Exploring Boston’s Freedom Trail and searching for the grave of my 376 year-old great, great, great grandfather John Viall, Jr.

Seven weeks into our nine week “cross-Canada and back across the US trip”, we had the opportunity to spend two days in the historic Boston area, blessed by two resident cousins as tour guides on our first day.

First, a bit about my family. John Viall, Sr., came to the United States in 1637, settled in the Boston area and eventually retired to the Swansey, MA area. His son, John Viall, Jr., born in 1644, owned the Ships Tavern on the Boston seafront before his death in 1720. Our family members told us that his grave was in the Copp’s Hill Burial Ground, just a block from the Old North Church (the church where Paul Revere hung his lanterns, “one if by land, two if by sea”, to warn of the British approach).

The Old State House; the sidewalk medalion commemorates the site of the 1770 Boston massacre

So we drove to near the start of Boston’s well-delineated Freedom Trail, roughly 3 miles in length, linking noteworthy historic sites in the city, site of the birth of our nation.

Spouse Susan points out the brick in spouse Susan points out the brick inlay that denotes the Freedom Trail.

The trail has several visitor centers, and an in-laid brick pathway leads you to the varied historic destinations. We picked up a map and downloaded the free phone ap by the National Park Service and began our tour at the Old State House, adorned with statues of tribute to the King and the British Empire.

It was the center of political debate in the mid-18th century and the site of the Boston Massacre in front of the building in 1770, when British troops, panicked by protesters, fired upon and killed five colonists including Crispus Attucks. Future president and Boston lawyer John Adams would successfully defend the British troops against murder charges. It’s also the building from where the Declaration of Independence was read to Bostonians in 1776.

Statue of Sam Adams guards Faneuil hall.

We moved on to Faneuil Hall, built as a marketplace on the first floor (still functioning today) and a meeting hall on the second floor that, for well over 250 years, has been the place for colonists and citizens to discuss issues, protest the British government and make decisions garnering the building the moniker as “birthplace of our nation”.

Just steps away is the rambling Quincy Market, packed with shops and eateries doing a bustling business both days we visited. Also along the Freedom Trail, the venerable Union Oyster House, where we dined on oysters and seafood delicacies the first night, and Hanover Street, home to a bustling Little Italy section, where we had a score of Italian restaurants to choose from the second night.

Paul Revere’s house, circa 1680, was occupied by Revere when he made his famed ride into the Massachusetts’s countryside in April, 1775 to warn of the British troop’s approach. Revere risked his livelihood and his life for his part in establishing our country’s freedom from British tyranny.

For those with more energy, a mile further along the trail would deliver us to the old Charlestown Navy Yard, one of six original Navy facilities. It’s home to the USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides”) and the USS Cassin Young, a World War II and Korean War destroyer, both open for tours.

Trekking further north you’ll reach the Bunker Hill Museum and Monument, commemorating the famous Revolutionary War battle. The Monument offers a fine view of Boston, for those with gusto to climb the 294 steps to the top (no elevator).

Old North Church, where Paul Revere had the lanterns posted to mark the British troops approach, is just a block from the Copp's Hill Burying Ground.

Along the way we visited the Old North Church and Copp’s Hill Burying Ground (one block northwest of the church), to find the grave of old relative John Viall, Jr. and patriots as Cotton Mather and Robert Newman, who hung the two lanterns in the Old North Church.

Captain Malcolm's grave, used by the British for target practice in 1775.

Among the graves of patriots is that of Captain Malcolm. His inscription reads “Here lies buried in a stone grave 10 feet deep Capt. Daniel Malcolm, who departed this life October 23, 1769 age 44 years. A true son of liberty, friend of the public, an enemy to oppression and one of the foremost in opposing the Revenue Acts on America”. A docent tells us he was buried so deep that the British would not dig up his body! A close examination shows “musket-ball pock marks”, evidence how British troops used his tombstone for target practice during the Revolutionary war when they once held Copp’s Hill.

John Viall, Jr.'s grave, with the author pointing out the 1720 burial date.

With help from the Copp’s Hill website, we found old John Viall, Jr.’s grave. Pretty daunting, in the space of a mile or so, to walk in the footsteps of John Adams, Sam Adams, Paul Revere and, yes, my old ancestor. Viall’s progeny would go on to fight in the Revolutionary War and the Civil War.

Had we had more time, a separate Freedom Trail of African-American history starts at the south end of the original Freedom Trail.

For more insight, Boston’s Freedom Trail, thefreedomtrail.org, and nps.gov/bost/.

To reach Tim Viall, tviall@msn.com; for more of his travel features, blogs.esanjoaquin.com/valleytravel. Happy travels in your world!

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Adjacent to lovely Bar Harbor, Acadia National Park, first national park east of Mississippi, celebrates 100 years in 2016

After spending a week in the Canadian Maritime provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, we reentered the US at Calais, Maine. A friendly Border Patrol officer marveled at the thought of our long trip in such a small teardrop trailer.

We followed Hwy. 1 south, seeing frequent views of the Fundy Channel and an ebb tide so much exceeding our expectations.

West Quoddy Head Lighthouse in Maine; easternmost point of land in continental US.

The northern reaches of Maine look to be suffering hard times; we see many shuttered businesses and more than a few once formidable Victorian homes abandoned. An Acadian couple we chat with at Quoddy Head State Park notes that the forest products industry is in steep decline, with once a dozen robust wood pulp mills now two – reflecting the steady decline of paper used in the publishing industry.

Quoddy Head State Park is home to the iconic West Quoddy Head Lighthouse; the first light in 1808 was the eastern-most lighthouse in the continental USA (it’s also on the easternmost point of land in our country). The present red and white striped light was constructed in 1858 and still shines brightly through its original third-order Fresnell lens, serviced by the US Coast Guard.

After a three hour drive, we turn south on Hwy. 3 and crossed the short bridge to Mount Desert Island. through the ritzy Bar Harbor area and make our home for the next three nights in Blackwoods Campground in Acadia National Park. Acadia is celebrating its hundredth anniversary, the first national park established east of the Mississippi River.

