Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Bay of Fundy

I started my writing career as a travel writer, researching and writing seven travel books about the attractions, sites, and history along the backroads of Alberta, British Columbia, the Yukon, and Alaska. While working on them I realized what a beautiful country I live in. Since then I have switched to writing fiction but I still love to travel. 2017 was Canada’s 150th birthday and to celebrate it my husband, Mike, and I travelled in a motorhome from our home on Vancouver Island on the Pacific Ocean to Newfoundland on the Atlantic Ocean. The round trip took us nine weeks and we were only able to see about half of the sites and attractions along the roads.

Today I’d like to describe our stop at the Bay of Fundy situated between the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The Bay has the highest tides in the world and was formally designated one of North America’s seven wonders of nature in February, 2014. (The others are Niagara Falls, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, Mount McKinley, the Everglades, and Yosemite National Park).

       From Moncton, NB, we drove south on Route 114 to Hopewell Cape and the Hopewell Rocks arriving in the afternoon. It was low tide so after we paid, Mike accepted the cart ride offered while I decided to walk the trail to the Rocks. I arrived at a viewpoint overlooking the ocean floor and the reddish rock structures.  Mike and I took the stairway down to the floor and wandered out among the tall formations. The ground was surprisingly solid with a few muddy areas.

       The Hopewell Rocks were originally a massive mountain range that was older than the Appalachians and bigger than the Rocky Mountains in Canada. Over millions of years the range wore down and after the retreat of the glaciers during the last ice age, water seeping through cracks in the cliffs eroded the sedimentary and sandstone and separated the Rocks from the cliffs. The incoming and outgoing tides have eroded the base of the rocks at a faster rate than the tops and that has caused their unusual shapes. Those shapes and the vegetation growing on top have given the formations their nickname of the Flower Pot Rocks.

       Due to the tides the Rocks are covered in water twice a day. Some visitors are able to see the high and low tides in one day but since the next high tide would be at night, Mike and I found a place to camp and returned to the Rocks the next morning. There is approximately six hours between low and high tide and the entrance fee covers a return visit to enable visitors to see the Rocks during both tides.

       Again, Mike took his ride and I walked. I reached the viewpoint and the change was astonishing. Just the tops of some of the rocks showed, the rest being under water. The tides can reach a height of 16 metres (52ft), which is as high as a four story building, twice a day. I walked down part of the stairs but the rest was blocked off to the public because they were under water. High tide is a good time to take a kayak tour and three kayakers were paddling around the formations.

       Seeing all the water and the partial formations, it was hard to believe that just the day before I had walked on the floor of the bay. It was an amazing experience.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Lucy Maud Montgomery and Prince Edward Island

I started my writing career as a travel writer, researching and writing seven travel books about the attractions, sites, and history along the backroads of Alberta, British Columbia, the Yukon, and Alaska. While working on them I realized what a beautiful country I live in. Since then I have switched to writing fiction but I still love to travel. 2017 was Canada’s 150th birthday and to celebrate it my husband and I travelled in a motorhome from our home on Vancouver Island on the Pacific Ocean to Newfoundland on the Atlantic Ocean. The round trip took us nine weeks and we were only able to see about half of the sites and attractions along the roads.
       I have decided to write about the scenery, attractions, and history of my country. This post is about Lucy Maud Montgomery.

The Confederation Bridge connects Borden-Carlton, Prince Edward Island, with the rest of Canada at Cape Jourimain, New Brunswick. It is the longest bridge in the world that crosses ice-covered water and was completed in 1997 at a cost of $840 million.


