36.5 mi / 10.1 mph / 943 ft. climbing
Home: Stanhope Campground, Prince Edward Island National Park
I got out of the tent to find our cookset, which we’d left sitting out on the picnic table as we normally do (all tightly wrapped up), flipped over and on the ground. No way there was any wind to have done that, so it must have been one of the raccoons I saw last night (whose visit a few feet from my elbow as I sat in my camp chair blogging in the dark at least triggered me to bundle our food into the tent for the first time in a while). I’m surprised the clatter didn’t wake me, but whatever, I dust it off and go about prepping breakfast.
But then a few minutes later, a fox tiptoes across our site, nosing around the firepit, and looking at me expectantly. Ah ha! I suddenly remembered the signs at the last two campgrounds, warning to guard your shoes so that PEI’s large red fox population wouldn’t run off with them! So it was more-likely a fox than a raccoon (and probably this fox) that had tipped our pot, and was now looking for an additional tip for his attentive service. He came back a second time once Rett was out of the tent (he’d likely heard that she’s more of a softie than I am for the silently emotive dog-like eyes and posture that evolution and experience had bred into him). But failing even with her, he left after a couple minutes to try a different set of campers. Interesting how there is also something in our evolution and experience that made his visit far preferable to a raccoon’s, even though they’re both after the same thing, and the raccoon isn’t relying on manipulation like the fox.
Beyond that excitement, it was one of the more-pleasant mornings we’ve had in a while: completely dry, with no condensation, and 58℉ vs. yesterday’s beginning-to-be-uncomfortable 50℉ degree morning.
We backtracked the long road out of the campground, and returned to the Confederation Trail, this time heading northwest. There were many points where we could choose between the trail and a paralleling road, and making those decisions was genuinely one of the most-difficult parts of the day! The trail was flatter, had zero traffic (including almost no other trail users), had more wind-protection from the trees surrounding it. But the road had a faster-rolling surface, more-expansive views, and sometimes offered a more-direct route. In the end, we switched between them several times, probably concocting a satisfying mix of both. How rare and wonderful to have two good cycling options to choose from!
One extra bonus came with the trail: apples! For some reason, the trail edge was a popular place for apple trees. Not part of an orchard, or even particularly connected with the farm properties that the trail ran through. And real apples too, large, red, green, red-and-green. After passing about 50 such trees, and dodging the fallen fruit on the trail, it was as if one of those apples finally conked me on the head and I realized: free mid-morning snack! They were so plentiful, and with different varieties living as neighbors, that we were able to have a whole taste-testing. Too tart? Chuck it back into the brush after one bite and find a type you like better, there are only 500 more laying about. Thank you PEI, for bringing some magic back to bike touring for us!
And Rett was once again doing great with the trail-riding, exhibiting a confidence that I hadn’t seen from her on years on unpaved surfaces. She’d probably credit that PEI magic, but I credit her own willingness to put her wheel out there into the unknown, and then react to whatever comes. But maybe that’s also the PEI magic, working indirectly.
The magic came to an end at our next break, when we were suddenly swarmed with mosquitos. They hadn’t been a significant problem for us yet on the island, beyond the normal dusk-in-camp annoyances. But now, even when we leaped back aboard and got moving, we were having trouble shaking them. We exited the trail at the next opportunity, but even out of the trees they still attacked, and we dove into a small diner, emergency-aborting our plans to make our own lunches outside. But, every seat in the diner was taken, and there was zero space to wait, so returning back to their bites, flailing, swatting, and cursing, was the only option. A little further up the road, we pulled into a gas station, thinking maybe they’d have an inside eating area. No dice, but while Rett was getting drinks and chips for us, I slathered on repellent, and with the combination of chemical repellent and their reduced presence in the area, we found that we could actually stand for a minute without needing to shake or slap. Phew.
The guy running the food truck outside the station was kind enough to let us sit at one of his picnic tables even though we had our own food, and that’s where we had a good conversation with JohnD and Myretta, a fun and interesting couple experienced in adventurous travel. They told us to look them up if we went through St. Peter’s Bay; we’re currently rushing in the other direction, to see all the Anne of Green Gables sites before they close for the season in a few days, but it’s a kind gesture nonetheless.
Back on the roads, we have some serious headwinds to fight for the first time in…weeks? That might have something to do with it being the first time we’re traveling west since we left Chicago. For the last section, we had a paved bike trail beside the road that brought us into Prince Edward Island National Park. Went to pay at the booth, and she says bikes are free! I don’t know if that’s just this park/entrance, or a Canada-wide thing, but we’ll take it!
The last couple miles were a sweat-inducing sprint in a successful race to get Rett to a toilet (I was bringing up the detailed campground map on my phone as we rode, something easier to do on a safe bike trail!) That necessity taken care of, we refilled with an excellent pasta and broccoli dinner, then walked back out and across the road to look down on the red beach and watch the sun set to our left (looking north out to an ocean is not something I’ve done much before!) As dusk came on, we had the special treat of a campfire, with a unique wood-acquisition method: you pay for a burlap sack, and then go to the stack of split wood to fill your sack with whichever pieces you want.
Red fox, red apples, red sand, red sun, red flames, all giving a comfort that has put Rett more at peace than she’s been in forever. Thank you PEI magic!