Lobster traps in rear, color-coded buoys in foreground on Little cranberry Island.

We toured Acadia National Park,s Loop Road, settled into our campground and reserved space on the next day’s 2.5 hr. cruise (just $29.95, $2 off for seniors) out of nearby Northeast Harbor on the Sea Princess. Cruise guide Patrick Clark, Acadia Park Ranger, pointed out the Bear Island Lighthouse, circa 1832 and Sutton Island, with a 10′ tall Osprey nest and a fledgling soon to depart the nest proudly showing off.

We soon docked at Little Cranberry Island, where Clark led a short walk past working lobsterman to the Islesford Historical Museum and gave us time to stroll the streets of this beautiful but remote Atlantic Island.

Clark noted how the French and Indian War, won by Britain in 1763, finally settled ownership and Maine was added to the Massachusetts Colony. The Stanwoods settled on Cranberry Island in 1762 and slowly colonists established fishing, quarrying and lumbering livelihoods on Mount Desert Island.

Back on the boat, Clark noted that Maine licenses 12,000 lobsterman and the industry is working to slowly reduce their numbers to guarantee the industry’s future sustainability. By license, each can own 800 traps; most work 200 to 400 traps. Largest lobster ever caught was 44 lbs. and well over 100 years old. Today, large lobsters and females with eggs are returned to the sea.

We sailed up Somes Sound, the only true fiord on the east coast. Carved by glaciers, its towering cliffs are home to rare peregrine falcons.

Acadia makes up about half of Mount Desert Island, the rest privately owned including charming harbors such as Bar, Northeast, Southwest and Bass Harbor. It was the first national park created by donations of private land from many individuals, notable in the way the park’s boundaries interweave with local communities.

View from Acadia's Cadillac Mountain frames a big cruise ship in Bar Harbor.

The park itself has been carved out of Ellsworth shist (sedimentary rock, 500 million years old), newer Cadillac Mountain granite, then shaped by glacial action and eroded by endless storms and the sea. The park contains three campgrounds (reservations recommended), a paved loop road intersected by 47 miles of historic carriage gravel roads (open to foot, bike and horseback travel), a free shuttle-bus system, towering Cadillac Mountain for dramatic views up and down the Maine coast and occasional foggy mornings.

Boats lie at anchor in Bar Harbor under evocative sunset.

Bar Harbor, (“Bahaba” in the vernacular of locals) boasts a bustling waterfront, a marvelous Shore Walk past palatial cottages, and stunning views, shops and restaurants (recommended: quaint Geddy’s Restaurant offers a complete $19.95 lobster dinner before 6 PM). The next night, we bought two pounds of cherrystone clams from a local vendor, Susan steamed them in white wine, lemon juice and garlic, served over linguine it made for a gourmet campground meal.

Quaint "summer cottages" like this are found along Bar Harbor's spectacular Shore Walk.

Bar Harbor is exceptional for strolling and people-watching. It’s harbor offers views of working lobster men, impressive yachts, pleasure boats, ferries coming and going and huge cruise ships like the Aria disgorging hundreds of passengers from Italy. The downtown is a beehive of activity, with hundreds of locals and tourists strolling shops, restaurants and night-spots.

For more information: Acadia National Park, nps.gov/acad; Bar Harbor, Maine, barharborinfo.com.

To reach Tim Viall, tviall@msn.com; for more of his travel features, blogs.esanjoaquin.com/valleytravel. Happy travels in your world!

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National public lands day, September 24, 2016, allows free admission to national parks, forests and more

Celebrate our national parks, national forests and public lands on Saturday, September 24 with free entry and access to a variety of projects where volunteers can help clean up parks, build trails and many more volunteer opportunities.

Fees are waived in national parks like Grand Teton on September 24.

So skip the $20-$30 entry fee to national parks like Yosemite, Pinnacles, Death Valley, Joshua Tree, Lassen, Redwoods and other California or neighboring state’s national parks. Fees are also waived in National Forests or Bureau of Land Management properties that charge entry fees.

For more information, consult your favorite park or Google ‘National Public Lands Day 2016′ for a schedule of volunteer opportunities, and get out and enjoy and assist in these national treasures.

To reach Tim Viall, tviall@msn.com; for more of his travel features, blogs.esanjoaquin.com/valleytravel. Happy travels in your world!

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Prince Edward island; smallest Canadian province, and, arguably, the loveliest

Prince Edward Island: smallest Canadian province but arguably the loveliest…

Fishing and lobster boats your Prince Edward Island

We have now toured eight days in the Canadian Maritime provinces. We started with 3 days in New Brunswick, two days in Prince Edward island and now, 3 days in Nova Scotia. These are lovely places, with green hills and mountains, seashore at almost every turn and hardy Canadians happy to share friendly tips about their favorite city and province.

When we set out upon our trip 42 days ago, I had given a little thought to Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada’s smallest province. Many Canadians and a number of American friends said we must see that hallowed isle, just off the coast of New Brunswick.

We elected to pay the toll of $53 to cross the Confederation Bridge, completed in May, 1997. The cost is not happily embraced by many Canadians, noting the cost per kilometer of the 13K (8 mile) bridge is the most expensive in the world!

Historic lighthouse, Victoria Harbour

Once we reached PEI, we headed for the central, south shore and quickly found the old town of Victoria Harbour; a dozen quaint, Victorian old homes and an historic lighthouse overlooking a small harbor with about five commercial lobster boats. We had a late lunch at Beachcomber on the Pier, delicious food with a view out onto the Northumberland Strait. We made camp that night at a KOA campground near Rocky Point near the Fort Amherst National Historical Site.

The next day we headed for the main city on the island, Charlottetown. The old port city was the site in 1864 of Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island leaders for a weeklong conference that would lead to the formation of Canada. Two additional meetings and three years later, Canada would be established in 1867.