     We paid our toll and drove the bridge over the 12.9 kilometre wide Northumberland Strait. We headed to Green Gables in Cavendish in the Prince Edward Island National Park. One of the most famous writers in the world was from Prince Edward Island. Lucy Maud Montgomery was born on November 30, 1874 in New London, PEI. Her ancestors came from Scotland in the 1770s and her grandfathers were members of the provincial legislature for years. Her mother died of tuberculosis when Lucy was 2 and Lucy spent a much of her childhood with her maternal grandparents on the Macneill homestead in Cavendish. Her father moved west in 1887 and remarried. Lucy joined him but felt out of place and soon returned to PEI and her grandparents. She also spent time with her extended family on her mother’s side and her paternal grandfather.
     However, her grandparents weren’t very affectionate and Lucy felt lonely and isolated. This led her to reading an abundant number of books and using her imagination to write her own stories. She started with poetry and journals when she was nine years old and had her first poem, On Cape Le Force, published in the Charlottetown Patriot in November 1890. She started writing short stories in her mid-teens. She first published them in local newspapers then sold them to magazines throughout Canada and the United States.
     Lucy studied to be a teacher and began teaching in a village school in the late 1890s. She was also writing and selling her works so that when her grandfather died in 1898, she was able to leave her teaching position and move in with her grandmother. Between then and 1911 she wrote and sold poems and stories and also worked in the post office on her grandmother’s homestead.
    Her first novel, Anne of Green Gables, was published in 1908 and was an instant bestseller. She got her idea from other novels written by women like Little Women and from a story she read about a couple who had arranged to adopt a boy but were sent a girl. The book sold more than 19,000 copies in the first five months and was reprinted ten times in the first year. It is still in print after more than a century. Lucy wrote two sequels, Anne of Green Gables: Anne of Avonlea (1909) and Anne of the Island (1915) plus five more Anne books over her lifetime. She had a total of twenty books, over five hundred short stories, and one book of poetry published before she died in 1942.
     In her private life,  Lucy had many suitors over the years and became secretly engaged to a distant cousin named Edwin Simpson in 1897. This ended with she began a romance with a farmer named Hermann Leard. Leard died in 1899 from influenza and Lucy threw herself into her writing. Lucy married a minister, Ewen Macdonald, after her grandmother died in 1911 and they moved to Ontario where Ewen had a parish. They had two sons, Chester and Stuart, and a third one who was stillborn. They moved to another village in 1926 and then, after Ewen was admitted to a sanatorium in 1934 and he resigned his parish, they moved to Toronto in 1935. Ewen died in 1943.
     The Green Gables House has been restored to match the descriptions in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s books. I toured through the historic site, seeing the exhibits in the Green Gables house and strolling the Haunted Woods and Balsam Hollow trails that were mentioned in her books.

     Prince Edward Island also boasts have Canada’s smallest library. It is one room with shelves of books along the walls and a table and chairs in the centre.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Cape Breton Island
Cape Breton Island

 I started my writing career as a travel writer, researching and writing seven travel books about the attractions, sites, and history along the backroads of Alberta, British Columbia, the Yukon, and Alaska. While working on them I realized what a beautiful country I live in. Since then I have switched to writing fiction but I still love to travel. 2017 was Canada’s 150th birthday and to celebrate it my husband and I travelled in a motorhome from our home on Vancouver Island on the Pacific Ocean to Newfoundland on the Atlantic Ocean. The round trip took us nine weeks and we were only able to see about half of the sites and attractions along the roads.
       I have decided to write about the scenery, attractions, and history of my country. This post is about Cape Breton Island.
       The Canso Causeway connects Cape Breton Island to the mainland of Nova Scotia. The rock-filled causeway is 1385 metres (4345 ft) long and has a depth of 65 metres (213 ft) which makes it the deepest causeway in the world.
       The Fortress of Louisbourg is situated on the east shore of the Cape Breton Island and well worth the visit.
       In 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht was signed and France ceded its claims to present day Newfoundland, the Hudson’s Bay territories in Rupert Land, and Acadia (Nova Scotia) to the English. France kept what is now Prince Edward Island, the small islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon as well as Cape Breton Island. The settlement of Louisbourg was founded on the east side of Cape Breton Island in 1713, and between 1719 and 1745 the French built a fortified town. With its several thousand inhabitants it grew into a thriving and busy seaport in North America and was a key trading and military centre for the French in the New World. It was the base for the profitable cod fishery of the Grand Banks since salted and dried fish was an important food in Europe. The value of the settlement’s dried cod exports in 1737 was eight times higher than the value of the fur trade during the same period.


