Last summer my family and I had the opportunity to experience the rolling pastoral scenery, famous red clay, and mild climate of PEI during an unforgettable 10-day cycling and kayaking trip. Traveling about 240 kilometers in all, we bicycled along a converted railway known as the Confederation Trail. This unique biking, hiking, and jogging trail was created in 1989 after the Prince Edward Island railroad was abandoned. As a multi-purpose path with a rolled stone dust surface, the Confederation Trail provides a special link between the tiny Island communities. Connecting rural woodland villages to waterside fishing towns, the recreational trail system carves passages through the verdant Island landscape and offers a genuine perspective of PEI’s natural beauty.
Although there is no more than a 2-degree grade on the Confederation trail, the sheer mileage that we cycled was enough to fatigue even an athletic individual like me. That is, after beginning our trip in the capital city of Charlottetown with fresh legs, I found the first day of bicycling PEI more than a bit challenging. Although the first leg of our cycling adventure was supposed to be one of the longer days (50 kilometers), I am sure that the reason for my weariness also stemmed from getting lost along the trail and traveling an extra 25 km. I was not alone in my hardship however. After falling behind the rapid pace of our overly enthusiastic parents, my younger brother and I took a wrong turn at a fork in the road, heading east in the direction Hunter River instead of west towards Mt. Steward. Thinking that our parents were only one or two kilometers ahead, Shockley and I biked as hard and fast as we possibly could. What a mistake! After about an hour of physically and mentally draining riding, we finally turned around hearing Mom and Dad frantically shouting our names in the distance. Whew!!
As a result of the unplanned detour we all experienced muscle fatigue and overwhelming exhaustion. Reaching the end of the day’s adventure, I felt so tired at many times that I put my arm on my brother’s shoulder and allowed him to pedal for both of us.
Along the western tip of Greenwich, a peninsula that separates St. Peters Bay from the Gulf of St. Lawrence, an extensive and fragile coastal dune system exists. With wetlands and diverse natural habitats, the special ecosystem at Greenwich is also a Prince Edward Island National Park. This national park was created in 1998 to protect the special dune formations, endangered plants and animals, and archaeological findings dating more than 10,000 years. As my family and I hiked along the boardwalk walking trail in this national park, we were all astounded by the unparalleled natural characteristics of PEI’s famous coastal dune system. The most outstanding feature was perhaps the unusually large and mobile parabolic dunes with their associated counter ridges or Gegenwalle. Although tired from the day’s cycling, my family walked 1.25 kilometers over wetlands and around these crescent-shaped sand dunes on this incredible boardwalk. Untouched by man, the protected sand dunes and surrounding area were so peaceful, pure, and quiet. At many times during our hike, I felt that my family and I walked into our own paradise on the edge of the world. Standing atop a knoll overlooking the wide expanse of sand and sea oats, I distinctly remember debating over breakfast whether or not we should add the extra 24 km to go see the National Park at Greenwich. Looking back, I am so glad that we never missed such an incredible experience.
Besides being a terrific opportunity to see a beautiful island, cycling PEI was also a great occasion for family bonding. In the past, it has been my experience that doing something adventurous and exhilarating as a family makes for a truly fun and enjoyable vacation. Our trip to PEI was no exception. The combination of cycling, hiking, and kayaking created a dream vacation that I will truly remember forever. Furthermore, although there were many physically demanding aspects to our trip, each new and exciting activity provided the chance to really experience the splendor of the Canadian outdoors. That is to say, we observed the variety of landscape, woodlands, and habit as we cycled along the Confederation Trail; we felt the warm Canadian sun shining from clear blue skies as we hiked through flowery pastures; and we tasted the refreshingly salty air while kayaking along the coast. It is my belief that these various activities and the physical exertion inherently required helped to produce the type of unique family bonding experience that I know and love. Most noteworthy perhaps was the camaraderie shared between my brother and myself. While cycling, hiking, and kayaking, I truly enjoyed my brother’s company and companionship. In other words, my experience of PEI was made all the better because of the presence of my brother Shockley and his storytelling.
Towards the end of our trip, my family and I finally took a break from cycling. Instead of viewing PEI from the Confederation Trail, we beheld the lush landscape from the water, specifically by kayak. With our Outside Expedition kayaking guide Cody, we paddled down river about 6 or 7 kilometers to a bay opening up to the sea and Northumberland Strait. Traveling on the Clyde River, we meandered past rolling fields of potatoes and mussel farms. Interestingly, our kayaking guide related the fact that PEI mussels are naturally grown in the cold water of PEI. The mussels are cultivated in mesh stockings or socks suspended from long ropes in the water. After dining on the Island’s delicious bi-valve shellfish many times, it therefore came as no surprise when Cody said that PEI mussels are famous in North America and elsewhere.
As a result of the enthusiasm and helpfulness of our Outside Expedition guides, Cody and Arlene, my family’s trip to PEI ranks as one of my most treasured memories.