Victoria Road in Charlottetown off for several blocks of outdoor eateries and quaint shops

It’s now a modern city with an active waterfront that hosts cruise ships, commercial fishing fleet and private yachts. A new convention center and a bustling historic downtown fronts the harbor. We found our way to Victoria Row, two blocks complete with shops and five restaurants offering outdoor seating. At John Brown’s Richmond Street Grill we split a fish and chips dish, with a huge slab of haddock which was outstanding, plenty of food for two. Our waitress, in asking where we had come from, noted she spent summers in Fresno with her grandmother – small world!

Across the street is the Confederation Center for the Arts, a complex of Music Hall, exhibition center and meeting rooms surrounding the old Province Hall, dedicated by Queen Elizabeth in 1964. Out front stands a dynamic memorial, tribute to Canida’s war heroes in the great wars of World War I, II and the Korean War.

Further investigation of the downtown Charlottetown area found the University of Prince Edward Island, flanked by the Old Protestant Cemetery (on this island, Protestant churches seem to outnumber Catholic churches, 5 to 1 – unlike other nearby provinces where Catholics dominate) and a number of Cow’s Ice Cream outlets, which everyone tells us is the best in Canada.

For our several day’s stay on the island, we elected to follow the tourist route labeled ‘Anne of Green Gables’, for the heroine of the 1908 book by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery. It’s a route that circles the central portion of the island, through rolling hills and forests dotted with more of those tidy farms and dairies and onto the north shore. Prince Edward Island National Park, with both a Cavendish branch and a Brackley-Dalway branch, dominates much of the north-central shoreline.

Dalway-by-the-Sea was a summer home built by a wealthy Cincinnati oilman, now a hotel

Here we find the grand Victorian home, now a hotel, Dalway-by-the-Sea. Built in 1896 by Alexander McDonald, a wealthy oil man from Cincinnati, Ohio; his home and many guests helped inspire the burgeoning tourist draw of the north shore’s red sand beaches and dunes, which run for miles along the North Atlantic.

Red sand beaches extend for miles along the North Shore of Prince Edward Island

At the visitor center near the Cavandish Branch, we learn about the earliest island residents, the Mi’kmag people, who hunted fished and farmed PEI for well over 10,000 years. They were followed in the mid-18th century by the Acadians during the French-dominant years. Scottish settlers arrived in 1770, and came to dominate portions of the island. Then, tourists discovered the island in the late 1800s, and new arrivals have included Canadians and Americans since.

Quite honestly, this lovely Isle is worthy of many additional days – we hope to return sometime to see both the northern and southeastern portions of the island!

For more information: Prince Edward Island, tourismpei.com; Prince Edward Island National Park, pc.gc.ca.

To reach Tim Viall, tviall@msn.com; to see more of his travel features, blogs.esanjoaquin.com/valleytravel. Happy travels in your world!

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Back into Canada: Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, to historic Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

This column offers insight into our exploration of our huge neighbor to the north, Canada (it’s the fifth installment of our “cross-Canada and the US trip – see my earlier posts for the first four!).

Ottawa's huge Parliament Building dominates government edifices on "the Hill".

From Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, we motor more than five hours to Sudbury. Rolling forest and vistas of Lake Huron and lots of small, independent farms along the way.

Sudbury to North Bay, then to Huntsville; hills, then mountains, many lakes and we steadily climb to Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario’s oldest and largest park. Once into the park the road winds through a forest of conifers and hardwoods, lakes and streams set like diamonds. Repeated signs warn of danger of moose on the road.

We spend the night in a delightful, 240 site campground, with a park store just a short bike ride to our west. We note cans of chili for $4.95, congratulating ourselves for arriving with fully stocked pantry!

After a four hour drive through forests and into the Ottawa River Valley, laced with bucolic farms, we reach the large Ottawa metro area, pass the Canadian Tire Arena, home to the Ottawa Senators hockey team and reach the city center. Here is “The Hill”, center of the Canadian federal government.

RCMP officer Walsh and spouse Susan in front of the Senate Building in Ottawa.

Much like our own nation’s capital, but more compact, we find a cluster of huge government buildings. The main Parliament building is flanked on one side by the Senate building and the Congress building. Across the street is the prime minister’s residence, and to the west is the country’s Supreme Court.

In front of Parliament, we are lucky to strike a conversation with Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer Walsh, noting Prime Minister Trudeau often walks through the grounds (not today, apparently). He notes only 20 homicides/year in a city of one million and that his son is currently enrolled in the RCMP Academy in Regina.

We spend the night in nearby Fitzroy Provincial Park, near Fitzroy Harbor on the Ottawa River. Next day, we cross the river into Quebec Province and follow Hwy. 148 along the old river route, realizing that all road signs, restaurant menus and most of the conversations we hear are in French (this the province that so tried to separate from Canada in the 1980s).

We then take Hwy. 323 north into Quebec ski country (our plan is to skirt Montreal). In 70 scenic miles through spruce forest we reach Mont Tremblant, a sprawling, huge summer and winter resort – billing itself as the largest ski resort in eastern America.

Mont Tremblant's ski gondola hauls summer visitors.

After a night camping in St. Agathe, we are off at 7:15 AM, and speed past three more ski areas, awaiting winter crowds from Montreal. Once out of the Laurentian Mountains, we follow the old river road along the St. Lawrence, broad and wind-swept, with giant freighters visible at many a vantage point.

We tour from the hills above Montreal to St-Augustin Desmaures, stopping for the night just 14 km from Quebec City, our destination for the next day or two. The route winds its way through old riverine forests, quaint river towns like Champlain, Portneuf and Donnacona, separated by many tidy and a few industrial-sized farms and dairies.

The Catholic Church in St-Augustin Desmaures dominates the old St. Lawrence River town, just west of Quebec City.

Almost every town has an over-sized, elaborate Catholic Church, many with not one but two ornate steeples. In St-Augustin Desmaures, the church is huge, a monument to Christ fills the space in front and a sprawling cemetery fills acres behind. The nearby chancery is wildly ornate and super-sized.

Today we tour into Quebec, founded in 1608 when Lt. Samuel de Champlain founded a trading post here, and in 1620 built Fort Saint Louis to protect the French government’s New France holdings.