       In 1745, war was declared between France and Britain and the English launched an attack on Louisbourg. While the harbour was well defended, the low hills around the fortress provided cover for the attackers. The residents of the fortress held on for forty-six days before being captured. However, three years later the town was given back to the French by the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle.
       A second attack occurred in 1758. There was no strong French navy to defend the town against the 16,000 troops and 150 ships and after seven weeks it was again taken by the English. They occupied it until 1768. Eventually, they decided that it should never return to being a fortified French base and they destroyed the fortress.

       Although the site was officially commemorated more than a dozen times with monuments, plaques, and cairns, it remained mainly forgotten and neglected until the 1930s when a museum was built and some of the streets and ruins excavated. In 1961, reconstruction began on one quarter of the fortress aided by the Government of Canada. First the area was excavated with the ruins of more buildings and walls being found as well as millions of artifacts. Since then streets, buildings, and gardens have been recreated so it looks as it did in the 1740s.
       The Fortress of Louisbourg is the largest reconstruction project in North America.
       I took a tour bus from the parking lot to the fortress. I visited with the guard at the entrance and began my tour. I walked up and down the streets of the fortress and toured through the buildings seeing the household furniture and goods of the period. There was an ice house where ice was placed during the winter and used during the summer to keep food cold so it wouldn’t spoil. I watched the fife and drum escort the cannon firers up the hill to the cannon and watched it being fired. I listened to the soldiers talk about their daily lives. I checked out the gardens and watched women doing embroidery. Throughout the site were interpreters in period clothing able to answer all questions about the fortress and its history. There is a long list of activities to do such as firing a musket or cannon, sampling some rum, learning a dance, or being a prisoner of the day.

       For those who want something to eat there are restaurants serving 1700s fare and a bakery from which you can buy a loaf of bread.
       From Louisbourg we drove the Cabot Trail, a 300 km (186 mile) scenic highway that took us through lovely villages, beside the ocean, up into the hills, and through Cape Breton Highlands National Park. The trail was named after John Cabot, an Italian explorer who landed in what is now Canada in 1497, and was completed in 1932.

       Alexander Graham Bell had a summer residence Baddeck. Now there is the 10 hectare (25 acre) Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site which includes the Alexander Graham Bell museum.

       In Dingwall we visited the Tartans and Treasures Shop to find the Donaldson tartan. They had the MacDonald tartans in skirts, ties, vests, and on mugs and glasses but not the Donaldson tartan. I read a write-up there about Henry Donaldson who was one of the garrison at Edinburgh Castle 1339 to 1340 so the name has been around for centuries.

       Though not on the trail we stopped at Glenora Distillery in Glenville which is North America’s first single malt whiskey distillery. The whiskey made there smells and tastes like scotch but cannot be called scotch. That name is reserved for whiskey made in Scotland.
       There is a restaurant and bar that offers half ounce samples of the whiskey and I had my first, and last, taste. Even though my heritage is Scot, scotch is not my drink.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Vikings in North America

The Vikings in North America


I started my writing career as a travel writer, researching and writing seven travel books about the attractions, sites, and history along the backroads of Alberta, British Columbia, the Yukon, and Alaska. While working on them I realized what a beautiful country I live in. Since then I have switched to writing fiction but I still love to travel. 2017 was Canada’s 150th birthday and to celebrate it my husband and I travelled in a motorhome from our home on Vancouver Island on the Pacific Ocean to Newfoundland on the Atlantic Ocean. The round trip took us nine weeks and we were only able to see about half of the sites and attractions along the roads.

       I have decided to write about the scenery, attractions, and history of my country. This post is about the Vikings who had a settlement in the present province of Newfoundland more than one thousand years ago.

