Airstream Time

Exploring North America in an Airstream

Archive for ‘August, 2016’

Camping Stoneham – Disneyland for Kids

This is the most amazing campground. It is like Disneyland for kids, only better. There are no lines because there are so many things to do. People flock in from everywhere, bringing the entire family. Some let the kids out while they are waiting to register. Then they follow their camper on bicycles or skateboards or on foot. There is everything here, but the main feature is a natural stream they have made perfect for tubing and rafting, and what better to do on a hot, summer day. This is the kind of place you can turn the kids loose and they come back for meals. Little, teeny kids are riding bikes with training wheels, just whizzing around, smiling and laughing. Feed the ducks, climb on all kinds of devices, do a zip line, go play pingpong in the game room, hike or bike trails, play basketball, miniature golf or volleyball, make campfires and roast marshmallows.

This is the last weekend before school, so it was packed this weekend. Every spot must have been filled. We met several very nice families and enjoyed listening to whistling, loving fathers and laughing kids. It’s a lot of work to come in, set up tents or pop-up campers, unload bikes and rafts, and fix meals. Everyone has to pitch in, and they do. I cannot believe I didn’t see anyone get hurt. Oh sure, there were bike spills, but there was no screaming. They just got back up and went on. It is very entertaining to watch how people set up, take it down, cook and clean up.

JoAnne and her husband are the owners, and they run a great show. They have the best website I have seen for booking and selecting a spot!  We came because it is close to Jaques Cartier National Park, and we need electric, and it’s also an easy drive to Quebec City. We booked two nights and then kept adding on until we stayed five nights. JoAnne was super in helping me connect to WIFI with my Mac. Thank you JoAnne!


Quebec City

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Ahhhh, a nice, cool spot!

Ahhhh, a nice, cool spot!

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Martha getting the scoop from information workers on the street

Martha getting the scoop from information workers on the street

The only walled city north of Mexico

The only walled city north of Mexico

The sign changes for different parking lots and the number of spots available

The sign changes for different parking lots and the number of spots available

58℉ at 6:00am, high 86 (that’s plenty hot in the sun!)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

It’s a short drive down Rt. 73 that goes directly into the old Quebec City. We didn’t get into town until 11:00, and we found the streets crowded and the sidewalks filled with tourists. It’s tough to park a pickup truck in a garage, but this is the first one I had to back out of…after scanning our credit card. That will be interesting! Finally we found a two-hour spot. Quebec City is the only walled city north of Mexico, and it is very pretty. However I felt like I was in Italy, touring an old walled city with small streets lined with shops and restaurants. I do not like large crowds. We had planned to take a hop-on, hop-off bus tour to get the big picture, but by the time we found the information center, there was not enough parking time. Martha got some information and we decided to get some lunch in an Irish tavern. A Guiness helped! The city is build on a hill, so walking the streets in the not hot sun worked up a good sweat. Sitting in the tavern next to an open window with a good breeze was perfect. Martha had a steak, mushrooms and a salad and I had a wonderful asian crispy shrimp salad. 

We moved the car to another spot for another two hours, then continued walking. Shoppers would love this, but it is not my cup of tea, and it was very hot. Soon we came by a shaded square where I offered to sit and wait while Martha got her fill of shopping. I did like wandering the alleys and back streets, and we had passed a nice hat shop. I need another hat, but how could I try on hats with a sweaty head? I caught a little nap in the cool shade. Martha returned with a big bottle of water and a small bag. 

It is a pretty city and the fort is very cool, but the streets are too small for the heavy tourist traffic. They need to do it like the Italian cities and not allow traffic. You are going to walk around the whole city anyway. This would make room for the horse-drawn carriages and bus tours, although they need to make those buses smaller and more quaint. I’m quite sure other parts of Quebec City are pretty. There are a number of bike paths and tours, but I am happy to turn north to Jaques Cartier tomorrow.