We find our way to the Plains of Abraham, named for early settler Abraham Martin who pastured his livestock on he’s highlands overlooking the Mighty St. Lawrence River. They would be immortalized in battles fought on the plains in 1759-60. Today the Plains are contained in Battlefield Park, with the old fortress The Citadel on the east and several history museums and the National Museum of Fine Arts.

Huge freighter on the St. Lawrence, taken from Plains of Abraham, near Citadel, in Quebec City.

After touring the Citadel heights and admiring the St. Lawrence Seaway, alive with several huge freighters coming or going to the Great Lakes and many score of pleasure boats, we stop for an early lunch on the delightful Grande Allee Est., on a several block stretch counting more than 20 out-door dining restaurants. After a bottle of French wine, Caesar salad and a martini pizza our appetite is more than satisfied.

Heading east we pass Quebec’s Parliament buildings and Artillery Park National Historic Site before finding our way to the old city to the northeast of the Citadel. Just outside the old city’s fortified walls, it is home to the Place Royale and blocks of old buildings dating to the 1700s, anchored by cobblestone streets lined with quaint shops, restaurants and hotels. Alive with pedestrians, the area has the feel of old Paree!

Canadian flag flys proudly over the Citadel in Quebec City.

From here, we are headed into the wilds of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Come along with us in next week’s installment!

For more information on Ontario travel, ontariotravel.net; for Quebec travel, quebecregion.com.

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com Happy travels in your world!

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Historic Michilimackinac Fort and the Mill Creek Historic Discovery Park in Mackinaw City offer living history!

Here is additional insight into two Mackinaw City, Michigan area attractions that bring history to life (see my Wednesday, August 24 Record blog feature for more detail on this lovely area)!

The two are Fort Michilimackinac and Mill Creek Historic Discovery Park. Here is a bit of detail, right off the two attraction’s web sites:

Ft. Michilimackinac cannon firing by British reinactors!

Fort Michilimackinac in Mackinaw City, Michigan, (mightymac.org/michilimackinac.htm) right on the Mackinac Strait, was originally built by the French in 1714-1715 to control the fur trade and European development of the upper Great Lakes. Michilimackinac was more of a fortified community than a military outpost. The colonial community was located both inside and outside the walls and the walls were expanded several times during the French and British occupation of the area. There was an Odawa (Ottawa) community along the shore when Fort Michilimackinac was built, but the Odawas moved 20 miles west to L’Arbre Croche (present day Cross Village) in 1741 when their corn fields were no longer fertile.

Mill Creek Historic Discovery Park, south of Mackinaw City by two miles on Hwy. 23 (mackinacparks.com/parks-and-attractions/historic-mill-creek-discovery-park/) Here, visitors can witness the power of the creek harnessed to cut timber into lumber at one of the oldest industrial sites on the Upper Great Lakes and soar like an eagle on the zip line during the Adventure Tour.

British and Canadian flags fly over Mill Creek Historical Discovery Park.

Live Programs and Tours: Historical demonstrations by costumed interpreters and nature programs are conducted throughout the day. Click here to learn more about the daily events and activities at Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park.

Adventure Tour: Trek though the treetops on the Adventure Tour! This special, guided nature experience takes visitors over the Forest Canopy Bridge, down the 425-foot Eagle’s Flight Zip Line, and up the five-story Treetop Discovery Climbing Wall. A separate ticket and signed waiver are required. Participants must meet Adventure Tour Guidelines.

Exhibits: The Visitor’s Center and Millwright’s House have exhibits on the history of the site featuring archaeological artifacts.

Audiovisual Program: A fifteen-minute program is presented in the theater in the Visitor’s Center. It repeats every 20 minutes.

Hands-on Fun: Kids and adults will enjoy the outdoor Water Power Station, the Forest Friends Play Area, and the view from the top of the Treetop Discovery Tower.

Nature Trails: Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park is situated on over 600 acres with three miles of trails that contain beautiful forests, wildflowers and scenic views. A variety of wildlife species make their homes here. Even the novice hiker will find adventure in the northern forest.

Bicyclists ride the "rail trall" from Mackinaw City to the Mill Creek Discovery Park.

Bicyclists: Best of all, a flat, separated from traffic rail trail connects Mackinaw City, runs south parallel to Hwy. 23, right past the Mill Creek Historic Discovery Park entrance, and into Cheboygan further south.  It’s a lovely way to get some exercise and commute to the two historic attractions!

For more info on overall Mackinaw City, Michigan attractions:, mackinawcity.com

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in the US and Canada!

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Exploring Lake Superior: Ontario to north, the upper Michigan Peninsula to south…

Exploring Lake Superior: Ontario to the north, the upper Michigan Peninsula to the south…

The ‘Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’, waterfalls and wild country!

We are exploring the north and south shores of mighty Lake Superior, the largest fresh water lake in the world, while joining a classic Scotty travel-trailer caravan for a tour of the upper Michigan peninsula.

Mighty Kakabeka Falls, the 'Niagara of the North', plunges 130 feet into deep gorge in Ontario near Thunder Bay.

We entered Ontario, Canada from the west, and spent a rainy night in Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park, west of Thunder Bay, OT.  The next morning we explore Kakabeka Falls, nicknamed “the Niagara Falls of the North”. At 200+’ across and more than 130′ tall, it’s an impressive sight as the river thunders into the deeply-cut gorge below.

We then follow Canada Hwy. 17 along the north coast of Lake Superior to Sault Ste. Marie, OT. The rain followed us for more than 400 miles through a string of mountains and foothills dropping rapidly into Lake Superior.

It’s a beautiful drive, passing scores of large lakes with names like Desolation, Loon, Henry, Salter, Rabbit Blanket, Mom and Orphan Lakes – with nary a boat or cottage on any! Here, too, are other intriguing features: Old Woman Bay and River, Bald Head River, Rainbow Falls Provincial Park and Pukaskwa National Park. The road travels high above the huge lake, occasionally dropping down to follow its rocky shores and infrequent sandy beaches.