       After a seven hour ferry ride from Cape Breton we landed at Port aux Basque, Newfoundland, and headed north along Highway 1 to Corner Brook where we spent the night. In the morning we carried onto Deer Lake where we turned on Highway 430. We drove through Gros Morne National Park and along the Gulf of St. Lawrence. We were pleasantly surprised at the number of picturesque small fishing villages we passed through on our way north. Eventually we turned onto a smaller highway and reached the national historic site of L’Anse aux Meadows on the tip of the Western Peninsula of Newfoundland overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

       It has been long thought that the first European to step on the soil of North America was Christopher Columbus. Excavations done at this site in the 1960’s recovered artifacts like jewellery, a stone oil lamp, a bone knitting needle, and tools that were compared to ones used at Viking settlements in Greenland and Iceland around the year 1000 and have been carbon dated to between the years 990 and 1050.

       From the parking lot I walked to the interpretive centre where I looked at the displays of what the settlement would have looked like during its occupation. There are replicas of the longships that the Vikings sailed in, artifacts unearthed during the excavations, write-ups about the Vikings, tools that were found, and maps showing the route the Vikings used to get to Newfoundland or Vinland, as they are thought to have named it. The Scandinavians of the medieval period were known as Norse and they were farmers and traders. When they began raiding other countries they became known as Vikings, the Norse word for raiders.

       There has been a lot of interest in the Vikings recently with televisions shows and documentaries about them and their raiding which began in the 790s and lasted until around 1050. With their longboats and advanced sailing and navigational skills the Viking men and women travelled from Scandinavia south through Europe to Africa, the Middle East, and Asia and west to North America.


       I left the centre and followed a long, wooden boardwalk through grass and small bushes to the actual site. There I found a post fence around a yard with large mounds covered in grass. When the Vikings landed here there were forests from which they were able to get material for their boat building and house building. The remains of eight buildings were found in the 1960s and they are believed to have been made of a wooden frame and covered with sod.

       They have been identified are a long house, an iron smithy, a carpentry shop, and smaller buildings that may have been for lower-status crewmembers or even slaves or for storage. There are three replicas of those sod buildings with their thick walls on the site. One is a long house which is equipped with clothes, beds and bedding, household utensils, tools, a fire pit and has a couple dressed in period clothing cooking a meal. The Vikings hunted caribou, bear, and smaller animals plus whale, walrus, and birds for food as well as fished.

       I wandered through the rooms divided by hand carved wooden plank walls. Light came from the fire and holes in the ceiling which are partially covered with upside down wooden boxes to keep the rain out.

       One of the other buildings is the smithy complete with anvil, forge, bellows and various tools. I wandered the rest of the site and saw the outlines of other buildings that have not been reconstructed. It is estimated that between 30 and 160 people lived there over the years.

       The Vikings arrived in Newfoundland from Iceland via Greenland. According to historical records the site was inhabited by the brothers and sister of Leif Ericson plus a series of explorers. It is believed the settlement was there for seven or eight years before being abandoned. This is the only confirmed Viking site in North America and is the farthest west that Europeans sailed before Columbus.

       After viewing the buildings I followed a trail along the rocky shoreline and then turned inland to walk on a boardwalk over a bog back to the parking lot.


       One of the best things is that not only does the interpretive centre have the history of the Vikings, but there is also extensive displays showing the history of the aboriginal people who inhabited the area over thousands of years before any European arrived.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Women Actually Hiked the Chilkoot Trail to the Klondike Gold Rush

I had been to the Yukon twice and hiked the Chilkoot Trail in 1997, the hundredth anniversary of the Klondike Gold Rush, so I knew some history of the area before I started my research for my novel Romancing the Klondike. But I didn’t know anything about the north prior to gold being discovered on Rabbit Creek. When I began my reading I learned that there were good sized towns such as Circle City in Alaska and Fortymile in the Northwest Territories (the Yukon Territory was not formed until 1898) with theatres, libraries, schools, stores, and medical doctors. One little known fact, though, was that while most of the residents in the north before the gold rush era were men, there were also many women who lived there with their prospector husbands or who came as nurses, teachers, cooks, dance hall girls, and ladies of the evening.