Camping Rouillard, Lac-à-la-Tortue, Québec

I prefer staying in a provincial or national park, but Rouillard Campground has grown on me. This is a family-owned campground, and they are very nice people. They gave us a nice, quiet spot, and they work very hard to make you comfortable and provide everything you need. Maybe a little early, but they are decorating for Halloween. Some people live here and go to every day jobs. Some are retired, while some come and stay all summer. Others, like us, are passing through. It is interesting to see the variety. As we were working very hard to find a campground for our next stop, I went into the office and kiddingly asked for a double expresso. The young lady, who had always been so nice, pulled up Columbia Supreme Keurig cup. As we left, Martha went back in and told her how much we enjoyed our stay.

Leaving Parc du National Mauricie

58℉ this morning with a high of 86.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

I prefer staying in a provincial or national park, but Rouillard Campground has grown on me. They gave us a nice, quiet spot, and they work very hard to make you comfortable and provide everything you need. Maybe a little early, but they are decorating for Halloween. Some people live here and go to every day jobs. Some are retired, while some come and stay all summer. Others, like us, are passing through. It is interesting to see the variety.

It rained very hard last night. I got up in the night to see if it was coming in the windows I had left open and closed one. Getting back in bed, I thought of those poor people camping along the lakes in Moricie. Having done it plenty of times in the old pup tents, there is nothing more miserable. Everything gets wet. If not in the tent, around the tent, and what if you have to go out to go to the bathroom? Sleeping in the Airstream in pouring down rain is such a luxury and even a pleasure, much like being in a house with a tin roof. When we got up, the sky was clear and it was a beautiful day. 

Mauricie is a beautiful park, but for me, La Faunique de la Mauricie is very special. I would love to come back!

 I have never worked so hard to find a campsite. For hours Martha and I sat at the WIFI cafe searching for something near Quebec City, but everything is full. It is the end of August and the kids will be back in school soon…..and it is hot! I asked if it was a holiday, but the answer was no. A nice lady at one of the campgrounds said many Canadians were traveling. They come to just vacation. They come to see Quebec City, and like us, they come to see Parc National du Jaques Cartier. You can get a site in the park in September! We had just about given up when we found a spot right next to the bathroom at Stoneham Campground, which is between Jaques Cartier and Quebec City. We booked it for three days, which was all we could get. We are hoping to get into Jaques Cartier after that. Maybe someone will cancel.

We drove south on Rt. 55 to Rt. 40 heading east to Quebec City, which is supposed to be 2 hours. The drive along Rt. 40 is beautiful with beautiful farmland, trees and glimpses of the St. Lawrence. Stopping once for gas and running to a big traffic jam in Quebec City, we made it three and a half. Of course there is road construction, and then people drive like crazy in the cities, so there was an accident. It is nerve-wracking enough driving a car in that stuff, but driving a truck pulling an Airstream will really try your nerves. We were fortunate to make all the right turns heading north of the city on Rt. 73, and then, poof, you are in the country and trees and forrest. Stoneham Campground is right off the road, and it is better than Disneyland for kids. They are happily floating tubes down one of the two streams surrounding the campground. There are playgrounds and a great swimming pool. Kids are riding bikes all over. Almost clipping the Airstream coming into the site, we backed into a shaded , tight area, but it was pretty. We took a walking tour around the campground before dinner – a big salad with chicken. 

They are the first idiots I have run into! I think they arrived late right across from us, where our heads were pointed. At 1:30 in the night, I was awakened by loud talking with no regard for their neighbors. They must have thought they were in their own homes. Surely they were not accustomed to a campground. After a while I got up, got dressed and looked out the window to spot the culprits. I knew Martha wouldn’t want me to go out there, and I didn’t know how to cuss them out in French, so I stuffed some Kleenex in my ears and turned on the Fantastic Fan on low, which did the trick. If I could make the truck backfire in the morning in front of their tent, I would!

