As we said in a previous article about Becoming Eagle Scouts, Prince Edward Island is a fine place for Active Seniors looking for new and interesting adventures. Several days after seeing the eagles and herons, we met our friends and near neighbors (“near” being a relative term where we live in very rural Vermont), Suzy and Goddard Graves at the Greenwich Park section of PEI National Park for a fascinating hike though spectacular dunes. The hike was about 3 miles round trip, nearly level, and perfect for Seniors of any fitness level.
We started out from the Visitors’ Center on a wide, level trail which led along the edge of the woods, and we soon encountered , a snowshoe hare munching on some of the lush grasses along the trail. Brown in its summer coat, it appeared fully grown, but we suspect it was a naive youngster because it showed so little fear of us and allowed us to approach quite closely.
After the hare had finally taken leave of us, we moved on. Soon the trail swung into a nice stretch of woods, where, out of the wind that was blowing in the open, the mosquitoes were obnoxious. Despite the bloodthirsty hordes, this was a pretty portion of the hike, with several kinds of forest flowers. We were especially delighted by some gorgeous pink lady’s slippers – a great treat! The stretch of woods was quite short, so we managed without major bug avoidance measures.
Once we emerged from the woods, the dunes loomed on our left, with a small lake and marsh on our right. This little lake had once been salt water until the dunes blocked its connection to the ocean. Walking here was on a long, well-built boardwalk, complete with excellent information stations at various intervals. Part way across, we paused to survey a large muskrat house with most of its inhabitants at home. Three half-grown young muskrats were sitting on one edge of the dome-shaped reed-and-mud house, while one of the parents was busy feeding in the reeds a few feet away. It was great fun to spy on them with the binoculars.
Leaving our muskrat friends, we continued along the boardwalk, observing the plant life that grew in the marsh and in the dunes. The boardwalk led up and over a gentle rise, and we descended a steep set of stairs to stand on a wide, sandy ocean beach. Though we could have gone farther along the beach itself, we turned around and retraced our steps to the cars. The return hike was every bit as pleasant.
This was a truly marvelous adventure (especially in the company of good friends), an easy, rewarding hike we believe most Active Seniors, Active Families with younger children, and all lovers of remote beaches could enjoy.
The following day we visited the Orwell Farm Museum, which has everything from old farm machinery to a blacksmith shop to a general store, stocked as it would have been in the 1890s www.peimuseum.com. It was well worth seeing.
Then we headed for Belfast Mini-Mills & Teahouse, a site that shouldn’t be missed! The Teahouse has a limited but delicious menu of sandwiches on wonderful toasted homemade bread, with crumbled potato chips inside the sandwich – all accompanied by excellent lemonade. Next we toured the mill itself. These people invented the mini-mills, which are quite astonishing. With dimensions only a few feet on a side, they take raw fiber from sheep and alpacas, bison, musk ox , etc., (but not Turtle Fur), convert it to yarn, and then weave cloth with it. We had no idea that it took so many steps (at least seven, though we lost count at some point). In addition, these amazing little mills were designed for water-scarce regions; the water used in various steps can be recycled.
And Back Outside Again
After we all left Belfast Mini-Mills, Goddard and Warner sought further adventure in the lovely Experimental Forest at the Sir Andrew MacPhail Homestead, (Sir Andrew was a native PE Islander, author and physician famous throughout Canada). Goddard, who knows the place well, led us on a short hike through hemlock groves and along a pretty, sparkling brook (Ever vigilant for opportunities, we kept looking into the brook to see if any trout resided there. Alas, we saw none.)
At the end of that hike, we joined a guided tour. The tour guide talked about the history of the forest, pointed out interesting stands of trees, and identified a number of birds by their calls.
At length, we came to an entrance to the “Homestead” bracketed by two amazing stone pillars – intricately carved and more than 12 feet tall – which have quite a history! Originally these pillars graced the entrance to one of the buildings at the famous McGill University in Montreal. Somewhere about the early 1900s, the building burned, and McGill’s plans for rebuilding didn’t include the pillars. Sir Andrew arranged for the pillars to be carted by railroad, boat, and ox cart, to the spot where they now stand. True, these pillars aren’t nearly as tall as the Washington Monument, but they’re still impressive!
If You Go
Adventures for Seniors abound on PEI! We should emphasize that our PEI adventures only covered the eastern part of the island, and there’s much, much more to see and do. The PEI Tourism Bureau has reams of information, including maps and the comprehensive Visitor’s Guide.. Prince Edward Island beckons, we’re taking our hiking boots and going back!
We stayed in a small, very pleasant vacation house with 3 bedrooms, a nice kitchen, and a lovely living room looking out at the ocean about 100 yards away. The house is fully equipped and in great condition. The landlord, Bruce Beaton, is wonderful: anything that needs fixing or replacement is taken care of immediately. Bruce also owns three other lovely rental properties. He can be contacted at email@example.com. If you’re interested in renting one of these, we’d advise contacting him early in the year before all the rental time has already been filled.