Prince Edward Island by Hans Lammens

In June 2001, I decided to tour Prince Edward Island, one of the 3 Maritime provinces on Canada's east coast. I'm retired, so I went early in June, while school was still on, so that the campgrounds would still be relatively empty. Empty was an understatement! On the second day out, I left Shediac New Brunswick, at 6:30am. It took me about 3 hours to get to the Confederation Bridge (the "fixed link" betwen PEI and NB). There I had to wait for a free shuttle service to cross the bridge, as cyclists are not allowed on it because of the frequency of high winds.

Once on PEI, I searched for the Confederation Trail, a former rail line converted to a bike path. After some enquiries, I found it, about a mile from the tourist bureau complex in Borden. The trail consists of a hard red clay surface, typical of the terrain in PEI. I was glad that I had decided to bring my mountain bike and not my road steed, as the trail was soft and damp in places. You really need fat tires to ride this trail, which by the way is over 200 miles, from east to west across the entire island.

My aim was to get to Summerside Provincial Park, 25 miles west of Borden and spend the night there before working my way to Tignish on the far west side of PEI. It got extremely windy, as it usually does in the afternoon, so I was relieved to finally get to the park by 2pm (thanks to the nice tail wind) I figured since it was early in the season, I'd have no problem getting a choice site facing the Northumberland Strait. What a disapointment, the park hadn't opened yet for the season!

Now I was forced to totally change my plans as I found out that none of the Provincial Parks were opening before the last week in June. I dislike most private campgrounds so the only alternative was to head for the one National park on the island, up near Cavendish, on the Gulf of St. Lawrence. I was tired, hungry and really not looking forward to another 30 miles into a pretty stiff headwind. Starting out wasn't too bad as I was sheltered by the trees along the trail. The last 20 miles however were along the roads, which have no shoulders, and had a fair bit of traffic. Don't be fooled by the term island roads. They are not flat! The terrain consists of rolling hills, some of which are deceptivly steep. I finally rolled into the park at 6pm, utterly exhausted. I cooked my supper, after setting up my tent, and by 8pm I went for a short walk along the spectacular beach, pretty satisfied with the way my long day had ended.

By 9:30pm, I was contentedly wrapped in my sleeping bag, looking forward to a blissfull rest. Since there are no bears in PEI, nor coyotes, I never considered hanging my food in a tree, like I would in New Brunswick. What an oversight! I was rudely awakened by an incessant scratching noise, which I couldn't readilly identify. I put on a hat pulled my pillow over my head and tried to fall asleep again. No such luck. I would have to get up and investigate. I opened the tent and shone my flashlite in the direction of the noise. There perched on my brand new panniers was this massivly corpulent racoon, dilligently clawing and biting at my food pannier. He didn't move until I got about 10 feet from him, when he lazily shuffelled his plump carcass off into the woods. Good ridance!

I checked my panniers and silently thanked my lucky stars that I had bought quality enough to stand up to the assault. I had just nodded off again when I was roused by the now familiar scratching. I bolted out of the tent cursing in Dutch, (cause there were other campers nearby). Again the porky racoon ambled off.

This scenario was repeated two more times before I realised I had to find a solution for my predicament. I thought of taking my food in the tent, but I use this tent in bear country also, so that was out. I couldn't ask a car camper to help me as I had awakened them with my loud rantings to scare off the unwelcome intruder. Then it hit me, what a simple solution. Put the bike in a washroom! To my great consternation I noticed the plumper had scored a victory over the pannier, as he had managed to tear it enough so that it was no longer waterproof, and would have to be replaced.

I did however have a great sleep the rest of the night. Ditto for the other 3 nights I spent in the park. Except for the lunch I lost to the ravens the next day, I had a very pleasant stay in Canada's emerald isle.

So be forwarned! PEI, despite it's bucolic demeanor, has ravenous wildlife! Still If you ever have the chance to visit PEI, don't forget your bike, you won't regret it. The distances are relatively short, quaint villages, gorgeous beaches and friendly people considerate to cyclists.

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