The Summits of Canada Expedition began with the first climb on June 25, 2006. This time (May, 2012), the team carries their quest on over to the eastern boundaries & shores of Canada to the highpoints of the Maritimes. There wasn't exactly a whole lot of what you would call "climbing" involved with this trip. But the incredible natural surroundings and culture that are distinctly unique to this area of Canada were definitely worth it. And, as usual, the team did manage to find a challenge or two to overcome as well as some unexpected surprises.
For lots more information and details about these unique Canadian highpoints, click below:
James and Len set out in mid-May for the highpoint of the three Maritime Provinces: New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. Atlantic Canada provides visitors with a unique Canadian culture of friendly hospitality that is honed to near perfection over generations of people who have carved out niches among beautiful landscapes and multitudes of picturesque oceanic coves. Highpointing the Maritimes is about taking in what Atlantic Canada has to offer, setting time aside to smell the forests and the sea, and of course consuming a lobster … or two.
The journey first took the boys to Mount Carleton in New Brunswick. Despite its relatively low elevation of 820 m (2,680 feet), they did manage to get into the clouds, as tradition would have it. After all, what’s a summit that doesn’t involve piercing the clouds? Doing a reconnaissance of the area the day prior to highpointing Mount Carleton paid off with finding a quick route that linked into the Park summit trail via a logging road that tapered into a nice short-cut trail. Moose, grouse, the odd black bear and, of course, white throated sparrows were featured residents. The old fire tower that was utilized by the Forest Service until 1968 was close to the actual highpoint. This is definitely a hike worth taking, especially when one realizes and ponders the fact that 400 million years of mountain erosion have reduced the Appalachian mountains from Himalayan sized proportions to an altitude that is very manageable in a couple of hours of hiking. Mother Nature is a truly tireless worker!
Crazy as they are, as soon as they completed Mount Carleton, James and Len then decided to drive directly to PEI, and were able to highpoint this beautiful island the same day on May 14. This trip also included another lesson in how bad the placement of villages can be on Google Earth. Do not depend on Google Earth for locations of towns or villages as reference points; just use the imagery. High-pointing on PEI’s potato field (142 m, 466 feet) is one thing, driving over Confederation Bridge which spans 13 km of ocean to get to PEI is another! This internationally famous Canadian bridge really is amazing. Most of the curved bridge is 40 metres (131 ft) above water, and it contains a 60 m (197 ft) high navigation span to permit ship traffic. A resident potato farmer informed us that a number of islanders still take the ferry instead of the bridge. This can involve substantially more driving time to get to the ferry (plus time on the ferry) than simply driving over the Confederation Bridge. Why do they do this? He mentioned it’s because of their fear of heights. If you spent a lot of time residing on PEI, you could see that such a perspective is possible given the island’s low profile; regardless, the ferry crossing is also a must for either coming or going just for the added experience of the crossing.
After summiting two peaks in one day, the evening was spent sleeping on the dunes of the north beach of PEI and being entertained by spring peepers (frogs) … of which was definitely the highlight for James; he loved the playback feature on Len’s tape recorder so that it would be twice as deafening! But where were James’ earplugs for Len’s snoring when he needed them?
As a bonus, we include here a sample of what these noisy lil critters actually sound like. This recording is only 47 seconds long, but ... hmmmm, it's difficult to imagine James & Len actually got any sleep this night considering how much louder this must have been in person and considering how long this "chorus of frogs" probably went on for.
"PEI Spring Peepers (Frog Songs)"
For more information on these little critters, check out:
Or have some fun & test your knowledge with the very cool:
The Great Canadian Amphibian & Reptile Quiz
The third summit of this trip was White Hill of Cape Breton Highlands, Nova Scotia via the Lake of Islands trail (old fire road). The weather could not have been better and the snow had disappeared from the highlands. This is a trek that should be taken when the black flies are not in force, unless you truly are a masochist, so our timing was good. The mud holes that can pull your boots off are a bonus feature (not), along with an abundance of more moose antler drops. The bulls grow a new set of antlers every year, just to impress one another and, of course, the opposite sex.
If it wasn’t for the old fire roads, getting to White Hill through an unbelievable never-ending entanglement of small, densely packed spruce trees would be an undertaking that would have to span a week (if one was lucky) rather than a full day trek one way. Along the way, we were wondering why most of the cow moose were heading in the direction of White Hill; would calving season have something to do with it? If so, caution would be in order. Len recalled having narrowly survived life threatening storms and plummeting, bone-chilling temperatures, and having avoided being taken out by avalanches and dangerous falling glacial seracs while on previous expeditions in the pursuit of the summits of Canada. But this time we almost bit it a mere couple hundred meters from the top of White Hill when we suddenly came across and startled a cow moose that had just given birth to two twin moose, the next generaton of highpointers. Now that would have been a truly Canadian way of meeting our creator. Fortunately, Mama Moose remained still despite all indications of a potential charge as we cautiously retraced our steps and circled around to carry on with our quest. And as such, the Royal Canadian Geographic Society flag was once again raised on May 16 atop White Hill, with a perfect breeze to keep it aloft. It was then twenty-two kilometers back to the vehicle with another overnight bivy thrown in for good measure, and completion of the Cabot trail with a hearty lobster feast waiting in Cheticamp.
Back in Cheticamp, we recalled the fun & adventures from this trip, and while easy in terms of actual “highpoint” climbing required, it was not without its challenges. We also started looking forward to a few of the remaining peaks yet to be experienced on our journey to bring this great country’s peaks and its natural settings and cultures to Canadians and the world. At this point, we asked the waitress serving us clam chowder and lobster dishes, “What unites us as Canadians despite the extent and diversity of our country”. Her reply was thoughtful and quick, “It’s because we’re friendly and we tolerate people that span this nation of ours”. She’s right of course. And what more can we say except: Oh Canada!? :)
James atop Mount Carleton, New Brunswick's highpoint!
(817 m, 2,680 ft)
James: flying the colours of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society
Confederation Bridge - 60 m (197 ft) above sea-level at its highpoint
James: atop PEI's "highpoint" in the middle of a potato field (142 m, 466 ft).
(And no ropes, tents, oxygen bottles, parkas, gloves, crampons, etc. required. Nice!)
PEI - North Shore
James’ attempt to avoiding losing his boots in the muck on the way to White Hill!
Len: Canadian Highland Moose Antler – eh?
Unhappy mama moose with her hackles up, ready to protect her 2 young calves.
"Nice moose, Niiiiiiice Moose-moose. We'll just retreat back the way we came in."
Len atop White Hill, the peak of Nova Scotia (532 m, 1,745 ft).
Le Gabriel Restaurant @ Cheticamp – highly recommended for its sea food dishes!
Prince Edward Island
CanaTREK, the Summits of Canada Expedition Team - Since 2006
"Teaching Canadians and the World about Canada - One Step At A Time"