Wednesday, July 8, 2009

It's easy to lose track of the days in a job like this. Two of the most frequently-asked questions are: "What day is it?" and "What's the date?" It's not something we need to keep track of, as long as we show up at the beginning of the week. Distance means very little as well, beyond how far we have to hike in and out.

So when we had an extra day and a half off for the Fourth of July and I wanted to get out of base camp for a while, I didn't think too much about the distance when someone suggested Canada as a possible destination. And because I had no idea what the date was, I ended up pulling into St. Andrews in the midst of their Canada Day celebrations. I got some free flags out of it! I almost got to see a fireworks display as well, but a fog rolled in about the same time I did, and the fireworks looked more like big flashes of light than anything distinguishable.

St. Andrews is a nice town though, and I had fun exploring. I tried to do a lot of the historical things, so the first order of the day was to walk down to and check out the blockhouse (where I tried to watch the fireworks). I also hit up the Loyalist burial ground, which had some really cool old gravestones, and the Ross House Museum, a 19th-century period house with some great room displays and paintings. The woman working at the Ross Museum kindly gave me a map marked with some things to do and a newspaper article on the St. Andrews trail crew. Thanks to her, I went for a great hike along the beach and went up Chamcook Mountain (where the Rosses had their actual home).

I also traveled over to Minister's Island. There's a great little summer cottage built by William Van Horne, a major player in the Canadian Pacific Railway in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I went for a tour of the house (which William designed himself) and the barn (where he raised cows and horses). The tides in the Bay of Fundy are apparently some of the biggest-swinging in the world, and it's so fun to watch. I tried to go to Minister's Island around 10:30 in the morning and found that there was no way to get across. When I came back during low tide, there was suddenly a land bar to cross, big enough to drive my car over. Later that night while walking along the beach, I walked out on a promontory to take photos. I was out there for about ten minutes, not quite paying attention. When I turned to go back, I realized the tide had already started to cover my route back to shore! Luckily, the water wasn't high yet, and I was able to cross without getting soaked.

I camped that night and spent some time reading on the shore. It had drizzled a bit in the morning, but had cleared up during the day. It was gorgeous by the time I went to bed. Even so, I bought some a tarp to put down under my tent. "Just in case," I told myself. I didn't actually think it would rain, or else I would have rigged one over my tent. Alas, I was awoken at 6:15 in the morning (Atlantic time) by a thunderclap. I woke up enough to register the raindrops falling on my tent, but it was another five minutes before I realized that water was actually pooling inside my tent. When the thought Why are my legs wet? ran through my head, I knew I was in trouble. I sprang up to assess the situation, threw on my rain jacket, and proceeded to toss all my wet possessions into garbage bags (that I luckily had in my trunk).

I high-tailed it out of the campsite around 6:45 and drove to Saint John in a rainstorm. It was quite an experience. Because I arrived so early, I killed some time sipping a hot chocolate in the market while waiting for the New Brunswick Museum to open. That museum is an awesome deal. I think I got in for $3.50 as a student, and, because I was there so early, again, I got a one-on-one tour of the shipbuilding exhibit and there were only two other people on the tour of the whale hall. Very cool stuff, especially the shipbuilding.

Luckily, the storm cleared up while I was in the museum, so I was able to walk around the city a bit. I went to the Saint John Centre for the Arts, where they had some nice galleries. There was one with a Spanish/dance theme that I especially liked. I'm a self-proclaimed used bookstore addict, and I think I went to . . . four in Saint John. At one, I found a Myst book! I couldn't pass it up, because I loved Myst when I was a kid, and, sadly, I've kind of been looking for those books for years. I picked up an Ann Patchett book at another bookstore/coffee shop. I actually got invited to a book club there and had to explain that I was just visiting! I did a little shopping as well and picked up a mug to add to my collection.

All in all, I thought Canada was beautiful. I definitely want to go back for a proper visit. There are so many things I'd like to do (namely: spelunking!). I'll try to update tomorrow about our new project and what I'm up to this weekend. Pics to come?

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