Nothing better than to be in a still bay in Alaska checking out the sea life near the rocks.

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A Harbor Seal.

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The waters were so calm everything had great reflections.

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The next morning there was thick fog that gradually lifted through the morning.

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An eagle soaring above the fog.

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A skiff returns across the calm waters.

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The afternoon was spent ‘bushwhacking’ through the forest. No bears or other wildlife was found but there was evidence of foresting that once occurred there.

The ground was so thick with the moss that it was spongy.

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more to come….

 

 

Southeast Alaska Panhandle – September 2017 – “Uncruise” Part 3

As we arrived at Glacier Bay National Park we went ashore for a hike. A Long House greeted us as we passed the visitor center.

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The house is made out of cedar which gives it a great smell.

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The hike through the forest was filled with scenes of fungus growing everywhere.

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As we reached the river at low tide there was evidence of animals, as shown with this bear paw print. The guide indicated it must be a baby since it is so small, but they have great claws.

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We returned to the ship and continued past Gloomy Point, where mountain goats populate the steep terrain.

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The flow from a glacier ends up at the sea in a small river.

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We stopped by Margerie Glacier, or “Large Marge” as the crew call her.

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Nearby we dropped the anchor near Lamplugh Glacier, where the kayaks were put out for exploring.

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We paddled around the small icebergs to get a close look at the Glacier.

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Trying to avoid the larger ones, recalling that 10% of the ice is above the water, the rest is below. They also at times will ‘roll’ and you don’t want to be close to one this size if that happens.

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Around the corner from the ship was an impressive waterfall with glacier melt water.

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We returned to our home for the week thoroughly in awe of the opportunity to kayak in such an amazing setting, while wishing we could spend more time and go on the other adventures such as hiking up the ridge next to the glacier, or along the shoreline in front.

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While checking out the beautiful scenery one of the large cruise ships went by. Amazingly despite they fact there are 2000 people on the ship, and they are passing the glaicer behind us, I counted about 40 people out on the decks or their balconies checking out the scene.

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The day ended with a polar bear plunge for the daring.

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The crew of the WAV were amazing. It was obvious that they are passionate about the sea, glaciers, wildlife and the opportunity to share it with the passengers. The great thing about the Uncruise people is the crew gets opportunities too, and many of them participate in the polar bear plunge.

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The bartender Heidi was celebrating her birthday by going into the cold water.

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One of the Stewards Jessi had a goal of doing the polar bear plunge each of the 18 weeks she was working, and since she had missed a couple early, was doubling up on the last 2 weeks (we were the second to last trip of the season), so Jessi went in twice!

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As we began our return to Juneau we passed more Sea Lions, these guys are caught on a small rock island at high tide

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Plenty of birds.

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Early Saturday morning we returned to the harbor, where Captain Gavin carefully parallel parked the ship at the dock.

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Our week had ended, but the memories will last forever. Most of our fellow travelers were from Australia and New Zealand, with some Americans mixed in. They were fun, friendly people who shared a passion for not just seeing the scenes roll by their ship windows, but get into the kayaks and paddle around, go into the forest and get muddy, or just sit around in the evenings sharing stories or learning about America.

As I noted on the first posting very few times do things turn out better than their advertising but the Uncruise folks came through. Even the weather was better than expected with very little rain (although I don’t think they get credit for that!).

Thanks to Captain Gavin and the entire crew of the Wilderness Adventurer.

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Outer Banks, North Carolina – Late Fall 2016 Road Trip – Day 6

We were once again up before dawn, where we had an interesting site from our 12th floor room overlooking the bay. You could see the lights of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge with gaps in the lights where they drop down into the tunnels.

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As we left the Tidewater area in the morning we drove through Virginia Beach, stopping at the Naval Aviation Memorial and briefly looked at the boardwalk. There are actually three bronze statues here with the intent to show three eras of naval aviation, starting in the early 20th century, progressing to World War II and then to modern times.

The first statue is of Eugene Ely, who was the first aviator to fly off a ship’s deck. Next, is a WWII pilot and his crewmen who are leaving their hatch. Finally, there are two modern-day pilots, a maintenance man, and a woman with her foot on an empty cart. The memorial is tucked between hotels on the boardwalk near the ocean.