       One such woman was Ethel Berry who made the trek from California as a newlywed with her husband, Clarence, in 1896. When they heard about gold being found on Rabbit Creek (later named Bonanza Creek) Clarence staked a claim on Eldorado Creek, a tributary, and the couple set up camp in a 12X16 foot long cabin. There was only a dirt floor and a window that was covered with a flour sack. The winter was cold and Ethel spent her time keeping the wood stove going and cooking and cleaning. Clarence’s claim proved to be one of the richest claims in the Klondike and when they returned to Seattle with two hundred thousand dollar’s worth of gold in the summer of 1897, Ethel was dubbed the Bride of the Klondike by the newspapers. In 1898, they crossed over the Chilkoot Pass with thousands of hopeful millionaires and went back to their claim again.

       Another woman who struck it rich in the Klondike was Belinda Mulrooney. She was raised in Pennsylvania and left home at twenty-one. She worked in Chicago and then San Francisco before heading to Juneau, Alaska, in 1896. When she heard about the gold strike in the Klondike she decided to go there. She bought the necessities she would need but she also thought ahead and purchased silk underwear, bolts of cotton cloth, and hot water bottles. These she carried with her over the Chilkoot Pass in the winter of 1896.

       When the ice melted on the Lindeman and Bennett lakes and Yukon River she floated down the river to the new town of Dawson City, reaching in it June of 1987. According to Belinda Mulrooney herself, when she finally reached Dawson and the gold fields after many months of hardship, she tossed a 25-cent piece, her very last coin, into the Yukon River for luck. She was 26 years old and full of confidence. And rightly so for she sold her silk underwear, bolts of cloth, and hot water bottles for six times what she had paid for them.

       With this success, Belinda turned her attention to the prospectors in gold fields. She set up a lunch counter to feed the single men and then added a bunkhouse for those who didn’t have a cabin to stay in. Eventually she built the two story Grand Forks Hotel and Restaurant, with multiple bunk beds on the second floor, at the junction of the Eldorado and Bonanza creeks. The hotel also acted as a trading post, a gold storage, and sometimes as a church. In the back were kennels for the husky dogs used to pull the sleds which were the main transportation in the winter.

       Being the smart woman that she was, Belinda had the floor swept every evening and those sweepings run through a sluice box. This earned her as much as $100 a day from the gold dust that fell from miner’s pockets and clothing. And she began to delve into the gold claims themselves, owning or co-owning fiving mining claims by the end of 1897.

       Belinda turned her entrepreneurial skills to Dawson and bought a lot on the corner of Princess Street and First Avenue. She sold Grand Forks for $24,000 and used her profits to construct the three-story high Fair View Hotel which opened to enthusiastic and impressive reviews on July 27, 1898. This was the most impressive building in Dawson and held thirty guest rooms and a restaurant.

       Impressed by her strong business sense, a local bank asked Belinda to pull the Gold Run Mining Company out of the red. She had the company in the black in 18 months.

       Belinda married and divorced and eventually moved to eastern Washington State and built herself a castle. She and her siblings lived there until her fortune ran out and she began to rent out the castle. She died in Seattle in 1967 at the age of 95.

        These are just two examples of the many women who lived in the north, who took part in the Klondike gold rush, and who are not included in most of the books written.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

If I Could Go Back In Time

If I could go back in time, where would I go? I was born and raised in Canada where our non-native history goes back almost 400 years if you look at what is now the province of Quebec or 1000 years if you count the Vikings having a settlement in what is now the province of Newfoundland.

In 2017, I travelled across Canada to the site of the Viking settlement at L’Anse Aux Meadows on the tip of Newfoundland’s Great North Peninsula. There I toured through the encampment which consisted of replicas of the timber and sod buildings constructed by the Vikings who had sailed from Greenland. I talked with the costumed interpreters who were sitting around a fire inside one of the buildings cooking their meal. It felt surreal to be there, to know that my ancestors (I have recently found out that I have Viking heritage) lived there for a few years. This is the first known evidence of European settlement in the Americas. From the camp, I walked along the rugged cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and crossed a large bog on a boardwalk. Then I toured the museum, looking at the fascinating artifacts that were found during the excavation. The site was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978.