Upper Tahquamenon Falls, 200' across and 50' tall, plunges, headed towards the lower falls four miles distant.

We make Sault Ste. Marie, OT and spend the night at a dumpy Howard Johnson Motor Inn to dry off. The next day, after an hour long bridge and border crossing into Michigan, the dividing line between Lake Superior and Lake Huron, we are into Sault Ste. Marie, MI, established in 1668. Gas, at $2.37/gallon, is about 60% of Canadian prices, and a Walmart provides relatively cheap groceries to restock our travel pantry.

We move onto picturesque Tahquemenon Falls State Park, MI to meet up with our Scotty trailer group and an eight day tour of the upper Michigan peninsula. Our Scotty travel-trailer tour group includes three classic Scotties from the 60s and 70s, our 58 reproduction Scotty teardrop, a classic Boler, a Little Man teardrop, an R-pod and a couple with a “62 Scotty, not quite ready for the road” (so they are tent camping with us).

Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum commemorates over 300 ships lost off Whitefish Point on Lake Superior.

Next day activities include a drive due north to Whitefish Bay and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. The museum is housed in a complex including a grand lighthouse and former Coast Guard facility. Here, over 300 shipwrecks lie offshore, taking 320 lives. One of the more recent, the 730’ freighter Edmund Fitzgerald, went down with 26,000 tons of iron ore in a ferocious 1975 November storm, killing all 29 crewmembers, made more infamous by the Gordon Lightfoot ballad.

We moved on to both lower and upper Tahquamenon Falls, a state park offering miles of hiking trails, three campgrounds and the two lovely falls. The lower falls is a series of cascading torrents and several falls about 6 to 9 feet tall – perfect for families wading in the shoals.

The upper falls, 200 feet across and 50 feet tall, is quite striking. The two falls are separated by a 4 mile hike, a shuttle ride or, you can drive your vehicle to the two different destinations. Well worth the trip, heralding six coming days of Michigan waterfalls!

Three classic Serro Scotty trailers in our caravan, the oldest, a 1967 model, is the one painted teal in the middle.

Our caravan of classic trailers moved on to Pictured Rocks National Seashore, and our tour group took the evening cruise along 14 miles of the stunning seashore.  Later, it was onto Seney National Wildlife Refuge and its lovely 7 mile “outback” drive through the refuge where we saw Trumpeter Swan’s, Canadian geese, an eagle and a variety of other wildlife.

Then, it’s on to Munising where we spend two days at a municipal park right on Lake Superior; the weather remains sunny and temperatures around 80 – we took a bracing swim in Lake Superior and then a short drive to Munising falls. Its falls cascade about 90 feet into a picturesque, moss covered gorge. We realized that our short hike was on a small portion of the North Country National Scenic Trail, a 4,600 mile, almost-completed trail across the northern boundary of the United States.

Scenic Pictured Rocks National Seashore, photo from sunset cruise by fellow Scotty caravaner Ed Kowalski.

On our fifth day, it’s on to Porcupine Mountain State Park, via a circuitous, picturesque and very wild 200 mile drive through northern Michigan’s pine forest. We’re camped on the far north shore of Lake Superior, with a rough, slate beach just below our campsite.

We visited Presque Isle River on a day where a steady drizzle tracks us. This consistent rainfall results in green, lush and dark forests, leading down to where the river runs into the great lake. On the lakeshore, we watch as a three-year-old in her blue windbreaker pokes a long pine bough at the small waves pushed in by the offshore breeze.

On day six of our tour we depart Porcupine Mountain on a wet, rainy morning, and log almost 300 miles across Michigan to the east, through thunderstorms and constant rain, to Mackinaw City. We cross the majestic Mackinac Bridge in light rain, take the first exit off I 75 to tour the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse – with the giant bridge barely visible through the rain and fog.

Old Mackinac Lighthouse in foreground, mighty Mackinac Bridge in distance.

Once we arrive our campsite (nice, private Mackinac Mill Creek Campground), we hear the thunder storms to the south may breed tornadoes – overnight, winds whip Lake Huron just off our campsite into a frenzy and our trailer awning is flattened by high winds at 5 AM!

Fortunately, the next day dawns cloudy, but clears by late morning, and several of our group take the ferry over to Mackinac Island, home to grand Victorian summer homes, carriage rides (no autos on the island) and the stately Grand Hotel (with the temerity to charge $10/person to tour through).

Mackinaw City offers several other tour-worthy destinations: the historic Michilimackinac Fort, the Mill Creek Historic Discovery Park, the old Mackinac Point Light and views of Lake Huron on one side, Lake Michigan on the other. From here, we are soon to enter back into Canada, bound for Nova Scotia. See my Record blog for more insight on Friday, regards historic Michilimackinac Fort, the Mill Creek Historic Discovery Park.

For more information: Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park, Ontario, ontarioparks.com; Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Michigan, michigandnr.com; Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, Michigan, shipwreckmuseum.com; Pictured Rocks National Seashore, Michigan, nps.gov/piro; Porcupine Mountain State Park, Michigan, michigandnr.com; Mackinaw City, Michigan, mackinawcity.com.

Mike's lovely 1967 Scotty custom Sportsman, taken during the Michigan Upper Peninsula tour.

For more insight into acquiring or restoring a vintage Serro Scotty travel trailer, see the National Serro Scotty Organization web site, nationalserroscotty.org.

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in the US and Canada!

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Canada’s Great Plains: Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, grain silos, lakes, mosquitos a’plenty!

From last week, our journey of exploration continues, from British Columbia’s Rocky Mountains, we are headed east, towards Nova Scotia, Canada, via the Trans-Canada Highway. We will log about 9,000 miles in 69 days, returning through the USA’s East Coast, Midwest and historic Rt. 66.  towing a tiny Scotty teardrop travel trailer.

Frank Slide, where Turtle Mountain's huge landslide buried 70 miners and townsfolk in 1903.