Parc National du Mauricie

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

55℉ at 5:00 and high of 72℉

We decided on a hike today after getting off to a slow start. Martha picked a hike to Lac Waber, but you have to access it by canoe, so we tried another at the top of Lac Wapizagonke called View Brulis.  There is an iconic overlook on the other side of the parking lot where you see about half of the lake, which is a narrow lake that flows like a river. You could see canoe paddlers along the lake where there are eleven campsites you could sign up for. There are also canoe trails that connect different lakes and streams. This is really what defines the park. We groaned as we walked back uphill to the parking lot as we have hiked and biked a lot. The hike is about 7 hours, but our plan was to hike a while and turn around. We have brought rain to Canada, so there were wet, boggy areas where mosquitoes were hungry. Fortunately we had used a repellent lotion, which helped all the areas where we applied it, but the mosquitoes found all the areas where we had not. We decided to go to an scenic spot and then turn around, so the hike ended up being about an hour and 15 minutes, and that was enough for both of us. The temperature is great, but the humidity in the woods is high, so I was soaking wet when we got back. Carrying our lunch to the overlook, it was fun to watch people as they came and went. A nice 14 year-old boy smiled and said the usual Bonjour with a singing tone. His family was obviously a veteran outdoor group with good hiking clothes and backpacks that were well-worn. The boy had shorts on, and he looked like he had Chicken Pox from all the mosquito bites. This was the first time it had been bad, and it really wasn’t bad. I would say moderate. I am not taking another hike without my “Bub Pants”. 

We drove through the park to the other entrance, getting glimpses of other beautiful lakes and moose bogs. This is the park you want to come to if you like paved roads, a great visitors center at the east entrance, coffee shops and a food pavilion, and you want to put your canoe or kayak on one of probably a hundred lakes. There are guided trips and tours. I love those Huttopia and Hekipia tents, where you can stay for $120/night. We drove through the campground and it too is very nice, and they have electric! We stayed in Shawinigan at a campground called Rouillard because we needed a lot of laundry done and grocery shopping. Although I prefer staying in the parks, this is a nice campground with a different flavor. The owners are very nice. There is a very cute, little golf course that would have been fun to play. The problem with staying outside the park is you spend half the day traveling!  45 minutes to get there, 45 minutes to get back, and then a stop to get groceries and half the day is gone, but you just need to do it every now and then. 

It started to rain as we got back to the campground. We took showers and did another load of laundry. As we were on the road again tomorrow, It took me an hour to fix the broken closet door. Part of the plastic latch had been torn, so I couldn’t line it up quite right. Where the heck is Kelly! He’s the best fixer!

Leaving Reserve Faunique du Saint-Maurice

I stopped at the accuiel to thank Genevieve for all her wonderful help and tremendous patience! She nicely agreed to a picture, quickly fixing her hair. Then I took a picture of that board that I finally understood and now appreciated. I must say I love this park! I don’t love banging the Airstream up it, but if it were paved, it would be a whole different ball game! I love the big beach and I love the way people bring the whole family. Little kids having fun camping in a wonderful spot. Two nights ago as I showered there was a man next to me showering with his young son. Mildly chattering the whole time, it was so cute. Of course I couldn’t understand a word, except the occasional, “Papa”. It sounded much like Diego and his son, Mateo, years ago. The two hikes I will remember as two of the best all time. I would love to come back, pay my dues and fish these incredible lakes in total silence. 

I have much greater respect and appreciation of this great park as we began our drive back 42km to the bridge. My strategy was to drive very slowly to minimize bouncing, pulling over several times to let people pass. There was a wave from a van, who was a man with his son, who had translated for me several times. The people in the campground had all been very nice, almost like a club. I stopped several times to take pictures, getting a nice picture of a loon drying its wings. It is hard to get close enough for a picture of them. An hour and a half later we arrived at the bridge. Turning onto the highway, Martha said it was like driving in a Cadillac, but soon enough ran over a huge dip in the road, making me curse.

We drove on to Shawinigan to a campground called Rouillard, where we need to do a lot of laundry, get groceries and charge the batteries. When we opened the trailer door, we found all the dishes smashed on the floor. The closet door latch was broken off. The closet in the bedroom had lost a hinge, and there were more rivets on the floor. Of course the trailer is filthy dirty with dust and sand. I looked for golf tees.

