Sunset in the Coconino National Forest, looking northeast toward Sedona, AZ, 4/17/15

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cool Route to Acadia, August 6-10

Route from Wisconsin to Maine
After weighing the pros and cons, and dealing with a bit of anxiety over traveling through unknown territory, I decided to take the Trans-Canada Highway to my next national park in Maine.  My planned route would take me from my current location in Wisconsin through Sault Ste. Marie, MI, Sudbury, ON, Montreal, QC before landing in Maine.  In total, I planned for 3 overnights to arrive at my destination.

My decision to make Acadia my next national park was a fairly recent change in thinking.  But, since parks south of me were experiencing record high temperatures, I decided to stay in cooler climates for as long as possible.  Plus, the adventure of traveling across territories unknown is exciting.  To be sure though, I called AAA to confirm that I could receive their service in Canada, should it be needed.  Plus, it was less miles to go north of the Great Lakes instead of south of them.   Even though US Customs may again search my car in Maine, I was in no hurry.

On the advice of a friend, I visited Escanaba, MI, the home of her immigrant Swede ancestors.  It's a quaint little town situated on a delta in the Little Bay of Noc, Lake Michigan.  I sat and enjoyed their waterfront park for a while, then drove around the historic homes and lighthouse on the delta.  Unfortunately, I arrived too late in the day to visit some of the other tourist sites or partake in some Swedish treats.  I found a campsite just Northeast of Escanaba, Flowing Well Campground in the Hiawatha National Forest, to bed down for the night.

A view from Quebec's scenic Navigators' Route
on the Saint Lawrence River
The next day I made my way to Sault Ste. Marie, MI to do my laundry, exchange some US for Canadian currency, then go through Canadian Customs.  All went very smoothly as I overnighted in Sudbury, ON.  I was pleased that my lack of the French language was not a problem.  When I traveled from the Province of Ontario into Quebec, however, I realized that knowing a bit of French would have actually been a very good thing.  Most of their signs were written only in French.  Thankfully, my GPS system was still speaking English.

As in The States, Canadians take advantage of the good summer weather to do road maintenance.  So, once on the streets of the City of Montreal it was a maze of detours.  I was having a difficult time finding a place to overnight that felt safe.  On my third try, it was almost dark, raining, I was on yet another detour, signs in French, anxiety up ... I misread a detour sign that was meant for cars coming from my right as though it was for me.  When I realized I was about to go down the wrong side of the road, I stopped.  Thankfully, there was no traffic.  After backing up, I thought I was clear of the 2' concrete median ... but I wasn't.  I smacked into it damaging my bumper and my pride. 

After pulling over to inspect my car, I decided it was time to get out of town.  I don't like driving in unknown big cities in Canada any better than I like them in the US.   And, if I ever go into the eastern portion of Canada again, I will take a survival French course first!  I did find a safe place to overnight east of Quebec and enjoyed exploring their peaceful waterfront and countryside the next morning.  I first traveled the Navigators' Route along the St. Lawrence River, and then the Border Route (des Frontières) before crossing into the Province of New Brunswick and then into Maine.  Both are beautiful drives.

Saint Croix Island on the left,
New Brunswick, Canada is the land beyond
By early afternoon I was in Madawaska, ME.  Going through US Customs there was a breeze; after a few questions while the officer peered into my car, I was off.

Northern Maine is surrounded by Canada on 3 sides and is know for its Maine Acadian Culture.  Folks speak French here as much as their Canadian neighbors.  From Madawaska I traveled south on Hwy 1 to Aroostook State Park Campground.  This is Maine's first state park.  The camp host saw my Washington State plates and my shirt that reads "State Board for Community and Technical Colleges" (my last employer).  Come to find out, he use to work at South Seattle Community College and we knew many of the same people ... small world!

The next day I stopped at Saint Croix Island International Historic Site.  Here I met a young woman NPS Ranger who is also Passamaquoddy, from the local Indian Nation.  She demonstrated how her tribe makes baskets, first for their own use and then for the use of the pioneers.  They still make and sell them today.  Very interesting.

Saint Croix Island was the first French settlement in the area, historically important to both the United States and to Canada.  As such, it is an International National Park Service site.  Pierre Dugua's original 1604-5 settlement on the island was driven off due of harsh winter conditions, but not before he had explored both north and south, naming and claiming territory for France.

Next, Acadia National Park!

originally posted 9/14/10

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