23.0 mi / 9.1 mph / 841 ft. climbing
Home: Campbell’s Cove Campground
The wind forecast was the same or worse than yesterday, and with little overnight relief, even taking down the tent required a far more careful set of procedures than normal. Rett was dreading the day’s ride even before she woke. Her fear and frustration allowed her bike-starting difficulties to re-emerge somewhat, but after walking up to a sufficiently-flat section of the uphill, into-the-wind campground road, she was still able to get going easier than she was ever able to under less-challenging conditions a month ago.
The winds were coming at 20mph out of the north, and while our planned route had us going “only” 23 miles, the shape of it was very unusual: it had us heading mostly-east along the southern shore of the northeasternmost peninsula of the island, until we reached the tip, and then turning back west along the northern shore. So we would unintentionally be tacking into the wind like a sailboat, avoiding a direct headwind (though crosswinds come with their own challenges). But unlike a sailboat, we would have the choice to push directly into the wind, and cut off quite a bit of distance, by taking a road straight north across the peninsula (which was only 8 miles wide at our starting position).
So I presented that “short cut” option to Rett, but she decided that it was worth fighting the wind and her cycling challenges in order to see the sights along the way.
The first attraction was the “Singing Sands Beach” at Basin Head Provincial Park. It was just a couple miles east of our campground, but with an out-and-in from the highway that parallels the water’s edge a mile or so inland. Supposedly the high-silica sand squeaks, or “sings” when you walk on it, but the choir wasn’t in session for us. As much as we stomped, shuffled, or stepped, it sounded (and felt) no different than sand anywhere else. And to add sorrow to silence, something in the sand sliced the sole of Rett’s foot, so we had to clean and repair that before we got back on the bikes. Not an auspicious offshoot for a day Rett was already apprehensive about, but, perhaps partly because it was her idea, she took it in a smoother stride than I would have expected. And at least the ride out and in was really pretty!
The next stop on the list was East Point Lighthouse, and it initially seemed like another bust. We had already seen the lighthouse, from its more-functional vantage point of the water, when we sailed around this tip of PEI on the ferry to the Magdalen Islands. From land, much closer up, it was revealed to be under repairs, with ugly brown plywood covering its walls.
But beyond the lighthouse was something unexpected and incredible, something I had never seen before. It was the “Meeting of the Tides”, an area of battle-scarred water just off the point where Prince Edward Island gives up on its duty to keep separate the current from the Northumberland Strait and the current from the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The result is a churning sea topped with two completely-independent sets of white-capped waves, marching in columns perpendicular to each other! One set was moving southwest, and the other northwest, and whenever two waves met at that 90° angle, they would crash and annihilate each other. Even at Cabo San Lucas, a similar sea-dividing point at the tip of Baja with famously roiling currents, we didn’t see anything like this Inception-disorienting geometric marshaling of forces on the water’s surface. And the battlefield covered a relatively small area off the point; a hundred yards in either direction and the water became mostly smooth and blue. But on that field: constant white frothing destruction.
After a stop in the lighthouse gift shop, where Rett got a stone bracelet, and we grabbed some cold drinks, we were luckily able to sit on a sunny bench on the south side of the building to eat lunch, where the unceasing north wind was completely eliminated. If we got too hot, we could step five feet away around the end of the building, get blasted by the “yep, it’s still there” wind, and be instantly chilled by 20 degrees.
We talked there with a family of road-riding cyclists, who said we were the first other cyclists they’d seen on the island. That was odd, because we’d already seen several others touring on the road today, exchanged cards with a guy from Wisconsin who’d done a cross-country kidney ride, and were even stopped by a driver who asked if we were doing “The Walk“. We’d heard briefly about this PEI-version of Spain’s Camino de Santiago from John D.; it’s a defined route to walk the entire island in a loop, but it works for biking too (and the Confederation Trail is a large part of the route). That probably explains the other cyclists we’d seen on this road, and it turns out that the woman who stopped us is some sort of route ambassador, who volunteers to look out for people doing the route and offer guidance or assistance when necessary. Once again, it’s funny how when we saw the undeveloped abandoned rail lines in Nova Scotia, we said how a little bit of investment could have a big payoff, without knowing that PEI would be a living counterexample of a place that has made much-more-than-“little” investments in those exact areas, and it certainly seems to be paying off!
Leaving the lighthouse, we now headed west along the north shore. The coast road in this area, far from any population centers, was blessedly quiet and empty, and the removal of any traffic-induced stress helped make the wind manageable.
We had a fun chat checking at the private Campbell Cove Campground, laughing at stories of stupid people. They have by-far the strongest COVID protocols we’ve ever seen (nowhere else has ever required proof of vaccination, much less in late 2022). One of the family members is immunocompromised, but, given the LGBTQ+ flag flying, it also felt a bit like they might have simply discovered that the COVID requirements function as a nice filter to keep assholes and idiots out of their campground (they certainly had a share of 1-star reviews from angry people denied entry). Works for us! Even better, the bathhouse then required a keycode for entry that was only given to tent campers (everyone else had to use their personal facilities), so given the nearly-empty shoulder-season campground, we essentially had our own private, perfectly-clean bathrooms!
We had a brief thought of taking one of their mini-cabins, just to make life in the wind less-annoying, but it turned out that our site had a thick wall of tall prairie grass that we could hug the tent right next to and make relatively-windless shelter. After setting up, we relaxed atop the campground’s oceanside cliff, enjoying our strawberry snack as the sun lowered to our left, further reddening the red all around us.
We cooked up a pierogi dinner, and after dark, headed back to the beach, alerted by last night’s unexpected moon to catch tonight’s show from the opening credits. It was all a bit disorienting, being at an oceanfront campsite for the second night in a row that felt largely similar, except for the fact that we’d switched from the south to the north shore, so sunset and moonrise had swapped positions along the shore. Then then when the moon broke above the water, its intense color, as orange as any sunset, just increased the subconscious confusion.
In the second never-seen of the day, I’d never seen the moon rise directly out of the water, and certainly never a mind-boggling Great Pumpkin casting orange light on the beach like this one. We spun together on the sand to watch the stars wheel above us, and, less-romantically, wondered at the tight column of UFOs high above, which I identified into airplanes all lined up on the invisible highway connecting Europe to North America. What an unexpectedly great day of bike touring!