From British Columbia, we climb over 4500′ Crowsnest Pass on Hwy. 3 and are welcomed into Alberta overnight with a crashing thunder and lightning storm, dropping about 1 inch of rain on our trailer in a campground just off the highway.

Descending the Continental Divide the next morning, we come quickly to Frank Slide; in April, 1903 the side of Turtle Mountain broke loose and thundered down  on the town of Frank, killing 70 miners and townsfolk and sending boulders the size of a house up the other side of the valley. It’s a sobering stop at the overlook, gazing at the place where these people were buried 113 years ago.

We steadily descend out of the mountains to the rolling plains, with wide-open grasslands for pasture, wheat fields starting to appear and huge wind turbines capping windy ridges. Corn, canola, soy beans and sun-flower fields cover the landscape, though wheat fields dominate. We learn that Saskatchewan produces 10% of the world’s exported wheat.

Lethbridge's High Bridge carries the Canadian Pacific RR across the Oldman River.

Now on the Trans-Canada Hwy. 1, our first big city stop is Lethbridge, Alberta, famed as an early coal mining region, Fort Whoop-up (a fort dating to the 1880’s, where whiskey was traded to Native Canadians for beaver pelts), the world’s highest/longest steel-trestle bridge, 307 feet tall, more than a mile across carrying the Canadian Pacific Railroad across Oldman River. Following Hwy. 1, we seem to be on a path of “world’s largest”, finding the world’s largest teepee, at 215’, created for the 1988 Winter Olympics, rising from the prairie at Medicine Hat.

1/4 mile long pivot irrigation system irriagates thousands of acres of wheat, corn.

Along the Trans-Canada Highway, grain silos and wind turbines stand out. Corn, wheat, beans and canola; aided by spindly center-pivot irrigation systems, a quarter-mile long, produced by agri-business giants Zimmatic and Valley. It’s a wonder to me that, with computers and sensors, these huge machines can rotate over rocky ground, pilot themselves around square corners, and not tangle themselves into a pile of scrap metal. In tiny Burdette, AB, we spot, on display, the first pivot irrigation system, just 180’ long, introduced there in 1962.

We continue east into Saskatchewan, with rolling grassland prairie – half expecting to see a huge herd of buffalo appear on the horizon. Fields are planted with canola, alfalfa, corn and wheat (Saskatchewan produces 10% of the world’s exported wheat). In Moose Jaw, we tour downtown historic murals and see a variety of Canada’s armor (tanks, field artillery) on display at the local armory, home to the Saskatchewan Dragoons.

We are hosted in Regina by Canadian friends, a city of 210,000, home to the province’s stately Parliament building with shiny copper dome and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Heritage Center (on display, a shiny 1992 Chevy Camaro Z-28, one of eight highway-interceptor cars used by the RCMP in the early 90s).

1992 Chevy Camaro Z-28 interceptor, one of eight used by the RCMP in early 90s.

It’s also home to the Saskatchewan Roughriders, a member of the Canadian Football League, (with two side-by-side football stadiums rising out of the prairie, the new iteration not yet open). Our friends, noting the small size of the market, compare their team to the NFL’s Green Bay Packers.

Pressing eastward into the province of Manitoba, we spot a 30’ tall Indian head, related to the town of the Indian Head, a town boasting several huge grain silos and a fading downtown. On the edge of town is the historic circular Bell Barn, built of fieldstone, 92′ in circumference and dating to 1882. Our tour reminds me that almost all of Canada’s cross-roads, beyond large municipalities – are dirt and gravel, not paved.

30' tall caricature represents Indian Head, SK.

Heading east across Manitoba, the country grows increasingly wild and lightly settled. Tiny towns with weathered grain silos and tidy homes like Belle Plain, Balgonie, Qu’Apelle and Portage la Prairie fly by.

It’s a long day’s drive through rolling prairie to Winnepeg, Manitoba and we begin a slow climb into the Precambrian Shield country to Whiteshell Provincial Park. Here the rocky ground is folded into hills and ridges filled with scores of large lakes. Past Jessica, Red and Brereton Lake and a dozen others we reach White Lake just in time for a stunning sunset. The many lakes breed hardy mosquitoes; we are fortunate to have a can of ‘Off’ to abate the invaders.

Close to White Lake is Rainbow Falls, a cascading torrent out of Falcon Lake that earns its name on this misty, sunny morning. With many more lakes and trails to explore, we make a note to return someday to more fully see this spectacular, wet and wild country.

Rainbow Falls in Whiteshell Provincial Park, Manitoba.

We are now headed to Onterio; 20 miles west of Thunder Bay we overnight at Kakabeca Falls Provincial Park, dozing off to patter of intermittent rain on our trailer roof. Tomorrow, we’ll tour the huge falls (nicknamed the Niagara of the North, which thunders 130 feet into a deep gorge, laced with 1.6 billion year-old fossils).and circumnavigate the northside of Lake Superior!

For more information: for Alberta tourism, travelalberta.com; for Saskatchewan, tourismsaskatchewan.com; for Manitoba, travelmanitoba.com ; for Whiteshell Provincial Park, whiteshell.mb.ca.

White Lake sunset within Whiteshell Provincial Park, Manitoba.

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in the US and Canada!

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The Mighty Rocky Mountains; Montana, Glacier National Park and the Canadian Rockies!

As I noted in last week’s feature, we’re on a journey of exploration: California to Nova Scotia, Canada, via the Trans-Canada Highway and a return through the USA’s East Coast, Midwest and historic Rt. 66.  We will log about 9,000 miles in 69 days, towing a tiny Scotty teardrop travel trailer.  We will camp about 2/3s of the time, and stay with family, new friends or at motels the balance.

Susan and our Scotty teardrop settle in for three days in Glacier National Park's Apgar Campground.

We caught the small-trailer bug about 12 years ago, after spotting tiny and larger classic travel trailers in campgrounds. Spouse Susan and I had reached the age when tent camping was “too rough”, we liked the idea of a trailer already “packed and ready to go”, is light and can be towed with four-cylinder car, allowing 26 MPG.  And Susan fears bears in campgrounds – so the hard-sided teardrop solves that worry.