This year I spent 66 days in Europe and one of the places I visited was the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, just outside Copenhagen, Denmark. In the museum is a permanent exhibition of parts of five original Viking ships excavated nearby in 1962. A thousand years ago these ships were deliberately scuttled (filled with rocks and sunk) in a river to stop the enemy from invading the city by water. Over the decades since they were found, the pieces have been preserved and put together on a metal frame to show how the ships would have looked. Also at the site are replicas of the Viking ships and I became a Viking for an hour. A group of us sat on the seats and rowed the ship out of the harbour using the long oars. Once on the open water we hoisted the mast and set sail. After sailing for a while we headed back to the harbour. As we neared it I had the honour of pulling on the rope that lowered the mast and sail and we glided back to our dock.


So if I could go back in time I would like to be a Viking Shield-Maiden. Women of the time were not called Vikings because they normally did not take part in warfare. They were called Norsewomen. However, women fought in a battle in 971AD and Freydis Eiriksdottir, Leif Erikson’s half-sister is said to have grabbed a sword, and, bare-breasted, helped scare away an attacking army. These women were called Shield-Maidens.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Vacations I Have Had

As you read this post I will be on a bus tour from Rome to London, the second bus tour of my sixty-six day long visit to Europe. How did this vacation come about? Well, it started three years ago when my dragon boat team, Angels Abreast from Nanaimo, B.C., found out that the next Breast Cancer Survivor International Dragon Boat Festival was going to be held in Florence, Italy. Although we voted to attend the festival, eventually it was decided not to go as a team. Since I had already begun planning my trip, I put out feelers to other breast cancer survivor teams who wanted to attend but didn’t have enough paddlers to fill a boat. I was picked up by Sunshine Dragons Abreast, a team from the Sunshine Coast.
     My husband originally planned on going with me and we discussed other countries we wanted to see, but he had to back out because of his health. By this time I had decided that since I was already in Europe, I might as well visit as many countries as I could. I didn’t want to travel alone so I asked the members of Sunshine Dragons if anyone was interested in travelling with me. One woman, Ev, agreed. I also spoke with a fellow employee, Heather, and she and her sister, Beverly, hopped on board but couldn’t join us until the beginning of the Rome to London tour on July 9.
     The festival was from July 5 to 9 so I began looking at tours and cruises before and after those dates. Ev and I picked a 16 day Spain, Portugal, and Morocco bus tour beginning June 15. Then we decided to spend three days in Milan before going to Florence. At the end of the festival there we headed to Rome.
     After this bus tour through Italy, Switzerland, and France, and ending in London, Ev is leaving to do a tour of Denmark, while Heather, Beverly and I plan on spending eighteen days backpacking and riding trains to Brussels, Luxembourg, Cologne, and Amsterdam, and then fly to Copenhagen. We will meet Ev in that city to take an eleven day cruise of the Baltic Sea. One of the highlights of that will be a two day visit to St. Petersburg, Russia.
     I wish the planning had gone as smoothly as it sounds, but that is how attending a five day international breast cancer survivor dragon boat festival in Florence morphed into a sixty-six day visit to Europe. And this isn’t the first time that has happened to me.
     In 2007, an international festival was held in Coloundra, Queensland, Australia. Angels Abreast attended the five days festival. Afterwards, the team split up, some going to New Zealand, some touring the interior and some, my group, spent three weeks sightseeing along the eastern coast ending in Sydney to see the Opera House, climb the Harbour Bridge, and go out to the Great Barrier Reef. Then we spend a week in Fiji.
     I missed the festival in Peterborough, Ontario, but in 2014, the festival was held in Sarasota, Florida. Rather than fly there with the team, do a little touring and fly home, I decided I wanted to see some of the country between the Pacific Ocean, where I live, and the Atlantic Ocean. So my husband and I bought a motorhome and spent four weeks sightseeing on our way to Sarasota and five weeks sightseeing on our way home.
     I could go on about all the other trips I have taken, like the nine week my husband and I took in our motorhome across Canada in 2017 to celebrate our country’s 150th birthday, but that can wait for another post.
     My novel, Romancing the Klondike, is set in the Yukon, a place I have travelled to twice and hope to visit again in the next couple of years.