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Monster trucks, anyone?  Well then Poplar Branch, North Carolina on Caratoke Highway is the place. This is the home of Grave Digger, supposedly the most famous monster truck. Its wheels are at least three feet high and the truck is painted with a gray ghost and haunted house on it. The monster truck stood upright on its front tires with raised rear tires at the front of the property.

Here is where anyone can check out these giant trucks up close and buy a souvenir at its gift shop. The establishment named Digger’s Dungeon offers rides to visitors and sells Diggers merchandise. A number of monster trucks were scattered on the property and I made the most of it taking photos.

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The Wright Brothers National Memorial, located in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, commemorates the first successful, sustained, powered flights in a heavier-than-air machine. From 1900 to 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright came here from Dayton, Ohio, based on information from the U.S. Weather Bureau about the area’s steady winds and privacy. We took the sidewalk up the dune reading small signs warning of cacti in the grass. Thorns of the cacti are harmful to people and pets; but Bermuda grass was planted on the dune to stabilize it.  The tall monument had carved stone heads of Orville and Wilbur Wright and an inscription dedicated to the Wright brothers genius, perseverance and risk.

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A 60-foot granite monument, dedicated in 1932, is perched atop 90-foot-tall Kill Devil Hill, commemorating the achievement of the Wright brothers. They conducted many of their glider tests on the massive shifting dune that was later stabilized to form Kill Devil Hill. Inscribed in capital letters along the base of the memorial tower is the phrase “In commemoration of the conquest of the air by the brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright conceived by genius achieved by dauntless resolution and unconquerable faith.”

Atop the tower is a marine beacon, similar to one found in a lighthouse. The monument was erected by Congress in 1932. In the end, 1,200 tons of granite, more than 2,000 tons of gravel, more than 800 tons of sand and almost 400 tons of cement were used to build the structure, along with numerous other materials.

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Beyond the dune stands a bronze sculpture of the bi-wing plane, Orville, Wilbur, the First Safety Security Team and photographers, a tribute to those who participated in the first flight. The First Safety Security Team is now known at the U.S. Coast Guard and the sculpture captures the historic first flight by the Wright Brothers and their witnesses.

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A park ranger informed us at the test site that the Wright Brothers made four flights from level ground near the base of the hill following three years of gliding experiments from atop nearby sand dunes. On December 17, 1903 the brothers made four flights. A white blanket hung on the hangar door alerting the First Safety Security Team that the brothers needed help to move the plane onto the launch rail and were ready to fly.

A bit of history notes that John Glenn, another Ohioan took a small piece of this white blanket with him in his historic moment into space.  Another interesting fact is that a man of the Wright Brother’s team who witnessed their first flight also witnessed the first landing on the moon in July, 1969, an accomplishment within less than a century.

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The park ranger went on to say that at 10:35 a.m. on December 17, 1903 with a 27 mph wind, Orville released a wire that held the flying machine to the track, and the contraption chugged slowly forward into the stiff wind. Wilbur trotted alongside, holding the wing to keep the flyer level. Then the flying machine lifted off the track, and Wilbur let go. The flyer left the ground as John Daniels squeezed the shutter bulb on the camera to capture a black-and-white photograph that will be forever engraved in human history.

Flight 1 flown by Orville lifted 12 seconds and went 60 feet into the air for a length of 120 feet. Flight 2 flown by Wilbur lifted 40 feet at the launch rail and flew 12 seconds for 175 feet. Flight 3 commanded by Orville flew 26 seconds for 200 feet. Around noon, Wilbur made a flight of 852 feet that lasted 59 seconds—the longest of the day but the flying machine was slightly damaged by Wilbur’s landing, and the group hauled it back to the hangar for repairs.

We walked along the actual routes of the four flights, with small monuments marking their four finishes. The original launch rail is still there. Two wooden sheds at the test site, based on historic photographs, were recreated as the world’s first airplane hangar and the brothers’ living quarters.

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The visitor center in its modern design at Kitty Hawk is home to a museum featuring models and actual tools and machines used by the Wright brothers during their flight experiments including a reproduction of the wind tunnel used to test wing shapes and a portion of the engine used in the first flight.