In our second week on the road it’s our chance to explore the Montana and Canadian Rocky Mountains and their summer majesty. We depart Spokane, WA, headed east into Idaho, past gorgeous Coeur d’Alene Lake, the Silver Mountain Ski Area (with long tram right beside Interstate 90), and stop just beyond at old Wallace, ID, an historic, quaint downtown tracing its origins to the Idaho silver-mining boom.

Shortly after, we turn north off I-90 at St. Regis, Montana, and head up to the Flathead Lake region, then Kalispell and Whitefish, and east into Glacier National Park. The mighty Rocky Mountains stand tall to the east, like stalwart sentinels extending north into Canada.

Lake McDonald, looking east from Apgar Village.

If you arrive to find Glacier in-park campgrounds sold out as we did, double back a mile from West Glacier to privately owned Glacier Campground– with 190 nice campsites, in-forest setting, nicely maintained and reasonably priced.

The next day at 8 AM we head into Glacier’s Apgar Campground – you can see by the tags on the  200+ campsite posts when the current residents depart – and quickly find several empty sites. We’re here for the next three days.

The next day, we follow Going to the Sun Highway, up McDonald Creek and the most lovely 16 mile drive with jaw-dropping sheer cliffs off the right-hand side. It takes a half-hour to find a parking spot in Logan Pass parking lot – we should have arrived much earlier than noon! Better idea; take the free tram from Apgar or Lake McDonald Lodge and save the drive and hassle.

Hidden Lake is about a 3 mile hike from Glacier Park's Logan Pass, offering stunning views.

It’s a lovely, sunny day (with clouds only on the far horizons). We choose the hike to Hidden Lake; the trail climbs about 500 vertical feet and then descends to the lake. At the overlook, we eight Mountain goats bask in the sunshine, trail-side. Below, Hidden Lake glistens, with snow-capped Gunsight Mountain rising in distance. On the return trip we see several more goats, just off the trail. Jackson, Blackfoot and Pumpelly Glaciers look to have receded from our last summer visit, two years ago.

Another fun hike the next day, a steep several miles up, is to scenic Avalanche Lake, closer to our campground, with time for early coffee and time to admire historic Lake McDonald Lodge and its towering four-story lobby decked out with stuffed animal heads. Our final day in Glacier allows us time to explore the Apgar Village area, at the west end of Lake McDonald, and we enjoy a huckleberry ice-cream cone as we watch visitors test their paddleboard skills on the lovely high-mountain lake.

Mountain goats take their leisure, just 30 feet off the Hidden Lake Trail in Glacier National Park.

After our Glacier Park stay, we head up Montana Hwy. 93, through Eureka, MT where a huge annual quilting fare is taking place. We cross the border into Canada at Roosville, BC. Our first stop, just 20 miles north of the border, is Baynes Lake and the home of Affordable Travel Club members Dave and Nancy Marchant.

Affordable Travel Club members (affordabletravelclub.net) offer other members an overnight stay and breakfast for a $20 gratuity, a wonderful deal. David and Nancy, noting no nearby restaurants, provide a full steak dinner, and a morning breakfast complete with strawberry crepes – they may be the top meals of our nine-week journey!

With the bargain come hosts anxious to share insight about their home and region. David, a 50 year-vet of the Canadian National Ski Patrol (I have 34 years with the US’s National Ski Patrol) gives us a tour of nearby Koocanusa Lake, the Kootenai River dammed just above Libby, MT, which backs up well into Canada – hence, the name.

We leave the Marchants with deep thanks, an extra $10 gratuity and a bottle of Lodi zinfandel wine.

Elk River is framed by the Canadian Rockies just west of Fernie, British Columbia.

Our next stop is Fernie, in British Columbia’s Elk River Valley, with a lovely historic downtown framing a view of Fernie Alpine Ski Resort just west of town. It’s one of six towns in the Elk River Valley, home to five huge open-pit coal mines. Canada’s towering Rockies seem to frame every view, in any direction.

Historic downtown Fernie, BC, frames the nearby Fernie Alpine Ski Resort just west of town.

At Sparwood, further up the Valley, we find the world’s largest truck, used by Teck Industries in one of those five coal mines. The Titan-33, 23 feet tall, 67 feet long and 25 feet wide, carries a 350 ton pay-load of rock or coal, dwarfing a 6 foot tall photographer in the picture I took.

We continue east to Canada’s continental divide, cross Crowsnest Pass at 4500 feet, and find a nearby campground.

The Titan 33, world's largest truck, is on display in Sparwood, BC. It was used in nearby open-pit coal mines.

That night, a crashing thunder and lightning storm welcomes us to Alberta. It’s on to the Canada Great Plains, our home for the next six days. Follow our journey in next week’s Record, and on my blog!
For more information: for Glacier National Park, nps.gov/glac, for Fernie, BC and the Elk River Valley, tourismfernie.com.

Contact Tim Viall at tviall@msn.com; follow him at recordnet.com/travelblog. Happy travels in the west!

Posted in Canada, Western, Mountain West (Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pacific Northwest’s Crater Lake, Grand Coulee Dam, Dry Falls and Spokane make for wonderful week of exploring!

Our destination: California to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Canada, via the Trans-Canada Highway and a return through the USA’s East Coast, Midwest and historic Rt. 66.  We sketch out a 9,000 mile, 69 day trip with a tiny Scotty teardrop travel trailer, fresh vistas to explore and new people to visit. Along the way we will attend two classic travel trailer rallies, two family reunions and one high school reunion – both spouse Susan and I looking forward to such a journey of exploration!

On our first day of the trip we head due north on I-5, past regal Mount Shasta, and turn onto Hwy. 97, stopping for a brief tour of the intriguing Veterans Memorial Sculpture Garden, just 10 miles north of Weed, CA. At Dorris, CA, we admire the world’s tallest flag pole, 200 feet, with huge flag flying at half-staff, constructed by the Dorris Lions Club in 1996.  This former dusty, hard-scrabble lumber town is hustling for some sort of recognition! Crystal clear blue skies, 99° temperatures follow us into Oregon.

