Continuing south, on June 16th we took the ferry to Newfoundland, which is a huge island a short ways out in the Atlantic. We started our tour on the northern-most tip at the L'Anse aux Meadows archaeological site, a Viking settlement site dating from about 1000 AD. The provincial government built a viking sod house adjacent to the excavations so visitors could see what viking life was like, and they have several, very good, living history actors on site. Liz even got a lesson in single-needle knitting for one of the Norsemen.
We spent a couple of days around the north end of the island, then started south and were hit by a several-days storm with lots of rain. We tried to bird Gros Morne National Park, but decided to use the bad weather to press farther south. We visited some famous birding sites, including the Elliston Atlantic Puffin colony, Quidi Vidi Lake at St. John's, Witless Bay (two boat trips to the offshore nesting islands), and Bird Rock at Cape St. Mary's (two days). Cape St. Mary's had been on our bucket list for over 30 years and literally the goal of this trip, so it was quite a treat to finally see the cliffs thick with nesting seabirds on consecutive mostly sunny days (fog is the norm).
We birded Newfoundland until the 30th, when took the long ferry (13 hours) to Nova Scotia. We spent a couple of days hiking and birding in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, then started moving south. Our travels were interrupted for two days by Hurricane Arthur, but we sheltered in wonderful little Tatamagouche town with a nice, friendly hotel and a small restaurant that kept the kitchen going during the storm (most places lost power).
After the storm, we pushed south to the Joggins Fossil Cliffs on the Bay of Fundy, a site famous for plant fossils that Liz had always wanted to see. We spent several days visiting sites around the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia and in New Brunswick, and even got to see the tidal bore, but we felt we were starting to run out of time (July 10). Liz was quite taken with the tradition of rug hooking in the Maritime Provinces. By chance, we stayed at a motel within walking distance of a major hooking studio where Liz did a little shopping and picked up a brochure about the local fiber arts events. If we ever get back this way at the right time of year…
We eventually pushed off the southeastern-most point of Canada (Campobello Island) into the U.S. We hiked and birded along the coast of Maine and spent three days in Acadia National Park, one of the days with an old friend from Sequoia (Heather Rice), effectively running out of time before really starting home.
We stopped in Boston to visit the Schmandt Family (Death Valley hiker friends) for three days. They took us hiking in their local woods and to a wildlife refuge on the coast.
Starting the long drive west, we stopped in upstate New York to bird and hike in the Adirondack Mountains near Lake Placid. There, we really ran out if time and started pushing for home. We did, however, find time to drive by Niagara Falls where we saw the falls from both sides (yes, the view is better from Canada), and then drove across Ontario to Point Pelee National Park, a world-famous birding site on the north side of Lake Erie. After a few hours there and a few hours at Magee Marsh on the U.S. side of Lake Erie, we found ourselves driving south late into the night.
We stopped along the interstate at Mammoth Cave, Kentucky, another site that Liz had always wanted to see. We took the morning cave tour and were off again heading fast for Dallas where we stopped to see Jim's brother Bill and his family. Billy even stayed an extra day to visit with us before returning to college.
Another long drive found us back to Albuquerque, and two days later we arrived home on July 31st. Mom was happy to see us, but Mocha showed her displeasure with our long absence by hiding under the bed. It didn't take her long to get over it and come out for energetic scratches and belly rubs.
Mom stayed another week, during which we did a delightful campout on Mt. Charleston. The rest of August was quiet as we caught up on everything we'd missed during the last 10 weeks.
September temperatures began to moderate, and we did several local birding and hiking day-trips. We also did a quick trip to the Grand Canyon with Ginny and Gary Canori (friends here in town) and a quick trip to San Diego for a pelagic birding trip. We also celebrated out 30th wedding anniversary, although we've been together for about 33 years.
October was another typical month at home hiking and birding the local mountains. At the end of the month, Jim took the jeep south to visit our property in Arizona. He spent the morning fixing the tin roof on the shack and hiked around a bit, then drove about half-way home, stopping in the Wilson Mountain Wilderness Area to do some hiking and visit a spring. Hiking alone on the 29th, Jim took a nasty tumble off a 30-foot cliff onto solid granite. He probably should have died, but with several relatively minor injuries, he was able to hobble out 3 miles to the Jeep and drive home.
November started with Jim canceling an Audubon Birdwalk that he was going to lead, but he was able to limp on another birdwalk a couple of days later as he started to heal.
Mid-November saw Jim subjected to three weeks of forced rest and recovery — we set sail on a 17-day cruise to Hawaii! We'd gotten cheap tickets on a ship out of San Diego, so we celebrated our 30th anniversary with a grand trip. We spent five days crossing the ocean, five days visiting four islands, five days coming back, a day in Ensenada, Mexico, and then back to San Diego. For us, it was a very peculiar vacation, but we had a good time.
We had hoped to see oceanic bird species far out at sea, but mostly we spent a lot of time sitting (forced relaxation) and gazing out across the big water. We saw shearwaters, boobies (we watched them catch and eat flying fish), albatrosses, tropicbirds, and storm-petrels, but far fewer species and individuals than we'd hoped. Birding the islands was fun, but mostly we saw non-native species such as Asian Zebra Doves and Brazilian Red-crested Cardinals. We did see two species of native forest birds (Apapane and 'Oma'o), and Nene Geese, and that was a treat. It was also interesting to see steaming volcanoes, although we did not see any flowing lava.
When we got home, Jim was healing well, and by the middle of December, he was back on the trails and off-trails with barely a limp. Some aches and pains remain, but at least we are back on the trails and life as normal.
Another December event for Jim was serving as a juror on a criminal case; at least the trial only lasted three days. These things are sad and everyone loses. It was interesting, however, to realize that hooking someone up and taking them to jail was completely different from sitting in judgement on a jury and finding someone guilty.
Liz continues to volunteer one day each week at a local elementary school with third graders, hoping to have them believe that math is something they will use everyday. Liz also continues to knit, and she wishes she could drag her spinning wheel along on road trips, but she should probably just take a spindle and use the wheel at home.
Already making plans for traveling next year, Mom plans to come and cat-sit during spring and early summer, so we will be off to somewhere. We haven't decided where yet — but planning is so much fun!
Despite Jim's best efforts in October, we remained healthy this year. We visited several times with friends and family in different parts of the country, and we spent lots of time in town and in the desert with local friends. What more could anybody want? Happy Holidays everyone!