We saw articles of the history of flight and the patch of the white blanket that John Glenn took with him on his orbit of the earth.  A life-size replica of the Wright brothers’ 1903 Flyer was there. The 1903 Flyer is the first powered aircraft in history to achieve controlled flight (the original is displayed at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.).  A full-scale model of the Brothers’ 1902 glider is also present, having been constructed under the direction of Orville Wright himself.

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Lunch found us at Rooster’s Southern Kitchen, for some vinegary BBQ sandwich and chicken and dumplings. Now nourished, we we headed off to Jockey’s Ridge State Park.

Jockey’s Ridge State Park located in Nags Head, North Carolina includes the tallest active sand dune system in the eastern United States. The tall dune area of Jockey’s Ridge is known as a medano—a massive, shifting hill of sand lacking vegetation. Scientists estimate that there are 30 million tons of sand in the park.

The sand dunes now have eight ponds scattered in the sand from Hurricane Matthew that blew through but have not dried yet. The ponds are not uncommon, often when it rains; water collects near the bottom of the dunes creating temporary ponds known as vernal pools.

A forest of trees lined the edge of the pool. This maritime forest is the home to most plant and animal life in the park. The forest help to stabilize the dune and in return the dune protects the forest from strong winds and harsh salt spray.

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We hiked through sand as we did thirty years earlier, when we were last here. From the top of the sand dune, we could see the ocean and the bay. Hiking through sand is difficult; it seems like you take one step forward and two steps back but we made it to the top of the next dune where boys were rolling down the side of the dune. We trudged through the sand making our way around the vernal pool until we got back to the Visitor Center.

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Our return trip to the hotel was along the road next to the ocean until we reached construction blocking our way to our hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn at Kitty Hawk. We managed to maneuver around it, so after check-in, we went out to explore the Outer Banks by car.

We traveled a bit up to the time of a traffic jam that blocked our way. The jam was caused by a tow motor loaded with lumber partially jutted into the roadway. The police stopped traffic in both directions due to the construction while we waited at least fifteen minutes. So we turned the car around and went into the town of Duck to shop for something to do. Later in Kitty Hawk, we bought a kite, a sweatshirt, and a t-shirt.

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The Kitty Hawk Pier is behind our hotel where we hung out to find two surfers on the waves. We walked on the beach as the tide ebbed although at times the waves chased us close to the protective dune that separated the beach from the beach homes. It was nice as we walked in the cool, cloudy, and drizzly weather, we collected some interesting seashells.

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We are in North Carolina, right, so time for more BBQ. The High Cotton BBQ restaurant was across the street from our hotel so we skipped over there for dinner, it was excellent.

Assateague and Chincoteague National Parks – Late Fall 2016 Road Trip – Day 4

One of my favorite movies was one from the 1980s called Diner, set in Baltimore, so it was only appropriate since we were in the area that we find one for breakfast. The Double TT Diner is an iconic old-time diner that looked similar to an airstream RV with shiny chrome. Back in the 1950’s, two business partners named Thomas and Tony opened the first Double T restaurant that was named after the two T’s in their first names.

The restaurant had a look of the 1950’s with rows of booths and a small jukebox placed at the end of each table but instead of 45 rpm records it had an updated version of compact discs that also seemed outdated now. Our omelets were tasty and filling then we moved on travelling east across the Bay Bridge.

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The Chesapeake Bay Bridge spans the Chesapeake Bay, connecting Maryland’s rural Eastern Shore region with the urban Western Shore. The original span opened in 1952 with a length of 4.3 miles, and was the world’s longest continuous over-water steel structure. The bridge is part of U.S. Route 50 which connects the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area with Ocean City, Maryland. The long four-lane split bridge is high above the bay giving us a view of the shimmering water in the morning with freighters chugging by.

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 Ocean City, Maryland is a summer resort destination but it was nearly a ghost town void of people when we arrived. This town brought back memories from a 1970s vacation for one of us, which resulted us in searching for the Santa Maria motel where her family stayed on our vacation forty-two years ago. Ironically we found the location, but it had been torn down and a new upscale Courtyard Hotel was in its place, by far the best looking place on the boardwalk.