Driving the Loop in Faunique Mauricie

In the afternoon I drove the loop around our sector of the park to get a better idea of what it is like. Martha was happy to stay in camp. It was 3:00 when I left and planned to be back at 5:00, though I have learned over the years to never give a time. I turned left on Rt. 1 and soon found the junction of Rt. 14 and turned left. This road proved to be softer and gentler as it is hard-packed sand. This sandy soil made by thousands of glaciers crushing rocks is wonderful. The rains just go right through it, leaving few puddles and no mud. The truck happily glided along making hardly a sound. I stopped to look at lakes, tent huts, a campground, rivers and bogs. At first I didn’t want to drive any more gravel roads, but you just have to get over it. In Virginia if we drive a dirt road to a trout stream, we are quite happy. You have to think of this as miles and miles of sand and gravel roads that lead to hundreds of incredibly beautiful lakes that you can have all to yourself for a day or a week if you stay in a Huttopia. The best fishing is early and late, so I never saw a boat on a lake. Kelly belongs to a wonderful 65 acre fishing lake near West Point. There is an annual fee and there are work days. You have to have your own motor and report the numbers and kinds of fish that are caught. Think of this in that light. This is a HUGE area, all extremely-well managed for you. Now that I got the picture and understood better, I wanted to fish them all! There are so many, that it would be a lifetime project! This is a wonderful, beautiful park! 

I was lost in the beauty and stopping to see lakes and take pictures. A truck with a trailer full of wood passed me, hurrying to deliver the goods while I was creeping along. To complete the loop, I turned left on a smaller, unmarked road that now looked like the road to RipRap in Virginia, only it was up and down hills. The Laurentides are mountains like the Blue Ridge that are older so they are beaten down with time. I put the truck in 4-wheel drive to get up the first hill. As I got to the top, I could see the tracks of another vehicle – probably the truck that passed me. With bushes scraping the sides of the truck, I thought I was on the wrong road. I looked at my watch. Suddenly there was a squirt of adrenaline. I remembered Genevieve saying it was an adventure getting to Lac Vierge, the small lake I wanted to fish. She said you need 4-wheel drive and there could be trees fallen over the road. Geez, if there was, assuming I was on the right road, I would have to turn around and go all the way back the way I came with no way to call Martha. As I crept along, I checked my GPS that has such a crummy map that it didn’t even show this road, but it did show lakes. I passed Lac Canard, which is on the map, but maybe this road was only to Lac Canard. What kept me going was the fresh tire tracks ahead of me. Well someone went through. After a while there was a trail marker and a sign that said Lac Vierge where we had hiked in the morning. I looked at the GPD and could see our morning track. Then I passed a turn to Lac Vierge and knew I was on the right road. On the GPS I could see Lac Normand in the distance…..with no road leading to it. At long last I ran into Rt. 1 and felt great relief! I arrived back in camp at 5:10. 

Sauntiere Lac Vierge

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In the morning we set out for a hike to Lac Vierge on the north side of Lac Normand. We walked through the campground and down by a great playground ship that is built like an old sailing ship, then down to the beach. At the end of the beach, the trail begins and is nicely marked with a map. Following our pacesetter, Martha, I took pictures then scrambled to catch up. She isn’t particularly fast, but she never stops. Like the Energizer bunny, she just keeps going. She is pretty good at finding her way and knowing where she is, but I always bring a trail GPS. It comes in handy whenever there is a question of where you are, how far you are from somewhere or if you are headed in the right direction. I am still learning how to use the device (a Garmin GPSmap 62stc). 

This is another beautiful trail, and the park does a great job of marking the trails and yet you feel you are in the wilds. There is no better way to become familiar with this park than to walk it. This forrest is just stunning! Following the Energizer Bunny, I took pictures then tried to catch up. There is a beautiful view of the lake at the top. Along the descent, there is a series of three ladders and the middle one is broken. This is a new one for me, as I have never climbed down a ladder on a hike. Martha thought it was very cool. Then where do I put this dangling camera around my neck? I didn’t want to step on that broken part, but on further inspection realized it was wedged against the rock wall. This is another fantastic hike! We didn’t take the whole loop, but when we got back to the beach, three hours had past and we were spent. We ate our lunch there, and I would have taken a swim if I had a bathing suit. Martha waded a bit. Back at camp, Martha discovered blueberry bushes right in the campsite and was picking a bunch when I returned from the shower. 

