39.5 mi / 10.0 mph / 896 ft. climbing
Home: St. Peter’s Park Campground
Ten-and-a-half hours after the moon rose over the water last night, the sun reprised that performance on the same stage, setting our tent aglow. We’d been very consciously aware of the strong wind that had been steadily blowing for the last 48 hours, but the fact that it had finally diminished by this morning made me even more aware of what a pain it had been. Suddenly camping became so easy! “You’re telling me I can unwrap the bacon and lay it on a paper towel without needing to first find a way to secure the paper towel to the table or secure the bag that I took the bacon out of?!” What a delight!
Today we’d continue west along the north shore of the Island. Like yesterday, the relatively-remote area, combined with the post-Labor Day period we’re now touring in, made the road blessedly relaxing, now with no traffic and no wind.
As usual for PEI, the highway runs a mile or two inland from the water’s edge, especially when it needs to bypass a bay cutting in from the north. But yesterday, at North Lake, and today, at Naufrage, there is a local road that bridges over the bays closer to their mouths, that brings you through the harbor settlements (without adding significant distance). Both times I wasn’t sure if it was “worth it” to take that loop, but it definitely was, for an unexpected reason. Even though the settlements had no commercial or retail activity (or maybe because of that unusual alive-but-dormant feeling), they oriented me, giving the feeling that we had now “been to a place”, by building structure in to a ride that otherwise would have been beautiful, but unmarked and less specifically-memorable.
The bridge over the harbor mouth at Naufrage was particularly unique, a one-lane wooden structure with steep approaches that we walked the bikes over. The harborside buildings made it clear that the fishing industry is active here, but the lack of visible humans as we passed through made it feel a bit like a ghost town, though a benign and comfortable one.
The local road meant that we were also able to easily add another lighthouse to our tally, this one at Shipwreck Point, hopefully named before the lighthouse was built (otherwise it’s not a good reflection on the job the lighthouse has been doing!)
This was our longest day of riding in over two weeks, and while Rett seemed to really enjoy the first half (due to the pleasant conditions), feeling time-crunched (due to the distance + stuff we wanted to do) started stressing her out by the second half. Needing to cover ground on unpaved roads (first a mile on red earth road too washboarded to ride, then on a gravel National Park road) didn’t help either.
We arrived to the impressive-but-readying-for-hibernation Visitor’s Center at Greenwich Dunes (a segment of PEI National Park), secured two sodas from their dwindling supply, and made up some sandwiches to eat for lunch like vagrants on the bench right in front of their entrance. No fee for the Park, because we were past the “season”, so that was nice!
Surprisingly, bicycles are allowed much of the way on the trail to the dunes, and even more surprisingly, the gravel surface made for easier riding than the gravel road approaching the trailhead parking lot. That allowed us to speed things up, though then we did lose out on the ability to enjoy the views of St. Peter’s Bay at walking-speed.
The trail to the dunes continued Maritime Canada’s obsession with boardwalks, this one exquisitely constructed with gentle arcs flowing with the land. Then even better, it turned into a literal floating boardwalk that snaked its way across a pond before ascending the dune wall and bringing us to the sea. The dunes themselves were less-impressive to me than word-of-mouth had led me to expect, but I realized that’s likely because the much bigger Indiana Dunes were in my backyard (and thus, a “normal thing”) growing up. But the broader park and its infrastructure definitely made it a worthwhile visit.
On return to our bikes, Rett was frustrated by the relatively late hour that didn’t allow her to prioritize a second trail exploration over our other remaining tasks for the day. So we backtracked out of the park along St. Peter’s Bay, where they are actively building a new separated bike path alongside the road to connect from the Confederation Trail to the Park (another example of PEI’s bike-tourism investment!) We’d had a plan to pick up some fresh seafood from Julio’s in the town of St. Peter’s Bay to cook up for dinner, but we made a last-minute time/effort-saving decision to just get take-out sandwiches from a neighboring cafe. With our new SPB-friends John D. and Myretta sadly out of town in preparation for their trip to Spain, we had the opportunity to instead stay in the campground just across the narrow end of the bay from their house.