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Later we continued our walk down the boardwalk and onto the beach, with a stiff breeze blowing up a lot of sand and created choppy water that crashed onto the beach. We spent a few more minutes on the empty boardwalk with all of the shops closed up for winter.

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Da Dum, Da Dum, Da Dum, — the creepy music from the movie Jaws which generates the fear and anticipation of a shark in the water delivered that feeling when we stopped to see a recreational camp called Frontier Land that celebrated the Wild West with sets of cowboys, Indians, and can-can girls.

The camp was closed the day of our visit but rested at the front of the establishment was a 31-foot shark prop from the movie Jaws. The plaster-cast shark sits in a parking lot, straining to devour a rowboat always just beyond its reach. It is unknown whether the shark is an actual prop from the movie Jaws since so many others claim the same fame. It just seems wrongly placed in Frontier Land next to a statue of a cowboy holding an ice cream cone unless it were renamed Weird Land.

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Stopping briefly at the Assateague National Park Visitor Center to renew our annual National Parks, we promptly continued across the Verrazano Bridge into the park that is well known for its wild horses and birds on the 37-mile barrier island along Maryland and Virginia. The “wild” horses on Assateague are actually feral animals, meaning that they are descendants of domestic animals that have reverted to a wild state. Local folklore describes the Assateague horses as survivors of a shipwreck off the Virginia coast.

The most plausible explanation is that they are the descendants of horses that were brought to barrier islands like Assateague in the late 17th century by mainland owners to avoid fencing laws and taxation of livestock.

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The horses are split into two main herds, one on the Virginia side and one on the Maryland side of Assateague. They are separated by a fence at the Virginia/Maryland State line. These herds have divided themselves into bands of two to twelve animals and each band occupies a home range. The National Park Service manages the Maryland herd. The Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company owns and manages the Virginia herd, which is allowed to graze on Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, through a special use permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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The permit restricts the size of the herd to approximately 150 adult animals in order to protect the other natural resources of the wildlife refuge. It is the Virginia herd which is often referred to as the “Chincoteague” ponies. The feral horse population of Assateague Island is known as the Assateague horse in Maryland and the Chincoteague pony in Virginia. This distinction is based on the traditional definition of a horse or a pony as to whether the animal falls over or under 14.2 hands that is 58 inches. The equines on the island tend to be under 14.2, but have horse’s traits.  It is believed that their relatively small size is primarily due to environmental, rather than genetic conditions.

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Our arrival on the island soon allowed us to see the feral horses. As we drove toward the beach, we saw two horses grazing near the edge of the road. The areas beyond the road were sandy with spots of dense shrubs. Beyond the shrubs was a marsh of cord grass.

We hiked a trail to the beach and up a dune trying to spot more feral horses on this breezy day, coming upon horses corralled by a group of people who often brought their domestic horses to ride on the beach. They said that they sometimes encountered the feral horses when they rode.

A further walk up the beach a bit more without another human being around while watching the birds scamper at the water’s edge was delightful.

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Heading south to Chincoteague, we opted to do a driving tour first, where we had the opportunity to see more feral ponies. This time the ponies grazed in a marshy meadow under leafless trees. Two more pairs of ponies stood in the meadow.

We had planned to take a boat tour to see more ponies but decided against it due to the choppy water. Later when the winds calmed, we thought of the boat cruise again but would have to pay for a ghost rider as if there were three riders instead of two so that it would be worthwhile for the boat captain to sail.

Instead we continued our own tour stopping at different points to photograph a large variety of birds and some horses. We drove out to the end of the island where the marsh, the sand dunes, and the ocean met. It was exceptionally gusty but we saw gulls, herons, and other birds using the wind to their advantage. The birds just seem to float in the air without flapping their wings.

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Assateague Light is a 142-foot-tall lighthouse located on the southern end of Assateague Island off the coast of the Virginia Eastern Shore, a short one-quarter mile walk from the visitor center. The brick conical shaped lighthouse is at the top of a hill near the Coast Guard Station. The lighthouse is painted in alternate red and white horizontal stripes and built in 1867 to replace a much shorter lighthouse. This spot was a nice rest for us after our hike up the hill and a nice view also.