Hike La Tourbière

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Friday, August 12, 2016

60℉ at 5am and 77℉ during the day

It was still raining when we got up, so we enjoyed a leisurely morning. Martha is into a good book on her iPad while I caught up on a few things. By 10:30 it stopped although we weren’t sure it was really done. There is a hike that starts just one campsite over, and it goes to a small stream you can fish for free, so we decided to take it. We were dressed for cool and rainy and a stroll, but we were soon hot and since we had taken the wrong direction, it was going to be a hike, but man was it beautiful – such a gorgeous forrest floor as I have ever seen. It looks like elves should live there. Blueberries lined the entire hike. I’m sure I ate a pint. I don’t know what the red berries are, or the lichens or the plants. If we knew anything about mushrooms, we could have had a feast as they were growing everywhere – on the ground, on the sides of trees, on dead trees. An hour later we found the small stream, which was very pretty, but it would be difficult to fish and it like every other stream here, it runs into a little lake, then becomes a stream, then a lake. We wound our way back to the campground, now hot and ready to change into shorts and short sleeve shirts.

After lunch we went to the office to get some firewood and ask again about fishing. I had perused the fishing regulation book, which is written in French, but hard enough to comprehend even if written in English. The very nice, young girl in the “accueil” (welcome center) tried desperately to help us understand how fishing works. Of course it is very difficult for her to speak in English, but she does very well. What we have seen is that it is so difficult for them that they are mentally tired after 20 minutes. Although I can read French somewhat, I cannot carry on a conversation. Then of course there are others coming into the office to ask questions or to buy things. After a while we had studied a large board on the wall that lists all the “lacs”. I must go back and get a picture. Columns show the size of the “lac”, how far away it is, how many are fishing it today, how many fish have been caught and how many kg’s of fish were caught. “So can I fish this little lake right here?” I asked. “No, you can only fish the ones in dark green.” OK, so I studied some more to find something small enough that I could reasonably cover it fishing from our kayak. “OK, so can I put our kayak on this lake this afternoon?” “No, the only lake you can put your kayak on is Lake Norman. There are two boats on each of the smaller lacs, and you can use those.” I can’t remember exactly what she said, since I am still trying to digest the last statement, but I think she said $40 to rent the boat for half a day and $80 for the whole day. So let me see if I have this right. Martha would like some nice trout for dinner, but to have a nice, quiet day of fishing on a “small” lake 42km up a gravel road, I will have to pay $20 for the “permit de pesche” and $80 for the boat rental. I can’t believe anyone fishes, but they do! To add to the confusion, I have no idea what the fish are, as I am totally unfamiliar with the names or the appearance, much less what I should use to catch them.  Buying a couple of salmon steaks at the grocery seems a better idea. I will take pictures of the forrest. 

Kelly and I took a four-month fishing trip across Canada in 2013, so I have some experience with fishing in Canada. It will no doubt drive you crazy, but to argue the other side, they are protecting their resources as well as funding the parks and managing the parks and paying the salaries of people like this nice young lady. Canadians love to hunt and fish. This country was founded on it, so it could easily be “fished and hunted out”. 

We went back to camp and Martha happily read her book while I worked on the back-up camera for the trailer. Laying it all out, I found I still don’t have the right connections. I tried to maintain my composure while cursing under my breath. I will put that project away until I get home.

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Leaving Mount-Tremblant

JGW_2900JGW_2997JGW_2999Thursday, August 11, 2016

60 at 5am and mid 80’s middle of the day

We broke camp, did the necessaries, filled the water tank and set out for Parc Du National Mauricie about 10:00. Mont-Tremblant is a wonderful park. Six days is not enough time to really get to know the park. We did all the usual things, hiked the most popular hikes, biked, and swam in the lakes. A beach to us is Nags Head on the ocean with large sandy beaches and salty waves. In Canada a beach is a smaller sandy beach on a lake with water so pure you could drink it. On a hot day, it is so refreshing to take a swim. Just like our ocean beaches, the water can be cool or cold at first, but once you get in and swim around a bit, it is wonderful. There are no sharks or crabs or sea urchins, but brook trout and smallmouth bass. It takes a while to change your mindset, but once you do, it is quite wonderful. Mont-Tremblant has so many beaches, you can have one to yourself, just kayak over to it, of float along the Diable River and take your lunch. My very favorite part is hearing the loons cry at night. We got one taste of the real park when we went up to Lac du Bois Franc and had a medium-sized lake to ourselves for just an hour with two loons swimming at the other end. You could smell the forrest and the clean air and feel like you are in the wilderness. How incredibly beautiful. I would love to come back.