Just past Klamath Falls, we stop at the old Ft. Klamath site, on Hwy. 62 on the approach to Crater Lake. Ft. Klamath was founded in 1863 to protect settlers and prospectors from the Modoc, Klamath and Northern Piute tribes and grew to four dozen buildings including a stockade, sawmill, stores and barracks. The fort hosted a post office beginning in 1879, though by the mid-1880s, the Army’s protection was no longer needed and the fort closed with the 14th Infantry Regiment’s move to Vancouver Barracks in 1890.

We continued onto Crater Lake, used our America the Beautiful senior pass to gain free admission into the park ($10 for life, offers free admission into national parks and ½ price on most federal campgrounds!).

Wizard Island, a volcano within a volcano, floats in the cobalt waters of Crater Lake

At our first stop at the Crater Lake overlook, I am reminded of the wdords of prospector John Wesley Hillman, who, searching for gold in 1851, discovered Crater Lake. “I knew when I gazed upon Crater Lake that even though the West was filled with undiscovered wonders, Crater Lake would hold its own”. Shortly after, a young women exiting a car from Indiana exclaims,  “honey, look at this – it’s absolutely overwhelming”. Crater Lake’s cobalt blue waters and almost as blue skies never fail to impress.

Native Americans witnessed the crater’s formation about 7,700 years ago, when the towering 12,000 foot-plus volcano thundered with a huge eruption that collapsed the huge mountain into the crater below. Now, the crater, fed by rain and snow, is the deepest and arguably the purest lake in the USA. We enjoyed a delicious dinner at Crater Lake Lodge, and spent a quiet night at Mazama Campground, seven miles below Rim Road. The next day, we toured the 33 miles of Rim Road overlooks above this stunning lake.

Old McCormick tractor, Chevy and Chrysler lie in weeds with old Hotel Shaniko in background.

Heading north through Central Oregon we stop at Shaniko and Kent, Oregon (neighboring ghost towns) on bone-dry Hwy. 97. Shaniko developned believing the railroad was about to reach their town – the rail-line was rerouted and this interesting town with huge hotel, two-room schoolhouse and scores of buildings has become our favorite Oregon ghost town.

We descend into the Columbia River Gorge, turn east on I-84, finding the river laced by huge dams, the gorge becoming low, rolling hills with huge wind turbines standing 200 feet tall. At Umatilla, OR, we skirt the vast Umatilla Army Depot, with hundreds of ammunition bunkers lining the hillsides to fuel our country’s war machine.

Our Scotty teardrop in front of Grand Coulee Dam – with the North Power Plant in distance.

We pass Connell, WA, a class B basketball state powerhouse, with rolling wheat fields stretching as far as the eye can see. Grand Coulee Dam and Dry Falls State Park are on our circuitous route to Spokane, WA. Grand Coulee Dam, constructed 1933 to 1950, was, until recent years, the largest concrete structure in the world. Almost a mile wide and 400 feet tall, it dams the mighty Columbia, impounding vast Lake Roosevelt, extending 145 miles upstream almost to Canada. The huge dam generates enough power to satisfy two cities the size of Seattle and provides irrigation water to tens of thousands of arid acres for growing wheat, alfalfa, beans and lentils.

Dryfalls, once the largest waterfall in the world at the end of the last ice age!

Twenty miles to the southwest is Dry Falls State Park. Near the end of the latest ice age, some 20,000 years ago, ice dammed both the Clearwater River and Columbia River, with trapped waters inundating much of northeastern Washington, Idaho and western Montana. Melting ice unleashed this huge lake, thundering down Grand Coulee and over Dry Falls, creating a raging waterfall five times the length of Niagara Falls and scouring a deep gorge.  After the huge lake’s release, water returned to the earlier Columbia channel and the falls ran dry.  It’s a truly spectacular and sobering landscape, allowing your imagination to visualize the huge ancient waterfall.

We spend two nights in Airway Heights, WA, just west of Spokane, a sprawling city tied to Fairchild Air Force Base, in a huge Indian casino, Northern Quest with nine-story hotel – emblematic of the new Native American culture in north eastern Washington. The casino is hosting my spouse’s 50th high school reunion, she a Spokane native.

Friends Janet, Diana and Chuck Boehme pedal past 'little red wagon' in Spokane's Riverfront Park

Then it’s on to two days with old friends in Spokane, WA, boasting one of the most fully-developed biking and jogging trail systems in the country for a town its size. We pedaled along the Spokane River, through its lovely downtown Riverfront Park, once home to Expo 74, the world’s fair that brought 6 million visitors. Beautiful views, interesting statuary and a huge ‘little red wagon” dot this 100 acre city park.

The Centennial Trail runs through the Park, and extends west for 15 miles and 30-some miles east to Coeur d’Alene Lake, connecting with another 100 miles of trails along rivers, lakes and into the mountains of Idaho. The trail system is a bikers or runner’s delight! The city is currently revamping Riverfront Park, repaving downtown streets and adding new downtown residential to the old Spokane Chronicle building and Bon Marche building. Plan to visit – and bring your bikes!

For more information: Crater Lake National Park, nps.gov/crla; Grand Coulee Dam, usbr.gov/pn/grandcoulee; Dry Falls State Park, parks.state.wa.us/298/sun-lakes-Dry-Falls; Spokane, WA, visitspokane.com.

Tomorrow, it’s on to Idaho, Montana, Glacier Park and soon up into British Columbia.  I hope you’ll follow our voyage of exploration in coming weeks. Contact me at tviall@msn.com; or follow us at recordnet.com/travelblog. Happy travels in your world!

Posted in Pacific Northwest USA (Oregon, Washington, Idaho) | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
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    Tim Viall

    Viall is a local travel writer who retired in late 2012 after 10 years as executive director of Stockton, CA's, Emergency Food Bank and six years with the Downtown Stockton Alliance. Previously, a 21-year career in daily newspapers helped shape his ... Read Full
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