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We continued our drive of the Virginia Eastern Shore and noticed a number of contrails from jets above us. Seven separate vapor trails suspended above us against the blue sky. This continued as we drove on our way to Onancock. Not quite as good a name as a small town in Newfoundland, it was amusing enough to divert off the main road; it turned out to be a very quaint historic town.

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We landed at the Hampton Inn in Exmoor, Virginia for the night. There is not much in Exmoor so we had to drive back to the highway to get something to eat. We ate at El Maguey, where we had chorizo arroz and a chicken enchilada with rice. The Mexican restaurant was shabby looking but the food was good and the prices cheap.

Nova Scotia & New Brunswick – Late Summer 2016 Road Trip – Day 13

With most road trips we know we will catch a day a bit less interesting than the rest, this was that day for this trip. While we managed to sleep through the slightly rocky crossing to Nova Scotia, we drove out of the ferry at 7 a.m. into a bright sunny warm day in North Sydney, and after a quick breakfast were on our way.

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Afterwards we started our long drive of almost four hundred miles to Fredericton, the capital of New Brunswick. Our route would take back along much of the route we had come so we tried to make as good a time as possible, stopping every once in a while to stretch the legs.

Clearly Nova Scotia is blueberry capital of Canada, as we saw numerous signs along the road for fresh blueberries for sale. The blueberries grow wild in the area; we would often see parked cars with dozens of people along the road busy picking buckets of berries.

Eventually we made our way to Truro, Nova Scotia. The town has transformed dead trees into works of art with many notable figures from the town’s past are featured in forty-six tree sculptures which were carved in tree trunks after Truro lost most of its elm trees to Dutch elm disease in the 1990s.

Unfortunately only nine sculptured trees remain, but we cruised town to find them, photographing the tan painted wooden carvings of a lumberjack, colonial woman, and three others.

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Nova Scotia Highway 102 leave Truro to the southwest, running near the Bay of Fundy, where we once again had a number of opportunities  to see the low tide expose the ocean floor. There was a large area of mud that stretched along the edge of the Bay and inward so that the bay resembled more of a river rather than a bay.

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A river that led into the Bay of Fundy was also drained with the low tide from the look of the wet mud. The empty river dropped almost twenty feet leaving only a small stream flowing through its center low point. Twice each day, 160 billion tons of seawater flow in and out of the Bay of Fundy — more than the combined flow of the world’s freshwater rivers!  The Bay’s tides officially measure over 50 feet in height, but the incoming tide is not a 50′ wall of water. It takes 6 hours for the tides to change from low tide to high tide. That means it takes more than an hour for the tide to rise 10′ vertically. In some places, it can change the direction of a river or create tidal bore that flows against the current.

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As we drove away from the Bay of Fundy and onto the freeway, we heard Tab Benoit sing Muddy Bottom Blues. This is the third coincidence where songs related to our vacation spot. I suppose it was serendipity because there was no way to plan it so exactly.

Other than a brief stop in Amherst, Nova Scotia for lunch at Connors Family Restaurant, we drove. At least lunch was good.

Eventually we arrived in Fredricton, New Brunswick where we spent the night at a large Delta Hotel. Next to the hotel was the Chinese Canadian restaurant where we ate dinner, where the buffet seemed to be the popular choice so we dined on shrimp cocktail, moo goo gai pan, potato salad, rice, pork riblets and more. The food was ok and there was a lot of it; so we ate our share then left to explore the city.

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We found the Provincial Legislative Assembly Building, the seat of government in New Brunswick since 1882, when it replaced the old Provincial Hall destroyed by fire in 1880. Continuing, we passed the governors house and walked into a concert at the park for incoming freshman at the University of New Brunswick.  After driving through the city and walking the streets we went back to the hotel for the evening.

Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland – Late Summer 2016 Road Trip – Day 12

In all of our adventures it is really amazing that the weather doesn’t impact us more than it does, but on this day we woke to a foggy rainy day which was disappointing because we reserved seats on a cruise into the gorge at Western Brook Pond, a fresh water fjord carved out by glaciers during the most recent ice age.

The landscape at Gros Morne during our drive to our hotel yesterday was stunning with views of mountains and steep cliffs dropping into the ocean and gorge that we wanted to see up close.