Driving the back roads, mostly 348 and 350 and then 157 north to Mauricie. I felt like I was driving the highway to Stewart in British Columbia as we drove along the incredibly beautiful St. Mauricie River. It is a very large river with blue waters. I kept watching for salmon running. There were lots of boats, sailboats and lots of fishermen. Campgrounds along the river were chock full, so there must be salmon! Finally arriving at a teeny park office that was so small, we thought it was just two bathrooms, which we needed badly. I turned around and headed back to the car when Martha called me back. A very nice lady helped us. The only hookup available in the entire park is water, and Martha wanted it. I assured her water is not our issue as we have no power source to recharge the batteries. She signed up for three nights, but I knew we would never make it. I got a park fishing license and bought a book on fishing regulations. So much to get in the park, so much to camp, so much to fish, and then $12,50 to cross the bridge over the St. Mauricie River. If you wan to fish Lac Norman, you put your name in the hat at the campground where they have a drawing at 9pm each evening. You must then pay $20 to fish that day! Then you have to drive 41K up a dirt and gravel road. Sheez! Crossing the bridge and heading up the very dry and dusty road, a huge truck, loaded with logs comes barreling down the road. This brings bad memories of our former fishing trip. These guys must get paid for speed as they just fly down these roads making a huge cloud of dust. We will need a new air filter for the truck. The nice lady told us to stay on Rt. 1 the entire 41K to the campground. There are many turns along the way. Periodically you get a view of another big lake surrounded by forrest, and now and then a moose bog. This washboard road with rocks in it and bumps and dips will shake everything loose. This was a first for me as I have never taken the Airstream this distance on this kind of road. Surely all the rivets would pop out, or the kayak would loosen as we bounced along. Fortunately we only passed two logging trucks, but we passed several of what looked like food trucks. Then there was the occasional Toyota car or a Kia driving right down the middle. What kind of people would be camping in this spot? Who would drive this road? Why?

We finally made the campground about 4:00 and set up in a beautiful site. This campground with a small office has 70 campsites. Maybe it is 60% filled, but it is Friday and a weekend. Our kitchen sink cabinet door hinge came apart, but otherwise no apparent damage. I found a screw on the floor. Mostly people are in tents, and they are families, having driven their family car. Children are everywhere. There are also campers and pop-up campers, and people who towed a boat up here. Martha’s other requirements were flush toilets and showers, and they are here, the shower house being powered by a big solar panel. We walked down to the beach, which is the biggest we have seen. There were two young boys carrying their paddles, chairs and towels back to camp. There was a parking lot at the beach, a volleyball court, picnic tables and a dock where maybe 15 boats were tied up. Martha tiptoed into the water, reporting that it was much like the lake at Mount-Tremblant. This lake is huge though. I thought I was on Lake Superior! Of course there are ones much bigger, but this is a very big lake to us. Canadians think nothing of driving these roads, and everyone seemed quite happy to be here. It’s a pretty strenuous drive to get to Nags Head too. 

We took advantage of the showers and settled in for cocktails and dinner. It is supposed to rain for the next two or three days, so we prepared for it. You always have to prepare for it as it can be blue skies one minute and a passing storm the next. The gentle rain came in the night and was still raining in the morning. I got up in the night and turned the battery off, hoping the refrigerator would stay cold. Through the night I kept thinking about power. Where are the energy leaks? Martha did well to get a site with water as we would not have to use the water pump. Hopefully we wouldn’t need the furnace. Was there water in the batteries? Did it all bounce out on the drive up? Would our Canada National Parks pass have gotten us in?