After leaving our motel in Cow Head, we drove to the trail that led to the boat tour where other tourists waited hoping for the weather to improve. Visibility was only about 50 feet with poor conditions to see anything so we decided to skip the boat ride and went to the fishery at Broom Point.

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The tour guide had not arrived yet so we explored the area on our own but it was windy and foggy, providing an excellent photo op of an ocean front privy held up with wooden boards and only one other building stood in the park so we left.

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We had to drive to Rocky Harbour to cancel our boat reservation and it turned out to be a scenic ride that presented lots of opportunities for photos, because amazingly we popped out of the fog. The ladies at the boat tour reservations desk however have a web cam back at the boat and they assured us it wasn’t going to sail that day because of the fog.

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Having finalized the decision not to wait for a boat tour that wouldn’t occur, we continued to the Tablelands, an environment so different from where we started that morning. Most of Newfoundland that we have seen was green with water everywhere in forms of fjords, rivers, waterfalls, countless ponds and lakes, also with mountains and ridges covered with evergreen trees; but the tablelands looked more like a barren desert with prickly brush.

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The Tablelands were a rocky mountainous landscape where we hiked a two kilometer trail up the hill to a lookout to see straight into the pass between the mountains. It was incredibly windy making it hard to walk along the trail.

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We did see two waterfalls from the trail that ran down the mountain range beside us. Returning to the car, we headed down the road a short distance climbing almost 900 feet in only minutes to Green Gardens for a better look at the mountains. Even with the clouds and fog, the view was very pretty.

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Gros Morne National Park is a spectacular place, far off the beaten path, but with scenery to match the best in the United States. We felt it was every bit as impressive as many of the parks out west, and definitely the best in the eastern half of the continent.

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We left the park for lunch at the Deer Park Motel and Restaurant, where we had very good clam chowder and a hot turkey sandwich. Well nourished, we headed out onto the TCH again for the four hour drive to Port Aux Basques ferry terminal.

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On the way we passed Corner Brook, which I knew well from the in flight maps on all the trips I had taken back and forth to Europe. When I saw Corner Brook pop up on my map on the airplane I knew we were back over land, which always gave me a sense of relief. The city of Corner Brook is clearly an industrial town with a port, as we saw one of the largest piles of logs ever ready to be shipped.

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The road between Corner Brook and Port aux Basques is 120 miles of trees, mountains and damn few people, so we sailed along admiring the scenery, except during the intermittent rain showers, which always seemed to occur when we would go through areas signed ‘significant moose activity – be alert’, complete with 12′ high fences along the roads, however we went 1000 miles through the northlands and never saw a moose, other than the plastic one at the rest area in Maine.

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Not long before we reached Port Aux Basques we came upon Cape Race, which has a nice lighthouse. It is located in a small town but important because it is here where the trans-Atlantic cable connected from St. Johns, Newfoundland to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and then to the North American mainland crossing borders to New York City. The cable is now replaced with modern electric lines but a historic marker is erected in front of the lighthouse on the edge of the shore.

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The wind produced a steady line of waves that crashed onto the beach for some great photos. Small homes lined the street to the lighthouse and also stood along the pretty shoreline. Mountains sat in a beautiful backdrop of shanties for homes. It was a thousand dollar house with a million dollar view.

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We took our time driving the rest of the way to Port aux Basque. When we arrived in the town, we stopped at the Historic Railroad Museum. The Railway Heritage Centre consists of a replica of the original 1898 passenger station and a restored nine car train. The train is made up of a snowplow, diesel locomotive, two tank cars from World War II, a Newfoundland boxer, sleeper, two baggage cars and a caboose. The museum was closed for us to go inside but I think we saw the main attractions outside.

After a visit to a quirky little shop for a Newfoundland T shirt, we had a leisurely dinner at Pizza Delight. 

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Just down the road was the Port Aux Basque Marine Atlantic ship terminal to board the ferry to Nova Scotia, where we arrived 3 hours early, spending the time hanging out in the modern terminal editing the photos from the last few days.

Since we were on another over night crossing, we had again reserved a cabin with a private bath. At 10 p.m. we drove the car onto the Marine-Atlantic ferry with hundreds of other cars and semi-trailers, and headed to our cabin for a quick night’s sleep.

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